Friday, November 30, 2007

Working World Mag Provides "Tips for Dealing with Your Commute"

The feature article in this week's Working World Magazine is entitled "Stuck in Traffic? 7 Ways to Get Out." Not surprisingly, none of its seven suggestions actually involve getting out of traffic. Mercifully, the article doesn't appear on the website.

Here's the list:

1) Take note, with a tape recorder make a to do list
2) Book It, with a book on tape
3) Learn a Language
4) Carpool, because the car is a good place to trap co-workers into in-depth conversations
5) Laughter is the Best Medicine, listen to a comedy station or CD
6) Get Aware, listen to NPR
7) Drive Safely

Now far be it from me to criticise a list of ways to improve a commute that is only for drivers, but is it really a good idea to pay less attention to the road in rush hour? With more cars on the road, and thousands of people inconvenienced by even a minor fender-bender, shouldn't we be encouraging people to pay more attention to what's going on outside of their cars?

Metro's Beat the Clock

I get that yesterday's meeting was long. And I get that speaker's speaking for a longer time than one minute per comment would have only made it longer, but I do have to say I was irked by Metro's own version of Beat the Clock that every speaker had to get through.

By cutting speakers off in mid-sentence, chiding translators for going over the two minute limit given to foreign speakers, and generally seeming more concerned about holding everyone to a time limit than hearing their point; Chairwoman O'Connor does Metro and the public a disservice.

How to fix it? Simple. Kill the giant overhead clock which often started before speakers began to speak (only Damien Goodmon called them on it, standing there repeating, "I haven't started speaking yet as the clocked ticked away until it was reset), and have a small buzzer go off. Let the speaker finish his sentence without rushing through a sentence asquicklyasthespeakercan.

Generally, our elected aristocracy should at least have the decorum to treat us like adults. Metro is a government organization, and since this is a Democracy the views of the peasants have to count for something.

The Week in Preview

Monday, December 3


11:00AM
LA City Council

Transportation Committee Meeting - SPECIAL MEETING - REVISED AGENDA



Tuesday, December 4

7:00 pm


CITY OF LOS ANGELES BICYCLE ADVISORY COMMITTEE


DWP Board Room, 111 N. Hope Street


TheLos Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) advises the Los Angeles DOT, the Planning Department, and the Department of Recreation and Parks on issues relevant to bicycling for transportation, recreational bicycling, and the implementation of the City's Bicycle Plan. The full BAC meets the first Tuesday of every even month; Subcommittees (Advocacy, Bikeway Engineering, Education and Promotion, and Planning) meet in the odd months.To view all available BAC Minutes and Agendas, visit www.bicyclela.org/AdvisoryBoard.htm.


7 - 10pm San Fernando Valley Critical Mass

Victory Blvd. & Woodley Ave. Van Nuys(southwest corner) by the bike racks and lockersoff the Orange Line Bike Path. Orange Line Woodley stop.

Here it is folks! We have all talked, dreamed and preyed for it. Its on..........................
The San Fernando Valley Critical Mass!!!!!!!!!!!
Not to conflict with other critical mass rides in the Los Angeles area, we have decided on the first Tuesday of the Month.



Thursday, December 6


6:30 P.M. TO 9:00 PM




Please join the City of Santa Monica Planning & Community Development Department at a citywide workshop that will explore transportation strategies to determine better ways for people to move around and park in the city over the next 20 years. MORE DETAILS: Please see the attached flyer or check the project website: http://www.shapethefuture2025.net/ Refreshments, snacks will be provided.Please RSVP: shapethefuture2025@smgov.net


Location: 1855 Main Street, east wing




7-10 pm


LA Green Drinks - Culver City

Duke's Hideaway at the Culver Hotel9400 Culver Blvd.Culver City, CA 90232

Remember-If anyone wants to bring literature to promote their green issueplease do so-we will have an area for brochures, business cards, etc.We will also take back any extra literature back and bring them to the next Green Drinks.The main thing is just to relax and have a good time.




Friday, December 7


6:30 - 9:30 Santa Monica Critical Mass

Santa Monica Pier orUCLA and Venice Beach at 5:30pm (merges with main ride)
Celebrate this month with Critical Mass!





Saturday, December 8



10 A.M. TO 3 P.M.

Urban Biking for Beginners



634 S. Spring St, Mezzanine Level



Designed for those who are new to cycling and/or city riding, this 10-hour course gives you a full understanding of vehicular cycling and the confidence you need to ride safely and legally on the road. Learn basic bike maintenance and skills for safe and legal roadway riding. Fees are $25 for LACBC members and $35 for non-members.To sign up, write monica@labike.org or call 213-629-2412



1P.M.

Southern California Transit Advocates monthly meeting



Angelus Plaza, 255 S. Hill Street, in downtown Los Angeles. Call (213) 388-2364 for more information.


Connecting transit service: Metro Red Line and a short walk from every bus line serving downtown Los Angeles; Foothill Transit Line 480; Montebello Bus Lines 40 (east and west) and 50; and Torrance Transit Line 2.

Latino Urban Forum Backs Goldline Extension Connecting Parks

The Latino Urban Forum recently weighed in with its preferred alternative for the Goldline Extension on the East Side. The LUF prefers the northern alternative along the 60 freeway because:

•It will provide public transit to one of LA County's largest recreation centers, Whittier Narrows (1.5 thousand acres) located in a low income region and a rail connection to the Cornfields state park near downtown LA.
•It will decrease congestion on the 60 Freeway
•It will have the least amount of construction impacts on the built environment
•It has the most TOD developments along the right-of-way


For more information on LUF, click here. For more on the Gold Line Extension, click here.

Today's Clips

Daily News Rips LaBonge's Parcel Tax (Daily News)

Here Come the Turnstiles (LA Times)

Here Come the HOT Lanes (Daily News, Whittier Daily News)

Five Deck Parking Lot Due for Metrolink Station (Press Enterprise)

Give Us Our Freight Money! (Metro Statement, Inland Daily Bulletin)

North/South Superhighway a Myth (LA Times)

Streetsblog Responds to CBS Congestion Pricing/Cloned License Plates Story (Streetsblog)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Going to a Really Long Metro Board Meeting So You Don't Have To

It is refreshing to go to a transit agency board meeting where everything isn't decided in advance and actual discussion of issues goes on. Back in Jersey, most decisions are made before the meeting starts, and other than listening to the advocates complain, the meetings are all done pretty quick.

