How We Roll, Thursday, August 13

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Newsflash!: The new and easier-to-navigate and use screen prompts have now been installed on all of Metro’s TAP vending machines. Here’s an earlier post about the screens.

That’s the Regional Connector. The L.A. Times’ business side wasn’t thrilled about the station location during the project’s planning phase. But in a few years the LAT will be near both a Regional Connector station and Red/Purple Line station and affordable transport will likely be good for the LATers not as high on the corporate food chain.

Today’s timewaster — what’s the chance anyone important will walk into your cubicle in the next few minutes? 🙂

Timewaster 2:

USOC, Los Angeles moves forward with Olympic bid (USA Today)

Officials with the United States Olympic Committee made official on Wednesday what everyone already knew: they are working with Los Angeles to make it the American bid city for the 2024 Summer Games. As the LAT reported earlier this week, a deal is contingent on L.A. willing to bear the cost of some cost overruns should they occur.

The USOC announcement was interesting in that they made it clear that L.A. is their top choice over San Francisco and Washington D.C., the other two cities in contention. USOC also said they had conducted their own poll and found that 81 percent of Angelenos supported the Games. The poll was almost certainly the result of USOC misgauging public interest in Boston, its first choice as an American bid city.

For those who want to see the Games here, this is a welcome development. From a transit point of view, it’s intriguing. The five Metro Rail projects currently under construction (Crenshaw/LAX Line, Expo 2, Gold Line Foothill Extension, Purple Line Extension to Wilshire/La Cienega and Regional Connector) are all forecast to be done by 2024 and LAX has said it could have its people mover between the airport terminals and the Crenshaw/LAX Line done by 2023.

Many of the prospective Olympic venues are near Metro Rail lines as this 2014 map from the Southern California Committee for the Olympics Games shows. The map even includes transit lines:


As we noted recently, if this goes forward, L.A. would be in for some stiff competition from cities that could include Paris, Rome, Budapest, Hamburg, Baku and Toronto. L.A. has already twice hosted the Summer Games whereas Paris hasn’t hosted them since 1924, meaning 2024 is their 100th anniversary. And let’s face it: IOC officials — known in the past for, ahem, indulging in the delights of prospective host cities, could probably have a swell time in Paris.

On the other hand, if L.A. can make the case that it’s the city that is most prepared to host the Games and that it has a big league transit system, I think we’ll be tough to beat.

Kodak’s first digital moment (New York Times) 


Photo: George Eastman House.

Not directly related to transit, but directly related to thinking-outside-the-box and perhaps those who took note that Metro will soon have an Office of Extraordinary Innovation, as we posted recently.

The blog post is about the Kodak employee named Steven Sasson who invented the first digital camera in the 1970s. Excerpt:

The main objections came from the marketing and business sides. Kodak had a virtual monopoly on the United States photography market, and made money on every step of the photographic process. If you wanted to photograph your child’s birthday party you would likely be using a Kodak Instamatic, Kodak film and Kodak flash cubes. You would have it processed either at the corner drugstore or mail the film to Kodak and get back prints made with Kodak chemistry on Kodak paper.

It was an excellent business model. [snip]

“When you’re talking to a bunch of corporate guys about 18 to 20 years in the future, when none of those guys will still be in the company, they don’t get too excited about it,” [Sasson] said. “But they allowed me to continue to work on digital cameras, image compression and memory cards.”

By 1989, Kodak had a digital camera it could have sold. But the company’s marketing and business execs were not interested — digital would interrupt film sales. Kodak would make a lot of money from its patents, which expired in 2007. But it was still too late. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

In this case, the suits at Kodak got the innovation part right — they invested in a new technology. But they couldn’t see the future, a lesson perhaps for marketers and execs out there.

Crashes doubled after Houston banned red light cameras (Streetsblog Network) 

This is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t story. On the one hand, red light and speed cameras inspire a ton of complaints, especially from those who allege concerns about privacy. On the other hand, the cameras do what police often don’t or can’t do: patrol intersections 24-7 for miscreants who blow through red lights, jeopardizing walkers, cyclists and other motorists and transit users.

Male puma killed crossing 5 freeway in Castaic (L.A. Times) 

This is the lion that managed to leave the Santa Monica Mountains and get across the 101. He eventually made it to the Los Padres National Forest but was struck by a car early Wednesday on a stretch of the 5 freeway north of Santa Clarita. For those keeping score at home, this is the 12th cougar to be killed by vehicles since 2002.

Obviously, these kind of collisions may not be entirely avoidable. But it would sure be great if people went a little slower in areas where there is wildlife present and if there were more wildlife crossings built in Southern California — underpasses, overpasses, etc. Mountain lions are native to our area and an important part of our native ecosystems.

A mountain lion uses a wildlife undercrossing built near Banff in Canada. Photo: Parks Canada.

