ICYMI: Excavation of the twin tunnels under Crenshaw Boulevard was completed Thursday morning. The project is forecast to open in fall 2019.
ICYMI 2: And work continues at the future Grand Av Arts/Bunker Hill station in DTLA to prepare the station for the arrival of the tunnel boring machine digging the Regional Connector project. Check out these pics.
Art of Transit:
Art of Walking:
Gas tax increase to pay for road repair clears Legislature (Sacramento Bee)
Contrasting pair of online headlines, eh?
The 12-cents-a-gallon gas tax increase and the new vehicle registration fees — based on the value of your car — will go mostly toward road projects around the state. Transit will get $7 billion in the first decade of the new fees, which will also supply some money toward walking and biking projects.
The Bee article has a calculator to determine how much more you might pay. Looks like I better put a few bills aside. The gas tax hike goes into effect on Nov. 1 and vehicle reg fees go up Jan. 1.
As would be expected, this was a hard political lift. The bill passed the Assembly and Senate with not a single vote to spare. Republicans didn’t go along and some Dems hedged, pointing to the impact on constituents whose money is already stretched thin. Gov. Jerry Brown, who is 79, pushed hard for the bill, noting that he’s on his way out of elected office and could afford to support this. Whereas his successor (to be determined in Nov. 2018) probably will not.
Being on the fence helped: a few legislators ended up getting guarantees of road projects in their districts, meaning some of the $52 billion to be raised in the first 10 years is already spent.
As for the transit money, some of the $7 billion in the first decade will go toward operations and some toward capital projects. It’s not enough to replace the federal New Starts program that pays for big transit projects — which would be reduced in the Trump Administration’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year (here’s Metro’s statement about that). But it’s still money that will be relied upon by many agencies, Metro included (and the Metro Board in January voted to support/work with author on the bill).
Another thing for Metro: voters in L.A. County just approved the Measure M half-cent sales tax that funds a number of road and transit projects. The hope is to pair some of the local money with state money (and federal money, if it’s to be found) to fund projects and programs.
I think the gas tax is perhaps the most noteworthy part of this, given that it hasn’t been raised since 1994 in the state. And given that car owners will certainly notice during visits to the pumps. Will the increase persuade some people to drive less?
Hard to say and bill proponents didn’t really talk about that — they talked more about fixing roads, bridges and infrastructure. But gas in California is always among the most expensive in the nation and perhaps this nudges some toward more fuel efficient ones, given lately people have been gobbling up the bigger cars.
Related: there was much unhappiness about a bill amendment sought and won by the trucking industry that could exempt trucks from future air pollution rules.
The program that requires greenhouse gas polluters to buy permits was upheld in state appeals court on Thursday; an appeal is possible. Thus far, $3.4 billion has been distributed by the state on projects and programs to cut greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
The above page from the most recent state report sums up where the cap/trade dollars are flowing. The project with the biggest bucket: the $63-billion state bullet train project, which without the cap-and-trade bucks would be a highly endangered species instead of merely a threatened one.
Hey! The state also has an interactive map to see how revenues from cap-and-trade have been spent.
Climate change got you down? As we like to say, generally speaking switching from driving alone to taking transit helps.
And on the subject of driving less….
Former Assemblyman Mike Gatto got rid of his car and instead uses his bike, transit, Uber and — here’s the asterisk — his wife’s car to help him get around. In his neighborhood, it’s not that hard, he writes.
Second asterisk: he works at home.
What motivated him? The hypocrisy, Gatto writes, of fellow politicians continuing to drive while urging constituents to drive less.
My three cents:
•I agree with Gatto that it’s probably a little easier for some people in L.A. to go car lite these days, although one option — Uber — isn’t really driving less as it requires someone else to drive more.
•My gosh, I wish employers around the region were a little more serious about allowing more people to work at home. I know there are a lot of jobs in which that’s not possible. But there are many where it is and I think businesses would find that employees can be just as productive (if not more so) away from the office from time to time instead of enduring blabfest meetings and Cube Life.
•As someone who promotes transit for a living, I’ve never been keen on the “you-should-get-rid-of-your-car” approach because I don’t think that’s practical for many people, nor likely to happen. Plus, I have a car and I don’t want to be hypocrite. What I do feel comfortable saying is that using transit, biking and walking when possible can help you lower the amount you drive, save you some bucks, help your car last longer and help you be kinder to Mama Nature.
And on the subject of driving less…
What drove the driving downturn? (Citylab)
It’s a fact that between 2004 and 2012 Americans drove less by significant margins. The reason why has been highly speculated upon. One popular theory held there was a sea change underway with young adults rejecting the driving lifestyle and more people fleeing the ‘burbs for transit/bike/walk friendly urban areas. Transit ridership hit a modern high in 2013, reinforcing those notions.
Maybe that’s true of some people, but Americans are driving more than ever and transit ridership at many agencies has taken a tumble in the past three years. Plus, it never made sense to me that young people would conclusively determine that texting was more fun than the backseat.
In this post, planner Richard Florida points to research that shows that compact development, in theory, should result in less driving. That said, other research indicates the recent driving sinkhole may have been largely the result of those living in rural areas driving less due to unemployment and a tough rural economy. He ends with this zinger:
Urbanists may continue to cling to the narrative that Americans will move downtown, swapping their cars for transit, bikes, or walking. But whether that kind of development reduces driving in the aggregate is foggy at best.
And the lesson to be learned? If the goal is to get people to drive less, then the other options have to be really, really, really, really good. And that means, fast and frequent transit, bike lanes that don’t put cyclists inches from speeding traffic and sidewalks that are well lit and don’t frequently put pedestrians in the paths of cars.
What do you think? Are Angelenos and Californians ever going to drive less in serious numbers? Comment please.
Categories: Transportation Headlines