Today's meeting was anything but quick, starting at 9:30 and ending at 2. There was a lot discussed, but the main issues were increasing the subsidy to the Expo Line, changes to Rapid Bus 770, HOT Lanes and putting in turnstiles at Metro stops. I'll discuss each issue in the order they were discussed.

1) A new $145 Million for the Expo Line


Both this and the changes to Rapid Bus Line 770 were originally part of the consent agenda but were removed at the request of some board members.

Because of increases in the cost of steal, cement and other construction supplies, it is now estimated that the construction of Expo Phase 1 will cost $808.3 million, $145 million more than what was budgeted.

Officials from Beverley, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Culver City began the public testimony by praising Expo Authority, MTA and anyone associated with the project.

That didn't sit well with members of the Bus Rider's Union (pictured) who were incensed that months after raising fares to cover a less than $35 million operating short fall that Metro could find the Capital funds to finish Phase I of Metro. BRU members didn't pull their punches, accusing Metro of being "liars," "thieves" and "Indian Givers."

Also testifying was Damien Goodmon of Fix Expo who wondered why Metro can find money to finish Phase 1 but can't find a lot less money to put in a grade separation at Dorsey High School.

The debate between Commissioners was equally fierce with Mayor Villaraigosa chiding the rest of the board for seeking to act in such haste and the Expo Board for so badly overspending. The Mayor noted that the Gold Line didn't run this far over and (confounding people with calendars everywhere) that project was constructed at the same time as Expo Phase 1. "Where is the fiscal responsibility of this board?" Villaraigosa thundered.

The other board members were not amused by the Mayor's grandstanding. County Supervisor and Metro Commissioner Don Knabe grumbled that "Hard questions were asked at committee level." Commissioner Zev Yarolasky noted that the same problems that are putting Expo over budget have also put LA's Police HQ 75% over budget.

After the budget increase passed unanimously (with another $112.3 million going towards the much less controversial ACE project) Commissioner Burke tried to lighten the mood by joking about how they don't need to grade-separate in Santa Monica because people are smarter up there...and the crowd turned ugly. It was like one of those jokes made on a talk show that everyone watching knows is completely overboard with the jokester just seems clueless. Board Chair O'Conner, channeling her inner Jay Leno, quickly moved on to the next issue.

2) Excepting Rapid Bus 770 from parameters specified in the consent decree.
Ok, excuse me if I get anything wrong here, this was a tough one for me to wrap my hands around. Basically, Metro staff wanted to exempt the Rapid bus Line 770 in the Eastside from the consent decree between Metro and the BRU. Metro can't cut service on lines with certain ridership levels as part of their court agreement with BRU from the 1990's. However, Metro was allowed 5 exemptions at any given time.

Staff wanted to use one of its exemptions here because it is going to increase service on its Rapid Bus route, so it wanted to decrease service on its regular route. There would be a net loss of off-peak seats available, but that shouldn't be a problem because those seats aren't full now and they can always adjust the schedule if they're current projections understate ridership.

BRU members claimed it wasn't just bad policy (commuters who ride the 770 were out in force) it was illegal because the line hadn't been running for more than a year.

I'm not a lawyer, and I haven't read the consent decree...so I'll just finish by saying the Metro Board passed the motion to exempt 770 unanimously.

3) Here Come the HOT Lanes?

State officials in New Jersey act like it will start raining fire on the sinners and the Rapture will come if HOT (High Occupancy Toll) Lanes were ever added to the Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike. Which is why I've been pleasantly surprised that I've heard HOT Lanes discussed in meetings in two consecutive days and only one elected official (Councilman LaBonge, yesterday) expressed disapproval.

Basically, a driver is charged a premium to enter HOT Lanes but is guaranteed a congestion free ride on that stretch of highway. By adjusting the price to meet demand, one can basically be guaranteed a congestion free ride. Today Metro passed a prelimnary plan to have a one-year congestion pricing demonstration plan to hopefully qualify for federal funds needed to do the conversion. If the FHWA selects LA's project to be funded, we can expect to see a conversion of HOV Lanes on the I-10 (El Monte Busway), I-110 (Harbor Freeway Transitway), and I-210 between the 605 and the 710. We can also expect to see future lanes now designated as HOV Lanes (carpool lanes) re-designated as HOT Lanes.
I also expect that if the Feds. don't come through, these plans are going to double as dust collectors on someone's shelf.

Of course, even though a final plan isn't near ready and public outreach hasn't even been thought of, the elected officials in the room were already squabbling over how the money raised could be spent. Despite this disagreement, the proposal was moved forward by a unanimous vote.

4) Lets Add Turnstiles...


Good news everyone! Metro has found a way to dramatically increase its revenue from Subways...its looking at installing turnstiles at its train stations. Despite the high cost of $10 million needed to install the new turnstiles, independent consultants assured the board that the revenue increase would far outweigh any initial cost.

Among the unimpressed were every member of the public (Why don't we reward transit riders by assuming their honest, asked one BRU member) that testified and Commissioner Richard Katz. Katz proposed that if these turnstiles were such money makers, we should pay the people that install them only with new revenue generated as a result of the new turnstiles. Unsurprisingly Katz's motion drew no second.

Later in the debate it came up that much of the savings would be a result of not needing as much security and reducing Metro's contract with the sheriff's office. Katz's retort was that security aren't just there to collect tickets, and a human will make him feel more secure than a turnstile any day.

The motion to draft a (no-bid) contract for the turnstiles was passed 11-1.

