How We Roll, Oct. 8: ballot measure talk, carburetors and Lex Luthor vs West Coast

From the Land of Twitter: 

According to the link, lifting the ban on the export of gas could “slash gas prices up to 12 cents a gallon.” That doesn’t sound like a guarantee or even a slash no matter which side of the issue you’re on. If you would like to learn more about this piece of public policy, here’s a recent story in the New York Times.

It’s a long season, and one game does not a season make. The world famous Puckalolos often lose their openers, too, and then bounce back.


Five rail lines that Metro could build with $120 billion in new sales tax revenue (LAT)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed a bill that would allow Metro — if it so chooses — to pursue a future sales tax ballot measure in 2016. With that news in mind, the LAT ruminates on five transit projects a ballot measure could possibly fund. The $120 billion figure comes from a funding scenario that Metro staff has been discussing that involves a new half-cent sales tax and an extension of Measure R. Also: the entire $120 billion will not be used for just building new projects.

As per usual, I need to add the following caveat: At this point, nothing has been decided yet in terms of a ballot measure, nor have decisions been made about what a ballot measure could fund. Metro has been working on an update to its Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) while also developing a potential ballot measure to fund transportation projects. The decisions on the LRTP update and the ballot measure will ultimately be made by the Metro Board of Directors in late spring or early summer of next year.

Another point of emphasis: Metro has been working with local governments across Los Angeles County to develop a priority list of projects they want funded. That work is ongoing and has not been finalized. I do think it’s important to emphasize that this process is striving to ensure that projects are built in different parts of a very large county.

The five projects the LAT lists: an extension of the Purple Line to Santa Monica, a northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line to Hollywood, the LAX people mover, a conversion of the Orange Line to light rail and a rail project linking the San Fernando Valley to the Westside via the Sepulveda Pass.

For those who haven’t been following the Metro planning process closely, here’s a little more information about those projects:

•The Purple Line Extension is being built to Westwood in three phases; the first section between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega is now under construction. The project is funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. The current project’s last station will be on Wilshire Boulevard, just west of the 405 and near the VA Hospital.

A map from a 2009 Metro study that briefly explored some possible extensions for the Crenshaw/LAX Line that could be studied further in the future. Click to see larger.

A map from a 2009 Metro study that briefly explored some possible extensions for the Crenshaw/LAX Line that could be studied further in the future. Click to see larger.

•The Crenshaw/LAX Line is under construction between the Expo Line and the Green Line. The 8.5-mile rail line is funded largely by Measure R. As part of the planning process for the project, Metro did a technical study looking at a northern extension of the line to the Purple Line and perhaps beyond. That extension is not currently funded.

•The Metro Board in 2014 approved building a station along the Crenshaw/LAX Line at Aviation/96th Street. The station will serve as the transfer point to the automated people mover to be built by Los Angeles World Airports, the city of L.A. agency hat oversees LAX. The people mover will take riders to the airport terminals, a planned new ground transportation hub and a planned new consolidated rental car center.

•A conversion of the Orange Line to light rail is not currently funded. Governor Brown also signed a bill this would that would allow longer buses on the Orange Line and Metro is also pursuing a study to determine if it can increase bus speeds through intersections. Here’s a Source post from earlier this year that includes a staff report on possible ways to improve the Orange Line.

•The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project is set to receive $1 billion in funding from Measure R. An initial “Systems Planning Study” by Metro looked at some concepts for the project, including highway improvements and a rail tunnel. Under the current Measure R timeline, the project would not be built until the third decade although Metro has been looking at ways to accelerate the project and see if it may work as a public-private partnership. The obvious challenge for the project is that the more expensive options — i.e. a rail tunnel — would cost more than the $1 billion currently available.

In conclusion: It’s great to see a public discussion about what could be built and funded in the future and some big decisions are still to be made. Please stay tuned. I’ll do my best to post new information on the LRTP and potential ballot measure as it comes forth.

Related: With yesterday’s bill signing by Gov. Brown, Streetsblog LA looks at some of the politics behind a potential ballot measure.

Quasi-related: a new poll from USC, the California Communication Foundation and LAT says that traffic is still the top concern of L.A. County residents. Also, 40 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that automobiles have ruined Los Angeles.

Also, 82 percent of men and 36 percent of women said they knew what a carburetor does. I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of men who answered that question are lying — and those who were asked the question by a female pollster were the ones most likely not to be honest. Further proof: the Internet informs me that fuel injection systems have largely supplanted carburetors.

Credit: Wikimedia.

Credit: Wikimedia.


In midst of a tech boom, Seattle tries to keep its soul (NYT)

The Seattle skyline. Photo by Jordan Petram, via Flickr creative commons.

The Seattle skyline. Photo by Jordan Petram, via Flickr creative commons.

Not a transpo article per se, but I think it’s one relevant to West Coast cities — many of whom are experiencing tech booms and some of the associated impacts (see: Santa Monica and surrounding area) to real estate prices, quality of life and even getting around.


“Seattle has wanted to be San Francisco for so long,” said Knute Berger, a longtime chronicler of life in Seattle. “Now it’s figuring out maybe that it isn’t what we want to be.”

While many cities would do almost anything for a deluge of high-tech jobs, others are grappling with the side effects that often accompany surging economies. A plan by Google to expand its presence in Boulder, Colo., with a new campus last year ignited a debate over home prices and traffic. Residents of Portland, Ore., are pointing fingers at people moving from the Bay Area, blaming them for soaring home prices.

