Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 3

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Total time traveling per capita has declined (Transportationist)

New U.S. Department of Labor stats indicate that Americans spent about six minutes fewer per day traveling for an array of activities — from 74 minutes in 2003 to 68 minutes in 2013.

How does this jibe with U.S. Census Bureau’s survey of commuting times?

“Average travel time increased from 21.7 minutes in 1980 to 22.4 minutes in 1990, and to 25.5 minutes in 2000,” reports the Census Bureau. The latest national number from 2013 is also 25.5 minutes.

Of course, it’s hard to say what all this means when averaged nationally. Rural Maine, for example, is a very different place than, say, Westlake in Los Angeles. That said, the numbers perhaps suggest that Americans — most of whom drive to get around — are holding the line when it comes to time spent in their cars. But wait….

Drilling is down, driving is up (High Country News)

An active rig adjacent to Alamitos Bay in Long Beach. Photo: Steve Hymon.

An active rig adjacent to Alamitos Bay in Long Beach. Photo: Steve Hymon.

Wrap your brain around this: the number of oil rigs is down, the number of energy jobs is down but oil production is up. Gas prices are generally down in many parts of the U.S. and in March Americans drove 26.9 billion more miles than they did in March 2014. That amounts to a three percent increase.

Whoa. Even though gas prices have remained high in California (which requires a special formulation to reduce air pollution), it sure seems like I’m seeing more SUVs rolling around town, perhaps due to the low prices here in early 2015.

As for transit ridership, it has basically been trending upward since 1990, according to the latest stats from APTA — although bus ridership across the U.S. has been flat in recent years. At Metro, we’ve seen a dip in ridership in the past couple of years, according to recent estimates. I think there are likely several factors ranging from the economy to an ongoing crackdown on fare evasion to maintenance projects that have reduced some rail service, particularly on the busy Blue and Red Lines.

Gold Line Foothill Extension so purdy drivers may break up with 210 (LA Magazine) 

Short feature and photo gallery showing some of the station art on the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension that is scheduled to open in the first half of 2016 between Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border.

Most commuter rail systems won’t meet deadline for mandated safety systems (NPR)

The 2015 deadline to install positive train control won’t be met by 70 percent of the commuter railroads in the country, according to APTA. The story looks at the effort through the eyes of the Metra system in Chicago.

The issue, of course, has been in the news lately due to the horrific Amtrak crash in Philadelphia last month in which a train going more than twice the speed limit derailed. On the upside, Metrolink (of which Metro is a major funder) has made more progress than most railroads and has rolled out the system on parts of its system.

Exclusive: huge development planned for Hollywood’s Crossroads of the World (Curbed LA)

The developers say the project would restore the retail site, preserve the existing structure and add three buildings of 30 or more stories. I’m guessing it will be a tough sell with surrounding neighborhoods (par for the course in Hollywood) but the renderings on Curbed are intriguing — and the site is less than a half-mile walk to the Red Line’s Hollywood/Highland Station and would be served by the 2 Local and 2 Rapid Bus on Sunset Boulevard.

Glory of Moscow’s 80-year-old subway tainted by Stalin connections (NPR)

Photo: Tim Adams, via Flickr creative commons.

Photo: Tim Adams, via Flickr creative commons.

It’s a big, busy system that is unique from an architectural point of view — and also came at quite a human cost, as was often the case in Stalin’s Soviet Union. The Moscow Metro is 80 this year, thus the segment on NPR.

You buy abandoned houses, fix them up and sell them (Zocalo Public Square)

Stan Griffin. Photo by Zocalo Public Square.

Stan Griffin. Photo by Zocalo Public Square.

The daily Metro rider profile by Zocalo.


Quasi-transportationy things…

•Need something to read on transit that may make your head explode? Try this NYT story on corporations who lay off American workers — but not before requiring those workers to train their foreign replacements.

•Tampa will win the Stanley Cup in seven games over the Blackhawks.

•I’m still waiting for someone to accept my offer of a free book on the chaps who carved Mt. Rushmore. If interested, email me. You must take a sacred oath to read part of the book on transit and to give it to another transit rider when done.

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11 replies

  1. The Gold Line stations look great. I still don’t understand why the Gold Line stations and canopies are so nice, while the Expo Line stations and canopies are so hideous and minimalist. What a missed opportunity.

  2. When people do a Google image search on “mass transit in east asia” or see Youtube videos of mass transit systems over there, they see wonders of a clean system, high technology, bright and beautiful stations and state of the art trains. You can’t help but think that some people see envy in places like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore compared to the low grade stuff we have here. LA doesn’t even know how to build trains and boring tunnels on their own, they have to import everything from Asia and Europe and they expect people to believe LA knows how to run transit better?

    They see how great their systems are and you have people here saying that we can’t have them here, they’re no different than those who say LA should always be a car culture.