Reading the News, So You Don't Have To

Greuel Wants Transportation Plan, LaBonge Wants Parcel Tax to Pay for It (Daily News, CBS2, KNX 1070)

Editorial: All Communities Need to Pitch In for Gold Line (Pasadena Star News)

Rosendahl Wants Slow Growth in District (Palisades Post)

One Way to "Beat" Congestion Pricing: Fake Plates (WCBS, New York)

City Watch Calls Managed Parking a Plan to Get the Poor Out of Their Cars (City Watch)

Taking Traffic Calming Into Your Own Hands (Streetsblog)

Arizona Follows CA's Lead on Greenhouse Gas (Range News, Green Valley News and Sun)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A pleasant trip on the Red Line

To get downtown for this morning's Council Hearing, I took my first trip on Metro...taking the #14 to Beverly and Vermont before hopping on the Red Line. I knew Metro has won APTA awards for the quality of their rides, but I was still surprised at how smooth the trip was. Both bus and train showed up on time. I didn't have a problem getting a seat on either (not necessarily a good sign) and the transfer was easy and obvious.

The only place Metro really lost points was in their announcements. I could barely hear the conductor on the train at all. I'm not sure I heard any announcements in the stations, which could be somewhat problematic because there are stations where trains on different lines share the same track. An out-of-towner might end up taking a Purple Line train instead of a Red Line train just because the train was painted red and that's how it works where I once li...I mean, where that out of towner once lived.


And, while I gave them an "A" for station signage on my trip, apparently great signage isn't universal on the Red Line.

In the interest of full disclosure, I stole both the idea and the graphic for this series of posts from my friends at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. I don't know where they went to school, but I never got a report card that had the grades all in a row like that...

City Council: Its Time To Think About Our Future Together

EDITED BELOW (10:11 PM)

Earlier this morning, the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee met to help begin the process of creating a long-range transportation plan for the City. The meeting was held bright and early at 8:30 A.M., giving the council members a chance to hold a press conference outside city hall in time to make the noon news.

The official motion, put forward by Chairwoman Wendy Gruel and Councilman Jack Weiss, notes that, "Contributing factors include a large and growing population, the disperse geography of the region,high automobile dependence, low levels of transit usage and a mature highway and roadway system with limited options for expansion." The motion, passed unanimously, goes on to say that the long-range plan (not due to be completed for over a year) will be based on the models provided by New York City, Portland, and Baltimore.


During the meeting, the committee members told DOT and other officials what they wanted to see in the plan, including funding plans, a new government relations plan, as well as long- and short-term transit and road improvements designed to reduce congestion. Sorry cyclists, not a lot of bike-talk here.

The first chance the public will have to get involved with this plan will be to comment on the plan's mission statement. Since I pride myself on getting ahead of the news, here's a sneak peak at the what that statement is...


EDIT: A press release from Councilwoman Greuel's office has a preliminary website to begin to provide feedback. It can be found here.

No Clips This Morning

I've got to run out the door to catch the bus and wanted a couple extra winks after staying up to write the Tom Rubin piece. If you need clips in a hurry I would go to Streetsblog which always has some green transportation pieces and The Metro Library for the local news.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thomas Rubin Tells Transit Coalition: LA Needs More Buses...Not Trains

Tom Rubin has been active in the Transportation scene for a long time, having worked in Metro, with the Bus Rider's Union on its land mark lawsuit against Metro Fare Hikes, and now as a private consultant. For just as long he's been arguing that bus, not rail, is the key to a successful urban transit system in the Greater Los Angeles Area.

Rubin took his presentation to tonight's meeting of the Transit Coalition, an organization supporting many of the new and proposed rail lines across the city. At first I was worried I was going to listen to a lecture on how LA needs more highways, as his first couple of slides talked about LA area residents low VMT and limited highway network. However, he soon got to his main argument: Metro is wasting money by expanding its rail network at the cost of not expanding and improving bus service.
By looking at the raw numbers, Rubin showed that in the LA Region, the cost of subsidizing bus (per rider and per mile) is much lower than it is for light or heavy rail. He also showed that bus ridership grew the fastest in the 1980's when Metro wasn't spending any money on rail lines and had a 50 cent fare. As soon as Metro started shifting some resources towards rail the fares for bus rose and the total number of transit riders actually dropped for awhile. In 2006, Los Angeles still had fewer (although barely) transit users than it did in 1985.
Rubin also argued that the cost of rail is more expensive than is often presented. Because most rail riders are former bus riders, new rail lines aren't creating new transit riders, they're just moving pre-existing riders to more expensive (to the taxpayer, not the rider) services. If you look at the cost of subsidy for new riders, the numbers are pretty stark. The cost for a new bus rider is $1.40, and for rail its somewhere between $20 and $40 depending on which line is being discussed.
Of course, Rubin's arguments are more complicated than I'm presenting here, but its worth thinking about as Metro continues to look at new rail routes. Can we actually move more passengers with a lower operating subsidy (not to mention lower capital costs) if Metro looks at adding a new fleet of buses on all new bus routes?

CA DMV on You Tube

I'm generally pretty supportive of any attempt by a government agency to use the Internet to get messages out to younger people. The CA DMV YouTube page is no exception. The page is full of old (and new) DMV videos dealing with what you need to know to pass your driver's test, how to be safe around motorcyclists, and how to share the road with light rail vehicles (hello, Cheviot!)

The one complaint I do have is that driver's responsibility to watch out for cyclists and pedestrians is relegated to one video that lasts just over one minute. Maybe we should be spending more resources on reducing bike/ped deaths since the trend of declining bike/ped deaths ended four years ago.

Reading the Newspapers So You Don't Have To

Op/Ed: Traffic A Concern at Future NBC Universal (Daily News)

Cyclists Need to Be Activists (GRIST)

Asm. Levine and Councilman Rosendahl Challenge Constituents to Go Green (earthtimes)

L.A. offers free tours of transit art (Mercury News)

More on Pico/Olympic Plan (Times, City Watch)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Doing the Tourist Thing

While I was surrounded by visiting relatives this weekend, I had a chance to visit some of Greater LA's tourist areas. Of course, this called for another photo diary...

Wednesday Night:STAPLES CENTER For Clippers v Denver





Did anyone ever hear of developing around your major attractions? I couldn't find anything except more parking lots between me and Staples.












Well, at least the crosswalks are well marked, wide and have working signals...







