Dodgers-Yanks!?, smog, housing: HWR, July 2

Dept. of Careers: 

There are some high-profile jobs open at Metro in some key positions — jobs important to the well-being of L.A. County. Feel free to share with colleagues, friends, etc. and head over to the Metro careers page for more details and how to apply.

Dept. of Look Up!: 



Dept. of Things to Read Whilst Transiting: Fun pull-back-the-curtains piece in the New Yorker on Augusta National, home to the Masters golf tourney and a lot of gluttony, wealth and recorded birdsong.


Dept. of Dodger Stadium Express: At the halfway mark of the season, the Dodgers and Yankees are the best two teams in Major League Baseball and perhaps headed toward a World Series smackdown.

Two years ago, we made a video of a Metro service attendant sweeping a stuff bear off the bus (goodbye Cubs!). Last season, the attendant found some red socks and used those to clean the bus, tailpipe included.

If the aforementioned Fall Classic comes to pass, wonder what a service attendant should find on the bus this year…in other words, the idea bank is open for business, baseball fans.




Smog over L.A. area. Credit: Getty Images.

Let’s talk smog! While generally speaking our region has seen improvement in air quality in recent decades, there has been some backsliding — particularly in the Inland Empire, according to the LAT.

What’s at stake — besides the health of millions of people breathing foul air? Excerpt:

If California regulators fail to submit an adequate smog-reduction plan by the end of this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could begin imposing a series of escalating sanctions, including increased restrictions on polluting industries and the loss of federal highway funds. Even more draconian measures could take the form of no-drive days and gas rationing. Airports and shipping harbors could also face limits on emissions.

Some clean-air experts say that’s a remote possibility, but the region’s top air quality regulator, Wayne Nastri of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, disagrees. At a May public meeting, he said the Trump administration “would jump at the opportunity to withhold funds immediately — even beforehand if they could.”

Key phrase there is probably “remote possibility” given that federal policy of late hasn’t exactly tilted toward lowering emissions — and has even targeted California’s stricter standards for auto emissions.

One curious thing about the story: it correctly notes that warmer temperatures — perhaps from climate change — are an obstacle to cleaning the air. But the article doesn’t mention that our region continues to experience population growth. The Inland Empire, in particular, has added a lot of people since the 1990s and it’s probably fair to say some folks are moving inland in search of housing they can afford. See #s below from L.A., Riverside and S.B. counties:

What to do about all this? There is no magic bullet as there are many sources of air pollution (and different types of air pollution, too). That said, there is widespread agreement that motor vehicles are a major contributor/cause of smog and the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

As we like to say, generally speaking taking transit instead of driving alone helps when it comes to air quality. Metro is also working to electrify its 2,200 bus fleet by 2030, build out and improve its transit network to give more people an alternative to driving, provide people more walking and biking options and promote transit-oriented communities. It’s not the whole answer, but I think it’s a good start.

Your thoughts on smog in our region? Better or worse?


So Cal suburb. Credit: Getty Images.

Quasi-related to the above…

Great batch of letters in the NYT on Minneapolis’ plan to replace single-family home zoning with rules that allow up to four units per lot. Some readers are strongly for, some strongly against.

If you haven’t seen it, this earlier NYT article uses maps to show how much land in metro areas is consumed by single family neighborhoods. The accompanying story looks at cities mulling changes to get more housing built and make housing more affordable to more people.

Obviously, these issues have been in play in California, where there is widespread agreement that housing construction has not kept pace with population growth. A state bill, SB 50, that would have changed SFR zoning near busy transit stops was shelved in the State Senate this year after being voted down last year.

These are tough issues and I’m including them here as there’s a nexus between transpo and housing — and neither issue is going anyway soon.


I hope everyone has a great and safe holiday week. I’m departing for Points North (sounds sexier than Oregon) for a couple weeks. In the meantime, a little birthday music from one of America’s great songwriters to get the party started…


5 replies

  1. The So Cal suburb aerial view shows how such street layouts make efficient of use of public transport almost impossible. Supposing there was a reasonable bus service along the main road running left to right along the bottom of the photo with a bus top at the junction with the road coming down to meet it. There is no way people living on the two cul-de-sacs on the left can reach it. Why are there no footpaths at the end of them, so that pedestrians (and cyclists, maybe) can access the main road through the neighbouring street? Because there are no pedestrians or cyclists, I suppose. And with such planning, there never will be.

  2. The stock photo of smog over LA looks like what I remember seeing just after the wildfire in Ventura county last fall when I was flying into LAX. It hasn’t been that thick in the last 10 years I’ve lived here, so it might be a bit misleading. Of course, it’s often that bad for a while after all the July 4th fireworks (legal and otherwise).

  3. Yes, after living in L.A. County since 1962 (except for a little over two years in total spent elsewhere), I definitely have been noticing increasing photo-chemical smog (using the proxy of widespread higher Ozone readings) over the past few years–e.g., increased coughing, chest hurting, shallower breathing, etc.

    Ironically, Metro has been steadily LOSING total ridership for several years, despite Metro’s having spent BILLIONS on fancy (and, increasingly, less efficient, less reliable) new rail systems. Transit riders have been giving up on Metro because of its decreasing reliability: MetroRail is often less reliable (and less convenient) than the network of Metro buses, which Metro nevertheless continues to slash (including in the recent “shake-up” of June 23, 2019).

    Why should residents of L.A. County put up with declining quality and levels of service from Metro (including dirt and trash; loud music, yelling, and intimidation; poor climate-control on buses and trains; tobacco and marijuana smoking at bus stops, train platforms, even ON buses and trains; general lack of courtesy by some passengers and even vby bus/train operators (including keeping passengers in the dark when problems arise); steady declines in fare payment; and generally declining levels of security on Metro overall), when we instead could avoid most of these problems and control our environment during travel by simply driving our own vehicles–AND ARRIVE FASTER?

    (By the way, although I occasionally see LAPD at MetroRail stations within L.A. City, it has been MANY MONTHS since I spotted a Deputy Sheriff on the rest of the Metro system. Remind me again: why is Metro paying LACSD?)

    It is astonished that, rather than encouraging the socially responsible action of utilizing lower-polluting public transit–say, by giving signal priority to public-transit buses and trains operating on public streets–local governments (LOOKING AT YOU, L.A. City!) instead seem determined to continue giving to less socially responsible solo auto drivers the very same priority and convenience in the use of public streets as are offered to buses and trains jammed with large numbers of travelers.

    As a result, increasingly, former Metro passengers who can afford to switch back to their personal vehicles seem to be giving up on Metro.

    Ironically, because of the unique regional geography, population patterns, and distribution of pollution emissions from industry and transportation in the South Coast AQMD area, the very worst regional air quality is inflicted on the residents of the Inland Empire–represented on the District’s board by local right-wing politicians who serve mainly as apologists and defenders of continuing emissions and dangerous air pollutants.