710 project remains in the news, distracted walking, new parks; HWR, Feb. 20

Art of Transpo: As the city of Santa Monica plans for its future airport park, they may want to look to the example of Blue Ash, Ohio, which is in the process of converting a former airport to a new park. That includes restored prairie, a dog park, a great lawn, hiking paths, restaurants and a tower (see below) that promises to offer some pretty tasty views of the Greater Cincy area.

I took a nice walk there Sunday to relieve some Parental Induced Stress, and the place is pretty neat. This was a small airport about the size of the airport in Santa Monica. The park in SaMo, btw, won’t be a terribly far bus or bike ride or walk from the Expo Line’s Bundy Station. I lived near the Blue Ash airport and under the SaMo Airport flight path and it’s exciting to see big, new open spaces go online in urban places.

Widening freeways is so 20th century — the 710 Freeway deserves better (LAT)

The LAT’s editorial board urges the Metro Board of Directors to reject and/or heavily modify the agency’s staff recommendation for the 710 Corridor Project. As proposed, option 5C would add one lane in both directions to the 710 between Long Beach and the 60 freeway, add truck bypass lanes at the 405 interchange, upgrade all other interchanges and supply $100 million to encourage clean truck technology.

The LAT’s beef:

It’s unlikely that adding two new lanes will make a lasting impact on congestion because of the phenomenon of “induced demand.” Widening a freeway to ease traffic actually induces more people to drive, which results in similar or worse congestion than before the project. A wider 710 could end up being the same clogged, dirty, dangerous corridor it is today.

Simply widening the freeway is a missed opportunity and a waste of taxpayer money. If Metro and the California Department of Transportation want to spend $6 billion on an anachronistic freeway widening, they ought to use the project as a catalyst for cleaning up the freight industry and advancing the plans for a zero-emission port complex.

So….what would the LAT like to see get done? That’s fuzzier. The editorial suggests maybe reserving the extra lane only for clean trucks or even creating toll lanes for trucks with lower tolls for cleaner trucks. (More press reaction to the 710 project is here).

Attentive Source readers know this isn’t the first time I’ve griped about LAT editorials that oppose or like something (congestion pricing, for example) but then offer no real vision or details about exactly what should get built. I know there are certainly plenty of Source readers who frequently comment on exactly what they want built.

The Metro Board will consider the 710 project at their March 1 meeting. It should be interesting, given the environmental studies for this project have been underway for a decade and the staff-recommended option, with a price tag of $6 billion, is very short of funding. Meaning anything more expensive will be even more short of funding (if my math is correct!). Stay tuned.

And, finally, some thoughts on “induced demand” irrespective of the 710 project. I certainly don’t take issue with the concept as applied to roads — that as supply increases so may demand. I do worry, however, that “induced demand” has become a little too fashionable a term and is being applied to every highway project, even ones that may do some good and improve safety or slow the pace of congestion.

Here’s a thoughtful paragraph from urbanist.co that I think is a little more realistic:

Induced demand is an economic property with solid evidence

The key insight from the market model is that  increasing roadway capacity will only make sprawl worse and won’t fight congestion. While car dependence hurts public health and wastes money, this economic principle does not imply that all highway construction is misguided. All planning is local. (Like politics.) There are plenty of good highway projects, but they must be balanced with investment in transit so that our cities can be strong, diverse communities where having a car isn’t a prerequisite for full citizenship.

L.A. County’s homeless population is worsening despite billions from tax measures (LAT)

A problem that touches on many aspects of urban life, including transit.

Can you hear cars now? Montclair bans use of phones, earbuds in crosswalks (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

I think it’s a good idea, then again I also think bike helmets are a good idea. I look forward to someone telling me otherwise.

Update: Someone telling me otherwise below!

Bird scooter firm settles legal fight with Santa Monica (LAT)

The very popular scooters aren’t going anywhere, but about $300,000 in Bird money will be going to settle complaints by the city that Bird failed to get business and vendor permits.

Uber’s new training wheels: testing bike sharing in S.F. (NYT)

Electric-powered bikes, to be exact.

16 replies

  1. More people are going to use it so that’s bad! Of course, more people are just going to live there and there’s going to be more cars. What’s worse is traffic that doesn’t move so there’s more pollution when cars are idle on the 710. Waiting will only make traffic worse and make the project less affordable, but will inevitably decide to do it anyways. The taxpayers and commuters suffer from the delay.

    And as for the homeless, that’s their policies too.

  2. Why widen the 710 and not complete the gap??…I’m nearly 60 years old. I guess my dream to drive from Long Beach to the 210 is over!

  3. Adding more lanes to the 710 sounds like a great idea, but let me ask this question, What happens to the 60 Freeway.? Is it going to be widened also? You will be dumping more traffic into an already congested road. I drive that everyday and the truck traffic is impossible. You can not do one without the other, extend the 710 to the 210 as it was originally intended.

  4. Steve – as a LA Metro spokesperson, I understand why you have to hold the party line and awkwardly argue for more freeways and more transit, but your argument against the LAT article doesn’t make sense.