Saturday: THE GROVE





Well, this is kind of cool. The Grove beefs up security so that the pedestrians are kept safe from even the minor danger posed by the one traffic lane that cuts it in half. Maybe this isn't a bad place to bring the kids.












Then we see two people get in a fight over a parking spot, they had to be separated by security....











Then the children's band sets up at a place completely inappropriate for kids...ok, maybe we can cross the grove off the list of places to take kids.









SUNDAY: THE PROMENADE in Santa Monica

Its Grove-esque, only bigger and with street performers and vendors not wholly owned by some corporation. You're not going to run into Jerry Rubin handing out flyers in front of a Banana Republic.







An empty holder of Metro and Santa Monica transit schedules. I suppose that's either a really good sign or a really bad one.











Like The Grove, Santa Monica has some extra muscle out to protect pedestrians.



















Unlike Vegas, Santa Monica seems to care whether or not pedestrians get hurt outside of the developed area. Note the crosswalk in the center of the street.

Times Claims Mayor's Affair Cost City $336 Million in Transportation Funds

Being a former lobbyist in New Jersey, I've had about enough media coverage of sex scandals on the news to last a lifetime. But there was one detail from this weekend's article on Hizzoner's escapades that deserved comment.

With several of his news conferences dominated by questions about the affair, the mayor kept a relatively low profile for two months, staying out of the spotlight as the state Legislature raided $336 million in transportation funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Regalado said.


Memo to state legislators: Just because the Mayor was too embarrassed to stick up for the city's funding needs doesn't mean his residents deserve to get shafted. Why I can think of a lot of great ways to spend $336 million:


1) Roll back last summer's fare hike.


2) Fully fund all of the city's Safe Streets To School's Program

3) Bike racks at every transit stop

4) And with any money left over, how about a down payment on Phase II of the Expo Project?

If anyone has other suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments section.

Today's/Weekend Clips

Speeding up Pico and Olympic Without Adding Asphalt (Times)

Councilman Weiss Wants Public/Private Partnership for Westside Subways (Times)

Gridlock Expert: Better Planning Must Be Part of Congestion Reduction (CA Planning and Development Report)

LA Follows Barcelona's Model on Re-imagining Broadway (Downtown News)

Monrovia Planning for Smart Growth (Pasadena Independent)

Mom and Daughter Pedal to Art Class (Press-Telegram)

Metro Rider Takes a Poke at LAX (Metro Rider)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Higlights from Pam O'Conner's most recent Q and A and Some Questions from Us

Metro Board Chair Pam O'Conner, in addition to her live online chats, also uses the Metro website to respond directly and publicly to other questions she receives. Just for communicating directly with her consumers she deserves a gold star. Some of the answers in her most recent post are pretty interesting in and of themselves. For example:

Metro is actively seeking ways that we can better price the use of the transportation infrastructure to make it operate more efficiently. In addition, revenues generated by pricing options would be applied to more public transit and road projects. One method is through congestion pricing which also reduces congestion by giving commuters and others an economic incentive to share a ride. Look for some pilot projects to be implemented within about two years. It is a different approach, but our traffic congestion and mobility needs for the new century are going to require new thinking….thinking about “new mobility.”

Did she just say Metro is looking at some "congestion pricing" type pilot programs? That would certainly be a different approach, and one that would be very welcome from where I sit.

Secondly, in response to a question about a parking structure near NBC Studios, she added:

(Though, frankly, I personally think that parking needs to be priced; right now people are not paying the real price of driving alone. However, I’m not speaking for the Metro Board here.)

Congestion pricing and parking pricing. Sounds like there's a lot of interesting ideas floating around Metro besides new light rail projects.

But all that being said, there's two questions I'd like answered:

1) Word is slowly leaking out that Metro will no longer subsidize transfers between their buses and LADOT buses starting in the new year. Given that this is a de-facto fare hike for thousands of commuters to the downtown, commuters choosing transit over the most congested part of the road network; shouldn't Metro be doing what it can to support these commuters and continue subsidizing this transfer? Metro officials said that ending the subsidy was part of the TAP card roll out plan, but so far there isn't a firm date on when the new card will be available nor when LADOT vehicles will accept TAP cards.

2) Recently, New York Governor Elliot Spitzer stepped in to greatly reduce a planned fare hike for New York City's MTA. Given the silence of state officials when Foothill Transit went through its recent fare increase hearing process, do you believe that Governor Schwarzenegger will act to spare Metro riders from any fare increase over the next couple of years?

The Week Ahead

Monday, November 26

Bike Oven, 6-10 pm, 3706 North Figueroa St.Highland Park. Just 1/3 of a mile from the Heritage Square Gold Line station.

Bitchen'- Ladies Night at the Bike Kitchen- 6:30-9 P.M., 706 Heliotrope Ave (crosses Melrose)

Tueday, November 27

Transit Coalition Monthly Meeting, 6:30 P.M., Philippe The Original near Union Station. To rsvp, call Bart Reed at (818) 367-1661

GOGA - A Bike Ride for the Ladies of Los Angeles, 8:30-10:30 P.M., For more information, gogabikeride.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, November 28

LA Bike Advisory Committee, 10 A.M., DWP Board Room, 111 N. Hope Street, Los Angeles, 90012.

Los Angeles County Bike Coalition Board Meeting, 6:45pm - 9pm, 634 S. Spring St, Mezzanine level, Los Angeles, 90014

Thursday, November 29

Department of Recreation and Parks Public Input Meeting, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m, Ramona Hall Community Center4580 N Figueroa StLos Angeles, CA 90042 - A chance to provide feedback on LA's need for more and better green spaces.

Friday, November 30
"Moving Forward," A conference on the health, goods movement, and hte environment at the Carson Community Center. For more information, goto www.TheImpactProject.org.

The Reincarnation of Costa Mesa Critical Mass, 6-8 pm, Memphis Cafe2920 Bristol AvenueCosta Mesa, CA

Los Angeles Central Critical Mass, 6-11 pm, Western & Wilshire at the Metro Stop

Saturday, December 1
"Moving Forward," A conference on the health, goods movement, and hte environment at the Carson Community Center. For more information, goto www.TheImpactProject.org.

