Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 11

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Today’s Zocalo Public Square profile of a Metro rider: I sell car insurance but don’t know how to drive, Sunland Blvd. to Normandie Ave.


Media bashes 710 alternatives…the transit ones anyway (Streetsblog L.A.)

Streetsblog’s Damien Newton reviews the media coverage of the release last Friday of the draft environmental report for the SR-710 North Study. On his end, he noticed that much of the reporting skewed against the transit options and toward the tunneling options. Excerpt:

Most media played it straight, announcing the report’s findings, the public comment period, and other basic factual information. “Closing the 710 Freeway gap would take years and cost billions,” reported the Times. “Caltrans Releases EIR For Proposed 710 Freeway Extension,” snored Patch.

But much of the rest of the media applied a more critical eye and came down hard–against the option to provide better transit service instead of digging a gigantic tunnel. The $240 million cost of the bus rapid transit option, which is 7 percent of the single-level tunnel option and roughly 4 percent of the double-decker tunnel option, is the subject of the headline “Busway option to close 710 freeway gap would cost five times early estimate” at KPCC.

But it’s not just the cost of the busway option that is under intense media scrutiny. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune  and Contra Costa Times and Daily Breeze all printed the story, “Environmental report on 710 freeway gap: Tunnel would ease traffic more than light rail.”

From this excerpt you can see that nearly everyone has their own take on the results of the study, as well as the future of the project. There’s no denying it’s a hot topic. That’s why Metro is encouraging the public to get involved in the 120-day public comment period and let your voice be heard.

The full Source post on the release of the document and more information on ways to get involved can be found here.

Finding the dense city hidden in Los Angeles (Medium)

Another interesting chapter in the debate over the true density profile of Los Angeles. Wondering how the densities between San Francisco and Los Angeles would compare if they were cities of similar size, urban planner Michael Rhodes selected for comparison a San Francisco-sized chunk of the densest part of L.A. he calls Central L.A. Take a look at the map below.



Using these new boundaries, Rhodes discovered San Francisco and the densest parts of L.A. are identically dense, which led him to a question about transit ridership. Excerpt:

So do people actually walk and ride public transportation in this dense, San Francisco-sized core area of LA? They do. About 56% of people drive alone to work in the Central LA area shown in the map, far lower than the national average (though still much higher than San Francisco, where 37% of people drive alone to work).

And there are more than two-thirds as many boardings of public transportation in Central LA as there are in SF, suggesting many people are using transit for non-work trips as well.

The article also lists the neighborhoods in Central L.A.’s drive-alone-to-work ratio, which are considerably lower compared to the rest of L.A. (Streetsblog LA, to their credit, has also written about this recently, finding much the same thing). However, the likely reason transit ridership falls short of San Francisco in even the densest parts of L.A. is because of reality: Los Angeles is not the size of San Francisco, where destinations may be closer and/or easier to reach.

In the context of the larger city, Rhodes’ Central L.A. is not perceived as a city center in the same way San Francisco or Manhattan are unquestionably the centers of their regions. In Los Angeles, it’s a common perception that there is no real center, and the truth is even though progress is being made, there are still many sparse and sprawled locations where people need to get to but transit might not reach or reach well. At least, not yet 🙂

2 Notes of Caution on America’s ‘Record’ Mass Transit Year (CityLab)

Another week, another Eric Jaffe CityLab article. This time, Jaffe digs deeper into the 2014 national transit ridership report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) on Monday. On the surface, the numbers look pretty solid and ridership appears to be on the rise nationally. APTA even called it a ‘record’ year. But a closer look reveals a few smudges on the rosy picture.

Other than the fact that transit ridership is still below early 20th century numbers, Jaffe’s two largest concerns with this year’s report are that transit trips in New  York are still the majority of trips taken nationally and that bus ridership is on the decline. On the latter, Jaffe beats the drum as he has in previous weeks:

This pattern is troubling insofar as it reflects underinvestment in critical city bus service (and the absence of a higher, socially appropriate cost of driving). The tools exist to make buses as attractive as rail: dedicated lanes, all-door boarding, transit signal priority, smarter system configurations. Better still the necessary infrastructure is already there in the form of road capacity. How cities use this canvas will decide what type of mobility portrait we’re really painting.

Supporting Jaffe’s argument is another response to the APTA report at City Notes, which specifically points to Chicago’s bus ridership declines as a result of reduced service and underinvestment.

Wi-Fi-in-Motion makes Porto a ‘Smart City‘ (Duetsche Welle) 

A California-based company is providing Wi-Fi on city buses and taxis in Portugal’s second largest city. The Wi-Fi can be utilized by citizens for speedy internet access, but it’s also serving a second purpose by the city of Porto to collect data from a network of sensors laid out throughout the city.

Trash needing collection and real time traffic response are two ways the city is using the network as part of a “Smart City” concept. Since the data is being transmitted through the city network and not cellular networks, the system is being touted as a public utility rather than a commercial service.

In L.A., Metro will soon begin a pilot program for WiFi on nine test buses.

The plot to build an NFL stadium in downtown L.A. is official dead (Huffington Post)

With the most viable stadium options now in Inglewood and Carson, the most transit-friendly stadium prospect is put to rest.

Polite panda seen using crosswalk (The DoDo)

What’s cuter than a panda tumbling down a slide? Well, nothing really. But a panda that instinctively obeys traffic laws definitely gives the species some bonus points:


Not really a headline, but still fun: the New York Transit Museum Store yesterday released T-shirts, coffee mugs and magnets featuring its slogans from its high profile “Courtesy Counts” etiquette campaign launched this winter. Now anyone can be a walking, talking, coffee-sipping billboard for transit etiquette and help “stop the spread.” By the way, the New York Transit Museum and the rest of its store is worth checking out, too.