How We Roll, Thursday, September 17

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Art of Transit:


•Interestingness and updates on some projects from the Board of Directors’ Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday:

A contract was awarded to Parsons in early August to work on bus rapid transit corridor studies for Vermont Avenue and North Hollywood-to-Pasadena. The studies are expected to take 14 to 18 months to complete.

Work has also begun on a technical study for the Eastside Gold Line extension project. One of the project alternatives is to extend light rail to Whittier and the study aims to find a new route to Washington Boulevard with the Garfield Avenue option eliminated in the project’s draft environmental study. Metro is aiming to wrap up technical studies at the end of 2016 and then launch the project’s final environmental study. Another project alternative would be to extend the Eastside Gold Line tracks to South El Monte. Some folks in the San Gabriel Valley are advocating to build light rail to both South El Monte and Whittier; doing both would require finding extra money.

Metro officials also provided an update on the DTLA bikeshare pilot program expected to open in 2016. Briefly: 1) Metro is still looking for a corporate sponsor although the pilot can open without one. 2) Metro officials said they’re aiming to have a TAP card that can hold both a bikeshare membership and transit fares. 3) Officials also said they’re trying to keep fees as low as possible for bikeshare to encourage ridership while also keeping the bikeshare program profitable.

Tweets That Caught My Eye:


Apple and Google create a buzz at Frankfurt Motor Show (NYT)

Hey — would you like a new car to go with that new phone? Key excerpt:

This year, “connectivity” has supplanted “horsepower” or “torque” as the prevailing buzzword in Frankfurt. The talk is of self-driving cars, battery-powered cars, and information technology designed to link cars with data networks to make driving safer and more efficient.

Even though neither Apple nor Google is close to mass-producing a vehicle, nervousness about their intentions — which remain cloaked in mystery — is understandable.

As cars increasingly become rolling software platforms, Apple and Google have depths of tech expertise that the carmakers would have trouble duplicating. And those Silicon Valley companies have financial resources that dwarf those of even behemoth companies like Daimler and Volkswagen. Google, which began working on self-driving cars in 2009, is valued by the stock market at more than five times the worth of either of those carmakers. Apple is worth eight times as much. That gives them an advantage in a business that requires huge investment in research and development.

sample-1Volkswagen officials announced at the show that by the end of this decade their fleet of cars will be transformed into “smartphones on wheels” — plus many of their vehicles will be plug-in hybrids or powered completely by electricity. Other officials chafed at the prospect of being a supplier of hardware to Apple, which has a ‘secret’ team of engineers working on cars. Google’s efforts have been much more publicized, with their autonomous car already tooling around on California streets in testing runs.

What does all this mean for a transit agency such as Metro?

HWR continues to maintain that predicting the future is often pretty hard. But roads don’t appear to be going anywhere, nor do cars seem headed to the technology pasture. At this point, it appears that cars will be plentiful, cleaner and perhaps even more appealing to the masses in the Los Angeles region given our sprawling development patterns and plentiful roads (one leads to pretty much every house and job!).

All that said, the very popularity of private cars pretty much ensures there will still be traffic unless the self-driving capabilities of these cars can truly pack more cars into the same amount of space and keep things moving. Thus, it remains important to have an alternative to traffic in the form of transit.

Not to mention this not-little consideration: not everyone wants to drive, can drive or has the money to drive. A humane world provides those people a humane and good alternative to driving. So we’ll watch what happens to cars with curiosity and hope for cleaner air in our metro area, which has some of the nation’s filthiest air at times. In the meantime, Metro has five rail projects under construction with two opening next year — the Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Booyah!

Fresh renderings for $1-billion South L.A. development (Urbanize LA)

Looking west down Washington Boulevard from the Blue Line's San Pedro Station. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Looking west down Washington Boulevard from the Blue Line’s San Pedro Station. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

It’s more south DTLA than South L.A. but still a welcome development. Two buildings are proposed for the intersection of Broadway and Washington. One would be 20 stories, the 0ther 12 stories and they would offer residential units, retail space, creative space, according to the blog post — which has some great renderings.

This is welcome news. The Blue Line, of course, runs down the middle of Washington Boulevard, where little in the way of transit-oriented development (or any development for that matter) has occurred over the years. The sites to be developed are currently parking lots and perhaps these new buildings can spur other improvements along Washington. The Blue Line’s Grand Avenue Station is just steps away.

Tale of two museums (LAObserved) 

Photo: Iwan Baan/The Broad Museum website.

Photo: Iwan Baan/The Broad Museum website.

