Art of Transit:
Freedom from fries (The New Yorker)
Not a transpo story per se, although the rise of McD’s after WWII is inseparable from the rise of post-war suburbs and the American driving culture. In fact, McDonald’s first restaurant was in San Bernardino and franchises spread east from California. Excerpt:
The rise of the healthy fast-food chain has been aided by the easing recession, but it comes largely at the expense of traditional competitors. None have struggled more than McDonald’s, one of the world’s most recognizable brands. In March, the company replaced its chief executive with one of his deputies. Two months later, it ended its long-established practice of issuing monthly reports on individual store sales. And this year, for the first time since 1970, McDonald’s will close more locations in the U.S. than it opens.
McD’s still sells gobs of food. Yet, as the story shows, the eating habits of some Americans has certainly changed and the suits at McDonald’s feel compelled to follow suit. The story also neatly illustrates that while one part of the federal government is warning against the dangers of eating too much fast food, another agency is subsidizing the type of crops that make it possible to peddle cheap burgers, fries, chicken and soda. (In fact, we’ve certainly had Source readers say that Metro does this, too — with its highway program being at fundamental odds with its transit program. I don’t agree, but it’s certainly an issue worthy of debate).
The big reason I’m including this story in HWR: if something as fundamental as the eating habits of Americans can change, so might the way we get around? Even if you think that’s a stretch, this is great article to digest (groan) while sitting/standing/waiting/stuck on transit.
Related: if looking for a book to cozy up with on transit, David Halberstam’s “The Fifties” has a great chapter about the founding of McDonald’s, as well as other businesses that shaped the American businesscape in the latter half of the 20th century.
Do gas prices impact transit ridership? Sure. But there’s more (Streetsblog LA)
A good and thorough look at a complicated issue, spurred by a new study by USC students we recently discussed in HWR.
Damien Newton and Joe Linton find that while the gas-ridership relationship may be muddy, there’s something else crystal clear: a really good predictor of transit ridership is how much agencies are willing to invest in building good transit.
The farebox recovery ratio: a misleading metric for Los Angeles County (Investing in Place)
Attentive readers know that in recent years Metro fares cover less than 30 percent of the cost of operating buses and trains. That’s a low number by the standards of large transit agencies.
What to do about it? Investing in Places argues raising fares in the future would only discourage more people from riding. Rather, this post argues that it would be better for Los Angeles County as a whole to subsidize (there’s that word again) transit to get as many people on board as possible.
Another possibility I’ll throw out there: maximize other revenues to avoid having to make all the money needed at the farebox.
Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. chairman Coby King argues that Metro’s potential 2016 ballot measure should fund a conversion of the Orange Line to light rail. Excerpt:
The early days of the Orange Line were wonderful, as many people tried the shiny new double buses and marveled at the landscaped right of way. But it became a victim of its own success. Because the busway was built without grade separations or gates, collisions with cars occurred frequently.
Today, the Orange Line is still incredibly popular, but it’s overcrowded and often slow, taking 45 minutes or more to get across the Valley. And its ridership quickly topped out, limited by its inherent capacity.
Here’s our recent post on Metro’s work to update its long-range plan and a potential 2016 sales tax ballot measure to fund projects. As you’ll see in appendix D, the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments included both Orange Line improvements and a conversion to light rail in their draft list of projects that could be funded by a ballot measure. Those lists are in the process of being refined by local cities.
In response to a Metro Board motion, Metro staff issued this report in September 2014 on possible ways to upgrade the Orange Line. No service improvements have happened yet. A state bill was signed last month that would allow longer buses on the Orange Line. And Metro is doing a safety study to determine the top speed that buses could run through intersections along the Orange Line.
This is really nit picky, but the Daily News probably should have included that King, as a public affairs consultant, has represented the rail vehicle manufacturer, Kinkisharyo. That said, it’s also fair to point out that there we’ve heard from plenty of riders who echo the viewpoint that the Orange Line should rail. Stay tuned. An expenditure list for the potential ballot measure is currently scheduled to be released in March.
Bridges: nature abhors them (How Stuff Works podcast)
In less than an hour, this podcast neatly explains the basics of structural engineering and the challenges faced when building a bridge. You’ll learn about compression, torque, resonance and that every bridge has its own particular frequency. Excellent brain food.
On that note, a question for readers: did any of you ever take an Infrastructure 101 type class that explains things such as the basics of bridges, where our garbage goes and where we get our water and electricity and other everyday basics?
I certainly never had such a class. I can recall year after year after year of social studies classes that explained how things such as Congress worked (omitting one key detail, perhaps). That’s well and good, but as we are increasingly a society reliant on technology, it might be wise to educate our young padowans on what’s holding all the stuff together. Kind of like this…
Recent How We Rolls:
Oct. 28: bullet train officials say the project is on budget and on time, why transit is a tough sell in smaller cities, a really smart new bike.
Oct. 27: melting ice and record heat, Metro weighs Metrolink station relocation, 710 opposition at Board meeting, Chewbacca arrested in Ukraine.
Oct. 26: Can American reinvent its infrastructure? It has before.
Oct. 23: Social media reaction to announcement of Foothill Gold Line opening, Denver’s rail line to airport set to open in April, funny things to listen to while riding transit.
Oct. 21: Back to the future edition, i.e. what Los Angeles County transit officials of the past century got right and wrong about your transportation future.
Categories: Transportation Headlines