Transportation headlines, Wednesday, January 28

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Today’s Zocalo Public Square rider profile: Alameda Street to Doheny Drive

Sierra Madre Villa Station at dawn. Photo by Joseph Lemon/Metro

Sunrise at Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line Station. Photo by Joseph Lemon/Metro

L.A. bike share: if you build it, will they bike? (KCRW)

Scroll to the middle of the KCRW page to hear a short segment on Metro’s plans to start a regional bike share program in downtown Los Angeles. Host Warren Olney interviews Streetsblog’s Joe Linton and Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait about the program. Metro received bids yesterday for the first phase of the program, which will add 1,000 bikes and over 65 bikeshare kiosks in downtown Los Angeles.

Tait was brought on to talk about an unsuccessful pilot bikeshare program in Anaheim and Fullerton. He believes issues with the contractor and clunky bikes were the culprits, but as Linton notes, it’s more likely it didn’t succeed because of an insufficient bike network and engrained car culture in The OC. So will it work in DTLA? Listen to the segment, which runs about 10 minutes!

The myth of the American love affair with cars (Washington Post)

An excellent look at the history and possible future of the now sacrosanct relationship Americans have with their cars. But as the article points out, the story of America’s “love affair” was actually planted to counter criticism of rampant highway building across U.S. cities in the 1950s and ’60s. The narrative made the bond between Americans and their cars about emotion, not logic.  Excerpt:

“This ‘love affair’ thesis is like the ultimate story,” says Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia, who warns that we need to revisit how we came to believe this line before we embrace its logical conclusion in a future full of driverless cars. “It’s one of the biggest public relations coups of all time. It’s always treated as folk wisdom, as an organic growth from society. One of the signs of its success is that everyone forgets it was invented as a public relations campaign.”

The real story is that the auto industry was on the defensive early and seen by many as invaders of city streets. It wasn’t until the auto-industry reframed the issue. A prime example was the introduction of the term “jaywalker” to describe a pedestrian who infringes on the motorist’s right-of-way and a subsequent increase of auto collisions blamed on pedestrians.

Now with driverless cars being hailed as the imminent new era of transportation — an era that would continue to enable car-centered city building and lifestyles — Norton believes we need to ask the question: are we really choosing to commute by car or do we do it only because we have to? For a vast majority, my guess is it’s the latter. Excerpt two:

Now, about 86 percent of Americans get to work every day in a private car – a statistic that’s often interpreted to mean that the vast majority of us chose to travel that way.

This conclusion conflates preferences with constrained options. “I actually drive most of the way to work,” Norton admits. “I do it because the choices stink.” To extract from today’s ubiquitous parking garages, drive-through restaurants and busy roads a preference for cars ignores all the ways that public policy, industry influence and economic incentives have shaped our travel behavior.

“If you locked me in a 7-Eleven for a week, and then after the end of the week unlocked the door and you studied my diet over the previous seven days, then concluded that I prefer highly processed, packaged foods to fresh fruits and vegetables, I would say your study is flawed,” Norton says.

Group urges Swedes to evade subway fares, and even insures against fines (NPR)

A story on a group of Swedes who openly evade fares as part of their protest against public transit fares. They believe public transit should be free and paid entirely by taxes. Instead of paying fares which cost about $35 a week, members of the group called “Planka” pay about $12 a month into a group fund to cover fare-dodging fines. In addition to practicing fare evasion, the group distributes leaflets, reports and other materials to support their beliefs:

Planka started in 2001 as a protest movement. Now it’s evolved into something that sounds almost like a think tank.

“We write serious stuff like reports,” Tengblad says. “We made a book about the traffic hierarchy, as we call it.”

The members of this group believe that public transportation should be paid for by taxes, with free tickets. The idea may not be so far-fetched. Nearby Tallinn, Estonia, recently went that route, and a handful of other cities in Europe and the U.S. have experimented with the same thing.

Unsurprisingly, the Stockholm commissioner for public transportation considers fare jumpers thieves and says that free riders cost the system $30 million annually.

Sunday is the Super Bowl of drunk driving; crash data show (L.A. Times)

Despite the failure of last year’s petition to make the Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday, Super Bowl Sunday is still celebrated like an official holiday by millions of Americans. And unfortunately like other national holidays, it has at least one statistic in common: an increase of alcohol and drug related crashes. In fact, according to data from the Auto Club of California, in Los Angeles you’re 57% more likely to be involved in an alcohol-related crash on Super Bowl Sunday. The risk is doubled for San Diego drivers.

All the more reason to go Metro if you plan to have a few adult beverages as you witness the Seahawks take down the Pats (one can hope) this Sunday. (Note from Source editor/benevolent dictator Steve Hymon: New England 17, Seattle 16 is our official unofficial pick!).

As far as sports-friendly establishments go, there’s a fairly large selection within walking distance of Metro Rail stations, including Big Wangs in North Hollywood, Hollywood and downtown L.A., City Tavern in Culver City and downtown L.A., and Kings Row Gastropub in Pasadena. A few even offer discounts on food for Metro riders. There are plenty more but not enough space to fit them all here, so feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.


Looking for a good read? Don’t forget my colleague Steve’s book offer: this week he’s giving away Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control to the first transit rider that emails him. You’ll need to take a “solemn vow” to read at least some of it on transit and to pay it forward to another transit rider once finished. If you’re interested, contact him here.

As for me, I’m currently reading Happy City by Charles Montgomery. I’ll have to report back next week since I just started, but the first chapter is focused on Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia who implemented citywide car-free days — the inspiration behind CicLAvia in L.A. — as a way to improve the quality of life for residents.

Having the time to read is, of course, a huge benefit of taking transit. Always feel free to share your book recommendations in the comments section here or on our Twitter stream.

3 replies

  1. Re; The myth of the American love affair with cars

    Google “A trip down Market Street”. This will pull up a film of 12 or 13 minutes duration that was shot with a film camera mounted on the front end of a cable car that went up Market Street in San Francisco to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero a few weeks before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. One long take, no editing. It has been uploaded several times to youtube “60 minutes” did a segment on this film some years ago that is also on youtube.

    Plenty of jaywalkers. Boys running all over the street. A few bicyclists. A lot of horse drawn wagons and carriages. Lots of cable cars and trolley cars. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the public main street in American towns and cities was the center of American democracy and commerce.

    There are a few automobiles that move in and out of the camera’s line of sight from time to time going up and down Market Street. At one point, an automobile nearly hits a woman pedestrian. The historian on the “60 minutes” segment noted that there were very few automobiles in 1906. It would appear the automobiles shown on the film were included deliberately. In the complete version, after the cable car comes to the end of the line at the Embarcadero, it is turned around on a turntable to go back up Market Street in the opposite direction. The camera continues rolling while the car is turning. All of the three or four automobiles that are seen throughout the film, appear on camera at the end lined up on the side in a row with the drivers and passengers sitting in them in a very expressionless demeanor while the cable car turns and the camera continues rolling. A strange ending.

  2. The article about the Swedish group doesn’t say whether the general public would support raising taxes to pay for transit. Somebody has to shoulder the cost, and if taxpayers there are anything like here, people who don’t use the system at all might vote against a socialized system of paying for it.

    • “Somebody has to shoulder the cost”

      I’m beginning to accept for-profit mass transit as the model is in Asia isn’t such a bad idea. In the past, the idea was that it can’t because if we go for-profit, they’ll cut services and raise fares. Well, what’s government doing? They cut services and raise fares. Doesn’t seem like government is doing a good job either. Might as well give the privatization idea a try. At least for-profit transit won’t be as tax dependent and taxes put to Metro could be put to better use in other areas.