How We Roll, Wednesday, September 9

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It’s in the neighborhood of 100 degrees today in much of our region, so here’s your reminder to stay hydrated…in the form of the MacArthur Park fountain surrounded by colorful balls. I would not recommend swimming in that water, but it looks nice though, right?

More on the subject of the heat:


Can you imagine sitting in an exhaust-belching bus with no air conditioning on a day like today? I can’t, but I suspect a few of our readers might recall a time when that was the norm.

On to non-weather related topics:

Newsflash: There is a new FTA pilot program for expedited delivery of transit projects.

On Tuesday, Metro submitted documents with info about two agency projects that would qualify under the program’s criteria — the Airport Metro Connector/96th Street Station (i.e. the transfer point between the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the automated people mover to be built by LAX) and the Purple Line Extension. If selected for the pilot, agencies could receive expedited federal grants for chosen projects. 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles Kind of Transit Chief (Zocalo Public Square)


Metro CEO Phil Washington talked candidly in the green room prior to sharing his vision at Zocalo Public Square’s event last month. Among the handful of topics covered in the Q&A, Washington reveals his favorite L.A. basketball team, his favorite transit movie and the best advice he’s ever received. On movies, he chooses one with a title that says it all. Excerpt:

Q: What’s your favorite movie involving transit?

A: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I like John Candy. And it reminds me of what we’ve been talking about at Metro—the importance of a balanced transportation system. The balance is right there in the title.

A classic and funny film no doubt (and one that takes place partially in Chicago, Washington’s hometown), but it also features a lot of transit misfortune (like a train breaking down) and — spoiler alert — the protagonists making it home in the back of a refrigerated truck. Now that’s multi-model, and maybe not a bad option on a day like today.

Yaroslavsky: 1984 Olympics hold lessons for LA’s 2024 bid (Planning Report)

Now that Los Angeles has officially put in its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, former L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board member Zev Yaroslavsky writes about what the region can take away from its success in hosting the 1984 Olympics.

Providing background on what led L.A. to its profitable Olympics experience in 1984, but also acknowledging the differences between then and now, Zev highlights what L.A.’s current bid has going for it, including existing infrastructure and increased investment in transit. Excerpt:

The Olympics can also be a catalyst for building or accelerating important infrastructure projects. Such was the case with double-decking the LAX roadways in 1984. Today, Los Angeles is expanding its mass transit system and may wish to expedite the completion of certain projects if awarded the 2024 Games—such as finishing the Purple Line to Westwood, where a number of venues are proposed. Investments in projects like these, which are not part of the Games’ budget, can pay huge dividends for generations to come.

However, he also notes some of the changes between 1984 and 2024 may pose challenges to successfully and profitably host the future Olympics and provides recommendations for the 2024 bid. As things stand now, the Purple Line Extension’s third section between Century City and Westwood is due to be completed in the mid-2030s under Metro’s long-range plan. However, the agency is currently looking into an update of that plan and a potential ballot measure in 2016, along with the aforementioned FTA pilot program to possibly speed up the project.

L.A.’s Olympic hopes inspire subway dreams (KPCC)

Keeping with the Olympics theme, KPPC briefly looks at the potential for accelerating the completion of Metro’s projects with the 2024 Olympics in mind. The original plan to fast-track Metro projects, the 10-30 plan spearheaded by former L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Member Antonio Villaraigosa, had initial support but is stalled in Congress. The upside: it has good company with many other important things also occupying the Office of Stalled Things.

People living near 60 Freeway in Ontario breathe the worst air in the Southland (L.A. Times)

Smog in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond as seen from Mt. Wilson. Photo by Bryan Ungard, via Flickr creative commons.

Smog in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond as seen from Mt. Wilson. Photo by Bryan Ungard, via Flickr creative commons.

The first results are unsurprising after new federal regulations enacted last year requiring environmental monitoring near freeways: the breathing ain’t easy. The area near the 60 Freeway in Ontario is the worst in the region for soot pollution, possibly because of higher smog levels in the Inland Empire and traffic emissions. More than 215,000 vehicles traveled past the monitoring site daily in 2013, according to the article, including 25,000 trucks.

Levels of other toxic gases are also elevated near the freeway, but did not violate regulations. Most of the pollutants being measured are fine particles — the type that can be inhaled deep into lungs and cause major health problems.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), the agency responsible for monitoring air quality in the region, says that the drought might be playing a role in slowly allowing pollution to build up, resulting in an increase of bad air days over the past two years. The agency recently announced it would not be able meet a 2015 federal deadline for soot levels.

Go-To cards can now be used for both transit and car-sharing (Star Tribune)

Brrrr. But transit and ride-sharing costs are now linked in the Twin Cities. Photo by Ernesto De Quesada, via Flickr creative commons.

