Art of Transit
Well, I certainly enjoyed by journey to Chavez Ravine on Friday night. Then again, attentive readers know I can’t help where I was born. FWIW, Los Rojos have returned to their losing ways since departing Los Angeles. As for the Dodgers, I predict that the Diamondbacks, come September, will regret their inability to finish off L.A. in May.
Metro staff has recommended three northern route options for further study for the Artesia to downtown Los Angeles light rail project (here’s the staff report and a Source post). The Metro Board will consider those recommendations this month.
Streetsblog LA has advocated the project be heavy rail — and opined that Metro’s estimated cost for heavy rail, which ranged from $12.3 billion to $18.4 billion, is too high.
Metro has asked Streetsblog to clarify two points in this article. Streetsblog has declined and my comment on their site was sent to the spamcatcher. Our points:
•Metro never said its cost estimate for heavy rail for the West Santa Ana Branch was for a surface heavy rail project. The cost estimate was based on a heavy rail line that would have to largely be grade separated due to safety and other potential impacts.
•Streetsblog wrote: “Metro’s WSAB heavy rail estimates show a cost of $0.67 billion to $1 billion per mile. That means, on a per-mile basis, Metro is estimating that WSAB surface heavy rail could cost Metro more than it currently costs to tunnel heavy rail subway below Wilshire Boulevard.”
The only heavy rail project that Metro is currently building is the Purple Line Extension — with sections 1 and 2 under construction. Section 1 is 3.92 miles long and has a budget of $3.154 billion. Section 2 is 2.59 miles and has a budget of $2.53 billion. That works out to $873 million per mile, which is more than the low end of the cost estimate ($670 million) for WSAB Streetblog complains about. (BTW, you can find current project budget estimates in this monthly presentation to the Metro Board’s Construction Committee: http://metro.legistar1.com/metro/attachments/070651a3-65df-4d48-a5cf-163c72692353.pdf)
Streetsblog has added another post, this time alleging that Metro should have provided cost estimates for the exact project that Streetsblog wants — surface heavy rail. As we wrote to Streetsblog the other night, Metro doesn’t believe heavy rail at street level in this corridor is practical or a good idea. The Metro Board of Directors will consider this item at the Planning Committee today at 2 p.m. and their Construction Committee on Thursday at 10:15 a.m., as well as their full Board meeting at 9 a.m. on May 24. Listen online here or show up in person to comment or contact the Board.
Hard to say exactly how many — or few — actually missed the show. Or whether fans’ chances would have been better if arriving earlier. Still, sounds like the parking lots closed before everyone was in and vertigo-inducing traffic was the order of the not-so-beautiful day.
I caught the band at the Rose Bowl last year — nice walk from the Gold Line — but sat this one out. Maybe not such a bad thing.
Jill — who ran the campaign last year for Measure S (which lost and would have slowed development in the city of L.A.) — has some choice words for Metro. She says that building rail is a symptom of a particular type of envy that will not be identified on a government blog. Key excerpt:
We have a starved bus system that goes everywhere. And you’ve got a few hundred stops for rail. So rail can never ever match the bus system, and yet rail gets all the expenses; rail gets the kudos; and rail is failing in Los Angeles.
I agree the bus system is expansive — most of L.A. County is served by either Metro buses or buses belonging to other transit agencies. I also agree that bus stops vastly outnumber rail stations and that the Metro Rail system will not in the foreseeable future be as large as our bus system in terms of routes, mileage or stops.
But it’s the second half of that second sentence that’s kind of a word wedgie.?
I don’t think rail is “failing” — plenty of people still ride. It’s certainly fair to say that rail ridership in the past five years has been flat whereas there have been losses on the bus system (you can slice+dice ridership numbers here). Also true: other large transit agencies across the nation have also seen ridership losses in recent times. Metro is in the midst of its NextGen Study to restructure the bus system to better serve existing riders and attract new ones.
In terms of cost, Metro spends more operating the bus system than rail system, according to the 2019 proposed budget — not including the $769 million Metro will provide to other bus agencies in L.A. County. It is fair to say that Metro’s transit expansion program will cost a little less than overall rail and bus operations in the next fiscal year with several rail projects under construction, including the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Purple Line Extension of the subway, the Regional Connector and the Gold Line extension to Claremont and Montclair.
Jill also suggests that Metro is spending “massive amounts” on building luxury housing. The agency does have a joint development program to build transit-oriented developments on Metro-owned properties. The agency also has a policy outlining its development goals, including that 35 percent of units be affordable housing. The majority of developments near Metro transit lines are private developments.
Again, I don’t mind arguments for or against transit expansion. But I think some of the arguments in the Curbed interview are very, very broad strokes.
To put it lightly, this op-ed by Nate Jackson has inspired some disagreement.
Why are readers cheesed? They don’t think scooters are the big problem when it comes to transpo — rather, their beef is with motor vehicles and the havoc that they can wreak.
In Los Angeles County there are 24 billion (with a B) pounds of private vehicles that can freely cruise and park on public spaces at any time. Their drivers cause over 500 fatalities and 50,000 injuries a year. https://t.co/zFhfReISpX
— Carter Rubin (@CarterRubin) May 15, 2018
Look through the thread, if you wish. Of course, it goes both ways. Others have complained about motorized scooters in bike lanes, unsafe riding on sidewalks and scooters being left in inappropriate places. Both Bird and Lime had to pull their scooters off Austin streets until they were permitted and other issues dealt with.
That said, the electric scooters do strike me as a capable first/last mile solution — as with bikes, I wish there more places to safely ride them. I also like the fact that the scooters are small and individually don’t take up a ton of space. The fact they’re electric obviously appeals to people.
I thought it might be nice to end today’s HWR with a little positivity. Columnist David Brooks expresses admiration for the many cities reinventing themselves across the US of A. California towns Fresno, Redlands and San Bernardino get mentions.