Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 18

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

ART OF TRANSIT: I went for a hike in the Angeles National Forest on POTUS Day, looked up and saw this. There are actually two people dangling from the chopper -- they were doing work atop a nearby utility tower/transformer. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: I went for a hike in the Angeles National Forest on POTUS Day, looked up and saw this. There are actually two people dangling from the chopper — they were doing work atop a nearby utility tower/transformer. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Today’s Zocalo Public Square profile of a Metro rider: ‘I’m tired of parking tickets,’ Normandie Avenue to Ocean Avenue.

Houston just reimagined its transit system without spending a dime (Vox) 

Houston Metro’s transit reimagining plan approved (Human Transit) 

Although not a local story, I’m going to lead the headlines with it today because I think it’s important. Long story short: Houston METRO has dramatically revamped its bus routes putting a new emphasis on lines with frequent service. As transportation planner Jarrett Walker — his firm worked on the plan as consultants — explains:

In the history of transit in North America, top-to-bottom transit network redesigns are very rare, particularly for a city of the Houston’s size and national importance. This is a great day for Houston, and will be a fascinating case study for transit in North America.

Over at Vox, Matthew Yglesias writes:

The old system, like many bus routes in the United States, expended a lot of resources on very low-ridership routes for the sake of saying there’s “a bus that goes there.” The new plan says that the focus should be to provide reasonably frequent service on routes where reasonably frequent service will attract riders. That does mean that some people are further than ever from a transit stop. But it means that many more Houstonians will find themselves near a useful transit stop.

Focusing transit planning on the goal of promoting transit services that are actually used strikes me as common sense. But it’s also the best way to create a virtuous circle of sound urban planning and transportation management. A system with a lot of riders is a system with a lot of advocates for expansion and improvement.

I wanted our readers to see these stories because our social media team at Metro hears a lot about this sort of thing. On the one hand, we have riders grateful that bus routes exist in their neighborhood even if they’re not frequently served. On the other hand, we also have plenty of riders who say they would like to see more frequent buses on the area’s busiest corridors. And, of course, we have a growing rail network that must integrate with the existing bus system as well as bus routes from other agencies in L.A. County that overlap with Metro Bus service.

What do you think, riders? Does our region need to reimagine its bus system, leave things as they are or tweak things? Comment please, one per customer.

Commuters compose songs, follow pretty routes to reduce stress (L.A. Times)

Very entertaining story by Laura Nelson on the things that motorists do to avoid overheating (as in stress, not radiator). This would include driving out of the way for relaxing ocean views and teaching yourself to play the harmonica.

The opening anecdote includes a sample of the things one man screams at other drivers, including the phrase “come on grandma,” which sounds like it should be some kind of weird L.A.-centric traffic hashtag (it turns out that #comeongrandma is already a popular hashtag). I don’t need to say it but will anyway: many grandmas are perfectly great motorists!

As Laura also notes, there is one way to reduce stress: don’t drive. If you live near a Metro bus stop or train station, I suggest trying public transit every so often as a way to calm your valves. Here’s the map and timetables page on for those shopping for a transit alternative.

Gold Line authority makes push for next extension from Azusa to Montclair (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments is meeting Thursday to rank which transportation projects it would like to see funded should Metro pursue a sales tax ballot measure in 2016 to fund new projects. The Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority wants to see a 12-mile extension of the Gold Line from Azusa to Montclair in San Bernardino County get funding (the Pasadena to Azusa extension is scheduled to open next year and is funded by Measure R). There are also folks in the SGV pushing for funding for an extension of the Eastside Gold Line to both South El Monte and Whittier.

Good article. One thing to keep in mind: Metro is exploring a ballot measure for 2016 but no decision has yet been made by the Metro Board whether to go to voters or not. Nor has a decision been made whether to pursue an extension of Measure R or perhaps a new sales that could projects not funded by Measure R. There is theoretically no limit to projects from any one region that could be funded by a ballot measure, but as one elected official notes in the article, politics do matter.

LADOT launches new smartphone app for DASH and Commuter Express fares (Streetsblog LA)

Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday announced a one-year pilot program that will allow riders of city of L.A. buses to pay fares with their smartphones. The video below explains how it works. As Joe Linton notes, paying fares with a smartphone is on Metro’s radar and the agency is exploring it, but nothing is imminent.

Oil trains are blowing up all over the place (Grist)

A wee bit of hyperbole in the headline…actually there have been two recent train accidents involving rail cars carrying oil. Still, it’s fair to point out that the number of rail cars carrying crude oil has greatly increased in recent years as a result of more drilling in North America.