And in Austin, Tex., whose official motto is “live music capital of the world,” a charity called Black Fret is awarding grants to musicians struggling with the rising cost of living in the city. Matt Ott, a marketing executive at a tech start-up in Austin, who co-founded Black Fret, left the Bay Area about a decade ago because it got so expensive.

Really interesting article that I think could have gone deeper and looked at more than just Seattle. It’s interesting to me that all of the big West Coast cities — San Diego, L.A., San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver — have seen a renaissance in their downtowns, often ignited by young people wanting a car-lite lifestyle. And perhaps that’s one reason why these cities/regions have also pursued transit expansion in recent times.

Hipster popcorn on Portland's trendy Northwest side. Photo: Steve Hymon.

Hipster popcorn on Portland’s trendy Northwest side. Photo: Steve Hymon.

The other question I’m keen on: if you get priced out of one of these cities, where do you go next? I was in Portland over the summer and heard more than a few gripes from locals about the soaring real estate prices there. From an L.A.-Me-First perspective, that’s interesting as I know more than a few Angelenos who consider Portland to be their bail-out option should our region’s real estate and other prices get too cray cray.

Maybe people won’t even bother to leave here. Instead they might look at cities in our county that are conveniently located on an expanded transit network and have the feel of small-town life but are near big-city amenities. Yes, Monrovia. I’m talking to you!

Quasi-related: If the West Coast gets too out-of-control expensive, maybe an alternative West Coast of Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Idaho will become even more popular than they already are with ex-Californians. Think of it as the Lex Luthorification of the West. I can’t wait to get my new crib in Otisburgh. From 1978’s “Superman,” still the best Superman film:

Prepping for Transportation Armageddon on the Hudson (CityLab)

Plans for the new Gateway Project between New Jersey and New York.

Plans for the new Gateway Project between New Jersey and New York.

Gotham desperately needs new Amtrak and commuter rail tunnels under the Hudson River. If a new set of tunnels isn’t funded and built — and plans are hardly finalized — and the old tunnels have to be retired or closed for maintenance, Metropolis/Gotham/San Francisco East is likely in for nightmare commutes spanning multiple hours each way, according to CityLab.

The New York Times recently reported that the entire cost of the project could be $20 billion and the federal government will likely have to foot a big chunk of that bill (the NYT also editorialized in favor of the project). That will likely be challenging, given that Congress has yet to approve a multi-year transportation spending bill and that money for transit and inter-city rail is often in short supply. Another ‘stay tuned.’

Recent How We Rolls:

Oct. 7: ideas for Metro’s new Chief Innovation Officer, Paris sucker punches smog, Uber vs Lyft vs transit, an airplane seat arrangement scheme spawned by the Devil herself/himself.

Oct. 6: Gov. Brown signs bill allowing double-articulated buses, the ivory tower gives letter grades to Metro stations, thoughts on the non-war on driving, the cost of L.A.’s Olympic ambitions.

Oct. 5: reading about mobility while on transit, Long Beach gets a Flyaway bus, coal vs electric buses, traffic vs delivery trucks.

Oct. 1: all about cities — gentrification, TODs vs parking, the changing DTLA skyline, Show Me a Hero, cities and transit and diversity.

Sept. 30: Can Uber and Lyft solve our first-mile-last-mile problems?, trains and cleanliness, the blessing of the infrastructure.

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10 replies

  1. The “Five Rail Lines Metro Could Build with Measure R 2.1” all sounds good expect for the conversion of the Orange Line to light rail. The Orange line should remain a bus line until after the The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor is fully funded. Money spent on a rail line running from Sylmar to the Orange Line would serve the valley better than converting the Orange Line to a Light rail.

  2. Steve,

    Has Metro studied how much it would cost to build a bus shelter with a covered trash can and schedule info at every bus stop in LA County that doesn’t currently have those things?

    It seems to me that even with the most ambitious rail-building plans, most people will still have to rely at least in part on our bus systems if they want to use transit. Currently, buses are still the workhorses of Metro’s transit system. Baking in the sun is a big deterrent to using transit and a social injustice, considering the preponderance of low-income and non-white riders on transit. I really hope Metro looks at this in a serious way as a part of any new ballot measure. I think this could go a long way towards combating anti-bus stigma as well.

    • Hi Chewie;

      I don’t believe so. The tricky thing with Metro bus stops is that many of them are the responsibility of the cities where they are located. I’ve encouraged people in the past to get in touch with their local elected officials about bus stop improvements. I don’t mean to downplay your suggestion — I think you raise an excellent point.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • If the ballot measure promises high-tech bus stops and easy to read LCD displays inside the bus like they have in Japan which tells me in real time when and how far away the bus is coming and even speaks to me that it is almost here (there are visually impaired bus riders too you know?) then I’d support it.

  3. No Gold Line Foothill Extension phase 2 / 3 into montclair / Ontario, nor Gold line Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 ?? No West Santa Ana Branch ? No South Bay Metro Green Line Extension? No Orange line to Pasadena??

    • Hi Daniel,

      I only provided information on the five projects that the L.A. Times wrote about. To emphasize: no final decisions have been made about which projects will appear in the ballot measure.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. “The other question I’m keen on: if you get priced out of one of these cities, where do you go next?”

    The real question is why should the people have to be priced out in the first place for artificially inflated real estate prices due to poor urban planning? Are you some what implying that some people should just move out of LA but only the select privileged should stay here?

    You can’t force people to move out of LA and neither do many people living in LA want to either. If the past historical data has shown is that LA never has had a population decrease and it is very likely that the population of LA will continue to grow and become more denser as time progresses. People in LA unfortunately, will have to deal with a more densely populated LA and the city will have to adapt itself to that reality.