A mountain lion uses a wildlife undercrossing built near Banff in Canada. Photo: Parks Canada.

Bike Wars (HBO’s Real Sports)

If you have stream HBO or have it on cable, there’s an excellent segment in this month’s show about attempts to expand biking as a commuting option in American cities, L.A. included. Above is a preview followed by a bonus clip.

Speaking of L.A. biking….

Additive Neglect (Flying Pigeon)

Some low-hanging foliage over the York Boulevard bike lane in L.A. has FP wondering if the city will take care of its existing bike lanes before possibly expanding them via its newly minted Mobility Plan. Excerpt:

After the Kum-Ba-Ya giddiness fades, we’ll probably get back to fretting over the freshly-approved Mobility Plan 2035 and whether it will become a guiding document, a sort of Constitution of access—or another dust-gatherer whose only real purpose is to fill in sound bites during a procession of grinning politicians’ photo ops. Los Angeles has adopted great plans before, and nothing much has come of them; the very real advances in transit LA has seen have been designed and realized by Metro, which is a county agency. And no fewer than four council members tried to add amendments to the plan removing important bicycle facilities from streets in their districts, under the delusion that cramming more cars onto our roadways will somehow lessen congestion. (Just look at the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass, freshly widened and slower than ever, to see the folly of that sort of non-thinking.)

For clarification, the 405 project was a Metro project albeit one with wide support from city officials, who in the mid-aughts helped secure state funding. A study earlier this year

As for the Mobility Plan, I like the vision but I do think it’s really going to be a street-by-street battle when it comes to shifting traffic lanes to bike and/or bus lanes.

My other concern: Some of the existing bike lanes, I think, are really sub-par — for example, the one on Huntington Boulevard in L.A. that sees little use. The problem there is that the lane was added to bump up the mileage of bike lanes but when those lanes are little used, critics can rightly criticize them as being a waste of resources. That’s a shame because I firmly believe that good, safe bike lanes will attract a lot of cyclists.

UTA says it will ‘provide information’ on transit tax hike, but not campaign for it (Salt Lake City Tribune)

With a potential 1/4-penny sales tax increase on the horizon in the greater Salt Lake area, the agency has said it will provide information to both proponents and opponents but not advocate for a tax hike. Metro took a similar approach with Measure R in 2008 (which won) and Measure J in 2012 (which lost). Measure R was almost certainly helped by a campaign overseen by the office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others who supported it. Obviously, this is an issue that could raise its head again here if Metro goes forward with a long-range plan update and potential ballot measure in 2016.

Signs of a historic El Nino, but forecasters remain wary (New York Times)

This is what Shasta Lake in Northern California looked like in August 2014. It’s even lower now. Photo by Steve Hymon.

The National Weather Service is saying there is a 90 percent chance that El Nino will impact North America this winter — meaning lots of rain and snow due to higher ocean temperatures. How much it impacts So Cal remains to be seen (if El Nino materializes); a lot of rain in the basin and snow in the mountains almost always assures very messy commutes although could help fill depleted reservoirs in California. We’ll discuss Metro’s preparations later this fall.

I’m also on Twitter, Instagram and have a photo blog where I share my non-transportationy stuff.  


8 replies

  1. “3. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your consumers (consumers learn to adapt when there is a benefit to them)”

    This analysis is very true.

    I remember the time as a kid when I would’ve scoffed at the idea that everyone will have a computer in their homes. Back when I was a kid, computers were for the scientists, the engineers, the people working at labs. By the time I was in middle school, I had my first computer because it was a family choice between spending thousands of dollars on an encyclopedia set that will be outdated the next year or a computer that gave us a CD-ROM drive with Microsoft Encarta in it in which we can buy the latest edition for a fraction of a cost of an entire encyclopedia set.

    Nowadays, it’s not even one computer per home, it’s multiple devices per person. Not even a CD-ROM encyclopedia, it’s just entering the search terms “[whatever you want to learn about] wikipedia” in Chrome and bam, you’re reading a Wikipedia article. Today, people can just give a five year an iPad and they’ll be playing games and be on the internet immediately.

    If there is a tremendous benefit for the people, the people will quickly grasp the concept and learn what is necessary to carry on their lives better and more efficiently. That being said, some people might scoff at the idea of TAP-in/TAP-out distance based fares could be too confusing for Americans to comprehend. But if the vast majority of Metro riders are not long distance riders and the benefit is that fares can become cheaper for shorter trips, I’m willing to bet everyone will learn how to do TAP-in/TAP-out quickly. And the concept isn’t really not that mind-boggling confusing anyway considering that kids living in countries with distance based fares are perfectly able to grasp that concept. If it’s easy enough for kids to understand, American adults can figure it out too.

    • RE: encyclopedia

      Something to ponder about; we’re likely going to be the last generation to remember how to use hardcover physical encyclopedias or have seen one. The children being born today may never see an encyclopedia or may not even use them for research.