Brief reviews of two transit-accessible museums opening soon in L.A. The Broad — on Grand Avenue near the Red/Purple Line Civic Center/Grand Park Station — opens Sunday. The Petersen Automotive Museum at Wilshire and Fairfax (a Purple Line subway station will be a short stroll away) opens in December.

Professional football has a California problem (Zocalo Public Square)

New neighbor to the Folsom Raiders? Photo by the Buried Life, via Flickr creative commons.

New neighbor to the Folsom Raiders? Photo by the Buried Life, via Flickr creative commons.

With current NFL owners mulling two not-terribly-transit-friendly locations to relocate teams (Hollywood Park and Carson) to the L.A. area, Zocalo’s Joe Mathews offers some ideas for stadium locations. My favorite: putting the Raiders in Folsom outside Sacramento.

The Raiders don’t have to leave Northern California; they would almost certainly be welcomed in Sacramento. Our state capital is deeply insecure about its own status, and it wouldn’t be hard to convince the city fathers—who just devoted more than a quarter billion in tax dollars to an arena for basketball’s Sacramento Kings—to pony up for a stadium. Sacramento’s community of lobbyists and consultants is richer than ever and could easily afford the luxury boxes NFL teams are so eager to sell.

Sacramento County offers plenty of potential stadium sites, if the city itself doesn’t suit; I’d suggest developer-friendly Folsom, with plenty of open land not far from the lake and state prison, as a setting that would fit the Raiders’ outlaw image. If Sacramento balks, Fresno—whose 520,000 residents make it larger than 12 of 31 NFL cities—might love to step up to big-league status. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was born there, and went to Fresno State.

Joe’s not done. Read the article to learn which California-adjacent city would get the Chargers.

Turns out San Francisco didn’t need a hipster private bus company (Grist) 

Shocker. The buses with distressed wood and a coffee bar — costing $6 a ride — were pulled off San Francisco streets in May when an ADA lawsuit was filed. The company has now filed for bankruptcy.

This is why we can’t have nice trains (Mother Jones) 

A German bullet train. Photo by JuntosWorldwide, via Flickr creative commons.

A German bullet train. Photo by JuntosWorldwide, via Flickr creative commons.

Interesting post about a German report issued earlier this year that provided recommendations for building good high-speed rail in the U.S. of A., Golden State included. Excerpt:

For high-speed rail to fulfill its potential, it must be one component of a low-carbon society. L.A. and San Diego need to become more like Berlin and Hamburg—and San Francisco and New York. That means being denser, with walkable and bikeable streets, public transit systems, and regional commuter rail lines to the suburbs. That would allow people to arrive in town on the train and hop on a bus or subway, or hail an affordable taxi, to get to their final destination and then get around while they are in town. L.A. is working on that, and other California towns and cities should too. Or, as Eidlin puts it in his report, “In order for HSR to deliver on its promise to 38 million Californians and investors, the project must be designed as the backbone of a comprehensive system for sustainable passenger mobility in California.”

If the bullet train gets built, the L.A. and S.F. stations would be at big transit hubs for both regions. So that’s good. The bigger challenge remains funding — finding the dollars to build a completely grade-separated rail line that spans roads and mountains with many bridges and dollars. At this time, the L.A. to S.F. segment is estimated to cost $68 billion and there is no dedicated source of money for most of that. Stay tuned.

Things to read while sitting/standing/stuck on transit: This New Yorker profile of Bethenny Frankel, reality TV star (for a lack of better word) and the person who got rich inventing Skinnygirl Cocktails. I had never heard of Frankel, nor her products or watched her show. Nonetheless, the article is a humorous glimpse into a pathetic humanity I didn’t know existed. Then again, Frankel got a money bath for her efforts while I have a pile of bills to pay. So maybe she’s the smart one. Or maybe she’s a reminder that apes sorta ruled this Earth once before and perhaps will again. If so, I hope they impose an immediate ban reality TV and all products that make their human women prisoners feel bad that they’re not unhealthy-skinny.

I’m also on Twitter, Instagram and have a photo blog where I share my non-transportationy stuff. Don’t want to comment but want to reach me? Email me!


14 replies

  1. Hi Everyone;

    Please do not include multiple links in the comments to various websites. We don’t have the time to go check out each link and I’ll likely delete your comment. Please use the comment board to submit your comment and not someone else’s content. Thank you,

    Steve Hymon
    Editor, The Source

  2. Putting a peak time restriction on bikes being allowed on Metro Rail would discourage ridership, especially prior to bikeshare being available throughout LA County. 29% of Metro Rail riders who ride 5 or more times a week (mostly commuters) bring their bike aboard the train at least some of the time (with 10% doing so frequently), according to the most recent onboard customer survey.

