L.A. is about anti-car as the universe is anti-star; HWR, July 25

I feel like I’ve been out of town for much of the last month, so I’m still in a bit of catch-up mode. Here are a few recent items that caught my eye…

Dept. of Dodger Stadium Express

Pretty impressive crowd for a Monday night, Dodger fans. And pretty impressive season thus far, as the above tweet shows.

One lil’ observation: three of those teams on the list failed to win the World Series.

Dept. of Go Metro to the Rams and Chargers: neither are quite in the top percentiles in this early power rankings. But so what. It’s July. You shouldn’t worry about your team’s prospects until Labor Day, when you can survey which players survived training camp. Only 32 days until the exciting Chargers-Rams pre-season brouha at the Expo Line-adjacent Coliseum, btw.

They discover, they gentrify, they ruin: How ‘progress’ is wrecking Los Angeles neighborhoods (LAT)

abbot kinney

I almost admire the chutzpah of the article and, I suppose, the writers’s willingness to admit that she drove a short distance to the coffee shop where she expects plentiful cheap/free parking!

I say almost because…anyone with a modicum of city savvy knows it’s faster to walk because parking in some places like Abbot Kinney will always be a bear. But hey, people drive for all sorts of reasons, and maybe someone who drives a short distance doesn’t do a lot of longer-distance driving. Emphasis on: maybe.

Otherwise, the article is a bit of a smorgasbord of complaints ranging from parking to densification to gentrification to mansionization to affordable housing and the dearth of it. The complaints all point to one direction, the author’s conclusion that Venice has gone to hell.

Has it?

I spent seven-plus years living in a nice but small apartment on the Santa Monica and Venice border (specifically at Marine and Highland) before moving inland to pursue real estate I could afford. Sure, I wish the old neighborhood was a cheaper place to live, but I think it’s kind of undeniable that Venice and Main Street in SaMo are a lot nicer than they used to be (except for the tragic loss of the Omelette Parlor).

And I’ll add this: most people who lived in the area in the 1990s knew the cheap real estate and all those empty storefronts near the ocean wasn’t going to last.

As would be expected, the article sent some folks into a tizzy. I don’t quite get the outrage at the developer who says he doesn’t want to mess with single family neighborhoods (I live in one, btw) and that there are better places to build. Practically speaking, he’s probably right in many cases. And there are plenty of places still to build in L.A. — i.e. commercial corridors, downtown areas, etc. (Here’s a good NYT story on the state’s and region’s housing woes)

Speaking of local traffic….

Exposed: LA is pursuing never-ending plan for traffic gridlock (Citywatch LA)


While the real estate developers assumed that people would use subways and LRT, they were wrong. Thus, the city has adopted a strategy to force people to stop using cars. As Director Bertoni admitted, a major thrust in this direction has been to add Bike Lanes to major streets – unfortunately making the world’s worst traffic congestion even more aggravating.

Unless the City can force people to use the subways and LRT lines that go directly to specific office buildings, these complexes will be financial disasters for the owners. This is why LA is pulling out all the stops to make sure city traffic comes to a gridlock so they can drive the population to the mass transit system.

Hmmm…I know that not everyone is crazy about road diets and/or the Great Streets program. But those occupy a very, very, very small percentage of the city’s overall streets. In the meantime, L.A. feels to me about as “anti-car” as the universe is anti-star.

Outside of rush hour — which, btw, also majorly sucks in cities ranging from San Francisco to Chicago to New York to many others — L.A. remains a pretty easy place to drive, with wide freeways and arterials, plentiful parking (much of it free, although not as free as in the past), few toll roads, scarce traffic enforcement and gas that often remains under $3 per gallon in places.

That said, I do think the writer asks a very good question: what’s the point of building a rail network that inevitably won’t be convenient to everyone given our region’s sprawling nature?

I think the point is this: we try to emphasize building in corridors that we know already have a high travel demand. Build enough of those and we’ll have a network that offers an alternative to driving and where we can concentrate development . Yea, transit ridership is down here (and pretty much everywhere else, too) during these rosy economic times. But a lot of people are still riding — just go to the nearest Metro Rail station at rush hour.

