Thursday, January 31, 2008

Yes LA, There Is a Streetsblog

For a while now I've talked about using this blog as a placeholder until we were ready to launch a version of Streetsblog for Los Angeles. Well, the time for that launch approaches and my first two posts for Streetsblog are now online. Given my obsession with electoral politics, it should be no surprise that these posts are looking at the Republican and Democractic candidates for president.

Once the launch of LA Streetsblog occurs, all of the old posts from here will be available on the Streetsblog server. While the posts will still be here at StreetHeat, this site will see far fewer updates than it does now...StreetHeat will basically be my personal blog and cover such exciting topics as who I want to be president, bad personal experiences on the bus and maybe pictures of my cat riding a bicycle.

LA Streetsblog will have the same kinds of posts that you see here only with less of my opinions and better spelling. I promise not to misspell Wendy Greuel's name again.
Until then, Street Heat will remain open for business. As always, please keep me in the loop/send me story ideas. So far, I haven't turned a story idea down. And of course, keep reading. Nothing makes a writer's day than an active comments section!

Transit Coalition Blasts Service Cuts

Bart Reed of the Transit Coalition takes off the kid gloves in this week's LA City Beat accusing the Mayor of being the instigator for over 200,000 hours of cuts to Metro's bus system and Board Member Yvonne Burke of being hysterical and wrong about the need for turnstiles.

The interview can be divided into three sections, a defense of the lines to be cut, an attack on how Metro is cutting the lines, and then an assault on the plan to install turnstiles at subways. Before we go in to the highlights, let me re-state what I said last Friday, this is Bart Reed saying this stuff, not known as being one of the more radical of the local transportation advocates, and Metro would do well to listen.

First comes a vigorous defense of the bus lines on the chopping block.

There’s a lot of duplicity and mistruth coming from Metro. One specific example of a proposed cut where the lies are bigger than reality is a bus route on a street called Hubbard in San Fernando and Sylmar. The bus essentially connects a whole bunch of bus service with the Sylmar Metrolink station and it shuttles people up to Mission College and also to connect with other bus routes on streets like Glen Oaks, Borden, Foothill, and the college. It’s a brand new bus route that was created about a year ago, and it’s been accepted by the community.

The community ends up with a lot less service, because [Metro reported that] it “duplicates other service.” Well, in two and a half miles, for a quarter of a mile it duplicates some other service because if you’re coming out of a train station, and going on the radiating streets out, it shares the same street with two other bus routes. This one goes a couple miles north to the college – a direct connection to the college. But they put in their [report], “Duplicates other service.” The politicians who don’t know how to read see “duplicates” and say, “We’ve got to get rid of duplicates!”

Reed's remarks help shine the light on how Metro Board members are isolated from the decisions they make. Between the Board and the citizens lie Sector Government Councils, which are supposed to have autonomy to make decisions on things like routing. Reed notes, "... what ends up actually happening is: The bus cuts come before the SGC, and they’re told, 'Either accept these cuts or we’ll cut something else.'”

Last is the assault on the turnstile plan. Reed questions both the need for the plan and Metro's numbers.

Then [Metro] came up with a number, something like $5.5 million [a year] in fare cheating. If you pick through the numbers, you find that they’re really only losing $2.2 million in fares, not $5 million.

If you’re putting in a system that requires attendants – you go to New York, or you go to San Francisco to the BART system – every station has two employees working three shifts, seven days a week. Metro’s got 10 or 20 stations that would be eligible for employees to service the stations. You’re talking about putting in employees somewhere at the basis of $10, $20, $30 million a year in new employees.

The Transit Coalition helpfully provided me with the following maps that show exactly what Metro's cuts look like.

A quick key for the colors.
Red lines are being ended.
Orange lines are being "reducted"
Yellow lines are being altered
Blue/green are being extended/are new lines

Images by Nicholas Ventrone, The Transit Coalition

Today's Headlines

Westside Subway Meetings Begin Tonight (Times, Daily News)

Bart Reed Unloads on Bus Cuts, Turnstiles, Yvonne Burke (City Beat)

City Council Backs Maglev Train (Daily News)

Burbank Council Had a Special Transportation Meeting Too (Burbank Leader)

Beijing Ready to Order Cars Off the Road For Olympics (NPR)

Conservatives Back Prop 91 (North County Times)

Downtown Richmond Debates One-Way Vs. Two-Way Streets (Urban Richmond)

Bank of America: Now Serving Pedestrians in Los Feliz! (LAist)

Fuel spill ties up the 134 (Times)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Quotes That Matter from Folks That Matter

After reading the very comprehensive coverage of yesterday's meetings on some of the other blogs around town, I decided that rather than write a long coverage post on what's already been written, that I would instead just pull out some highlight quotes from many of the leaders that were there yesterday.

Before I get into the quotes, I want to recognize that there were "pro-bike" comments from at least the following Councilmembers: Wendy Greuel, Tom LaBonge, Eric Garcetti, Dennis Zine, Bill Rosendahl, Bernard Parks and of course Ed Reyes.

Rita Robinson, Director of LADOT, recognizes that traffic isn't something that just happens, pledges to do better when looking at land use, and calls for parking reform.

"We are traffic. The cars don't drive themselves."
"One thing we don't fund well is planning and land use...we're reactive not proactive."
"We need to look at not just how we use the street when we move, but how we use it when we stay still."

Gail Goldberg, Director of City Planning, comments on LA being a sprawling city, recognizes that better land use will lead to less traffic, critiques the community planning process and argues that we need to think about transportation differently.

"LA is different...uniquely spreads its density over a large area. We have the worst of both worlds...dense sprawl."
"With better land use, we can reduce traffic by 10% and that's before discussing the increase of transit usage associated with TOD (Transit Oriented Development)"
"The old community plans are horrific....New plans will be much more complex and will have a mobility element."
"(LA should) promote plans that maximize walking and biking while rejecting decisions that maximize driving while moving pedestrians away from the streets."

Assemblyman Mike Feuer gave a talk similar to his one at It's Time to Move L.A., but also offered this brief history of transportation funding priorities.

"We focused for too long on building freeways at the expense of public the expense of bikeways."

Councilman Jack Weiss interrupted a series of councilmembers asking questions that only pertained to their districts to ponder the relationship between the departments. Weiss followed this statement with a motion to merge the efforts of these departments on the city's transportation master plan.