Brrrr. But transit and ride-sharing costs are now linked in the Twin Cities. Photo by Ernesto De Quesada, via Flickr creative commons.

Metro Transit, the public transit agency for the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and a local car-sharing company HourCar have teamed up to enable transit riders to use their transit cards to pay for the car-sharing service. The program gives transit users a way to keep transit costs all in one place and allows seamless transfers between transit and car-share. As an integrated first / last-mile solution, it’s a pretty good idea. It will be interesting to see how often it’s used.

It would also be interesting to know if they’re looking into ways to integrate payment for their popular NiceRide bike share system with their transit cards.

Metro currently has a partnership with the car-sharing service Zipcar to provide discounts to Metro riders and hosts Zipcar vehicles at some stations, however there’s no integrated transit fare payment system. Metro’s future bike share system, however, is exploring ways to integrate payment via TAP card.

8 minutes: the time between a tweet to SEPTA Police Chief and “we got him” (CBS Philadelphia)

Photo by raymondclarkimages via Flickr creative commons.

Photo by raymondclarkimages via Flickr creative commons.

An interesting story out of Philadelphia: SEPTA police were able to respond in record time to a tweet their police chief received about a rider injecting drugs on a SEPTA train late Sunday night. Officers were able to intercept the train within eight minutes based on the information provided in the tweet. If anything, the story showcases the power of social media, although clearly some good fortune and timing played a part.

Speaking of good fortune and timing…how about those Dodgers? They defeated the Angels 6-4 last night, making it five wins a row and eight wins in their last 10 games, giving them an eight-and-a-half game lead over their division rivals Giants in the NL West.

At this point, I think it’s safe to say they’ve clinched and it’s really all about who they’ll be playing in the Division Series. The Cubs? Nah. Mets? Don’t make me laugh. Pirates? Arrrrrr maybe. Time will tell though, in the meantime we’ll be prepping our Dodgers Stadium Express for some post-season action. And hopefully our patrons will still be smiling for baseball-related reasons come late October.

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Did you knock on wood for me?

Joe is on Twitter @joseph_lem. Follow him for random insights on transit, tech, sports and living car-free.

11 replies

  1. I agree Metro could do a lot better in improving TAP. Isn’t the company that runs TAP the same company that San Francisco? They manage to integrate their entire system together and they can seamlessly use one single card to travel all over the Bay Area from BART, Caltrain, to MUNI trains and buses, and even the Bay Area ferry systems.

    We need to head in that direction where we only need one card to travel all over the Southland, from Metrolink, Metro, Torrance Transit, to even the Catalina Island ferries. We should also bring in Uber, Lyft and Sidecar into this.

    Being able to use TAP at convenience stores would also be wonderful. Just think of the expanded opportunities Metro can be gaining if they allow merchants to accept TAP cards as payment. Metro can be making extra money through transaction fees or something.

  2. “Such was the case with double-decking the LAX roadways in 1984.”

    I’m actually barely old enough to remember how LAX used to be like before the double decking of LAX and TBIT was built. Here’s what it used to be like (ugh)

    One thing I do miss the observation decks to see all the planes though. Would’ve been a wonderful sight to see when the Endeavour and everytime Obama comes here with Air Force One to LAX for sure if it were available today (don’t bother explaining why we can’t have nice things like that anymore post 9/11, yes, the terrorists have won).

    If there is any additional suggestion that can be done now to alleviate traffic at World Way and Century Blvd. today in preparation for LA2024 are:

    1. Consolidate those redundant shuttles; no reason to have one shuttle for the Airport Hilton and another for the Parking Spot Century when they’re right next door to each other. Practically they all travel the World Way loop and Century Blvd. strip anyway so why do we need so many redundant shuttle vans that contribute to so much traffic at LAX?

    2. Re-organize the upper (Departures) and lower (Arrivals) decks of LAX into “Shuttles, buses, and vans” for the upper deck and “Cars, taxis, ride-share” for the lower decks. Re-organizing the upper and lower levels based on type of vehicle will greatly smoothen things rather than the chaotic mess of all types of vehicles big and small all converging on both decks.

    City of LA and LAWA can do this now to alleviate traffic today as well as prepare for LA2024, concurrent to the LAX/Crenshaw project.

  3. Glad to see we’re thinking of the Olympics as a way to spur infrastructure construction, and especially the Purple to Westwood and the People Mover at LAX. If we schedule some of the Olympic events in San Francisco (say the Downhill Bicycle Slalom?) do you think we could accelerate our thinking on High Speed Rail as well?

