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:
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.
Volkswagen 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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
Categories: Transportation Headlines