"It's my view that these (LADOT and planning) are the same department."

Council President Eric Garcetti proposes a measuring stick for success.

"In Los Angeles, we average 1.1 people per car...we need to get that to 1.5 or higher."

Councilman Tom LaBonge talks bikes.

"I'm very concerned about bikes riding on sidewalks. Too often they merge onto the street without looking, like they have the right of way. More bike lanes could help fix that."

My evil twin, Damien Goodmon, threatens the Expo Line.

"If the plan isn't made safe, we will derail this $850 million project....Our local council people aren't just uneducated (about the safety problems of at-grade light rail) they don't care."

There was also testimony given from the LACBC, Illuminate LA and Green LA all focused on the lack of transportation options in the city, especially bikeways. Roughly half those commenting in the first round of commenters spoke against the Pico/Olympic plan. The Bus Rider's Union noted that you could build an entirely new bus network for the same cost as the Subway to the Sea. The bike testimony can be summed up by this letter by "Over the Hill" at Midnight Ridazz, read into the record by Enci of Illuminate LA:

I am a resident of District 3. By free choice, not of economic necessity, I use a mix of modes for my transportation needs: Auto (less than 6000 miles last year), bicycle (more than 2100 miles last year) and the MTA.
By using bicycles as part of my transportation mix, I have decreased my own auto traffic in Los Angeles from over 12,000 miles per year to less than 6,000. It's time to stop thinking of transportation in terms of autos only.
I request that the Council instruct the LADOT to RE-ENGINEER its metric for transportation efficiency away from VEHICLES per hour to PERSONS transported per hour, using a WEIGHTED SUM across all available modes [auto + motorcycle + bus + bicycle + pedestrian + surface rail], giving independent weight to each mode's available speed, spacing and achievable traffic density. Regarding bicycle traffic, I support integration of bicycle traffic with other roadway traffic rather than marginalization of bicycle traffic to the sidewalk.

Denny Zane noted that this year is a good year to get a sales tax ballot proposition passed.

"There is expected to be high turnout among young and first time voters. Young voters are more likely to support ballot measures that fund infrastructure for the future."

USC Professor Gen Giuliano on the failure to lobby Washington.

"The unified California fell apart on SAFETEA-LU, and the rest of the country noticed."

Councilmember Richard Alarcon on his fears on HOT Lanes.

"Wealthy people can buy a better ride and would have negative impact on that that can't afford it. 30% of the population is at poverty level."

John Rist, from the Portland DOT noted that "complete streets" isn't just a concept to our northern neighbors.

"We will retrofit all of our streets...with new sidewalks, bike paths and links to transit."
"5-10% of the people that commute in to Portland do so on a bicycle."

I couldn't help but noting that during the Portland DOT presentation, there were only three councilmembers paying attention...councilmembers Wesson, Zine and Perry. Good for them.

Al Fox, Director of Baltimore's DOT, noted the importance of community involvement.

"We needed buy-in for the strategic plan to work, so we included all stakeholders, including advocacy groups, in the plan's design."

To peruse the official presentations of some city departments, you can do so here.
To look over the schedule they didn't even come close to keeping, you can do so here.
To re-read my post, don't click anywhere.

A Little Lobbying Goes A Long Way...

Councilmember Ed Reyes, Bike Advocate

Immediately following the closing of the opening comments at yesterday's all-day transportation press confer...errr...City Council Hearing, Councilmember Ed Reyes (D-1st) rose and gave a visionary speech promoting bicycling in Los Angeles. Reyes gave a vision of a Los Angeles where "People are able to go from house to train station on a bike, store it safely there and get it back after completing their trip on transit."
While the majority of the council's complaints centered around something going on in their district, or just blamed "poor planning" (as though the planning decided to be bad by itself, and there's nobody in particular to blame for this), Reyes also offered a specific solution...change the way we think about transportation.
"The goal should be to move cars, not people," Reyes proclaimed, sounding more like an advocate then a council member. The councilmember noted that in Los Angeles, we decide whether a street/intersection is working based on the amount of cars that move through an intersection. Thus, if more people in an area choose transit/walking/biking, and the amount of cars on the street is reduced, the City of Los Angeles would believe that street to be failing.
What the heck is going on here? We already know Reyes is exceptional when it comes to bike related issues, but this level of detail and passion was unexpected. It turns out, the councilmember's speech was partially the result of some direct lobbying by Illuminate LA, Brayj Against the Machine, and other Midnight Ridazz. Reyes deserves all the praise in the world for taking a stand for cyclists, and it should be noted that biking was a big topic at yesterday's meeting, but it probably doesn't happen that way without some direct contact initiated by activist cyclists.
Let's keep that in mind when hearings on LA's Bike Master Plan come up in a couple of weeks.

Today's Headlines

Blogs on Yesterday's Transportation Hearing (Brayj Against the Machine, Curbed LA, Angelinic, Metro Rider

The Mayor's Transportation Plan (Daily News, KABC, KFI, KTLA , CBS2, Metroblogging)

Diagonal Street Crossings (Bottlenecks Blog)

LA Businesses Band Together (Times, Daily Breeze)

Bus Lines Back for Dodger's Stadium? (Sons of Steve Garvey)

More Towns Collecting Crash Fees From Out-of-Town Drivers (USA Today)

Planet Has Entered a New Geological Epoch Caused By Human Activity (Dot Earth)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Well, This Is Ironic

What did I ever do to you?

It seems that CALTRANS is now blocking email from me as SPAM. A recent email following up on a meeting last week received the following response. I should note that the email was sent to just one individual and his name is blocked on this post, but was correct in the email I sent:,
dateJan 28, 2008 5:58 PMsubject**Message you sent blocked by our Caltrans bulk email filter**
hide details 5:58 PM (14 hours ago) Reply

Your message to: blocked by our Caltrans Spam Firewall. The email you sent with the following subject has NOT BEEN DELIVERED:
Subject: thanks/question

Final-Recipient: rfc822; NAME failedStatus: 5.7.1Diagnostic-Code: mtp; 550 5.7.1 Message content rejected, UBE, id=11342-01-41Last-Attempt-Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2008 14:58:35 -0800 (PST)

Anyone want to tell me how to fix this?

