Self-driving cars vs cities, restored depots, homelessness: HWR, Feb. 28

Dept. of Academy Awards detours: It’s the usual drill for this Sunday’s show, with the Red Line’s Hollywood/Highland Station closed all day and some bus detours. More here.

My two favorite movies last year: “War for the Planet of the Apes” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Both had a lot to say about compassion and finding a path forward when times get tough.

Automated vehicles can’t save cities (NYT)

Credit: New York Times.

I’m not sure what to call the style here — it’s like a PowerPoint gone mad (in a good way!). The piece is actually billed as an op-ed by Allison Arief, a contributing editor on architecture and design.

Arief is one of the many skeptics (I’m one of them) that self-driving cars will be a panacea when it comes to traffic and urban design. She doesn’t think robot cars will solve congestion, reduce the need for parking or lead to streets more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. “A street full of AVS will be just as congested as a street full of cars,” she writes.

She also calls for mobility improvements that focus on moving volumes of people — meaning she would like to see a lot more investment in transit, citing the fact that a single subway train can carry hundreds of people at a time.

Finally, Arief acknowledges that self-driving cars may do some good.

In my view, that could come in the realm of allowing older people to get around without having to actually drive their car. I have one parent in assisted living and another parent likely headed there and, trust me, the loss of mobility and freedom is a huge hurdle. Ma and Pa have some alternatives to getting around, but those are very limited in suburban Cincinnati, which is extremely geared toward cars.

Thoughts on self-driving cars, people? Will you buy one? Or lease? Or ignore? What do you think they’ll do to our region?

Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis is a national disgrace (LAT)

Photo by Steve Hymon.

A powerful, well-reported and perhaps overdue editorial from the largest media outlet in our region. Excerpt:

Homelessness burst its traditional borders several years ago, spreading first to gloomy underpasses and dim side streets, and then to public parks and library reading rooms and subway platforms. No matter where you live in L.A. County, from Long Beach to Beverly Hills to Lancaster, you cannot credibly claim today to be unaware of the squalid tent cities, the sprawling encampments, or the despair and misery on display there.

This is the first in a series of editorials. Attentive readers know I’ve been critical of the LAT editorial pages for spending too many words summarizing a problem while devoting too little space to specific solutions. The series, thus far, is promising.

Goldstein investigation: MTA spends thousands on catered meals, talent show (CBS Los Angeles)

The agency’s response:

Metro strives to create a positive work place for its 10,800 employees and we believe in showing appreciation to our staff for their service to the public — and that appreciation extends from our staff to the public. We also take our role as stewards of taxpayer dollars very seriously and are constantly looking for ways to be efficient and effective in our efforts, including when it is appropriate to hold working breakfast or lunch meetings. The agency is committed to evaluating our processes about concerns raised regarding the expenditure of public funds.

It’s done! Monrovia finishes restoring its historic train depot (SGV Tribune)

The Monrovia depot as it appeared in 2010 before Gold Line extension construction ramped up. Photo by Metro.

And the depot in Azusa in a 2010 photo. Photo by Metro.

The station was built in 1926 and sits next to the Gold Line’s Monrovia platform. The depot had spent the better part of the last half-century trying not to fall down but is now freshly rebuilt and ready to house a vendor (likely to be a restaurant, reports the Trib). Check out the video from our visit to the depot here.

Rendering of Monrovia Santa Fe Depot restaurant patio by Samuelson & Fetter.

This has been a good decade for station restorations. Metro restored the Lankershim Depot next to the Orange Line in NoHo and that’s now a Groundworks coffee. The Monrovia Station will be back in action soon. A gastropub is coming soon to the old Fred Harvey room at Union Station — a room that has been closed to the general public for many years.

There is also an old Santa Fe depot next to the Downtown Azusa Station. Anyone know what is happening there? I know the city of Azusa issued an RFP for architects a few years ago, but haven’t heard anything since.

7 replies

  1. The meals don’t bother me terribly, but I’d much rather Metro spend $228,000 on operator wages (if not on projects) than on catered meals and talent shows. I’m sure the bus/train operators would appreciate the wage bump more than a talent show, and riders would appreciate happy drivers.

  2. I didn’t care for that “self-driving” video. It pre-supposes that all modes of transit work equally well to get you where you’re going. Fine if it’s a walkable distance with transit stops. Fact of the matter is that while transit works well in some cases (as does walking or biking) if your origination or destination isn’t downtown (or isn’t served well by transit), you need a car. Not a knock on any mode of transportation (though possibly a knock on our downtown streets also serving as through corridors for cars) but it seemed a bit too simplistic.

    Two areas where I think self-driving cars will provide value – reducing accidents (hopefully) and reducing some forms of congestion. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/607841/a-single-autonomous-car-has-a-huge-impact-on-alleviating-traffic/

  3. Bigger question is how much *per person* went towards these types of morale-boosting types of programs (or what the disparity is amongst the different groups at Metro). Because I’m betting Metro spends less per person on celebratory events than just about any television station. And you need those types of events. That’s part of being a work family.

    • It seemed pretty reasonable (they give the total and how many people in a couple examples in the article). The examples were about $12.xx per person, and then the “salmon and steak with all the fixings” was only $27.xx/person. Doesn’t seem outrageous for LA.

  4. Thanks, look at me not reading the article. Agree. My last employer paid to take our entire division on the Universal Studios VIP tour with dinner afterwards. And then there was also company-wide, team and departmental parties as well. That’s far from outrageous.