I will also say this. I can’t say enough good things about the many, many improvements that have been made to cities and ‘burbs alike that were originally advocated by the urbanist crowd in the U.S.. We also live in a country and region where driving is very popular and will likely remain so. As irritating as I find uninformed attacks on transit, I’m also not crazy about attacks on social media (in particular, Twitter) on anyone who drives.

Rosemead sues Metro to force 710 Freeway extension back into courts (SGV Trib)

The city alleges the Metro Board’s vote this spring to select a project alternative violated state environmental law. Metro declined comment, citing the pending litigation. Earlier this summer, cities long at odds over how to solve traffic woes from the 710 gap, sat down and started talking about some projects that could help.

FWIW, I was on Fremont Avenue in South Pas this a.m. bringing the doggy home from the vet and, geewillickers, those traffic signals are not timed. I’m not sure if that’s on purpose to slow traffic down or if I just caught a bad cycle.

BART shows off new train cars (SF Chronicle)

Let’s just say the media ride on the new roomier and sorta quieter cars didn’t go as well as it might have.

This graph was interesting:

The BART trains of the future also feature blue and green interiors that look like a Seattle Seahawks football jersey, and thinly covered plastic seats. In a nod to the changing times, the trains also feature “no vaping” signs and spring-loaded bike clamps instead of racks.

It’s always pleasing to hear that there are a few people in the Bay Area who understand the 49ers and their evil ways.

The benefits of private financing for public works (NYT)

The NYT news pages have been skeptical of public private partnerships to build infrastructure. In this op-ed, the former U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and a representative for the engineering firm AECOM advocates for PPPs, saying they can save money for government agencies and help shield them from risk that comes with building things.

Both Peters and AECOM stand to gain from more PPPs. But they also rightly point out that PPPs can take many forms and, in fact, are already being used in the United States for many projects.

Attentive readers know that Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation has been looking at potential PPP deals to help accelerate large projects. Stay tuned.

Things to listen to whilst transiting: Great ‘Planet Money’ podcast on the convoys of trucks that bring many millions of bees to California each year to pollinate plants and trees on farms.

Dept. of AOT, i.e. Ape Oriented Transportation: Fans of California history will enjoy “War for the Planet of the Apes,” in which our heroes must do a reverse Donner Party and get from the Northern California coast to the safety of the desert. With no cars, trains or buses available post-Simian flu, that means hoofing it or horseback. Great movie.

Dept. of You’ve Been Warned: Be careful when walking through P1 of the parking garage between Union Station’s East Portal and the Metro HQ elevators. I don’t know what the pigeons have been eating but let’s just say they either really do not like me (join the club) or want to beat the apes to the punch. Either way, one of those pigeons owes me a new Van Heusen outlet store dress shirt. Price of one now in the trash: $14.99.

To paraphrase Capt. Ahab: he is not a pigeon. He is the devil himself.

To quote Dave Grohl, run for your life with me.



1 reply

  1. The pro-car articles linked to in here are are absolutely ludicrous. Car-people need to let go of their archaic vision of what cities “ought” to look like and realize that cars and car-centric planning CREATED THESE PROBLEMS THEY NOW GRIPE ABOUT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    Sorry you can’t go zoom zoom fast in your private automobile like Robert Moses promised you could, folks. Turns out his vision was fundamentally flawed and completely unworkable.

    They should consider themselves fortunate that Los Angeles (city and county) are directing resources into developing workable alternatives to driving instead of unpaving the hundreds of square miles of LA County land WASTED due to unworkable mandatory parking minimums and archaic anti-density ordinances.

    In the end, automobile drivers are not participating in the cities they drive through. When in cars, folks are not working, not socializing, not engaging in commerce, nor contributing in any other positive way to the metropolis they are passing through. This is not the case for pedestrians, train/bus riders, and bicyclists. In what world could it be considered just or equitable for a city to prioritize people that are simply blowing through town without making a contribution other than adding more poison to the air over those who actually live, work, socialize, and contribute to that city?

    Get out of the car and actually participate in city life, or face the reality that you have little credibility to speak on matters of urban planning and public policy.