Scooter ban, bullet train, congestion relief pricing: HWR, March 5

There was a media event on Monday to check out some of the fossils unearthed as part of the Purple Line Extension project. Check out Anna’s IG story here (WordPress won’t let me embed it).

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Art of Transit

Miner at Bottom Landing Wilshire & LaBrea (Photo credit: Ken Karagozian)

Jimmy, Miner - Bottomlanding Wilshire & LaBrea (Photo credit: Ken Karagozian)

A pair of nice pics of the ongoing work at the future Wilshire and La Brea station along the Purple Line Extension. Photos for Metro by Ken Karagozian.

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In the news…

•L.A. Council Member Gil Cedillo authored a motion asking the city to ban scooters in his district, which includes Westlake, Chinatown, Highland Park and Echo Park, reports Curbed LA. The reason: not enough room on sidewalks, he says.

The city of L.A. has been working on a pilot project to regulate scooters — hard to say how the motion jibes with banning them from some places. Scooters aren’t supposed to be ridden on sidewalks but that hasn’t stopped people from doing it and that’s going to continue to be a sticking point going forward whether you agree with Cedillo or not.

•A pair of LAT articles on the California bullet train. The first says there may not be enough money to complete the Merced-to-Bakersfield segment that Gov. Newsom wants to complete. The second concerns the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s pushback against President Trump’s desire to get $3.5-billion in federal funds back from the project, which the feds allege has been mis-managed. The authority says it’s a “rash and unlawful” request.

Hey! Here are two bullet train questions I’d love answers on:

1 — Until actual bullet train service can begin, is there the possibility of using the Bakersfield-to-Merced stretch for the Amtrak train that runs between Bakersfield and Sacramento?

2 — Will the proposed extension of ACE commuter rail from San Jose to Merced connect with the bullet train in Merced? Reason I ask: that seems like something that would make sense, allowing rail riders to go from Bakersfield to rail connections to San Jose or Oakland.

•A quartet of letters to the editor in the LAT on Metro launching feasibility studies of congestion relief pricing and taxing Ubers and Lyfts.

The first letter argues that the Metro system is not robust enough to give folks an alternative to paying tolls to drive. That’s certainly a familiar argument. It’s worth mentioning that the hope is to use toll money to greatly expand transit so there is a good alternative to motoring.

One other point in the letter: the writer argues there isn’t enough parking at many Metro systems for transit to be realistic for many.

In recent times in urbanist and transit circles, the prevailing view is that parking is very expensive to build and maintain and that lots/garages are not the best use of space in cities. Metro’s customer surveys show that 32 percent of rail riders drive or get dropped off at stations versus 10 percent for the bus system.

In other words, most of our riders do not drive to the bus or train (FWIW, I drive to the Gold Line’s Del Mar station). I’m curious what folks reading this think — how big a deal is parking? Is it a deal breaker and needed if Metro tries congestion relief pricing? Or does it depend on the setting — ‘burbs verses the denser urban core?

•The Reason Foundation — long a critic of rail projects as being too expensive with ridership too low — argues that many of the projects in Metro’s Twenty-Eight by ’28 Initiative are not necessary to get fans to Olympic venues. The counter-argument is that a larger transit network sooner will help more people get around before, during and after the Games.

 

Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

24 replies

  1. FWIW, my wife and I use the Metro light-rail system whenever we can. We live within a 20-minute walk of the Palms Expo Line station, and on nights when we want to go to either downtown L.A. or downtown S.M., we will often drive and park as close as we can on a neighborhood street so that we’re not dragging our tired selves all the way home on foot after 11. As for congestion pricing, I’m all for it.

  2. Regarding your questions regarding the Merced-Bakersfield portion of the California HSR line, the CaHSR website states that once the initial section is complete Amtrak will use the HSR tracks for its Central Valley route, speeding up service in the interim before true HSR begins. In Merced, the current Amtrak station is less than a mile from the planned Merced HSR station. The ACE service will operate over the Amtrak route in this area, so whenever Amtrak is connected to the new Merced HSR station, ACE will also operate from the same station. From the beginning, CaHSR funding has mandated and included funding for improving standard speed rail services and connecting them with the HSR services. However, given the new policies of the Newsom administration, the information on the CaHSR web site need to be updated.

