Art of Transportation: My exile to Cincinnati has entered its 22nd day (parents versus old age versus the American health care system) so if you notice a certain tone of distance and detachment on the blog, please forgive.
My stay has coincided with a remarkable run of foul weather. All the rain has resulted in the Ohio River reaching its highest level since 1997.
The photo below was taken Sunday from Covington, which is across the river from Cincy. The Cincinnati Reds ballpark, btw, is easily reached via foot, bike, streetcar or motorcar. Next door are a great riverside park and restaurants because the Reds’ ballpark is, unlike Dodger Stadium, not entirely surrounded by a 15,000-space parking lot.
This one is from the department of catching up. With Caltrans set to begin buying land later this year, the LAT takes a look at the High Desert Corridor project, which proposes to build a new 63-mile freeway from Palmdale and Lancaster in the Antelope Valley to Victorville in San Bernardino County.
Proponents say the road would serve as a safer and faster alternative to Highway 138 and allow a faster bypass for traffic between the Central Valley and destinations east of the L.A. metro area. Opponents say the freeway will trigger more sprawl and irreparably damage fragile desert habitats.
A couple of major caveats here. There is early money flowing to the project from Measure M. But the majority of the funds aren’t coming until much later with the project due for a 2063 groundbreaking under the Measure M timeline unless the project is built as a public-private partnership (far from certain at this time). The high-speed rail line that could run in the corridor has no funding at this time. Neither do the high-speed rail lines it would would connect with (L.A. to Bakersfield and Victorville to Las Vegas).
The second link above comes from LAT planning/architecture writer Christopher Hawthorne, who has a novel take on the High Desert Corridor being included in Measure M. His take:
If new road projects are — at least in the view of some transportation planners and elected officials — the price to be paid for Metro expansion, it’s also true that no ballot measure involving freeways alone would likely come anywhere close to two-thirds’ support from voters today.
So maybe we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Maybe the road projects tossed into ballot measures like M aren’t sweeteners for certain groups of voters as much as efforts to piggyback on the growing electoral support for mass transit. It’s telling in that sense that funding sources for the San Bernardino County portion of the freeway — beyond the reach of Measure M funding, which is limited to L.A. County — have yet to be pinned down.
A couple of thoughts:
1) I think the Measure R and M ballot measure campaigns made it clear there was funding for roads and transit. In fact, I recall in 2008 how the Measure R campaign was reluctant to even use the word “subway” in their TV ads even though the Purple Line Extension was the transit project set to receive the most R funding. Could Measures R and M have passed if they were only transit? Great question. I don’t know the answer.
2) I liked both LAT articles and thought they were smart and fair. That said, I would also like to hear from more L.A. County residents in the Antelope Valley about this project — or anyone for that matter.
City wants to fund Flower Street, Arts District rail projects (Red Line Reader)
Scott Frazier has reeled in a nice little scoop. The city of Los Angeles is exploring using an Enhanced Infrastructure Finance District in DTLA to fund transit improvements — including an Arts District rail station and major improvements to the Blue and Expo Lines along both Washington Boulevard and Flower Street.
What is an EIFD? Take it away, Scott:
EIFDs are relatively new instruments established by the state legislature in 2014 following Governor Brown’s decision to wind down the redevelopment agencies. The districts can be used to create Joint Powers Authorities with the power, like the old CRA, to collect and spend marginal tax growth resulting from increases in assessed property value. This makes the EIFD an ideal financing mechanism in locations where real estate development is intensifying.
To emphasize “exploring” is not the same as “doing.” But it’s still interesting, given that the major Blue/Expo Line upgrades and an Arts District Station were not granted funding via specific Measure M projects, although there’s a lot of interest in both.
The city also lists another project that could get funding: improvements to 7th street from the DTLA core all the way to the L.A. River. Attentive Source readers have, like me, probably found themselves walking on 7th Street and wondering why a street attracting so much new business doesn’t have brighter street lights, nicer sidewalks and better bike lanes.
Microtransit: what I think we know (Human Transit)
Transit planner Jarrett Walker has seen the spate of articles about microtransit, the on-demand shuttles agencies are pursuing (including Metro) as an alternative to fixed-route service in some areas. Jarrett writes:
The microtransit movement, like so many fads that have blown over transit agencies during my 25-year career, appears to be an example of elite projection, the tendency of fortunate people to assume that whatever they personally like will be good for society as a whole. An urban elite has seen their lives transformed by ride-hailing services, and understandably wants to believe that this transformation can be brought to transit too. This helps to explain why so much talk of microtransit is so dreamy, so obviously stated in the tone of a sales pitch rather than an analysis. To think clearly in this context, you need to lean into the wind, being skeptical but not cynical about ideas that obviously serve someone’s commercial interest.
We did a Q&A on microtransit on the blog last year. Here’s an excerpt that I think looks at the other side of the coin:
Why not leave on-demand services to those who already provide them? Does Metro really think it can out-Uber Uber or out-Lyft Lyft?
We don’t see Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing companies as competitors.
There’s a place for private mobility services to operate alongside publicly provided services. We see a new transportation technology that has changed how many people travel, and we owe it to our customers and the taxpayers to be asking whether it, or any new technology, can play a positive role in Metro’s overall service.
We can potentially take advantage of that technology to serve our broader social goals – focusing on pooled rides and connections to other transit, accessibility for passengers with disabilities and service for those without smartphones or bank accounts. Finally, we intend to provide this service using Metro employees, not contract employees.
In London, Singapore and Stockholm the [congestion pricing] fees were met with skepticism and outrage by commuters and civic and business leaders, though they later proved effective in reducing traffic, congestion and air pollution.
Congestion pricing gets bandied about here in LaLaLand, but the question is when do we have enough alternatives to driving to give people a way to avoid the tolls?
Dept. of Movie Reviews: Saw “Black Panther.” I thought it was great and should be required viewing in high school government/history/social studies classes (check out this curriculum). If Wakanda is, in fact, sharing its technology in the world, I’m sure Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation would welcome a few unsolicited proposals.
Categories: Transportation Headlines