Transportation headlines, Tuesday, January 20

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Zocalo Public Square’s daily Metro rider profile: a woman traveling between Sunset Boulevard and Ventura Boulevard.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Metro Bus stop at Broadway and 6th in DTLA on Friday. Kind of a cluttered image, but also a good view of the cross-section of riders. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Metro Bus stop at Broadway and 6th in DTLA on Friday. Kind of a cluttered image, but also a good view of the cross-section of riders. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

 A Metro man from a transit family wants lines to keep growing (L.A. Times) 

Nice column by Steve Lopez on Metro CEO Art Leahy, who earlier this month announced that he will be leaving Metro in early April after six years on the job. Both of Art’s parents were streetcar operators in Los Angeles and Art began his transit career driving a bus.

Lopez also takes a look ahead. Excerpt:

Despite huge investments in transit since then, the population has exploded and Southern California is said to have more cars per square mile than any other metropolis. Thanks to Measure R and Leahy’s considerable powers of persuasion in Washington, Metro has $14 billion worth of highway and transit projects underway, including five rail lines.

When all of that is completed, commutes will be a little easier for those who go by bus or train, and the current number of daily boardings — 1.4 million — could shoot up significantly. But will there be any less congestion on roads and highways?

Don’t bet on it. If the population continues to grow, and the economy continues to improve, traffic could very well be worse than it is today.

I think that’s a pretty realistic way of looking at things — and one I wish everyone would hear more often. Big transit systems across the world have consistently not cured traffic. The transit systems, however, have provided a good alternative to everyone sitting in traffic and have likely helped prevent traffic from growing worse than it is.

Lopez also discusses bus rapid transit and asks Art about what he’ll do next after working in transit the past 40 years. Give the column a read for Art’s answer 🙂

Who’s sitting with Michelle Obama at the State of the Union (Politico) 

A rundown of the First Lady’s guest list, which includes Crenshaw/LAX Line apprentice LeDaya Epps, who lives in Compton and got her job thanks to Metro’s Project Labor Agreement and Construction Careers Policy. As Politico notes, the First Lady’s guests are often clues to policies that President Obama will discuss in the State of the Union. Here’s our earlier post.

Adam Schiff opposes HSR tunnel under the San Gabriel Mountains (California High Speed Rail Blog) 

The Congressman says he would prefer the bullet train tracks follow the 14 freeway (the same route used by Metrolink) rather than tunnel under the mountains that are a barrier between the Antelope Valley and the San Fernando Valley. The tunnel route is being studied even though some SFV Valley residents have said they oppose it. With funding still a giant challenge for the bullet train project, dollars may prove to be the determining factor when it comes to choosing a route. The project still needs to find money to tunnel under the Tehachapis to connect Bakersfield and the Antelope Valley.

The wreck of the Kulluk (New York Times Magazine) 

In short: the Beaufort Sea versus the Shell oil rig Kulluk. As the headline implies, the Beaufort Sea emerged the clear winner in this adventure yarn. Nonetheless, Shell announced last year that it still intends to explore for oil from special leases it holds in the Arctic. This is a long story — a good read while riding transit.

The American decline in driving actually began earlier than you think (Washington Post)

Fascinating series of graphs show that miles-driven-per-person in many states peaked in the 1990s or early 200os. In other words, the decline in driving — which has been well documented — isn’t just a product of the Great Recession that ramped up after the housing bust in 2008.

In some states, driving declined even as the economy rose. In California, peak driving occurred in 2004 when there were 9,250 miles driven per capita (still an awful lot considering a lot of people don’t drive). So what’s happening? One theory holds that Americans are simply choosing to spend their money in other ways.

My three cents: driving just keeps getting more expensive from the price of car to insurance to maintenance to parking and driving citations. I also tend to think the rise of home entertainment may have more people staying put and perhaps the worst of sprawl in many places is over. On a national level, I don’t think transit has a lot of influence on the overall numbers.

Well that didn’t work. The Segway is a technological marvel; too bad it didn’t make any sense (Wired) 

Sales have been very underwhelming. Worse, perhaps, is that many users felt stigmatized as being lazy and no one was ever sure what the rules were for their use. Should they be used on sidewalks? In the street? And where to park them?

Very interesting article that doesn’t include this question: as much as I detest these things, could they be a first-mile/last-mile solution? I don’t know. Discuss.


Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

And from the Department of Transit-Proximate Food: Above is the extremely tasty breakfast burrito at Little Flower in Pasadena (1422 W. Colorado Boulevard between Avenue 64 and Melrose Avenue), a great and very small place for breakfast, lunch, coffee and dessert. Metro Bus 180/181 (which runs between Hollywood and Altadena/Pasadena) and the 256 (which runs between East L.A., Highland Park, Pasadena and Altadena) stop within a few hundred feet of Little Flower.