  3. You wouldn’t know it from the LA Times misleading coverage, but the early Central Valley HSR segment is being built to be fully compatible with service through to the Bay Area https://sf.streetsblog.org/2019/02/14/high-speed-rails-central-valley-segment-is-not-stranded/ In 2018 the CAHSRA said that they expect early operations to include that Bay Area connection (and this could run from So Cal, too) https://sf.streetsblog.org/2018/03/22/notes-on-new-high-speed-rail-business-plan/

    • Hey Joe —

      Thanks much for the links in this comment and the other one. I had not read those — very helpful info to have.

      I’m very aware of the discussion over the LAT’s coverage and whether it has been fair or held the project to impossible standards that journalists do not impose on other infrastructure, existing or future. For the most part I’ve personally found it to be very tough but fair — although I probably carry my own bias, having worked there once upon a time. I know there have been some blog posts about their coverage and actually think it’s a fascinating topic worthy of further public discussion. I’m certainly interested in knowing more about what people think on the coverage. Tx!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. The reason “The Reason Foundation” is unreasonably against Metro’s rail transit projects is, in my opinion, because it is born of and tied umbilically to the energy lobby, the development lobby and the auto lobby, much like its siblings-in-sin, The Cato Institute and The Pacific Legal Foundation.

  5. Gil Cedillo should advocate banning automobiles in his district. That way, cyclists and e-scooter riders will feel safe riding in the street and pedestrians won’t fill threatened on the sidewalk. Everyone wins!

  6. Of course, Amtrak and ACE can use the electric-powered Bullet Train’s tracks, because the Bullet Train, Amtrak, ACE and Metrolink, etc., all share the same wheel gauge of 4′ 8.5″ between the inside of their rails. It’s been Plan B all along. You see, outside the electrified Northeast Corridor (Boston/New York/DC) Amtrak, ACE and most other rail systems use diesel locomotives (actually diesel-electrics, but don’t get me started on that) because they are cheaper. But, diesel locomotives only have a top-speed of, given a tailwind, about 125 MPH. Whereas, the world speed record for electric-powered trains is 357 MPH (The French wouldn’t you know it!) So, if Newsom’s Bullet Train is to travel at 220 MPH, it must use electric engines that draw power from special overhead wires–the most expensive train option. However, you get what you pay for. Electric trains are faster, cleaner and very quiet when compared to diesel trains. So, until someone unties the Gordian Knot of California’s wacky politics, Amtrak, Ace and even Metrolink can stride their stuff at +/-125 MPH on the Bullet Train’s tracks. Now ask me why 4′ 8.5″ is the “standard gauge” for most of the world’s railways? Hint, it has something to do with the width of the “south end” of two Roman chariot horses–really! To learn more about basic railroading get the book: “The World’s Great Railway Journeys”. It lists for $49.95 but I got mine for $5.00 plus s/h from Amazon. Next week we can talk about why train engines don’t have steering wheels. I can keep it simple since I already worked out the details a year ago when I got a phone call from a Metro middle-manager (+/-$200,000) who couldn’t find the steering wheel in a Metrolink engine! (PS: If $5. to Amazon is too much, just watch Thomas the Tank Engine–it should be required TV for all Metro train folk.) 🙂

  7. Parking is VERY important. I drive about 2.5 miles each way to the Rosecrans station on the 110 Freeway and park my car in the lot. Yes, I can take the 125 local Metro bus but it does not run enough nor is it reliable enough as an option. A fellow rider/neighbor does this everyday and she often has to wait a really long time for the 125 and is often late to work. Yes, she leaves in plenty of time to catch the bus according to Metro’s schedule.

  8. From the beginning, maybe had CHSR really reached out to Japan, France or Germany for help, we may not have been in this position. We have no HSR in the USA, yet we thought we could design and build one ourselves? ? ?
    Yes, we could have built all the bridges, trackbed, supplied the materials and labor etc, but planning, setting better routes and hopefully buying off the shelf high speed train sets could have come from Europe or Asia. If Siemens, maybe use their plant in Sacramento(?).

