How We Roll, Nov. 21: dumb phones, infrastructure spending, rail-to-trails, SaMo vs the sea

Things to listen to whilst transiting: This American Life’s recent episode on the variety of reactions to the presidential election earlier this month. Always good to hear different points of views.

Art of Transit: A look at some of the ongoing work on the Purple Line Extension’s future Wilshire/La Brea Station…

Worth checking out: 


This is a good deal — the next semester lasts about four months, so this is all-you-can-ride for $95 for five months.

Dept. of Slow Down Next Time: 

Biggest spike in traffic deaths in 50 years: blame the apps (NYT)

“After steady declines over the last four decades, highway fatalities last year recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse,” reports the NYT.

Not helping: a number of apps and tech-friendly cars that seemingly encourage users to use them while driving. Or, at the least, do not discourage their use by motorists. As one expert says, it’s hardly clear that some of the hands-free technologies are reducing distraction, as their makers claim.

It’s not really clear that anyone in government is sure what to do about it: the USDOT may push states for a crackdown on distracted driving. That would be welcome, but as I’ve noted here in the past traffic enforcement often seems like a low priority in these parts.

In the meantime, remember this: your phone may be smart but it may also be making you dumb.

Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan wouldn’t actually fix America’s infrastructure problems (Vox) 

Should the U.S. spend $1 trillion on new infrastructure? (Transport Politic)

The article refers specifically to the 10-page policy paper released by the Trump campaign last month. While it could build new infrastructure by granting tax breaks to private firms, Vox reporter Brad Plumer says it wouldn’t much to help repair older infrastructure in need of repairs — sewer lines, for example.

Why? Because the plan relies so heavily on private financing. And private money likes new things that produce revenues, i.e. toll roads. Of course, a policy paper by a campaign is one thing. But it’s hard to predict anything until Trump and the new Congress actually take office in January.

As we’ve written many times already this month, the open question is how much attention will be paid transit projects, given that so many Americans get around by driving and also that so many transit initiatives performed well at the ballot box on Election Day. FWIW, transit ridership across the U.S. was down slightly in the first half of 2016 — and it’s probably not a great time for ridership to be down.

At Transport Politic, Yonah Freemark says the status quo is probably better than a package that would greatly expand roads while only modestly expanding transit.

Where does this leave us? For the good of our environment and for the good of our cities, doing nothing would likely be better than supporting this infrastructure package—even if we ignore the potentially disastrous political and financial concerns about this infrastructure bill noted by others. More transit investment simply isn’t worth it in the context of far more massive new highway spending that would overwhelm any potential benefits being derived from transit projects. Indeed, no new investment of any sort would likely encourage better use of existing infrastructure, thereby improving the performance of existing transit lines and supporting infill development rather than greenfield construction.

He also makes a pretty good point: to really expand transit ridership, you usually have to spend an awful lot of money to build something that will get people out of their cars. Otherwise, the projects tend to mostly shift riders from buses to trains and any ridership gains are overwhelmed by highway projects making it easier for people to drive. The lesson: if we want more transit friendly cities, etc., we really have to think about the balance in spending between highways and transit.

Uncommon Ground (NYT Magazine) 

A before and after view of part of the Atlanta Belt Line project. Credit: Atlanta Belt Line.

A before and after view of part of the Atlanta Belt Line project. Credit: Atlanta Belt Line.

A good look at the new wave or urban parks being built across the country, including rail-to-trail type parks similar to Gotham’s High Line. Not mentioned, perhaps because it’s still early in the planning: Metro’s Rail-to-Rail/River Project that will build a pedestrian and bike path along the old Harbor Subdivision rail right-of-way between the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Silver Line, Blue Line and L.A. River.

Virtual Reality: Sea level rise in Santa Monica (City of Santa Monica/USGS)

Want to help slow the pace of climate change? Generally speaking, taking transit instead of driving alone is a good way to lower your carbon footprint.

And somewhat related, this chart from the National Snow & Ice Data Center — the Arctic has been unusually warm this year.



2 replies

  1. Hi Steve, why were the repairs scheduled for this morning on the Expo Line cancelled? There were lots of comments opposed to the maintenance on the last blog post, so I’m curious why the plan was cancelled.

    • Hi Andrew,

      I’d have to check with operations, but there are any number of reasons why scheduled work may be cancelled, from weather related issues to equipment availability. At this time, the work is still scheduled for Wednesday.

      Thank you,

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source