7 replies

  1. I find it annoying that the argument High Speed Rail won’t get finished by the California High Speed Rail Authority because it doesn’t have all the money to build HSR leveled by the opponents isn’t fact checked by the Media. Few people who buy a house have the money to buy it. That is why they borrow money for a mortgage.There is no guarantee that all people who take out a mortgage will not lose their job and default. But in the past most people would do what they could to keep their house.

    The Cap and Trade money for California High Speed Rail will be leveraged to make payments for loans to pay for HSR construction. If you have an income stream, lenders are only too happy to lend you money because that’s how they make their money. Once there is train service, there will be revenue. This will also be used to make payments on loans for construction.
    This is how most business operate. They borrow money to start a business and pay off the loans with the future profits.

    From the very beginning the California High Speed Rail Projects was planned as a Public, Private Partnership (PPP). This has become very popular since the 1980’s as a way to build infrastructure. There is public money mixed with private investment with a PPP. The bonus for private investors is that public money takes most of the risk out of a private investment. PPP has been used for several projects including building High Speed Rail in other countries. In most countries High Speed Rail operate at a profit. That is the expectation for California High Speed Rail. Since there is some public money, the California High Speed Rail isn’t expected to repay all capital expenses for its construction, but should pay for a major part of it. That was always the plan, although the opponents and the media haven’t bothered to check this fact out.

    • Now if only HSR could adopt a policy of building more than one segment at a time. Also when building each segment they employ more than one crew so as each segment is being built starting at each end of said segments meeting hopefully in the middle. For profit railroads in our nation understand this concept but unfortunatly public transit and the government does not.

      Again i will point out Henry Huntington built the Los Angeles to Long Beach P.E. line in six months. It took the L.A.C.T.C. over three years to build the Blue Line over much of the same right of way. H.H. used more than one crew, the L.A.C.T.C. used only one.

      • “i will point out Henry Huntington built the Los Angeles to Long Beach P.E. line in six months”

        You keep repeating this as some sort of magic wand that resurrecting Henry Huntington from the dead is going to fix things, pretending to believe that 2014 LA is the same as 1901 LA. News flash, in 1901 LA, the City Hall hasn’t even been built yet, there was still no UCLA, and City of Long Beach was barely 4 years old!

        LA was far less densely populated and much of the land was open space and didn’t have to deal with NIMBY and other safety and union cronyism issues compared to today.

  2. Re: The American decline in driving actually began earlier than you think (Washington Post)

    My reaction to the article and the graphical data isn’t why is per capita VMT declining. It is what caused per capita VMT to continue increasing over the decades, after per capita car ownership had (I believe) maxed out. Nobody can drive more than one car at a time and people can only spend so much time every day behind the wheel because there are only so many hours in a day. Are people spending more time driving in 2004 or 2005 than they were in 1980? Are they spending as much time driving in 2014 as they were in 2004? There will be a maximum VMT per capita for the simple reason that a person can spend only so much time driving and there is a maximum number of miles that can be driven in a single vehicle in a 24 hour period.. There are speed limits out there.

    A decline from 10,000 VMT a year per capita is reasonable just from a time spend driving/vehicle miles driven scenario of worsening traffic on worsening highways. . In California, it could be a consequence of the fact that people are stuck in cars in traffic that has gotten worse over the years. Spending the same amount of time driving but in slower traffic = less VMT per capita.

    The one element missing from these graphs is the amount of time people spend driving. I think it is a key factor.

    Time spent driving is time that can’t be used for other things. Personal technology could have a big role in this. Can’t drive and text.

  3. The pitfall of making transit growing is the costs associated with running and operations of it, especially when most transit agencies in the US do not make any money.

    I say fix the problem of transit being reliant on taxes first, make it profitable and self-sustaining, before heading off to growth. The answers are already out there on how to do this and has been proven to work in countries outside the US.

    1. More people using transit is half the answer.
    2. The other half is the eventual need to move to a distance based fare system. You can’t possibly keep running a system where going from your apartment to your neighborhood supermarket costs the same price as going from Venice Beach all the way to the San Bernardino County Line.
    2. Utilize train stations as a place to conduct business as a way to gain more rent revenue.
    3. Eventually, privatize

    All the university scholars who are experts in this field says this is the approach to take. If LA Metro has one of the world’s best universities right here in LA, wouldn’t you guys want to learn and heed to advice of UCLA professors and researchers?

    UCLA papers

  4. Started reading posts concerning HSR. Don’t these people have a life? Post after post arguing what the best routes are in both Northern and Southern California. Like anything they have to say will change the bureaucrats minds. Want a be geologists going back and forth about the San Francisco Bay as well as those in Southern California arguing about tunneling thru mountains. Reminds me of the stupid discussion for a light rail line from downtown thru Hollywood via Dodger Stadium with a tunnel under the Sunset Junction area to accommodate the festival.