    The route that should have been build first was Los Angeles to Bakersfield the short way by I-5 (we can ask Japan how to build in earthquake country). By building this first, even if nothing else got built, you could have routed all of Amtrak’s San Joaquin trains all to LA (although with better equipment ) and you would have finally had the North and the South connected. In other words, as you then started to build other segment of the HSR, at least your first segment is running and generating revenue.

    The governor can still rescue this project.
    Have outside help come in and look over what has been built so far for a quality check.
    Have contractors correct the problems now at no charge if something needs fixing.
    Get better internal control of internal finances by having an outside review
    THEN continue from Bakersfield south to LA> Get some revenue being generated !
    Next segment should be from San Jose to Fresno- connecting Caltrain and the Capitals in the north to the system.
    Then go on in segmented approach and finish off the other segments.

    • The current ca Legislative analysts office report says that the dog leg from Bakersfield to Burbank will cost about 34 billion dollars.

      The CAHsR has commissioned route studies along I 5, they can cross San Andreas sand gormon both at grade and have about 15 miles total of tunneling, but to do that means an environmental impact in the floodplain of Castaic lake, and that route was done BEFORE trump created a new national monument to the dam disaster in the 30s, or before the planned car pool lane expansion on that part of the 5.

      The need to cross the fault zones at grade and also minimize tunneling and maintain 125 mph curve radius and build with reasonable construction zone access means there are no good options. And you can’t just tunnel the entire forty miles because tunnels need emergency egress and tunnel machines only go advance about 250 a day. Six miles is the advisable limit, but even the proposed 13 mile tunnel reach from Palmdale to Burbank is blowing that rule to shreds (about seven years to build that tunnel reach).

      But it is definitely possible, even if restricted to 125 mph, interstate 5 already creates 110 decibels of noise, so the HSR noise if trenches on the west side of the freeway between the malls and the freeways wouldn’t add much noise.

      The project to cross via the 5 route would probably cost about 13 billion, but compared to 34 billion for the Palmdale route that is a savings of 21 billion. Currently 50 billion of the cost of the train is unfunded, so simply choosing the 5 results in wiping out 40% of the unfunded liability.

      But there’s a big problem, the 5 is not being studied in EIR, so the state government would have to pay extra to study it and Santa Clarita and Palmdale would both sue to stop the route being chosen.

  9. And Steve, to answer your question, had better planning been done, Amtrak could have fed the CHSR with “local” service in the valley and let CHSR do the longer stretches. Connection in Bakersfield will be hard as CHSR appears to have picked a location in the northern part of Downtown Bakersfield, while the existing Amtrak facilities are on the south side. Merced MAY be easier, but I believe a similar situation- Amtrak is to the north/east of downtown Merced and the SP/UP route more to the center of downtown Merced.

    As for ACE, its a Metrolink style train, so equipment will not be very comfortable long trip , the route from SJ to Livermore is very hilly and slow on the UP and you have a forced change of equipment at Merced. Not ideal.
    North of Merced, you are still better off with Amtrak to get to Sacramento and Oakland.

    • Confirmed: Expo parking apocalypse has not occurred although parking has been an issue at some of the new Foothill Gold Line stations.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  10. Why are scooters allowed on the sidewalk – surely it’s time for an ordinance to limit them to the road? They are motorized, should be classified as a vehicle and should only be ridden on the road, just as cyclists are supposed to limit their use to the road. Officers need to start issuing warning, then tickets, for those who ride on the sidewalk. I am a cyclist before anyone tells me it’s unsafe to ride on the road. It’s safer to ride on the road than it is to ride on the sidewalk. Pedestrians are at risk from these users, as well as the users themselves from motorists. Motorists are not looking for these vehicles, hell, more than half of them are not looking for pedestrians!

    • Agreed, Roz. I ride my bike quite a bit, and I’m annoyed by other cyclists who don’t follow traffic rules. They endanger the public and make cyclists look bad. I have no problems with e-scooters as long as they’re used on the road, as you say. I believe the SMPD cracked down a few months back on e-scooter riders using the beach bike path and sidewalks in Santa Monica. Education and enforcement are the way to go.