First to the air: Hillary on Energy Crisis

Outside of the ads that Giuliani's campaign ran during the debates on cable channels, Southern California is getting its first taste of campaign advertisements this week. Since the first ad sort of focuses on transportation, I thought we'd give a brief review here. Any further campaign ads on this subject will get the same treatment.

Title: Serious

Candidate: Hillary Clinton

Issues: National Energy Independence, Oil Prices

Transportation Talk: The advertisement features a scene most Angelenos are all too familiar with...a highway traffic jam with stop and go traffic as far as the eye can see. However, instead of proposing solutions to congestion, this ad proposes solutions to the pollution caused by congestion. While promoting bio-fuels and "ending our dependency on foreign oil" are smart and important political issues, neither is going to do anything towards alleviating the traffic jams depicted in the advertisement.

Today's Headlines

Open Letter to Mayor: Reject DOT's 'Quick Fixes' (City Watch)

City Plans to Bring Back Broadway (KNBC, CBS2, Times)

City Budget Crisis Could Lead to Less Street Spending (Times)

Students cited for illegal crossings (Daily Trojan)

Traders Betting on Oil Prices to Drop Below $80 a Barrel (Financial Times)

Biking for Barack (LAist)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Go Metro at You Tube

The folks over at Metro have joined the You Tube generation by putting up old "Go Metro" commercials on the web. If you missed Antonio Banderas talking about the Latino Film Festival or want to see the "Go Metro to See Wicked" advertisements, they're all there.

As a basketball fan, this one is my favorite...look at Kobe's hair...and is that a "Go Shaq" sign? I guess it's a good thing Metro decided to advertise this service, since the folks at Staples don't seem too concerned about promoting transit.

Another Street Heat Post at Emerald City

I've been thinking about some of the problems Congestion Pricing has been having catching on in LA. Emerald City has been nice enough to host a series on what I've been thinking. The first post can be read here. All future posts on this subject will be linked to hear in my "Today's Headlines" section.

Coming Tomorrow: City Council "All Day" Transportation Meeting

Back in November, the City Council announced it was ordering a new city-wide transportation plan for the City of Los Angeles. Since its announcement, there hasn't been a lot of news about the report. Residents have been able to weigh-in on what they want to see done in LA through a website set up by Transportation Committee Chairperson Wendy Greuel, but nothing else has really happened.

Tomorrow, that changes, when the entire City Council hold an "all day" public hearing to discuss transportation issues. Detailed reports (which are/will be available through the committee schedule) will be given by the DWP, DOT, Bureau of Street Services & Engineering, and the Department of Planning. There will also be an opportunity for public comment.

I'll be there to take notes and report back tomorrow night, but for those that are interested, the meeting will be at 10 A.M. in the general council chambers down at City Hall starting at 10 A.M.

Today's Headlines

Culver City Considers Congestion Fee for New Development (Wave)

Beverly Hills Begins No Stopping During Morning Rush on Olympic (Canyon News)

State Legislature Votes on Car "Feebates" (Times)

Sprinter Opening Delayed Again (Now Coming in March...) (Mercury-News)

Another Blog Against Subway Gates (Sub Chat)

Opposition Grows to New Billboard Plan (City Watch)

Ventura and SB Start Vanpool for Farmers (Capital Press)

Chicago Seniors Can't Wait for Free Transit Rides (AP)

City Finnancial Picture Looks Bleak (Daily News)

Bus Crash Kills 8 (Times)

Friday, January 25, 2008

LADOT Announces Public Hearings on Bike Master Plan!

The City of Los Angeles is holding four community meetings around the city this February and March as part of its effort to update the Bicycle Master Plan. Everyone is invited to attend and will be given a chance to tell the city how you feel about our bike facilities.

The meeting time/locations are:

Central/South Los Angeles (Map it)
Saturday February 16, 2008
Expo Center Swim Stadium
Community Room
3980 S. Menlo Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90037

West Los Angeles (Map it)
Wednesday February 20, 2008
Felicia Mahood Multi Purpose Center 11338
Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90037

Valley Area (Map it)
Wednesday February 27, 2008
Marvin Braude-San Fernando Constituent Services Center,
Conference Room 1B
6262 Van Nuys Blvd,
Van Nuys, CA 91401

Harbor Area (Map it)
Saturday March 1, 2008
Banning's Landing Community Center
100 E. Water Street,
Wilmington, CA 90744

Photo from our friends at Streetsblog.

Go Green with Street Heat!

Emerald Green that is.

Today was the first of my guest posts over at Green LA Girl's Emerald City Blog over at the Times website. For about the next month, you'll be able to find a weekly column by me over there on Monday talking about HOT Lanes and Congestion Pricing.

Special thanks to Siel for giving me the space, and please head on over to check out her writings as well!

Feds Cut Light Rail Language from STC Report

Sometimes, you wonder why people even bother to volunteer for the government.

Let's take the case of transit advocate, and avowed conservative, Paul Weyrich. The founder of such bastions of the Conservative movement in America as the Heritage Foundation and Free Congress Foundation, Weyrich agrees to serve on a Surface Transportation Committee to write a report on the state of American transportation and transportation funding.

So, Weyrich and the rest of the committee work on the report, and it is released to great media coverage and the approval of many transportation experts.

Then what happens?

1) The Secretary of Transportation (and STC Committee Chair) Mary Peters publicly buries the reports main finding, that America needs to raise its gas tax.

2) People notice that the section dedicated to light rail (written by Weyrich and approved by a 9-3 vote of the committee) was magically excluded from the report.

Weyrich was not amused, “It is disappointing that after the paragraphs indicated were passed by a nine to three vote that someone without ever asking me would see to it to do away with these important policy considerations. It is the kind of gutter politics which make people hate their government, and Washington in general.”

You can find the text of what was excluded in the comments section below.

Today's Headlines

Setback for the Gold Line (KNX, Whittier Daily News)

Press-Telegram: No On 91 (Press Telegram)

Reason Foundation Op/Ed Pushes HOT Lanes (Daily News)

A PRT Advocates Letter to Wendy Greuel (City Watch)

Prague Thinking of Adding Turnstiles to Their Subway (Prague Post)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

This Post Brought to You By the Number 33

One BRU Member, with the help of a translator, slams fare policy plan
While the two issues covered below may dominate the coverage of today's meeting, the most important story of the day was the somewhat schizophrenic behavior by the Board when it comes to their long-term budget issues and fare policies.

