How We Roll, Feb. 10: is the future the Hyperloop, self-driving cars and faster/cheaper transit?

From the Dept. of Feedback: as expected, a lot of comments from Metro followers about Metro’s proposal to charge parking fees at nine rail stations as part of a test program. Here’s the original post on the blog and here’s a bunch of comments on Metro’s FB page.

Looks to me like the negatives are outpacing the positives at this point, although that’s usually how comments go when there is any type of fee increase. One thing for everyone to consider: it’s a test and one big thing being tested is whether the fee produces enough behavior change to free up some parking at each station — so you don’t have to arrive early to get a space.

Video: Inside Hyperloop’s lab (Citylab) 

A screen grab from the video. Step inside the bullet please!

A screen grab from the video. Step inside the bullet please!

I’ve been skeptical about Elon Musk’s idea to use giant pneumatic tubes to transport people and freight. And perhaps I am completely wrong. As the video explains, it remains to be seen whether there will be political acceptance of the hyperloop over more traditional roads and trains and whether the thing will work to the extent its boosters say it will.

That said, it’s pretty interesting to see the private sector take the lead on this. That’s something a lot of people say should happen more. Metro, for example, is holding a private Industry Forum tomorrow to tell industry that it wants and is seeking good ideas for improving transportation.

Keep in mind that the Hyperloop was Musk’s response to the state high-speed rail project, which he thinks relies on old technology. I don’t think the Hyperloop and bullet train are necessarily in a race — but the fact is that the bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles is many, many years away unless tens of billions of dollars of funding are found. In the meantime, Musk appears willing to back up his words with research dollars. Stay tuned.

10 ways to lure more people onto transit (LA Weekly) 

I wish more stories about transpo were this readable. And funny. The Weekly’s Hillel Aron takes a look at the transit ridership dip and offers a sprinkling of solutions, including make transit faster (citing the Expo Line, in particular), adding more buses, building “crappier” housing near transit (i.e. housing affordable for regular people) and making driving/parking more expensive and transit fares cheaper.

He concludes:

And by the way, there’s nothing wrong with fewer people using Metro. The whole point of L.A.’s transit expansion was to offer an option. Yes, transit needs revenue and political support, but we could all just decide that we care about having the option of taking a bus or a train, and we care about poor people being ableto get around. We’re still gonna drive most of the time, but I’m glad we have the train for that one time of year I want to take mushrooms and go to Universal Studios, or ride a bus to Pershing Square for a Bernie Sanders rally, or take the train to the beach and pretend my phone sounds like Scarlett Johansson.

I didn’t realize mushrooms were still a thing. Then again, I’m an Old Goat. Kidding aside, good stuff and faster transit coupled with inexpensive fares would likely get more people on buses and trains. The trick is finding the money and political will to do it and making sure faster transit = safe transit.

Many new TODs in the works (Urbanize LA) 

A 50-story development planned for South Park in DTLA. Credit: via Urbanize LA.

A 50-story development planned for South Park in DTLA. Credit: via Urbanize LA.

Just scroll through the front page — pretty much every rendering shows developments near the current/future Metro Rail system in either DTLA, NoHo, Long Beach, Century City, etc. I’m not sure any of them meet Hillel Aron’s criteria detailed above as they look pricey and then some.

Southern California mass transit for the ages, not just today (Daily News)

In this editorial, the Los Angeles Newspaper Group argues that a decline in ridership should not result in investing less in building a first-class transit system in our region.

Interestingly, the editorial then goes on to mention two projects that should be built: the Gold Line to Claremont and Ontario and a conversion of the Orange Line from busway to rail. The editorial also calls for scrapping plans for LAX to build a people mover to connect with the Crenshaw/LAX Line — instead it wants light rail to directly serve the airport.

Attentive Source readers know that ship sailed (transpo pun!) when Metro studies found that steering light rail directly into the airport would be costly, screw up rail frequencies on the Crenshaw/LAX Line and have little impact on ridership.

The editorial also says it’s crucial to continue tackling the vexing first-mile-last-mile issue — i.e. how to swiftly get people to and from transit stations. How We Roll could not concur more.

Wilshire to close for 22 weeks for Purple Line construction (KPCC)

As expected, the installation of decking for the Wilshire/La Brea Station will be done over 22 weekends beginning in June. That means that portions of Wilshire near the intersection will be fully closed on weekends only.

The decking allows traffic to continue using Wilshire while work excavating the station takes place below street level. Metro will release detour plans as we get closure to the closures. Yes, it’s a pain in the tooshie but the subway is a nice slice of infrastructure that should provide benefits to the neighborhood for many decades to come.

Please see this Metro news release for more info.

In boost to self-driving cars, U.S. tells Google that computers qualify as drivers (Reuters)

Why is that important? For legal reasons. Reuters explains:

If the car’s computer is the driver for legal purposes, then it clears the way for Google or automakers to design vehicle systems that communicate directly with the vehicle’s artificial pilot.

In its response to Google, the federal agency offered its most comprehensive map yet of the legal obstacles to putting fully autonomous vehicles on the road. It noted existing regulations requiring some auto safety equipment can not be waived immediately, including requirements for braking systems activated by foot control.

“The next question is whether and how Google could certify that the (self-driving system) meets a standard developed and designed to apply to a vehicle with a human driver,” NHTSA said.

I’ve gone from being skeptical about these things to feeling like the self-driving car is inevitable. As we wrote yesterday, traffic deaths are up in 2015 and I see little evidence on a day-to-day basis that humans are improving as drivers. And they’re not going to improve as long as the smart phone is a thing.

Supreme Court deals blow to Obama’s effort to regulate coal emissions (NYT)

The Navajo Generating Station in northern Arizona remains one of the largest coal power plants in the nation. Photo: Wikimedia.

The Navajo Generating Station in northern Arizona remains one of the largest coal power plants in the nation. Photo: Wikimedia.

Not as big a deal in California, where burning coal isn’t a huge power source. Still, relying less on coal is a big part of America’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And in many parts of the transpo world, cleaner electricity = cleaner transit powered by electricity.

As for the Supreme Court, it granted a stay to delay the new coal regulations from taking effect on a 5-4 vote. Many people are concerned the new rule will cost jobs.

Gold Line Foothill Extension preview (Arcadia High School Apache News)

The segment begins at 3:27 of the video:

5 replies

  1. Agree that we need a few modern, lower pollution fossil fuel plants to supply the 24×7 ‘base load’ until something else practical is found. Current ‘greener’ alternative sources can’t even come close. Non-PC scientists from Google and elsewhere have urged our technically ignorant politicos that we need a disruptive, Manhattan Project type effort to get there.

    Back to parking at Metro stations, we still need the free options in most places. Here in the South Bay we are doomed for the foreseeable future to driving to a light rail station. The Crenshaw Line will help some, but the Green Line is too far from a lot of demographic that want to use it. Metro and the local transit agencies have severely compounded the problem by routing too many bus routes to the Aviation station, now perpetually parking lot full. Hopefully Crenshaw Line trains will continue on to both Norwalk and Redondo Beach.


  2. I don’t understand why it’s Metro’s job to “entice” people to ride it. It clearly doesn’t compete on a level playing field with cars, because it has to serve as both an environmental charity and a transportation charity on top of everything else. Parking is a scarce resource and should be charged for, just like most other spaces in this city.

  3. Electricity is cleaner but there has to be a way of creating said electricity and coal is one of them. This race to eliminate coal without a alternative is just plain stupidity. Natural Gas is an alternative buts not clean fuel, just cleaner. Wind works but not as well as coal. Solar works but not as well as coal. Big sources like coal needs a big alternative and it has not been found.