  11. Mr. Hymon, I agree with the opinions you’ve expressed over time with regards to HSR. I had serious doubts about the HSR project from the beginning but I thought that we could have incorporated completed portions into the current state rail service when the project eventually lost political/electoral steam. I was hoping that since the Tehachapi pass has been the issue with connecting northern and southern California for the last 140 years that we would start there. Building the greatest HSR system in the world is useless without a new route from the High Desert to Bakersfield. Those twenty miles would have cost billions but would cut the current trip to the Bay Area from 12 hours to eight without any other improvements. It would also give the Central Valley four-hour access to Los Angeles. Not exactly high-speed but useful for most non-commuters and a huge improvement over current service. I’m sure the planners wanted to get some easy trackage done through the Central Valley before taking on the more difficult engineering part of the project. Unfortunately, since Amtrak trains already run near their max possible speed in the Central Valley, using HSR track won’t improve service that much.

  12. Instead of having big parking garages, how about bringing the rail projects closer to the neighborhoods they are supposed to serve? It doesn’t help that many lines are in the middle of freeways like the Green Line and Gold Line. How exactly are commuters supposed to reach the station? People who have jobs do not live close to rail stations. I would love if the Green Line extends further to the suburbs. There’s no plan to extend the Green Line beyond the Norwalk Station to Norwalk County Courthouse and perhaps to Brea on Imperial Hwy to pick up commuters, plus add a connection to Metrolink. There needs more North South rail lines to link up the Gold Line to the Green Line. Instead we will get a Gold Line extension that is already served by Metrolink, which should be integrated to Metro with the same trains, frequency, and fare structure.

    HSR is doomed. Gov. Newsom should have shut his mouth and said nothing especially since he said the project will go on. His declaration is actually accurate. The issue is there’s no money to complete it at all. They barely spent $5.4 billion on it so far with $3 billion from federal fund. It’s 5% of the $100 billion final price tag and going higher. California spent less than $3 billion of it’s own money. What a joke. At least Fresno got some nice new freeways. We can bury the project in the Central Valley where no one will see the ruins. One day, they will do the smart thing by proposing shorter segments from LA-San Diego-Anaheim-Victorville and San Francisco-Sacramento-San Jose. The final link between San Francisco to LA may never happen because this route is already served by airplanes.

    • Hi TimW;

      Good points. The Green Line was built in the middle of the 105 as a mitigation for the freeway being built — in other words, the freeway was allowed to be built if it had a mass transit component. As for the Gold Line, it largely follows the old rail right of way from DTLA through Pasadena and beyond. Before the 210 was built, the tracks mostly went down Walnut Street in Pasadena. When the freeway was built, the tracks along Walnut were moved to the 210 median. When the Gold Line was built, some different alignments were studied in Pasadena but the decision was made to stick with the existing alignment, so down the 210 it went.

      It’s my personal opinion that if I was anointed King of the World, I probably would not build new projects down the middle of freeways for the reasons you mention. I’m also reluctant to never say never as I suppose there may be occasions where such an approach may work. If there is an upside to freeway medians it’s that it speeds up the trains and makes the trains very visible to the folks in cars who may be stuck in traffic.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Sooo, why did they not add a bus route down Walnut to replace the original Gold Line route?

        • I think Walnut was one of the alignments studied. If memory serves, they also looked at Green. The bus routes in the area focus on Colorado Avenue, as that’s a busier street with more destinations.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

      • The future East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Light Rail project will run primarily on Van Nuys Boulevard through transit-dependent communities who can someday simply walk to the future light rail station just as they do with current bus service today.

  13. Airplanes, there’s the rub! Our airports are all ready chock-a-block with planes and surrounded by auto congestion. If no CAHSR then the state will need to build more airports. And have you priced new airports recently? They are in the same league as CAHSR. But new “bookend” i.e. SFO/LAX airports will not service the 6 million and growing folks in between these “bookends”. Sorry, California cannot continue unbridled growth without more, subsidized infrastructure. Either trains or planes it still comes out of the public’s pocketbooks. And there’s no point in keeping the giant San Joaquin Valley as a human dead end when it’s the only growing space left.