First, the Board approved releasing Metro's long range plan for public comment. A final draft will be ready for release in mid-March for public comment. The final plan could be voted on as early as the June Board Meeting.

So, what's the problem? Metro's plan counts on a farebox recovery ratio, meaning the total cost of the trip that is paid for by the rider, of 33%. Currently, even after the recent fare hike, Metro is "recovering" 28% of the cost of each trip. To cover that gap, Metro would have to increase fares at least as much as they did in the most recent fare increase.
While opening up the plan for public comment was relatively uncontroversial, except for a coalition of government officials lobbying for inclusion of the I-710 Tunnel Project; a plan to adopt a fare policy based on reaching the same 33% fare box recovery ratio was met with stern opposition. This policy would lead to fare hikes by 2010 and was proposed response to projected operating deficits far into the future.

16 speakers of all races, classes and genders strode to the podium to denounce the plan, claiming that it was everything from an assault on civil rights to a perversion of the public process. BRU activist Manuel Criollo claimed that any plan that would increase bus fares was especially repugnant after a presentation of a "long range plan that reads like Disney Land" for more well off communities such as Santa Monica and Marina del Rey.

Ultimately, the Board put off voting on the new fare policy for another month so staff could remove or modify the language that would force the board to increase fares by 2010. The decision to put off the vote didn't sit well with Board Chair Pam O'Connor who said noted that passing a fare plan with a firm recovery ratio will take the surprise out of fare hikes. "We're going to have to deal with this (projected operating deficits) sometime."

Turnstile Plan Delayed

Coming Soon?

A decision on whether or not to use turnstiles to collect fares at train stops was postponed by the Metro Board today not after threats of a lawsuit or the repeated strong opposition from Board Member Richard Katz; but because of a letter by former Metrolink executive director Richard Stanger questioning how much money the turnstiles would really raise. (I'm working on obtaining a copy of Stanger's letter and will post it when I do).

The total cost of the proposed contract for installation and maintenance of the turnstiles is over $100 million dollars. Proponents of the plan claim it will recoup that money within four or five years. Despite this somewhat incredulous claim, Katz remains the only board member who wonders how catching the estimated 5% of train riders that aren't paying for their tickets is going to offset this enormous cost.

Opposition to adding turnstiles came from both rail and bus activists. Kymberleigh Richards, director of So.C.A.T.A. argued that the amount of money spent on maintaining the rail gates (roughly $400,000 a month) would be more than enough to scale back Metro's service cuts that are being proposed at the local board level. These cuts don't require a vote of the Executive Board. Richards vowed to unify the local boards against the turnstile plan.

That argument seemed mild compared to the accusations made by longtime bus advocate John Walsh who threatened to bring suit against the board for conflict of interest violations, noting the connection between consultants named in the contract and board members.

However, the opposition that should most discourage board members is that of Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition. Perhaps more than anyone else, Reed makes a great effort to see things from Metro's point of view, yet even he was overheard telling television crews that the fare gate plan is a "waste of public resources."

However, in the world of transit politics, don't be surprised if we still see turnstiles being installed before the year is out. As Board Member Yvonne Burke noted, "every major subway in the country has a fare gate system." Despite the delay, Metro's Board seems determined to join them.

Metro Board Changes Course on Senior Fares

Last week, Street Heat was the only media source of any kind to cover that Metro was considering raising the age necessary to receive a "senior discount" to 65. This week, Metro's board reversed course completely, not only rejecting the plan to raise the age to receive a discount on cash fares during rush hour, they lowered the age required to receive the off peak discount to age 62 with a unanimous vote. All senior fares now apply to riders aged 62 and over, including the off peak fare of 25 cents.

The motion to change the fare proposal was put forward by transit rider Antonio Villaraigosa, the real hero of the story is Board Member Bonnie Lowenthal, who resisted raising the age necessary for a "senior discount" in committee after it passed a separate committee with a unanimous vote.
The Board's change in attitude was met with applause in the room, including hand clapping of my own. (I believe you shouldn't raise fares without a public hearing whether it be by reducing a discount or ending a subsidized transfer.)
Despite the exhuberence, there was one major question left unasked. How does Metro plan on charging anyone less money while they're in a well-documented cash crunch?

Today's Headlines

Zero, Zilch, Zip: Number of Zipcars in Los Angeles. (Metro Rider via Curbed LA)

Pols Get Behind Gold Line (Red Orbit)

California Legislators Passing on "Feebates" for Giant Cars (Times)

Looking for a Train in the Valley (LAist)

Palm Springs Gets Some Ridazz (Press Enterprise)

More on Prop. 91 (Ventura County Star)

US Ranked Last Among G8 Nations in Environmental Performance (NYT)

BRT Better for Kansas City Than Light Rail, Say Libertarians (KC Star via Planetizen)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

LaBonge: Raise Parking Fees to Pay for Dash

At a recent meeting of the City Council's Transportation Committee, LADOT reccomended delaying two new DASH lines to help balance it's budget for the next year. The Committee's reaction was not positive.
Councilmember's Wendy Greuel and Richard Alarcon both asked for a study to look at perhaps cutting less productive DASH Lines to cover the cost of new ones. Greuel noted that it would be a tough decision to take transit service away from people that are used to it, but that 2008 is "a year of tough decisions."
Councilman Rosendahl, suggested looking at Public-Private-Partnerships and other "outside the box" methods for funding DASH services.
But the award for "Outside the Box" thinking goes not to Rosendahl, but to Councilman Tom LaBonge not for his suggestion that other LA County municipalities that benefit from DASH should pony up some money or see their lines cut or his suggestion that the acronym be changed to NASH (Neighborhood Area Short Hop), but for his suggestion that LADOT should examine raising parking fees at certain locations and put the new revenue aside to subsidize new NASH (DASH) Lines. Somewhere, Donald Shoup is smiling.

Metro Chief Talks HOT Lanes and Alternative Transportation

Today, Metro hosted it's third "online chat" with Metro Board Chair Pam O'Connor. Today's topic was HOT Lanes and the regional transportation funding crisis. For the full chat, click here.

