Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 18

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ART OF TRANSIT: Train heading into DTLA at night. (Photo from Instagram via @thehatemachine)

ART OF TRANSIT: Train heading into DTLA at night. (Photo via Instagram from @thehatemachine)

Today’s Zocalo Public Square profile of a Metro rider: Really into pink Burbank Blvd. to Terra Bella St.

An urban planner gives us the lowdown on L.A. (L.A. Times)

A very brief Q&A with urban planner Dan Rosenfeld about the state of affairs in L.A., including the smells, the sidewalks and gentrification. When asked why L.A’s transit systems “never quite make it to the destinations people want to reach” Rosenfeld rebuts:

That’s plain not true anymore. Our light rail and subway system takes you to almost every place you’d want to be for a celebration, and the buses go everywhere. We have the largest public transit capital program in the nation, and it’s mostly locally financed. Every other city is jealous of Measure R.

How the Twin Cities got transit right (CNN Money)

CNN Money investigates the impact of the Metro Transit Green Line in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota. The light rail line, which connects the downtowns of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, opened just last summer. Despite an obvious need, it faced a lot of opposition from adjacent neighborhoods early on in the development process.

But even though the new line runs a bit slower than it probably should (something I wrote about last summer) it’s an investment that appears to be paying off for the communities around it. Excerpt:

Development is taking place all along the Green Line. Since the engineering began five years ago, over $2.5 billion in investment has been announced within a half mile of the tracks, according to the Metropolitan Council, which runs the line.

Listing off a handful of new developments because of the line, the article takes the view that an additional three stations added later in the process (and located only a half-mile apart) were worth the additional construction costs and slower travel times because of how they connected nearby low-income communities. This has also led to more affordable housing development near the stations.

L.A. readers might find interesting the use small business fund that helped keep many of the businesses in the vicinity of the Green Line’s construction in business — seemingly similar to the small business interruption fund being implemented on the Crenshaw/LAX project. Though the business highlighted in the article still lost foot traffic and business during construction, a $20,000 fund helped cover the losses and helped keep the business afloat to reap the benefits of their location near the now completed light rail line.

Carpooling tries for a comeback (CityLab)

A good follow-up to the article we posted a few weeks ago about the decades-long decline in carpooling. That article was hopeful that new mobile based technology might rekindle commuter’s willingness to carpool. In this CityLab article, a few of these carpool start-ups are spotlighted, including one called ToEverywhere.

Though there’s reason to be optimistic that technology will help make finding and joining carpools much easier, it’s likely not the panacea to reverse carpooling’s decline because of other factors contributing to it. Excerpt:

The site is very much a work in progress, and it won’t achieve peak usefulness until it’s populated with many more drivers and becomes a smartphone app. Even then ToEverywhere seems more likely to appeal to people who already want to carpool than to change the habits of solo drivers. A lack of flexibility to leave work early—that looming bane of carpoolers—remains a challenge with all of these new ride tools.

One thought: although there have been a number of articles saying carpool lane use is down, that’s not necessarily the case in our region. Go check out some of our HOV lanes at rush hour — a lot of them are running at or near capacity.

Why parking spaces shouldn’t be wasted on cars (Washington Post)

The debate over the effects of parking — or the lack thereof — on nearby businesses continues. This Wonkblog article cites a recently published study on parklets in Philadelphia that suggests there are better ways to use the parking space. It also adds to the increasing collection of evidence that show reducing parking space does not necessarily hinder nearby businesses.

The study, published in 2013, showed that businesses near about a dozen of these temporary parklets — which are typically installed over one or two existing parking spaces — saw more foot traffic and a 20 percent increase in sales after the parklets were installed. It’s also an important topic because the loss of parking is often cited as a reason not to convert parking lanes to bus lanes.

Average British workers do 30 minutes of work on their daily journey (Daily Mail) 

A survey of British train commuters found that they worked on average an additional 33 minutes a day on their daily commutes. This is becoming a cultural trend, apparently:

Bosses are beginning to realise how much work is done on the train, with nearly four in ten workers, 38 per cent, being allowed to leave early on the basis that they work on the way home.

Even if you’re not able convince your boss do let you do the same over here in the States, the article highlights one of the best things about using transit: it gives you more time to do other things. Sure, you can work more (if that’s your thing) but you can also read, take a nap or enjoy mindless entertainment on YouTube (and soon you’ll be able to do it on the Red and Purples Lines, too!).

All this increased employee production adds up to a boost to businesses, says the article, though it should be said the survey was released to coincide with the announcement of free WiFi on the commuter rail service First Great Western.