    I have to wonder how Asian-Americans working at Metro are feeling. Don’t they get sad and angry that they know how way better their transit systems are back home, they know how to make it better, but yet they can’t do the things to make transit better in LA. I’m surprised they don’t band together, leave Metro, start talking to Asian banks, investors, and transport companies to start up their own transit company here.

    • Well said, you took the words right out of my mouth. That’s exactly how I feel: envy and remorse why America sucks at transit when Asians do it 1000 times better.

      That and the experience of riding them through backpacking tours across Asia. Once you ride Asian metro systems and come back to America, it’s like coming back to a third world country.

      We can send people to the Moon, send robots to Mars, invent the internet and spread Apple products throughout the world, but when it comes to mass transportation, America is still stuck in first gear. It feels like we’re in 1G mode of analog telecommunications when the rest of the world is already at 4G high speed wireless communications.

    • Hi b;

      No, the federal requirement does not apply to Metro although Metro has other safety systems in place to keep trains apart.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. Ah, the Moscow Metro, a perfect legacy of Stalin and an example of Communism wasting the people’s money in false grandeur and glamour while the rest of the people were starving to death during the famine. Surely the people will understand that bright yellow colors, Soviet propaganda, marble floors and decorative chandeliers are far more important than feeding their own people. Seven million Ukrainians should be allowed to die out of starvation so Stalin can make a point about making Moscow Metro so elegant.

    Of course, Stalin himself seemed to have lived the good life. Stalin’s cookbook:

    Here’s another example of Communist grandeur, the Pyongyang Metro:

    “Let’s make a magnificent subway station, made out of marble, the best chandeliers, symbolizing the will of the great people of North Korea!”

    “Sir, the people are hungry and they need rest. Do we really need a chandelier when the money can be used to buy food and medicine?”

    “Send this revolutionary to the death camps!”

  4. “Need something to read on transit that may make your head explode? Try this NYT story on corporations who lay off American workers — but not before requiring those workers to train their foreign replacements.”

    Nope, my head won’t explode. Same old story, nothing new, happening since the 1970s when American union members were smashing Japanese cars and desperately trying to make people “buy American.”

    American workers are too expensive, foreign workers are much cheaper and they built better products. It’s called competition.

    Gee that went terrific didn’t it? Forty years later, look what happened. People didn’t care about “buy American” or supported unions, people kept on buying imports. They were cheaper, better built, lasted longer, more fuel efficient, and became more popular.

    Unions became too greedy, Detroit lost their luster, started outsourcing plants to Mexico, GM became an acronym for Government Motors, and Japanese, South Korean car makers start building plants in the US in right to work states.

    I’m sure older denialists would vehemently disagree, yet fail to realize they’re using a computer mostly made by foreign components as well and they themselves are reliant on non Made in USA items all over their home.

    BTW, in form of hypocrisy, it’s likely that the people who are reading that NYT article might be reading that article on Apple or Android products (largely made by Foxconn, HTC in Taiwan or by Samsung in South Korea).

    “Shame on American corporations! They are all evil!”
    “Ooh, I have to get my hands on that new Apple Watch / Samsung Galaxy S6 / Google Nexus 8!”

    Reality is that no one cares.

    • I’m surprised you didn’t add that Metro should be profit driven, privatized and run like Asian rail lines. And ah, distance based.

      Good grief Charlie Brown.

      • Why shouldn’t they? I’m open to the idea of making Metro run like Asian transit. We should be more open minded about these things rather than being so dismissive of everything.

        After all, that’s the goal, right? Make LA transit better, make it a transit oriented city similar to other places around the world that figured out how to live a life without cars, right?

        It’s quite obvious to everyone that Asian transit is way better than what we have here in LA so they know what they are doing. Sounds like we should be studying what they do and incorporating some of their ideas to Metro, not dismissing them. That is what we’re supposed to be doing, learn what other places do that have far better experience in this field than us, and adapt them into our system.

        If people rejected everything because the ideas were too foreign, LA would be a pretty boring place. What makes LA unique is that it attracts the best minds and people from all over the world that we practically have people from every country in the world here bringing in new cuisines, new cultures, new thought, and establishing ethnic communities. They contribute to LA culture as anyone else and there’s nothing wrong with them saying they have a better way to run transit than we do.

      • Is there anything wrong with a distance based system?

        If you stop for a minute and think about it, it does make sense. LA shouldn’t be trying to adapt a fare model like the NYCMTA or the SF MUNI when the coverage area of LA Metro is a lot bigger than what transit agencies in San Francisco and New York have to deal with.

        It’s perfectly logical that prices shouldn’t be equal and that there is an inherent cost to travelling over longer distances. Why do you think taxi cabs have fare meters? Why do you think prices on Amtrak tickets aren’t the same depending on where you’re going?

        Why should Metro be any different? It’s logical that the bus fare to go few blocks should not be priced at the same level as going from one end of LA County to another end of LA County. The rider distance gap differences between a Metro rider who uses to go from the SFV to DTLA as opposed to another Metro rider going few blocks to school are too big and Metro itself is facing serious issues in farebox recovery ratio as it is.