      Sure it sounds sad, but really, when was the last time you’ve actually flipped through an encyclopedia over spending hours on reading Wikipedia? Unfortunately, that is change of how the world keeps moving ahead.

      But in the end, it’s always for the better as the internet and the falling prices of laptops, computers, smartphones, and tablets has given us a vast expanding of knowledge to everyone, not just for the rich who could afford an expensive encyclopedia set.

  2. On the Olympic venue map: Taekwondo in Disney Hall?!? What are they thinking?!?

    On digital cameras vs. film: I use both. Digital is extremely convenient, especially if I need a digital image for online sharing or for printing Christmas cards. And my digital P/S is very convenient (but it’s also damn-near-impossible to hold perfectly level, or to hand-hold at shutter speeds at which I regularly hand-hold my 1980s-vintage manual-focus, manual-film-advance SLRs. But for pictures that really count, I still prefer film, and not until I see a digital camera that (1) outperforms 35mm 100-speed film and a good fixed-focal-length lens for image quality, (2) is no bulkier than my SLRs are, and (3) doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, will anybody be able to drag those SLRs (or my antique medium format equpment) from my cold, dead hands.

    • “On the Olympic venue map: Taekwondo in Disney Hall?!? What are they thinking?!?”

      I don’t see anything wrong with it.

      We already have concerts at Dodgers Stadium, the Forum, and the Staples Center, what’s wrong with having a martial arts venue at a concert hall?

      • Hi Martial Arts fan;

        I agree. I think it would be a fun and fantastic venue, not to mention one located close to a Red/Purple Line Station and Regional Connector Station. I also think this is a sport that will draw big crowds — judo at the Special Olympics certainly did — in Southern California. I’d certainly want to go, assuming I could afford the tickets 🙂

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

      • “what’s wrong with having a martial arts venue at a concert hall?”

        Absolutely nothing.

        If one can provide an alternate perspective is that the Nippon Budokan was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as an exhibition for judo to become an Olympic sport (and it subsequently did from Munich 1972).

        Today, it concurrently serves not only as a martial arts stadium, but also as a major concert hall, most notably, The Beatles had their first Japan live concert there in 1966, leading to many Live at the Budokan albums by many music artists. And back then, the idea of a martial arts stadium “tainted” with Western style rock and roll was met by opposition by conservatives then too.

        Lesson learned? It brought a lot more revenue into Tokyo because The Beatles were able to say they had one of the best concerts in a really cool looking martial arts stadium and it sort of became a status symbol for musical artists to do their concerts in Japan there.

        Budokan can be used for live concerts, Disney Hall can be used for taekwondo. Who knows, perhaps if taekwondo shows that they did it at the Disney Hall, we might get some big martial arts tournaments here. Sure would be a big plus to LA if we can have some MMA tournaments at the Disney Hall instead of Vegas.

        No one says a building built for a certain purpose should only serve that purpose. You know, how we shouldn’t be so short-sighted in making train stations just as a place for wait for the train?

  3. “In this case, the suits at Kodak got the innovation part right — they invested in a new technology. But they couldn’t see the future, a lesson perhaps for marketers and execs out there.”

    Actually, the real lessons to be learned are:

    1. Never assume competitors don’t/will never exist
    2. Never underestimate your competitors
    3. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your consumers.

    Kodak invented the digital camera, but they didn’t do anything with it. By the time Kodak was playing catch up, the market was being taken away by Sony, Fujifilm, Casio, Olympus, Minolta, Canon, Nikon in the digital camera arena, and by Logitech, Microsoft, and Apple in the webcam arena.

    Kodak thought it was going to keep their monopoly forever. There’s no one else in the US that has the experience as Kodak! Except they failed to look beyond their nation’s borders and realize that across the Pacific, you had companies like Fujifilm and Konica further developing better film processing techniques, coming up with disposable single-use cameras, and companies like Nikon and Canon continue to gain market share in the professional photography market with SLRs and professional lenses.

    Kodak may have thought their consumers were too dumb to figure out how to operate a digital camera; too technical, too geeky, too niche of a market. Many old timers who used film cameras used to say that digital photography will never replace film. Guess what, they’re DSLR users today!

    The consumers however, learned to adapt to because of the benefits gained by the digital camera: ability to take more pictures than film ever could, being able to look at the picture they just took, deleting the photo and re-taking the photo again if they don’t like the picture, ability to play around with different hues, saturation, B&W and sepia tones, ability to print one out at home, and the ability to send the picture across the globe in a matter of seconds.

    One can say the same thing when it comes to the growing popularity of Uber/Lyft rideshare services over traditional cab companies these days:

    1. Never assume competitors don’t/will never exist (they will eventually come)
    2. Never underestimate your competitors (they will eventually think of better ways to take away market share)
    3. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your consumers (consumers learn to adapt when there is a benefit to them)