LACBC "Beginner's Road Course", 1 & 8, 10am - 3pm, For More Information go to: labike.org/safety/road_1_bicycle_safety_course.html

C.I.C.L.E.'s Holiday Toys & Mittens Ride :: Benefits Hathaway Child and Family Services, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm, REI Arcadia214 N. Santa Anita Ave. For More Information, http://www.cicle.org/cicle_content/pivot/entry.php?id=549.

CORBA Mountain Bike Skills Clinic, 12 pm-1pm, Malibu Creek State Park

Turkey Day and Today Clips

Panel Ignores Air Quality and Holds Up Freight Transportation Dollars (Mercury News)

Sac Bee Editorial: Don't Fund Rail/Road Projects if They're Bad for Air Quality (Sacramento Bee)

House Speaker Says Port Funding Unfair to SoCal (Press Telegram)

Riding Shotgun with Google Street View's Revolutionary Camera (Popular Mechanics)

GPS Data Doesn't Help California Teen Beat Speeding Ticket (Mercury News)

Politics of Climate Change (TIME)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Support the Bridges, End the War!


The Huffington Post has an essay up by Coleen Rowley, one of the Minnesotans who protested the president's appearance at the Minnesota Bridge Disaster. Rowley notes the irony that her sign now represents with the president vetoing transportation funding while pushing ahead with more funding for the war. Rowley writes:
We had no idea, however, that only 3 months later, Bush and his cronies in
Congress would actually VETO the money needed to rebuild this critical
bridge that, before its collapse, spanned the Mississippi River into
Minneapolis. Incredibly enough, our banner proved prescient in foreseeing
the clash of priorities when, just last week, 137 of Bush's best Republican
rubberstamps, including Minnesota's own two right-wing Representatives John
Kline and (Bush-smooching) Michele Bachmann, voted to sustain Bush's veto of the Transportation Bill over their own constituents' interest in rebuilding the 35 W Bridge.

With House Transportation Committee Chair James Oberstar (D-MN) in the hospital because of an old cycling injury (no joke), its probably going to be until at least the new year until Congress can pass a transportation bill more suitable for the President.

Pre-Turkey Day Clips

1$ Billion for Area Freight Improvements, But Some Officials Say Thats Not Enough (Daily News, San Gabriel Tribune, Press-Telegram)

MetroRider looks at Green Line Extension to LAX (MetroRider)

Enviros Concerned About Topanga Canyon Blvd. (LA Times)

Ventura City Council Fails to Pass Building Size Limit (County Star)

Looking for Bike/Ped Havens? Try Colleges and Military Bases (Streetsblog)

Ventura's Simi Valley 'Going Green' (Ventura County Star)

DMV Goes to You Tube (Daily News)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pedestrian Impressions 2: Walking Downtown

A couple of weeks back, I had a meeting in the Metro Building two hours after a meeting in the Downtown Library. I decided to walk to the Metro HQ and back. The route was roughly this, but I took off down side streets a lot. Following the map is another photo essay...

Before I start, allow me to say that it was a horrible walk and worse at night than in the day. The sidewalks weren't in the best of shape, but that wasn't the big problem. The big problem was it was as non-descript as could be. Most of the high rises had nothing to do at street level, there were few coffee shops, news stands, shops or other pedestrian attractions and the entrances were as drab and nondescript as can be. Unfortunately, I didn't have the best camera at the time, but here are some images I did capture.






Nice wide sidewalks in the business district weren't the order of the day once you got slightly away from the central downtown. In Little Tokyo the crosswalks were half as wide, and certainly didn't have any bricks.






Proof that wide sidewalks and streetscaping alone are not enough to get pedestrians to use a sidewalk.









Never let anyone tell you that nobody takes transit. In this picture, a crowd squeezes through the tube to start their trip home after work.

Is there a bigger waste of land resources than at street parking? Literally acres of downtown are eaten up with what could be accomplished with a few large parking garages. Thing of what this view of the downtown skyline could be from a park.

What a beautiful side of a wall this is! I would say the majority of the walk was next to walls.

Its going to be a little slow the rest of the week

I have in-laws visiting, Turkey Day catering, and a special project I'm working on, so there will just be one post (besides clips) a day for the rest of the week...

Today's Clips

Papers Makes Case for More Port Funds (Mercury News, Press Enterprise)

New York Secures Funding for Subway Line That Will Move More Passengers Than All Metro Rail (Press Release)

Auto Sales Slumping (Reuters)

Daily News Praises CALTRANS Route 5 Fix (Daily News)

Another Editorial Praising State's Emissions Efforts (LA Times)

Monday, November 19, 2007

If you can't stand the heat...


After a month of blogging, I'm finally ready to join the LA Bike Culture. The bike my wife picked out for me arrived a couple of weeks ago, and today I had a chance to drop by the Bicycle Kitchen for bike assembly and to get some tips. If anyone doesn't know what the Bike Kitchen is, it is a non-profit dedicated to providing space, help, and tools to people that want to work on their bike or are just getting started on cycling. I guess I'm somewhere in between but its been so long since I've done anything on a bike besides ride it, that I'm closer to newbie than to veteran.
My cook for the evening was Mike Hammer, who may be one of the few people in the world to have a cooler name than I do. I got permission to take some pictures while they worked on the bike. They gave me permission, and then informed me that I was working on the bike, they were just giving advice.

Honestly, it was much cooler to do a lot of the work myself, although it probably would have been impossible without Mike's help. The bike was in good shape to start with, so I just got to do things like attach the pedals, handlebar, wheels, quick releases, seat and such. The tricky stuff was already taken care of...and I learned a few new things.

Mike guided me through stuff and didn't get annoyed when I forgot instructions he gave me 10 seconds earlier, which happened twice. Ok, three times.

While helping me, Mike was able to handle two other people AND answer a couple of phone calls. Once the bike was put together I just headed out the door and biked down the street. The $7 "suggested donation" per hour for use of their stuff and advice was more than worth it. Honestly, I would have paid a lot more for help and advice that good (not to mention the tool and rack rental.)
When I expressed nervousness about getting on the bike for the first time, after all it had been over a year since my last ride, I was reassured that "don't worry, its like riding a bike."