The highlights of the chat were mostly congestion-pricing related. Metro has taken a beating for examining road pricing as a way to reduce congestion, and hopefully today was the beginning a pr campaign designed to explain what it is Metro is hoping to do.
Below are some quotes from the answers about Metro's HOT Lanes plan.
In response to a question about "punishing car poolers":
Our hope with congestion pricing is to better manage our highway lanes -- to make the system work more efficiently and optimally. We think toll lanes will keep the lanes running at 50 miles per hour. And any money collected -- although this is far from a huge money-making tool -- would be used to increase other transit options along the corridor like van pool subsidies and add more freeway express buses to help everyone move better … especially those who use transit or carpool.
In response to a question about possibly only taking one lane, so that one carpool lane would remain:
So to research, Metro has been working closely with Caltrans on this issue and both agencies feel that congestion pricing can be effective with only one lane – especially as a demonstration project -- just to see how the concept works. Certainly we like the flexibility of having two lanes in each direction, as is the case on the Harbor Freeway Transitway. With only one lane, however, the goal will be to get enough people to switch to non peak hours or to vanpools and transit so that the lane moves at a consistent 50 miles per hour.

In response to a claim that congestion pricing is a tax that "puts yet another unfair burden on the motoring public."
The goal is not so much to make big bunches of money -- because it won't (although we will take what is collected and use it for transit improvements along those corridors) -- but to squeeze better efficiency out of the lanes and frankly, people will have to give more thought to their driving habits and to the choices they make about travel.
( ed. note: It seems that either Metro or I had a technology snafu, because I haven't seen the chat updated in the last half an hour...if there are more tidbits on congestion pricing when I have access to the final transcript, I'll be sure to write about them.)

Morning Headlines

LA Board of Ed.:No New Schools Near Highways (Times)

San Bernadino Commits to Rail Over/Underpasses (SB Sun)

Pasadena Tests Its Own Walkability (Star News)

Japan Unveils Nationwide Plan for Bike Lanes (Mainichi Daily News)

USC Master Plan Good for Pedestrians (Daily Trojan)

Hiding the 101 Beneath a Park (LAist)

"Small transit group in Southern California" Only Backers of Prop 91 (Stockton Record)

Big Blue Bus Hits Wall (CBS2)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CALTRANS in 2001: Union Station Inaccessible for Cyclists/Pedestrians

Should there be a crossing here?

While bouncing around the Internet, I found an official CALTRANS website examining the ped. friendliness of Union Station made in 2001. The engineers flunked the planning for pedestrian access (giving it a 3 out of 8) and gave lowest possible score for bicycle access.

For pedestrian acces, CALTRANS noted, "The Union Station is not connected with its surrounding uses by effective pedestrian links. Major hurdles are crossing N. Alameda Street from Chinatown, though Chinatown itself is pedestrian friendly. Due to Freeway 101 and rail track on the south and east of the site, access is further restricted."

For cyclists, "There are no existing bike routes around Union Station. Downtown Los Angeles has some designated routes but they do not extend across Freeway 101 to Union Station. There is no convenient bike parking location on site, except a few spots at the service entry behind the station which is very difficult to find."

Fast forward seven years, have things changed much?

For cyclists, things have gotten somewhat better. Wikipedia notes that "the few spots at the service entrance" reserved for bikes has grown to 24 bike rack spaces and 20 locker spaces. Designated bike routes now extend from as far south as Imperial Highway and as far east as La Cienega to the corner of Main and Temple, one block from the station.

However, for cyclists and pedestrians, the main barrier remains that the station is completely isolated from the east and North by I-101. What practical solutions exit for that problem aren't clear, it's pretty obvious LA won't be reconfiguring the freeway anytime soon.

There is one barrier that could still use some work. Crossings at Alameda remain confusing as the road is designed to move as many cars as possible at the expense of sensible pedestrian configurations. Six lanes of traffic separate the east and west sidewalks (where there is an east sidewalk) and pedestrian crossings aren't as abundant as a pedestrian destination would generally require.

Back in August, two New Yorkers blogged about their "Transit Oriented Honeymoon" and found the pedestrian accommodations around Union Station to be terrible. Their main complaint is that pedestrian crossings are prohibited at the intersection directly in front of Union Station.

One commenter noted that crossings are banned for pedestrian safety reasons, "...a crosswalk there would lead pedestrians to walk on the eastern side of L.A. Street. But a few feet further south, there is a huge on-ramp to the northbound 101 freeway. Cars turning from L.A. street to the 101 would be a danger to the pedestrians, so the city eliminated the sidewalk on the eastern side of L.A. street in this area. To discourage more pedestrians, they also prohibited the crossing where you were trying to cross."

In short, officials deserve some credit for fixing the bike storage problem and expanding the bike network in downtown LA. However, before Union Station is recognized for being pedestrian friendly, LA needs to come up with a better plan for Alameda.

Cars Hitting Pedestrians: L.A. County's Silent Crisis

Stories of big accidents were big news in Los Angeles the past several days. Gold Line and Metrolink trains "went boom" before the weekend started. Over the weekend, a mid-air collision between two small planes killed several people, including one on the ground. This morning, a big-rig flipped on the 101.
But what's just as terrible are the hundreds of deaths every year that don't go reported in the traditional media. Based on recent trends, around 225 cyclists or pedestrians die on LA's roads as a result of an accident with a car/truck/bus/train. However, none of these stories seem to ever get reported unless the accident has a spectacular collision of some sort. If you do a basic search at for "pedestrian accidents 'los angeles'" you can't find any stories of a pedestrian getting killed by a vehicle in Los Angeles County. A similar search for New York City finds several fatal accident stories on just the first page.
Without frequent stories to go along with the statistics, the reality of the carnage that occurs on our roads and highways begins to fade in people's minds. When Street Heat ran a story on how LADOT and SCAG's goal of reducing bike/ped fatalities wasn't being met, the only comment I received was basically saying I was being too hard on our government agencies. However, it there were frequent stories on the frequent and needless collisions between defenseless people and automobiles, people would think more about one of the real costs of our car culture.

