Art of Transit:
Increasing mobility in Southern California: a new approach (Reason Foundation)
First, I’ll say this: I like reading stuff that pushes back against the conventional wisdom. I may not agree with it, but I think questioning widely held assumptions is healthy for a democracy.
And I think it’s fair to say that the Reason Foundation’s proposed $714-billion (yes, billion) mobility plan for Southern California goes against the conventional wisdom these days. Which is: that Los Angeles County should heavily expand its transit system — especially on the rail side — and build limited freeway projects that are mostly designed to improve current bottlenecks.
Instead, the Foundation’s proposal concentrates on the region’s arterials and freeways and pays for half the plan money raised from new tolls. From the plan: “Tolling would help build approximately 710 lane-miles of new expressway capacity, 3,475 new/converted lane-miles of express lanes and truck toll lanes, and 559 new managed grade separations” — with the grade separations also tolled.
Perhaps just as controversial: the plan calls for building six new freeway tunnels, including two new ones under the Santa Monica Mountains, another under the San Gabriel Mountains, a downtown bypass tunnel that would connect the 2 freeway to the 110 and one to fill the 710 gap between Alhambra/El Sereno and Pasadena.
Even more controversial!: none of the new lanes would be general traffic lanes. All new lanes would be tolled and some of the road widening that would be needed would come at the expense of street parking.
And the not surprising: bike lanes and pedestrian improvements are in the plan but only in cameo-lite roles.
Improving bus transit is also part of the Reason Foundation’s proposal:
It is crucial to improve the transit network as well. Our express lane network allows buses to travel in the lanes free of charge, and our managed arterial network allows buses to use the tolled grade separations for free. Using these premium features will decrease the travel times and increase the reliability of BRT (bus rapid transit) and express bus. We also provide details on how to build on the success of the region’s express bus network and L.A. Metro’s BRT-lite system. Combined with local bus, express bus and the existing rail options, the region can create a bus-based transit system with the quality and coverage a rail-based system cannot provide.
I didn’t read every last word in the plan but I did spend some time last night digesting a big slice of it. I think there’s a lot of interestingness here, although I suspect it will be dismissed too easily by some because of its cost, emphasis on cars and the Reason Foundation’s libertarian leanings. If you’re into transportation, I encourage you to read it.
First, my skepticism:
Anything that costs more than the annual U.S. military budget is probably a non-starter. Betting that the plan in its entirety will clear up traffic and reduce emissions strikes me as putting an awful lot of the eggs in one basket at a very steep cost — I think rail transit here can (and does) move people if rightly deployed (112.6 million boardings on Metro Rail in 2014, btw). And all those new freeway tunnels in the study would likely result in never-ending litigation most welcomed by lawyers, lawyer’s real estate agents and lawyers’ yacht makers.
And yet, there’s also a lot in the plan that I found really interesting and commendable
I really like that the Reason Foundation resisted the temptation to lowball and/or sugarcoat the cost. And I think the report does an excellent job of explaining the causes of congestion in our region although I’m not crazy about the assertion that we’re so fundamentally different as a region that road expansion is the only way out.
I also like that the study is standing up for bus transit, bus riders, the transit dependent and affordable housing near transit at a time when rail transit and fancy new development often gets most of the attention. I think the idea of managed arterial intersections is fascinating, although with obvious challenges (many intersections have little room to expand). The chapter on alleviating major bottlenecks is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject of traffic congestion.
Most of all, I think there’s a lot of useful information on managed lanes (branded as ‘ExpressLanes’ in L.A. County) — lanes in which the tolls are set by demand. The Reason Foundation would like to see two managed lanes in each direction on most freeways and would require that ALL vehicles — including carpools — pay the tolls with the exception of vanpools and transit buses. That’s a controversial proposal but one that I think should be part of the public policy debate.
The call for more tolling is certainly nothing new (UCLA’s Brian Taylor talked about tolling vs congestion at this Metro-sponsored Zocalo Public Square forum) and I think it’s likely that managed lanes will increasingly be part of the traffic congestion conversation here. If so, this plan is ahead of the curve on that front.
Your thoughts, people?
A response similar to mine and some will suggest even more informed. The last graph is nicely played.
Metro Planning Committee approves bike share fare structure (Streetsblog LA)
The full Metro Board of Directors considers the proposal in early December for the DTLA bike share pilot program scheduled to open next year. The walk-up fare would be $3.50 per 30 minutes. A 30-minute trip would be $1.75 with a $40 annual pass. Trips up to 30 minutes would be free with a $20 30-day pass.
If you need a laugh, columnist Gail Collins takes a dim view of a bill that would eliminate the requirement that private pilots get regular medical exams.
Nov. 18: A new mobile fare app in S.F., scramble crosswalks and aerial tram (using airplane bodies) proposed between Vegas and L.A.
Nov. 17: can transit beat traffic, electric cars and total global emissions, fossil fuel programs vs. climate goals
Nov. 16: L.A. transit vs S.F. transit, a cartoon car neatly explains sprawl, traffic and parking woes and determining the environmental impact of Uber and Lyft.
Nov. 13: Readers recommend books to read while in transit, bike sharing debuts in SaMo, induced demand and Caltrans.
Nov. 12: Regional Connector cost increases and potential delays, suspect in bus slaying arrested, bike share and bike infrastructure, Missy Elliot in the subway.
Categories: Transportation Headlines