A new index to measure sprawl gives high marks to Los Angeles (CityLab) 

A new study burps forth from the Ivory Tower that determines that sprawl is by nature low density communities. And, thus, the L.A. metro area and other big regions (such as New York) aren’t really that sprawling as they’re too high density.

If you can explain to me what this means or why it matters or if I’m too dumb to understand this, please email me with ‘you’re too dumb’ in the subject line. In the meantime, I suggest this: try driving the 121 miles from Palm Springs to Santa Monica on the 10 freeway, leaving Palm Springs at 6 a.m. If, after that, you still believe the L.A. metro area is doing great when it comes to sprawl, then I suggest seeking tenure anywhere that will take you.

Bidders for 2022 Winter Games are melting away (New York Times)

Not a transpo story per se, but more an infrastructure one. At this point, only Almaty in Kazakhstan and Beijing are in the running — and Beijing, of course, just hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has a blizzard of concerns about both, ranging from human rights to lack of snow in the mountains outside Beijing.

I say put the 2022 Games in L.A.! We have enough arenas and infrastructure to handle hockey, figure skating, speed skating and curling and the Sierra resorts could host the alpine events (assuming there’s snow). The bobsledders and lugers can take the easy two-hour flight to Utah and use the bobsled track there from the 2002 Games. My three cents.

21 replies

  1. So here’s a political consideration for a potential Meas. R extension for Nov. 2016: Make sure both Expo/Gold Line extensions are completed close to or before the vote. The news will surely get huge amounts of coverage, and generate buzz favorable to passage.

    • Hi there;

      As things stand currently, both Expo Line Phase 2 and Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa are scheduled to open in the first half of 2016. Exact dates have not yet been determined.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Hmm. Regarding the scenic route, when I make my weekly commute from my Saturday morning organ lesson (yes, real pipes!) in Long Beach to my Saturday docent shift at the International Printing Museum in Carson (not open to the public THIS weekend, as we’re doing a Boy Scout Merit Badge Day, and that takes all our resources), unless I have an overriding reason to take the 405, I go by way of the Vincent Thomas Bridge, because the Ports and the Bridge are far more scenic than, say, the Carson Refinery.

    Regarding “taking transit instead,” well, if I’m going somewhere where taking Metro actually reduces my driving distance (Disney Hall, the Bowl, Exposition Park, even the La Brea Tar Pits or the FlightPath Museum at LAX), you bet your sweet Equus asinius I take Metro.

    Alas, I live and work in the vast, barren, transit wasteland known as Orange County (where the sprawl is worse than anywhere in Los Angeles County).

  3. I don’t know about LA hosting the winter games, but San Francisco would not be totally out of the question. San Jose currently has a hockey team and Mammoth can host the alpine events. Really not a much stranger choice than Sochi, Russia.

    • Our region has two pro hockey teams and a minor league team! And it’s a shorter drive to Mammoth in winter from L.A. than S.F. due to winter road closures! In NorCal’s defense, Squaw Valley hosted the ’60 Winter Olympics although most of the facilities — in the resort’s parking lot — have been dismantled.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. I was to be excited to see that we can now pay for transit with smartphones. What I was expecting was load up cash onto our smartphones like Apple Pay or Google Wallet, tap-in/tap-out and automatically deduct fares based on distance. What you gave us is this half-baked solution where you have to sign up for an app, store a credit or debit card (with questionable gov’t run security) and buy a digital pass that anyone with a little programming skill can fake a pass to show to the bus driver.

    Seriously, why can’t anyone running transit in LA do things right? Haven’t anyone working for transit ever traveled and tried out transit abroad? It’s very simple:

    1. Go to where they have the best transit in the world. I suggest Hong Kong.
    2. Research what they do.
    3. Copy everything that they do.

    That’s all there is to it. Why keep trying to re-invent the wheel that you know you have no experience or skill on? How hard is it you for you to understand that we don’t want passes anymore? Pre-purchasing passes are stupid in the age of contactless where everything can be automated and let the system do all the work. Distance based fares and cap system. That’s all that needs to be done. Get rid of confusing things like flat rate fares and pre-purchased passes!

    If every other city in the world can do this, why is it so hard for LA to get it done? Is it union pressure to keep the status quo?

  5. I think the second phase of the gold line should be pushed ahead because if you regularly commute on the 210, IT SUCKS! Plus we can really boast how we will have the longest light rail line after the regional connector opens. This part of the gold will become the blue line no?