Afterwards they sent me across the street for some bike accessories, some of which are legally required (headlight) and some just suggested. I found the folks at Orange 20 Bikes just as helpful as the folks at the kitchen. If I hadn't forgotten to write down the name of the gentleman that helped me (unless his name is also Mike Hammer) I would be singing his praises as well. I'm told that the founders of Orange 20 are also Bike Kitchen alumni and man did that show. The staff helped me put on my new lights (because I was busy fumbling around in the dark trying to get them on) and helped me out with directions for the safest way across Melrose. I liked them so much, I'm voting for them on the Fox LA's "Hotlist" poll for the best bike shop in LA.
Here's some other pictures from the evening on Heliotope. A post on what my ride was like is in the works for Wednesday:



The partially assembled bike goes up on the rack.










Cleaning off some of the newly applied grease.







Mike said this particular safety device was idiot proofing the bike.
Well, just give me some time to test that theory out.









And we're done! Wait, whadda ya mean I need to buy lights? Who's crazy law is that?

Grist has their debate analysis up

It can be read here...bonus points to anyone who responds to my post.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Story Update: And the Winner Is...

Bicycle Fixation has announced the winners of its best bike rack contest. Congratulations to Chris Orr and Steve Neff. To view the winners, click here.



FYI, Its going to be awhile before I get my second post in today, but I promise its going to be one of my best ones to date.

Reading the Newspapers So You Don't Have To (Weekend Edition)

Private Highway Opens Today in San Diego County (Union-Tribune, LA Times, Business Wire)

Metro's Downtown Connector Study Praised (Downtown News)

We Need a Sales Tax to Widen Freeway 23! (Simi Valley Acorn)

LTE: Cops Wrong to Target Critical Mass (Santa Monica Lookout)

A bunch of stories on the climate change forum (news.google, google blog search)


Reactions to the UN's Climate Change Report (International AP, BBC, Grist)

Westhill Safety Coalition Meeting Report (WHSC Blog)

Horrible SUV Disaster (LA Times)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Car Culture Not Mentioned as Dems Talk Greenhouse Gases

I just got back from the Presidential Forum on Global Warming & America's Energy Future and wanted to post a quick report. I'm sure Grist will have a more in-depth one shortly and a transcript. But, for those of you looking for some transportation news out of the debate, I'm here to tell you there wasn't any.

All of the major candidates from each party were invited to the forum, and three took the time to attend. They were Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John Edwards, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich. No Obama, which is ironic since I gave him the highest marks for recognizing the connection between the number of cars and the amount of Greenhouse Gas, and no Republicans.

I'll specifically be looking at two related issues when analyzing the speeches. The first is do they talk about transportation at all besides more efficient cars and do they recognize that Americans need to change the way we live our own lives.

The format of the forum was that each candidate gave a ten minute speech, than there was a 20 minute Q and A with a panel that consisted of three environmentalists.

First up, was Kucinich. The Congressman was clearly in his element as his talk was interrupted several times by spontaneous applause. Kucinich stressed that he walks the walk on climate change driving a fuel-efficient Ford Focus, living in a reasonably sized house and eating vegan foods. He also stressed that he's recognized worldwide as a leader on greenhouse gas issues and relentlessly attacked the Bush Administration and Special Interests.

Kucinich the populist argued that we needed a new American purpose to be more green. Committing to being green would "give Americans something to be patriotic about besides war."

Disappointingly, he didn't spend a lot of time on transportation. By my count, he spent about 10 times as many sentences about why we shouldn't bomb Iran as he did why we should expand transit. Kucinich did promise to redirect spending to make transit the top transportation priority and to provide every American with a transit option.

Next up was Senator Clinton, who received the largest applause but also the most boos. To be fair, the cheers far, far, outnumbered the few people booing. Once interrupted by an anti-war heckler, Clinton managed to stick to the script even if it was easily the least inspiring of the three. Like Kucinich, she also got stopped for applause several times, but received a near-unanimous standing ovation at the end.

Clinton spent more time focused on the need to reduce our dependency on foreign oil than she did on transportation as an independent issue. Her transportation promises were limited to raising fuel economy standards to 40 mpg by 2020 and 55mph by 2035.

During the Q and A she earned some credit for promising that America would produce less greenhouse gas emissions as the end of her term than the beginning. However, she bobbed and weaved when asked if she would vote for Lieberman-Warner, the compromise Greenhouse Gas bill before the Senate Environment Committee.

She also lost some points with the crowd by stating (probably truthfully based on my personal conversations with red-staters) that most of middle-America isn't excited by Global Warming and by calling for incrementalism to solve the Climate Change Crisis gradually. She claimed that she learned from her efforts to reform the healthcare system that, "Everyone is for change in general, but when it becomes personal they start peeling off." Truer words probably couldn't be spoken to a crowd that is all for reducing emissions but all (full disclosure, including me) drove to the forum. (Organizers claim that the event was carbon neutral, including everyone's driving but did provide transit.)

Last up was John Edwards, who probably had the hardest time sticking to the script, but also gave what I thought was the best of the three speeches. Unlike the other two candidates, Edwards spent as much time on encouraging Americans to sacrifice to save the planet as he did on what government could do. Like Clinton, he pledged to increase mpg standards for all cars, and like Kucinich he promised to end all subsidies to oil companies.

Without naming names, Edwards sought to contrast his own "Bold, Big Ideas" with Clinton's "incrementalism." Perhaps unintentionally, he also contrasted his view of Americans energy habits with Clinton's. While Clinton praised Californians for holding the line on total emissions for thirty years, Edwards chastised America's leadership on Climate Change as "an example for the bad."

Edwards earned most of his points with me for calling for a shared sacrifice to change the way we use energy. Again and again he repeated that all Americans are going to have to sacrifice. He also conceded that his policies would lead to higher fuel and energy costs, which was surprisingly honest. One panelist noted its easy to talk the talk in a room where just mentioning Al Gore's name garnered applause, but Edwards promised that Climate Change would be a central part of his campaign. We'll keep an eye on that.