    But I will concede that I think there are still far too many people who block aisles, the middle of the train car, etc. with their bikes. Maybe Metro should bring back their campaign showing people where to store their large items. I mean, who wouldn’t want to properly store their bike next to this?

    (The awesome yellow and pink bike, that is).

    Matthew Kridler, Metro

    • Best Metro poster ever made. Legitimized bikes on rail and kept me from being harassed (as much) everytime I brought my bike on. I am one of those who uses it on both ends of the trip. Bikeshare will definitely help with that. Unfortunately harassment has gone up since those posters came down. How do we petition to get them back? And how do I get an autographed copy? Jk, kind of..,

  3. Very curious to see what the solution is for Vermont. Personally, and i’ve mentioned it, I think it would make sense to extend the Red Line South. Example; Thru Wilshire/Vermont to Pico; Washington; and Expo as a transfer point, and maybe even eventually to Slauson.

    It would be expensive, but the congestion in that area can be terrible. I guess I would need clarity as well. Do the Wilshire Bus Lanes count as BRT? I know the Silver Line does, but isn’t necessarily on a dedicated right away like the Orange.

    How will these buses be immune to street traffic, closures, filming, accidents, police activity, violators? Living along Wilshire, I’ve yet to see any tickets given for people driving in these lanes during rush hour. I’ve also seen people use hazards to drop off and pick up people at the businesses along these lanes delaying my bus; forcing it to go around and get into motor traffic. (Metro, please fix this.)

    I am concerned, since I’m directly affected by this study, and curious to see how it all works out. The segment I mentioned above really will play a key role in eliminating the red/purple to expo horseshoe, and also works better to “gridify” our metro network in the denser zones of Los Angeles which are heavily congested.

    • Hi Real Transit Rider;

      You pose great questions. I think that the study will look at that. There is a project called “Vermont Corridor Subway” listed as a tier 2 project in Metro’s current long-range plan. Tier 2 means that the project needs to be further defined and that no funding is currently attached to that project. In plain English: these are projects that are a long-shot at this time.

      That said, Metro is in the process of updating its long-range plan and putting a potential ballot measure to voters to pay for transportation projects in that plan. The decision on the plan/ballot measure is expected to be made in late spring or early summer of next year.

      As for BRT: my take is that it’s a term that gets tossed around a lot and that there is no one set criteria for it. So we’ll see what the study says is viable for Vermont. I do think that most people agree that in its most robust form, BRT consists of bus lanes separated or largely separated from general traffic along with other rail-like features, i.e. payment of fares before boarding and all-door boarding.

      So we’ll see. I heartily agree with you that Vermont is a very busy corridor. I didn’t include in the post, but Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker asked Metro staff if the studies could be completed sooner because she often hears from riders about crowding on Vermont buses to the point where riders are sometimes passed by. The audio archive of the Planning Committee has not been posted yet on but will be eventually posted so that you can hear her comments and the discussion on the BRT item. Please check this page for the link:

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. When can we please make the three blue line station in the Florence Firestone Community into transportation hubs and beautify the art decal and curb appeal at those stations and bring safety ambassador to those stations especially the FIRESTONE station so riders can stop running out in front of traffic just to catch the westbound 115 Firestone/Manchester metro bus and hopefully build some buildings or e.t.c near or around those stations

  5. I disagree. California HSR is designed to serve inter-city trips within California, not to act as a feeder service for international airports. Any airport connections are helpful, but not required. Along with SFO and ONT, the current alignment is also supposed to serve the Burbank airport. The HSR systems that I’ve studied and used in Europe connect city centers, not airports.
    That said, you can still use the FlyAway for a one-seat ride from Union Station to LAX. (Sorry if that’s not sexy enough for you.)

    • “California HSR is designed to serve inter-city trips within California, not to act as a feeder service for international airports. ”

      On the contrary, CA HSR can have the potential to be like that, if one were to use the argument that many HSR in Europe (CDG, FRA, MAD) operate this way with direct air-to-rail connections, and if the rationale were to be used to reduce the number of commuter jets that fly everyday between California cities from LAX.

      LAX is a large origin-destination airport, but little is known that LAX is also a major transit hub for many commuter flights to many cities to CA, US domestic, and the world. The number of connecting passengers at LAX actually are more than the total number of annual passengers going through SLC.