    • Hi El Don;

      The current operating plan is that after the Regional Connector opens, trains will run from Azusa to Long Beach and another set of trains will run between East L.A. and Santa Monica. You will be able to transfer between the lines at five different downtown L.A. stations.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. Metro has removed quite a few “coverage” bus routes over the years. The 26, 56, 107, 114, 168, 170, 225/226, and 259 are all routes that provided coverage but were ultimately eliminated. While there are some peak hour only routes that could get the axe, Metro should also recognize that everyone pays taxes and so everyone should get some bus service, given enough density. Metro’s standards for passengers per hour are much higher than the suburban operators like Foothill, Santa Clarita, and Norwalk, who run much emptier buses.

    • yes but some of these access lines are in the main grid, like 175. cut lines like those, and then strengthen the grid network. its a win win as riders will prefer walking 2-3 extra blocks to get the much more frequent bus. personally i think streets with hi frequency rapids should eliminate their local routes.

    • Higher taxes, higher fares, service cuts. That’s government run public transit for you. You can keep hoping that government will do their job right in mass transit.On the other hand, there’s the privatization ideas that are used over in Asia that we can at least try to learn and implement.

      But privatization will lead to higher fares and service cuts! Proof and data of privatized mass transit in Asia shows us otherwise. Besides, what good of a job is government doing with our tax dollars? Is it getting any better? Higher taxes, higher fares, service cuts. Those are the only three things government run mass transit can accomplish. And we’re getting tired of it.

  7. I should add that Lake Placid is only a four-hour drive north of the Big Apple as opposed to flying about 500 miles or so between LA and Utah.

    • Hey Martin;

      Fair enough, but Sierra offers better alpine opportunities! 🙂

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • But will the Sierra Mountains offer skiers and spectators any snow? Last time I heard California is in the middle of an epic drought. Lack of snow was a major issue in Sochi during last year’s Winter Games and it was a significant concern prior to the Vancouver Games in 2010.

  8. I think just as important as providing high frequency bus service is to ACTUALLY make the bus and rail systems unite as one as opposed to the two modes of transportation competing for commuters. Houston now has a light rail system that’s about to increase in a big way, adding two more lines and doubling the number of stations serving the fourth largest city in the US.

    As far as the 2022 Winter Olympics are concerned, I’d love to see the Games take place on American soil again. Sorry, LA but New York City has better infrastructure to host a Winter Olympic Games if we ever decide to bid for these Games. 🙂

  9. I would love to see a Metro bus system that prioritized higher traffic lines by increasing frequency. As a former commuter by the 733, I find that biking is preferable (very much so) to watching bus after bus on Discharge Only pass me by in the afternoons.

    However, the reality is that such a restructuring in LA would likely be irrevocably damaging to the livelihoods of a great many transit dependent people here at current funding levels.

  10. Metro Rapid basically is the high frequency grid model. I think Walker has specifically praised LA for adopting this sort of model.

  11. Re: Sprawl

    You’re not dumb, just missed the point. If you’ve ever overflown Phoenix, AZ, been to the spread-out suburbs of Vegas, or visited the circuitous suburbs surrounding Kansas City, then you’ll understand what sprawl is. LA may have invented it, but we’ve also outgrown it. What used to be sprawl – the San Fernando Valley in particular – is now filled with 3+ story apartment buildings, condo complexes, and other remarkably dense housing.

    There’s still areas like Valencia, Thousand Oaks and Porter Ranch, but we’ve literally run out of room for the sort of sprawling development that was going on in Phoenix right before the recession. There’s nowhere to go but up.

    Having traveled all over the Midwest, I’ve encountered sprawl at its worst. Sprawl is cities that think they’re rural, where business districts are laid out along highways without sidewalks, where you have to walk 1 mile just to cross the street at a sidewalk for a bite to eat at the local Chick-fil-A, unless you want to cross six lanes of freeway-speed traffic on foot. Sprawl is suburbs with loop roads that lead nowhere, where you have to drive two miles just to get out of your housing development, and another five miles to the nearest cluster of supermarkets and Wal-Marts.

    • Hey;

      Okay, maybe not dumb after all. In the study’s defense, perhaps the point is that there are places that sprawl worse than the L.A. area. That said, I’m still not sure what the study really accomplishes other than provide degrees of sprawl as we’re still pretty sprawling — you can drive from Ventura to Palm Springs and never be in a place I would describe as rural.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source