While disappointed that candidates didn't talk at all about alternative transportation. No mention of bikes, AMTRAK, VMT, or car-depency (foreign oil dependency was a big issue), all three of the candidates deserve some credit for standing out front on this issue and giving up prime fund-raising time to talk greenhouse gases.

Friday, November 16, 2007

On Deck for Next Week...

Light week for meetings and events. Blame the holiday

Monday
San Gabriel Valley Service Sector Governance Council's Regular Meeting, 5 P.M.

Bike Oven, 6-10 pm, 3706 North Figueroa St.Highland Park. Just 1/3 of a mile from the Heritage Square Gold Line station.

Tuesday
MANHATTAN BEACH CITY COUNCIL - BIKE PATH ISSUE, City Hall, 1400 Highland Ave, Council Chambers. For more information, go to the LA Bike Coalition Website, here.

Wednesday
LONG BEACH BICYCLE CONNECTIONS WORKSHOP, 7 P.M., Long Beach City Hall, Council Chambers333 W. Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach 90802

Saturday
Bike Oven XX :: Women's Bike Space, 1 - 4pm, 3706 North Figueroa St.Highland Park

Cruz with Us - 9pm - Sunday, November 25, 2007, 1am, meet at corner of North Hollywood Park (5211 Tujunga Ave./ Magnolia Blvd.)

Vegas Photo Essay

As many of you have either read or guessed, I've been in Vegas for a week. My wife had a convention and it was our anniversary so I figured, what the heck...




I did get out and about this week, and here are some photos and thoughts on Sin City's Transportation Network.




Vegas' famous "The Strip" is known for having thousands of places to spend money. Walking down the strip isn't just fun (and potentially expensive) its also safe. The sidewalks are wide, the crosswalks are well marked and often feature countdown signals, and in areas where the road is wide there are pedestrian bridges that are safe, well lighted, and have other attractions to entertain and draw people.










Not to say Vegas is some sort of pedestrian haven. Just off The Strip, the sidewalks are narrow and broken, the signals are mis-timed, the crosswalks are faded. Basically, except for strip, Vegas is a pedestrian disaster.






















I don't really have a lot to say about the sign on the left, I just thought it was hilarious.






I found Vegas' famous monorail to be convenient yet somewhat annoying. The $5 fare makes it comparably priced to taking a cab if you have more than one person traveling and aren't traveling the entire length of the trip (which I was since we stayed at MGM and her conference was in The Riviera). Frequent "pro-monorail" announcements on the trip are actually advertisements for the attractions at various casinos. The most annoying was an ad for David Copperfield that bragged about his fast hands...an odd promo for a guy who just canceled seven weeks of shows because of accusations of sexual assault.
Also, my stop forced me into the casino at the Hilton and its cul-de-sac before allowing me street access. Probably added at least 5 minutes to my trip every time I headed to the convention center.

Lastly, it should be noted that ridership was sparse, and I was usually commuting at rush hour. My bell hop actually tried to talk us out of musing the monorail claiming the "mono" meant it ran "once a year." In truth, I never waited more than five minutes for a train, and outside of the price and the goofy announcements the trip was easy and enjoyable.







Don't ever let anyone tell you nobody in Vegas took transit. The buses were packed every time they rumbled past me while I was out for a stroll.










But taxi is still king for tourists in Sin City. That little black line at the end of the picture marks the beginning of the taxi line at the Hilton during rush hour. The guy in the gray suit marks the end.

Reading the Newspaper So You Don't Have To

TCars Out, Bike/Ped Facilities in, on London's Busiest Streets (Times of London)



Sierra Club Calls Hybrid SUV "Green Car of the Year" (Times)



Governor Defends Emissions Lawsuit, Talks Hybrids at Car Show... (CNN)



As State Pushes Forward with EPA Lawsuit on Emissions (Daily News, Press Telegram)



Foothill Transit Makes Hike Official (Bottlenecks Blog)



Big Rigs Back on Route 5 (Daily News, San Gabriel Tribune)



Government Halting Transit Projects by Not Spending Bonds (San Diego Union Tribune)



LA's Green Building Plan (Times)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Street Heat's Pedestrian impressions - 1 my local walk

I want to split this post into two parts. First, I wanted to talk about the pedestrian facilities around where I live. Next Tuesday, I'll talk about my walk from Union Station to the Central Library.

First off, it should be noted that my wife and I selected the house we're renting because its a pedestrian friendly locale and because it was close to both Melrose Avenue and the Farmer's Market. I'm a dedicated pedestrian and a pretty good cook in the kitchen. The thought of being able to walk to the Farmer's Market whenever I wanted fresh produce, with most of the walk being through a park, was enough that we only looked at places within a mile or so of the market.

Unsurprisingly, this upper-middle-class enclave has some fantastic facilities. Plenty of crosswalks, walk/don't walk signals with countdown timers, and wide sidewalks are common. I've never had to choose between safety and convenience and the walk itself is an enjoyable one. Besides the pedestrian conditions, there is also a lot of street-level development, meaning there are interesting shops and stores along the way to the Farmer's Market.

The only drawback is that if you don't want to cut through The Grove, you end up with a walk that has more blank walls reducing the visual pleasantness of the walk.

Getting Your Fix...


I spent some time doing an in-depth checkout of the website and blog at Bicycle Fixation, an LA bike advocacy website and found some pretty cool interactive features. They have their own shop and report on bike news and opinion pieces on the website. But, my favorite features are the interactive ones. A quick look at the BF blog shows two contests where the Fixation needs (or "needed") our help.


First, the fixation wants you to review your bike's tires. If you use your bike regularly, they want a review. You can submit your comments here.


Unfortunately, voting has closed on the best bike rack contest, but a winner should be announced any day now.
We'll be keeping an eye on the site for news on more contests and more ways to be involved, but the easiest way to know whats going on at BF is to spend some time clicking around yourself.