Today's Headlines

Op/Ed: LA Deserves Rail (Times)

Mayor Excited About Subway, O'Connor Excited About Tax (Smart Growth Online)

Everyone Short on Transportation Dollars (Daily News)

Senators Prefer Gas Guzzlers (Daily News)

What They Drive... (Daily News)

Huntington Beach Considers Free Parking for Hybrids (OC Register)

Big Rig Disaster at 101 (Daily News)

Glen Avon Rail Crossing Is Nation's "Most Dangerous" (Press Enterprise)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Today's Clips

Highway Pollution Could Choke Planned School (Press-Enterprise)

Los Alamitos Talking Metrolink Extension (OC Register)

AMTRAK Avoids Strike (Times)

Caltrans agrees to limit freeway runoff flowing to waterways (Daily News)

City Watch: PRT to the Sea? (City Watch)

Detroit Economy Suffering as Car Sales Drop (Times)

Biofuels Doing More Harm Than Good, Warn British MPs (BBC)

Car Lover Admits: "Driving Is the Cultural Anomaly of Our Moment" (NYT)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Transportation Agencies Install New Bike Facilities

Hmmm, I wonder what these were modeled after

I was just sitting down to write a story about new bike facilities at CALTRANS' building downtown when I found I'd been partially beaten to the punch by LAist. A lot of what I was planning to write about CALTRANS and the importance of an agency adding better bike facilities such as lockers (completely rented at CALTRANS), bike stands, and showers; LAist already wrote...and less than 24 hours ago:

End of trip amenities is one of the simplest and most effective ways to encourage cycling as a transportation solution and Los Angeles City Hall has just raised the standard.

For those cyclists who don't work at City Hall, this action is still very significant. It puts the City in a better position to enforce
City Code requiring bike parking and showers in new buildings over 10,000 feet and State Law requiring employers of 50 or more employees to offer a cash allowance to those who opt out of employer provided parking.

While secure bike parking and hot showers may look like luxuries and a cash subsidy may look like a gift, when compared to the cost of a parking space for an automobile (LA estimated value $30,000 average) amenities for cyclists suddenly look like a bargain, especially when you factor in traffic congestion relief, health benefits and environmental impact.

Ultimately, LA's City Hall just got friendlier, not just for cyclists, but for the whole city.

Today's Clips

Presidential Candidates on Public Transit (MtR)

MTA Gets Closer to Installing Turnstiles (KNBC)

City Handing Out Free Bike Seats, Car Helmets (Daily News)

Ports Consider Rail Fee (Press Enterprise)

Street Fight (Pico/Olympic) (Jewish Journal)

New Yorkers Back Congestion Pricing (if Funds Go to Transit) (Press Release)

Bush, US Bow to 'Petro-Islam' (Newsweek)

China Getting Dangerous for Pedestrians and Cyclists (TSC via Planetizen)

San Pedro Waterfront Redevelopment Gets Green Light (Daily Breeze)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Metro Considers Raising "Senior Discount" Age to 65

At yesterday's meeting of Metro's Finance and Budget Subcommittee staff raised the specter of changing the age needed to receive the "Senior Discount" from 62 to 65. All residents currently receiving the discount would be grandfathered in. In response to a question from the audience, Board Member John Fasana clarified that such a change would not constitute a fare increase and would not require a public outreach process.

Long-time transit advocate John Walsh disagreed, "If you think you've had protesters at meetings before, you'll have 5,000 angry people if you go ahead and do this...and we'll see you in court!" (Incidently, every Metro meeting I go to has at least one angry member of the public shout "I/we'll see you in court!")

One reason Metro is considering changing the discount is the aid requirements created by the state and federal government. As explained by a Foothill Transit staffer during their fare increase, changing local and base fares reduces the amount of state aid you (an agency) can receive.

While there may not be a formal process to review such a plan, there are two ways to voice your opinion: Metro's monthly board meeting is next Thursday at their headquarters and the next online chat with the Board chair is scheduled for noon, next Wednesday.

Council Resolution: Bikers Deserve Tax Break (Updated Below)

The City Council Wants to Exempt Employer Benefits to Cyclists

Tomorrow, the Los Angeles City Council is expected to pass a resolution urging the federal government to change federal law to provide tax breaks for bike commuters. Currently, employers are allowed to subsidize parking, provide transit tickets tax-free (up to a certain amount) and provide a refund for carpool drivers based on VMT. No such benefit exists for cyclists.

The Bicycle Commuters Benefits Act of 2007, s. 858, seeks to change that by allowing employers to provide an extra benefit to bike commuters tax-free. Some of the things an employer could provide include: a bike, accessories and safety equipment, life and personal property insurance premiums, and locker rental.

The City Council resolution was authored by Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel. No California Senator has yet sponsored S. 858.

Update, Friday at 3:45: I just spoke to someone in the City Clerk's office who confirmed that the motion passed by consent.

Today's Clips

Fred "Metro Rider" Camino Responds to Rubin (Emerald City)

CityBEAT Covers "Move LA" Conference (CityBEAT)
Mayor Gets a B- (CityBEAT)
Denny Gets a B+ (CityBEAT)
Zev Gets a C- (CityBEAT)

Schwarzenegger Slows Down High Speed Plans (Daily News)

Bikes Needed at Newhall Metrolink Center (The Signal)

Port Traffic Down in 2007 (Times)

Bottleneck Blog: One Way, NO WAY (Bottleneck Blog)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Flaw in Pico/Olympic Study?

At Monday's Pico/Olympic meeting one comment questioned the validity of LADOT's "pilot program" where they gauged the effects of re-timing the signals on the traffic pattern because the study occurred on Jewish holiday. DOT representative John Fisher seemed confused as DOT re-programs all pedestrian signals to take Jewish holidays into account. When he asked the audience "which holiday," there wasn't a clear response.

Well, let's set the record straight. The traffic study took place on October 2nd and 3rd, which are part of the Festival of Sukkot. Both days are in the second part of the holiday, known as Chol Hamoed. According to, work on Chol Hamoed is permitted if, "would result in 'significant loss.'" I don't know enough about Jewish holidays to say whether or not this would impact the traffic study, but perhaps someone who reads this post could illuminate me.

Checking in on Car Culture

A piece in the today's Times goes into the bad habits of many drivers. Normally, an article like this wouldn't get more than a clip in Today's Clip, but after last week’s "Dust Up" it was worth noting that it isn’t just a few bad apples that ruin the whole bunch and that it’s not just uppity cyclists complaining about unsafe drivers.