  4. I love how the Star Tribune makes it sound like that the idea of integrating one transit card for all transit needs is the best thing since sliced bread:

    “The Twin Cities is one of the pioneers,” he said. “We are now more geared to a quick card flash and cashless travel. Why have one flash pass for one mode of travel and another for another. Can’t you have one card that works for all of them? Many people are aspiring to this and there is a movement toward this. The rest of the country will be watching the Twin Cities.”

    It’s as if these people never stepped a foot outside of Murica and traveled to placed like Asia and Europe where this is practically the norm and don’t even realize that in those countries, their cards even expands out of transit payments to things like being able to purchase things at vending machines and convenience stores.

    Man, Murica. So backward, so sad.

    • Thank you for your condescending comment. Believe it or not, a lot of people are busy and don’t spend their lives contemplating transit fare cards. A lot of people, too, may simply have never had the chance to travel overseas for whatever reason. I’ve never been to Asia, although I’d like to go. I don’t consider myself backward for never having visited there.

      I’m growing increasingly concerned about the number of anonymous, repetitive and mean-spirited comments left on this blog. We certainly want to give people a chance to offer their views, but relatively few do and I’m struggling to find a way to keep the comment board viable and readable.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Way to go Pizza Steve. I am tired of it also. People need to quit and stop comparing LA to transit systems across the pond.

      • Government doesn’t get criticized when they do their job right (i.e. SCOTUS ruling that gay marriages are legal).

        People criticize government because people are frustrated, as it’s supposed to be under a democracy (i.e. the Kentucky clerk who refuses to issue said licenses because of “religious beliefs”).

        Has Metro ever looked at their own Yelp reviews regarding TAP? (Hint: you have only 1 star out of an average of 46 reviews)

        The tech-savvy Millennials of today who use Metro are very frustrated at using TAP. They provide examples from New York to San Francisco, from London to Tokyo, from Seoul to Kazakhstan on how every other city gets to do contactless payments right, but Metro cannot figure out how to pull it off.

        Here are some of the comments on Yelp! regarding TAP:

        Jen K. says, “The TAP website is such a joke! They just did a revamp of the site yesterday….Can’t say I was in love with the old website and I don’t really care for the new one, so far!”

        Natasha L. says, “The website is so confusing and has so many issues that I’m beginning to believe they made it that way on purpose. ”

        Ellington K. says, “This service couldn’t be worse if it had been designed by dyslexic monkeys — and might even have been better.”

        Mark K. says, “HEY INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE!!!! I know Boston won for 2024 but L.A. is trying to steal it away and get it back here. DON’T DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You’re counting on good transpiration for visitors to the Olympics. The transit system here is OK BUT—– THE TAP CARD SUCKS!!!!”

        You guys should also start investing in new servers. Error messages like this showing up on the website on a weekday at normal business hours is inexcusable in this day and age and shows that Metro is behind the times in investing in technology.

        Keep it up thinking that investing in technology isn’t important and it’ll only add to even worse Yelp reviews. I wonder what the IOC will think about LA’s transit system. I’m sure they’ll be looking at Yelp reviews too.

        • I think I take with a grain of salt someone who says the Olympics need “good transpiration.” We are well aware of the complaints about the old TAP website and the new site recently debuted and does represent an investment in technology. Your comment hinting that the International Olympic Committee will find the transit system here lacking overlooks the fact that the TAP website is not the entirety of the system, although I do think the site is an important entry point for some. Finally, the IOC awarded Los Angeles the 1984 games and by many accounts, those went well — although at the time there was no Metro Rail or Metrolink, just buses.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

      • Thanks, Steve. I share your frustration. Mine is one of the (usually) anonymous voices, though I hope I’m not included in the “mean-spirited” category.
        I read most of the comments on this blog, and I can assure you that, in spite of the few trouble makers, many of the comments are insightful or thought-provoking. It’s easy enough to recognize the repetative drivel and to scan for the serious comments.
        Eric Bierce

      • I agree. Every discussion on fares should not turn into an argument on distance based fares, for instance. It’s getting to be annoying. The TAP system has a lot of issues, but progress is being made, albeit slowly. Whenever automatic interagency transfers are enabled, this will mean full implementation of the system.

  5. I have never been particularly in favor of mega sports events; the money needs to go to more pressing needs. That said, I do make an exception for the 1984 LA Olympics. It was as though we all could finally agree one thing–we became a community at last. So I am supporting the new LA Olympics. One reason 1984 it went so well was our mega-personality Mayor Tom Bradley. We need another positive dynamo for the new LA games, who knows and loves our city and has the energy to carry the ball down the court. I recommend former councilman and athlete Tom LaBonge to be the face of our new Olympics!