Reading the Newspapers so You Don't Have To

Governor Looks at Cutting Transportation Funding (Times, Sac Bee, CA Progress Report)

Some of Those Cuts Already On Paper (Capitol Weekly)

Midwestern States Join LA in Fighting Emissions/Climate Change (Imperial Valley News)

I-5 Tunnel Reopened (Daily News, Times)

Thousands of Articles on LA Auto Show (Google)

CA's Congressional Delegation May Kill High Speed Rail from Bay to LA (Planetizen)

Federal Transportation Funding Bill In Limbo (AP)

The Subway Formerly Known as the Purple Line (MetroRider)

Two LTE's Supporting Expo Line (Times)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Update on Two Transit Fare Increases...

Metro and LADOT eliminating free transfers on Metro Monthly Passes: Thanks to Bart Reed of the Transit Coalition for tracking this down. As StreetHeat reported last week, the free transfer between Metro and Dash buses downtown will be eliminated on January 1, 2008 as part of Metro's roll out of the TAP cards. However, its going to be awhile until TAP is online on either LADOT or Metrolink buses. The TAP conversion target date for LADOT is late 2008 and Metrolink's is still to be determined. If you're concerned about the decision to eliminate this transfer, why not tell the boss at Metro about it?

Foothill Transit Fare Hike: We know that not many, if any, readers of this blog take Foothill Transit into the city. However, since our Governor believes that the way to a greener future is better cars and less congestion (not less cars and more transit options), we can bet that similar fare hikes are coming across the board.

There was some "good" news from Foothill Transit's executive board. The somewhat draconian increases scheduled for seniors and the disabled taking monthly passes was reduced by 20%. Apparently the record amount of complaints, first reported here, helped trim the increase. The Foothill Transit Governing Board will vote on these plans this week.

Congress To Vote on Energy Bill Tomorrow

A note from a friend of mine in the clean building industry.

Hey kids, I generally don’t do this and I am obviously a bit biased here, working for a solar company, but in the interests of appearing productive when they have not been while still making sure they get their full 3-4 month vacation, Congress is poised to make sure they pass an energy bill that really does nothing about the energy problems in this country. The vote is scheduled for Friday.

It continues lavish subsidies for the very rich industries of coal, oil and natural gas, additional support for biofuels (many of which are not really very eco-friendly), but no support for renewable forms of electricity such as solar, wind, and geothermal.

Given how low an opinion many have of the political system, I know you might think this is a waste of time, but as this is most likely an area where they will not cave to whatever President Bush wants (who does support renewable energy to an extent), public opinion will matter.

So if you believe non-polluting forms of energy makes sense for a variety if reasons (keeps money away from oil-producing dictators and sponsors of terrorism, don’t want climate change, cleaner air to breathe, keeping the US in a new tech and manufacturing sector, etc), take 5 minutes to call your local Senator or Congressman to tell them to continue to support renewable energy production tax credits.

It’s easy to find through the following link (they give a simple script if you want as well). http://capwiz.com/re-action/callalert/index.tt?alertid=10534241&type=CO

Feel free to pass it along and thanks for listening.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving,
XXX

Reading the Newspaper So Late in the Day That You Probably Have Already Seen These Stories

...Sorry for the delay, hotel connection problems again. Hey, if MetroRider can go to Europe, I can certainly go to LA.

Locals Contend City Wants to Speed Up Traffic on Residential Street (Daily News, West Hills Safety Blog)

Dodgers Stadium Shuttle Coming Soon? (Daily News)

Green Cars on Display at Car Show (Times, Press Release)

Zipcar and Flexcar Take a Bite Out of Car Ownership (Times)

TV News on LA Life Without a Car (ABC 7)

Emerald City Blog Looks at E-MetroLink (Times)

NYTimes Writer Lauds Patriotism of Gas Tax (New York Times)

Another NYT op/ed Mocks American Ignorance on Climate Change (New York Times)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

LA First impressions

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to give my impressions, as a new Angeleno, on LA's transportation system. Today, I'll look at roads and car transport. Later this week, I'll give my pedestrian impressions, both in my neighborhood and in the downtown. A little later I'll do some analysis of the transit system (using a scorecard I'm stealing from my friends at Blogging the Region). Lastly, once my new bike gets a clean bill of health from the bike kitchen, I'll write on LA's kleve of bikeability.

The other posts in this series will all have graphics. Sadly, I can't take pictures while I drive, unlike some people.


To mock LA as being the car culture capital of North America is almost a cliche at this point. But what I've seen so far makes me believe that you can't say enough bad things about Angeleno's car commuting habits. A drive from my house (just north of Beverly Blvd. a mile west of the Grove)to the Foothill Transit fare hike meetings takes over two hours and twenty minutes at rush hour. A drive from the ventral library to home takes 40 minutes (using the 101 to Melrose) while the same trip using surface streets takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. Lets not even talk about my trips to Woodland Hills to see my brother.

But maybe its a good thing that I couldn't drive faster than a couple of miles an hour. The highways (and surface streets) are in terrible condition. Even zipping along at 20 miles per hour, the car was shaking like I was back in high school driving my Isuzu I-Mark.

The question I really have, and this is for the people that commute by car on a daily basis, are you people nuts? What advantage is there to living in one of the greatest cities in the world, with beautiful weather 350+ days a year if you're going to spend months of that year sitting in traffic? If you don't have access to transit or a safe bike route, may I suggest living closer to where you work or to a transit line?

Los Angeles is the national leader in percentage of commuters who commute by car. Sadly, my initial investigation into how the state/city/country spend their transportation dollars (much more on that after Thanksgiving) it looks like car will remain king in the area unless there's a major shift in funding priorities. Given the statements of out leading presidential candidates, and that our governor is doing nothing to stop fares from increasing, it seems that I shouldn't be holding my breath.

Streetsblog update on Peter's anti-bike comments

Streetsblog has an update on Transportation Secretary Mary Peter's attempt to remove her foot from her mouth in regards to cyclists and bike lanes. Some may remember her comment right after the Minnesota bridge disaster that, "10 percent to 20 percent of the current spending that is going to projects that really are not transportation, directly transportation-related. Some of that money is being spent on things, as I said earlier, like bike paths or trails."

For more on the"apology", you can see the rest of the story at streetsblog.