What’s also interesting, is how many of the common driver’s complaints can’t/don’t apply to cyclists. In order, the driver complaints listed in this article are:

1) Tailgaters that honk, flash lights, and make rude gestures when you’re already going over the speed limit
2) Drivers that don’t use their turn-signal
3) Police officers have a problem remembering to use their turn signals
4) People that throw trash out their windows
5) Speed racers out of red lights (who end up stopped at the same light as the "loser" from the last light)
6) Cars that are double parked

With the exception of #2, (To be fair, half the time I signal a right hand turn, the driver’s behind me act like they have no idea what’s going on) none of these apply to folks that use their bikes instead of their cars as their transportation choice. So next time one hears that cyclists break just as many laws as drivers, remember that people on a bike don’t even have as many ways to break a law as our friend’s in their cars.
(photo from today's Times)

Today's Clips

Neighborhood Councils Empowered to Produce Legislation (Daily News)

Getting More Parking an Issue for UCLA Students (Daily Bruin)

Metrolink Questions State Oversight (Times)

Schwarzenegger backs O.C. tollway (Times)

Federal Panel Recommends Gas Tax Increase (Press Enterprise)

Paniced US Sec. of Transportation Says No Way! (Press Release)

BBC: The Case Against Traffic Lights (BBC)

New Buses, New Service in Riverside (Press Enterprise)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Westsiders Get Riled at Pico/Olympic Meeting

Everyone Opposed, Raise Your Hand...You in the Back, We're Ony Counting That Once!

It seems that every time I go to a meeting focused on the Pico/Olympic Boulevard controversy the meeting gets a) more crowded and b) more confrontational. Last night, literally hundreds of residents and business owners packed a forum held by the Westside Neighborhood Council to hear about LADOT’s plan and loudly voice their objection. The plan would increase capacity on Pico and Olympic Boulevards by re-timing traffic signals, limiting left-hand turns and imposing restrictions on peak hour parking.

The format of the event was designed to limit direct interaction between LADOT and the audience to prevent an angry back-and-forth from dominating the meeting. Questions were written on cards and read by a moderator.

The crowd’s anger wasn’t just directed at DOT. The crowd jeered one of the plan’s chief proponents, and their local Councilman. Jack Weiss. Weiss was again conspicuous by his absence. The councilman’s representative did not speak to the crowd or attempt to answer any questions directed towards elected officials.

Also up for a verbal berating was Westside Neighborhood Council Chair and event moderator Terri Tippit, an opponent of the plan, who was under constant pressure to either read more questions, read less questions, explain what the question meant, or "shut up and let him (DOT representative John Fisher) answer the question.

I mention the crowd’s passion not as an condemnation of the event, which was as well moderated as could be expected, or the attendees; but to illustrate how heated this issue is for the people along the corridor.

If most of the emotion at last week’s meeting was over the issue of lost parking and its impact to the community, this meeting was dominated by fears of cut through traffic racing through local side streets. Fisher, repeatedly claimed that the plan was designed to reduce cut through traffic by increasing capacity on Pico/Olympic during rush hour so there would be no need to cut east/west through the community. Also, by limiting the left hand turns on intersections with smaller roads, north/south traffic will stay on larger roads such as Beverly Glen Blvd.

(ed: note: An original version of this article said "Motor Ave" instead of Beverly Glen Blvd. Motor Avenue will actually be seeing a decrease in cut through traffic because of signalization limiting left hand turns.)

The crowd was unimpressed, repeatedly questioning the proposal and wondering how bringing more traffic to the area (greater capacity=more traffic) will somehow help their current issues. Several times there were questions asking why traffic calming wasn’t used to keep cars off the local streets instead of this more complicated plan. The answer: traffic calming can help, but this plan will help more.

Business owners were similarly unimpressed with claims that the parking restrictions wouldn’t effect them in the long-term. Fisher pointed to dry cleaners along Pico Boulevard that currently thrive even with peak hour restrictions on parking. Locals noted that those cleaners have adequate off street parking, and that in a neighborhood that is mostly Jewish it’s pretty insulting to imply that they should pick up their laundry on weekends (when they can’t drive).

DOT couldn’t promise that the community would have a chance to do a full review of the plan before the City Council voted on it, after all the Council doesn’t report to LADOT; but did promise that they were not yet done their community outreach or tweaking the plan to meet the community’s approval. If "community approval" is the goal, they have a long way to go.

(editor's note: The above picture is of a "straw poll" that was done at the end of the meeting. For the majority of the event, there were no empty seats and the standing room extended into the lobby.)

Want to Give Your Opinion on Pico/Olympic?

Street Heat and the Westside Neighborhood Council make participating in the public process a breeze. Just follow these simple instructions:
1) Click on the form above
2) Print the form
3) Fill it out
4) Fax it to the Council (who will copy it and send it along to LADOT) at 310-475-2126
These are official LADOT forms, so if you send them in, LADOT has to respond in some way shape or form. So if you have a question, then click, print, fill out and fax.

Today's Clips

Toll Roads and Subway to the Sea (Emerald City)

Cell Phones Slowing Commute (Bottleneck Blog)

Gas Prices Putting the Brakes to Sprawl? (Smart Growth Online)

Metro Rider Looks at Zip Car (Metro Rider)

WGA Strike Locations for the Wk of Jan 14th (Metro Rider)

Aussies Buy More Bikes Than Cars (Streetsblog)

Nissan Executive Says Car Culture Is Fading (Fortune via Carfree USA)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mitt and McCain Offer Differences on Car Culture

Cars in Your Blood? You May Want to Get That Checked Out

As the clock winds down on another primary contest for the Republicans, Senator John McCain and Governor Mitt Romney are offering two different visions of what they see as the future of the car industry in America.

Romney wants to bring back all the jobs Michigan has lost and blames their departure not on globalism, but on fuel efficiency standards. McCain, the only Republican candidate to recognize that global warming exists, is at least pushing legislation that would increase fuel efficiency.

Let's check in with the front runners to see what they have to say in their own words...

Mitt Romney: Just as Romney told Schieffer he is the only GOP candidate "that's got the automobile industry in my blood veins," he told the group in Southfield that he alone could remember the Motor City's glory days. "I grew up in this state," he said. "I remember when Michigan was the pride of America."

John McCain: It wasn't government's job to protect buggy factories and haberdashers when cars replaced carriages and men stopped wearing hats. But it is government's job to help workers get the education and training they need for the new jobs that will be created by new businesses in this new century.