    The editorial did make clear suggestions: zero-emission truck lanes, truck toll lanes, low-emission toll reductions. Are these suggestions not exact enough for you? That’s a straw man argument.

    Also, one correction on your point about induced demand: increased supply does not increase demand. Increased supply lowers the price (i.e. travel time delay) of the good which allows more of the existing demand to be accommodated. If you’d like to see a good example of this, watch what happens to the 710 if this project is approved.

    • Hi Drew;

      I hear you but I respectfully disagree. I thought the editorial devoted very little space to an alternative idea — it was really just spitballing. I actually don’t have a vested interest in which alternative goes forward. But I would have preferred an editorial that said “here’s why we don’t like this one” and “here’s a somewhat detailed idea for a project we could support.” In my opinion, the detail was lacking — and having done this for a while now, I feel like these projects are all about the details.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. Anything that uses rubber tires and has brakes will still kick up asthma causing particulates. Shift the trucks to the Alameda Corridor by using piggyback trains to get them to the warehouse areas. Stop poisoning the children of Long Beach and Southeast Los Angeles County.

  6. I think Bird has been relying on the old axiom of “no such thing as bad publicity.” You’d be unlikely to go for a walk around the streets of Santa Monica without seeing a few of their scooters littering the sidewalks, and it seems to me as if this was their sole form of advertisement – until this legal thing for them in the LA Times, of course. I’m not surprised that their CEO worked for Uber and Lyft in the past.

    What that article on the homeless doesn’t mention is that it’s recently been in the news that street gangs have infiltrated Skid Row and other vulnerable areas. Solving this is going to be costly for LA, going far beyond any funding raised by tax measures.

  7. I’m a pedestrian and cannot count how many near misses I have had with right turn drivers who fail to check the curb on their right or speed to complete their turn. Laws similar to Montclair’s do nothing about the actual problem. It only stigmatize pedestrians and embolden drivers. Instead, cities need to actively promote and enforce CVC 21950.

    • My pet peeve. If I was governor, I’d try to repeal the right turn on red law. I can think of at least one person who’d still be alive today.

  8. On the topic of distraction, this was an actual case I witnessed. There is a Line 78 stop directly across from where I live. Every weekday evening, at the same time, this young man waits to board the bus there, perhaps after work and going back home. At this one evening, as usual he was sitting on the bus stop bench, but he was so focused on his phone that he was not aware the Line 78 bus was approaching. As soon as the bus passed him by, he noticed that and tried to wave the bus to stop, but already too late. At that time of the day, Line 78 shows up once every 60 minutes. He did end up wait for the next bus. I don’t know whether I should feel bad for him or not. Since he knows, I assume, how frequent the bus runs at that time of the day, he needs to be more alert. On the other hand, I wonder if the Metro bus drivers are required to make a slight honk, for example, to the persons at the bus stop in this type of situation.

  9. “Induced demand” is a very poorly constructed concept because it has the order of operations backwards, possibly because whoever came up with the phrase watched too much field of dreams.

    Snark aside, the phrase “induced demand” developed in response to a unique historical phenomenon, the country went from zero interstates to thousands of miles of interstates, and that certainly resulted in a lot of auto travel. But even this does not suggest that demand for freeway travel was induced by the construction of the interstates.

    What we really have in both scenarios is latent demand. When rail was the only travel option there were a ton of potential trips that were suppressed or discouraged by the lack of alternatives, this latent demand was relieved by the interstate system.

    For freeway expansions, the first order cause is congestion: that congestion then discourages some travel. These discouraged trips become pent up demand. When a freeway expansion opens, the additional capacity relieves the pre existing latent demand and previously discouraged users make their trip, until the capacity of the expansion is again used up (and again begins to discourage travel).

    So expansions don’t create new demand, rather expansions fill preexisting demand that otherwise goes unfilled

  10. I agree with the LAT…one lane in each direction should be reserved for zero-emission truck lanes, truck toll lanes or low-emission toll reductions. Cal Trans should do a study to determine if the same type of lane should be created for autos too.

  11. Worrying about what the LATimes wants to see get done as an alternative assumes the problem. What if this a problem that building roads just can’t solve? Why do anything at all? It’s a question of opportunity cost… there’s plenty of other projects Metro could use $6 billion dollars for I would imagine (not that they’ve apparently found the $6 billion for this one).

    Or if you really want to reduce congestion on the 710 you could always charge to use it.

  12. If you were going to the future Santa Monica airport from Expo, stay on the train to the Bergamot station. A little bit longer, but a much more pleasant walk. Or you can grab a Metro-sponsored park-anywhere Breeze Bikeshare – again, a much more pleasant ride than Bundy Ave. (I used to commute from Burbank to the nearby Santa Monica Business Park daily with that last mile-ish covered by bike or walking.)

    Now… it would be nice to see Breeze at Bundy, but it’s outside of Santa Monica so any bikes would be the other (less useful) hub-only Metro-sponsored bikeshare.