Today’s Zocalo Public Square rider profile: Alameda Street to Doheny Drive
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.
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.
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.
Categories: Transportation Headlines