HWR, Sept. 21: a defense of Expo and who else is excited about self-driving big rigs?

I encourage everyone to poke around the great Transport Databook site by Yonah Freemark. There are all sorts of great charts that are useful, such as the one below — a nice reminder that Americans are driving at unprecedented levels.

In defense of the Expo Line (LAist) 

Matt Tinoco argues that while Expo may not be perfect thus far, it has overall been a game changer in terms of DTLA to SaMo transit. Excerpt:

Speaking to the scheduling challenges, it’s only expected that service would be spottier during the first month of service of a brand new line. Train operators are getting used to the ebb and flow of the route, and signals might still need some tweaking. It’s also important to note that the Expo Line wasn’t designed to be the absolute fastest way to travel between Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Expecting a train that’s limited to 55 mph and stops at 19 different stations to be quicker than a car on a freeway is unrealistic. That the travel times between Santa Monica and downtown Los Angeles on the Expo Line and the 10 freeway are roughly comparable (45 minutes give or take) speaks less about the purported inefficiency of the train, and more to the woeful condition of our car-centered infrastructure. Perhaps the Times should investigate delays on the 10.

I don’t have problems with the LAT or anyone asking hard questions about Expo. The project overall cost $2.5 billion and was promoted as a traffic alternative. It should be scrutinized. As for roads, I agree with Matt that generally speaking road projects sometimes don’t get the same media treatment. Sometimes. Anyone remember the 405/Sepulveda Pass widening? That got some attention!

Rome 2024 Olympic bid collapses in acrimony (BBC) 

Hardly surprising in a city with a new and skeptical mayor — and a city, the BBC notes, that has trouble picking up its own rubbish.

That leaves L.A., Paris and Budapest in the mix. I think that leaves us as favorites because few people here seem to have an opinion on the Olympics one way or the other and, besides, we’ve already got most of the venues in place. That said, I live with someone of Hungarian descent and I can tell you firsthand that Hungarians tend to get their way.

Allow trucks without drivers? Let’s ask the candidates! (NYT)

Tech columnist Farhad Manjoo asks a question that many other in the media have shied away from: who is going to be driving the trucks of the future?

Stephen King predicted all this in "Maximum Overdrive."

Stephen King predicted all this in “Maximum Overdrive.”

According to the boosters, autonomous trucks would avert lots of accidents, saving thousands of lives annually. They could reduce congestion and carbon emissions by cutting the number of trucks on the road, as each truck would never have to sleep. In the short-to-midrange future — before they are good enough to dispense with a human driver entirely — they may make the job of driving a truck far more comfortable and enjoyable than it is today. And they could also slash the cost of interstate transit, possibly sparking wider economic prosperity.

But it wouldn’t all be rainbows. At least at first, the autonomous technology wouldn’t be perfect. Errors and bugs, perhaps fatal ones, might spark politically damaging fear and outrage. In the long run, if the trucks prove successful and our logistics infrastructure adjusts to accommodate them, they could begin to displace the three million Americans (mostly men) who now drive trucks for a living, not to mention truck stops and the small towns that depend on them.

I can’t wait to see how the self-driving cars and self-driving trucks negotiate the awful stretch of the eastbound 210 in Pasadena, in which vehicles entering the freeway must merge left into three lanes of heavy traffic — including many trucks — trying to move right to continue east on the 210. My prediction: the self-driving cars and self-driving trucks will stop in their tracks, giving drivers the equivalent of the endlessly spinning hourglass. Option+Command+Esc!!!

8 replies

  1. Two things: (1) Expo Line–Phase 2 of the Expo Line to Santa Monica has been the game-changer that I knew it was going to be. I rode the line when I was visiting Los Angeles in May the week before the line’s opening, joining the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation for a special field trip on May 12 [I can safely say that I’m the first native New Yorker to ride the Expo Line to the Pacific Ocean!] and it was an absolute honor to have been a part of the historic ride!

    (2) 2024 Olympics–With Rome bowing out of the competition to host the 2024 Olympics, the only way LA does NOT get selected to host the “Games of the XXXIII Olympiad” is if the International Olympic Committee votes for Paris for three reasons: (a) the IOC continues to have an anti-American attitude which is possible, (b) 2024 would be the 100th anniversary of the last time Paris hosted the Olympics and the IOC loves significant anniversaries [despite somehow NOT voting for Athens for the 1996 Games (100 years after Athens hosted the FIRST modern Olympic Games) which went to Atlanta] and (c) Paris suffered a terrorist attack relatively recently (November 2015) and the IOC may have a special incentive to give the Games as a way to reward the Parisians for their bravery [even if the IOC did not do the same for New York City (where I live) when they awarded the 2012 Olympics to London]

  2. Regarding the increasing popularity of private car travel, perhaps we should eliminate car commercials and raise the sin tax on driving as we did with cigarettes.

  3. Why is the top speed of Metro’s light rail vehicles 55 mph compared to 66 mph on many other US systems like Houston’s?

    • I believe Metro sets that operating speed limit due to the perception (CPUC law i believe) that 55 mph is the fastest safe grade crossing speed allowable for LRT and that many “iconic” urban rail systems have the same imposed speed limit like on the Chicago EL and the New York subway/El system. Of course, this logic is downright faulty as heavy commuter trains cross at-grade in excess of 75 mph routinely in many places and can’t stop nearly as quickly as a light metro. Hopefully this limit will be changed to 66 mph where appropriate (i.e. long, straight stretches of the gold line, blue, expo etc.). The 210 section of the gold line is a perfect example of where 55 just doesn’t cut it.

  4. Be careful about quoting long portions of articles from the NY TIMES, as it’s copyrighted.

  5. I think that self-driving big rigs, Measure M’s “forever” sales tax and being sucked all the way to San Francisco at 700 MPH in the Hyperloopy are just “deplorable”! I have seen the future and I am glad I won’t be in LA or anywhere for most of it!