      There are multiple flights per day with numerous competing airlines utilizing commuter jets to intra-California destinations such as San Diego, Fresno, Santa Barbara, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, and Mammoth. Many of these flights can be done away with by having HSR come into LAX directly.

      People don’t fly one-way fares between LAX and SAN that cost over $400, that route exists mainly because of connecting flights at LAX where people do trips like ICN-LAX-SAN (Seoul, South Korea to San Diego via LAX) or SAN-LAX-SIN.(San Diego to Singapore via LAX).

      Lindbergh Field in SAN is a very small airport (it only has one runway!) considering the size of their city and doesn’t have the capacity to serve as many international destinations compared to LAX, let alone even add domestic US destinations. For many San Diegans and travellers to San Diego, LAX serves as their transit hub. And because of this, multiple airlines need to fly dinky commuter jets many times per day, just to travel 101 miles between LAX and San Diego.

      And no, people aren’t going to be schlepping their bags from LAX, catch the Flyaway and/or take multiple transfer (people mover-Crenshaw Line-Expo Line+Regional Connector), to go to Union Station half a city away, and get on Amtrak Pacific Surfliner or CA HSR to head to San Diego either.

      If CA HSR misses LAX, the multitude of commuter jets at LAX will still remain due to the number of connecting passengers at LAX, and those flights will still using up jet fuel; hardly an eco-friendly way for the future of California.

      • The best solution is to connect the Green Line to Norwalk, so that you can get to San Diego without having to transfer like 3 times thru DTLA.

      • Wouldn’t do much good as currently there’s no Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service out of Norwalk.

        CAHSR has an option for a Norwalk station stop, but the terminus of the CAHSR route there is Anaheim; the CAHSR going to San Diego makes a easterly route through ONT.

        So even if the Green Line was extended to Norwalk, it’ll still require several transfers any way from

        1. People mover
        2. Crenshaw Line
        3. Green Line to Norwalk
        4. Metrolink (from Norwalk to Oceanside terminus)
        5. Coaster (from Oceanside to SD Santa Fe Depot)

  6. The technical study for the gold line eastside extension was recommended almost a year ago and it’s just getting underway now? Is that due to measure r fund programming?

    Out of curiosity, Steve, do you know when the r2 priority lists from the various COGs will be online? All of them seem to be available besides central LA, which doesn’t have an effective COG in the way the other subregions do.

  7. RE: Mother Jones article

    “L.A. and San Diego need to become more like Berlin and Hamburg—and San Francisco and New York.”

    Of course one can equally just as argue against Europhile articles like these that Europe isn’t the only place in the world where HSR exists and if they can provide examples that LA and SD needs to become like Berlin, Hamburg, San Francisco, and NY which has no similar characteristics as LA or SD (without clearly defining if they are meaning city or county as a whole as our major public transit system is run by county agency, not the cities themselves) then just as equally, one can also say LA and SD should become like Seoul and Taipei as well.

    Statistics wise, LA and SD share more similarities to Seoul and Taipei: large population spread out over a large area, unlike Berlin (only 3.5 million in only 344 sq mi), Hamburg (only 1.7 million in only 292 sq. mi), San Francisco (pitiful 852,000 in only 232 sq mi).

    LA has more people than Berlin, Hamburg, and San Francisco put together, and if all of LA acted as one instead of everyone trying to do things differently, it would easily take over NYC as the largest populated city in the US.

    The biggest problem in LA and SD is the divided and confusing local politics, where there’s many municipal governments all trying to do things their own way with no clear cut direction as an unified team under one single county authority. Just look at how low it took LA to get all the 26 agencies unified under TAP.

    Most people don’t care whether they live in West Hollywood, Culver City, Torrance, or Cudahy and don’t even know that it’s a different city than LA with their own mayor and city councilmembers. Most people think West Hollywood , Culver City, Torrance, or Cudahy is just another part of LA, that Mayor Garcetti is the highest ranking executive, and have no clue who or what the LA County Board of Supervisors does.

  8. One thing missing in HSR for LA is an air-to-rail transfer at LAX which is what SFO is getting. The HSR plan does call for an air-to-rail link at ONT, but Garcetti recently went ahead with the sale of ONT out of the hands of LA and ONT is hardly a major airport hub.

    The West Coast hub for major airlines and their international alliance partners isn’t San Francisco or Ontario, it’s LAX. It’s the second busiest airport in the US after Atlanta, and it’s the world’s fifth busiest airport between Tokyo Haneda and London Heathrow. SFO is far, far, below that list.

    It’s going to be a very costly task, but HSR also needs to go to LAX, along with a Union Station West plan, for HSR to be a true viable option in LA.