The Bus Bench's Dead Escalator Survey

Over the weekend an interesting blog found me called The Bus Bench. While checking out their site I found a depressing series on the state of escalators at Metro Stations. Because I haven't used Metro rail services outside of Vermont/Beverly, Union Station and Civic Center, I wasn't aware what an epidemic broken escalators are in LA today. Maybe Metro should think about sinking $30 million into a fund to make their stations more accessible instead of less so....

For those interested in reading the whole series (at least the whole series thus far) follow the links below.

Link to all stories
Dead MTA Escalators surveys
Dead Escalator Surveys: Sat, 05 Jan 2008
Dead Escalators-Report Three: 07 January 2008
Dead Escalator- Report Four: 08 Jan 2008
Report Five: 09 January 2008
Report Six: 10 January 2008

The second link is one of my personal favorites. The author compares people like me, transit advocates that own and may occasionally drive a car, as "like being part of the DARE program and smoking just a little pot." While I don't agree with that opinion (or else I would sell the car or just shut up and go away) I do have to admit, there's something to that line of reasoning....

Today's Clips

Rubin: Ridership Suffers Because of Metro's Rail Focus (Times)

Times' Cyclists Debate Ends with Look at Critical Mass (Times)

Clinton, Obama, Weigh in On Ports Plan (Press-Telegram)

Pol Pushes P3's (Daily Bulletin)

Villaraigosa's Campaign Trips Explained (Times)

County Getting Serious About Transportation Funding (Bottleneck's Blog, Beacon, About LA)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Feuer Seeks To Help LA County Help Itself

A seemingly wonky piece of legislation introduced last week by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-LA) may have big implications for the future of transportation funding in Southern California. ACA 10, modeled after a ballot proposition for education bonds, would lower the threshold needed for counties to approve bond measures for transportation. Currently, 2/3 of all voters need to approve. Feuer's legislation lowers the threshold to 55%.

Of course, before proposal becomes law, it needs to be approved by 2/3 of each house of the legislature, and 2/3 of the voters this November.

Feuer is also working on legislation that would allow areas to become Infrastructure Financing Districts (IFD’s) without being blighted and legislation that would allow LA to pass its own carbon tax. IFD's allow communities to create local fees that are dedicated towards certain transportation projects.

Professor Donald Shoup: How About Congestion Parking

If you want to reduce congestion, increase the cost of public parking argued UCLA Professor, and Parking Policy Cult Hero, Donald Shoup at the recent "It's Time to Get LA Moving" conference.

Shoup pointed to studies done at UCLA showing that a lack of available parking, and drivers choosing to sniff out a cheap space rather than pay the extra couple of dollars for a garage space, leads to an extra half mile of VMT per trip...over the course of even one day that adds up to a lot of extra car travel in an area.

The answer? Increase the cost of parking at meters so that less people will be willing to pay. By pricing meters high enough that there is almost always 10-15% available in a given area, people will drive less choosing to either park in a garage or by being able to park closer to their destination.

Even without the damage to the infrastructure, Shoup argues that low cost public parking is an inefficient use of public resources. Or, as he calls it, "some of the most valuable real estate in the world used to store private property."

But, wouldn't there be huge opposition to such a plan? The professor points to what's happened in Boulder, CO. Responding to a traffic glut in its downtown, the city created a "Total Transportation Improvement District" where they began to charge a premium for parking and used the revenue to provide free transit to the downtown. The combination of expensive parking and free transit revitalized the city's core and reduced traffic congestion by allowing people a safe, free alternative to get to the city's shops and other attractions.

While congestion pricing and HOT Lanes continue to get much of the media attention in our local press, we should remember that our roads and highways aren't the only thing that is over priced.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Overview of "It's Time to Move LA"

For full coverage of the conference, please see my other posts: Feuer Seeks To Help LA County Help Itself , Professor Donald Shoup: How About Congestion Parking, and Villaraigosa Vows Return of "Ride Metro with the Mayor" .

The main message from yesterday’s "It’s Time to Move LA Conference" was that LA County has a major transportation funding problem, and we can’t count on anyone but ourselves to fix it. From Mayor Villaraigosa to longtime environmentalist Mary Nichols, the message was repeated over and over again...we have a congestion problem, we have the projects to fight back, but we don’t have the money to do it.

The day started off with speeches by Mary Nichols of the Air Resource Board and Phil Angelides, the former "Next Governor of California" and now the chair of the Apollo Alliance.

Nichols' speech was mostly an introduction to the issue and the dire straits in which we find ourselves. Basically, our transportation system is ineffective, pollutes too much, and we don't have the money to fix it. She also reminded the audience that close to half of the pollutants caused by transportation are from the goods movement industry.

Angelides mostly stuck to setting the stage for the kind of work it will take to fix the funding mess and what the benefits to such a fix are. The name for the "Apollo Alliance" was inspired by President Kennedy’s push to put a man on the moon. Much like the space program gave a shot to the economy, Angelides promised that doing the right thing for transportation would be a "high road to prosperity."

Next up was a panel on what opportunities exist to get more funds from the federal, state and local governments. The answer was, "not much.

Several panelists pointed out that California should have some additional clout on transportation issues. In the Senate, Barbara Boxer is Chairwoman of the committee that deals with environmental and transportation matters. In the House, NOCAL’s Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker. A strong vote by the California delegation for transportation funding should carry a lot of weight, and is something for which we all should lobby.

Closer to home, Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-LA) chairs the committee that moves transportation funding bills. While he predicted the governor’s budget would be less dire than most people thought, he also bore the news, "no legislation will be signed in Sacramento, unless it’s free for the State." More on Feuer’s ideas will be posted this weekend.

Next up was Pam O’Connor, Metro’s alternative transportation loving executive director. O’Connor’s speech seemed to be thinly veiled propaganda for HOT Lanes. While she did discuss the need for different jurisdictions to work together in land use and transportation planning (even going so far as to suggest (gasp!) reaching out to Orange County), much of the talk was on the need for new funding and how our roads are underpriced.

O’Conner noted that statewide it will cost $5 billion a year to keep CA’s roads in their current condition, but the state is only spending about $2 billion on roads. She also called into question how we price transportation, "Our roads and highways are under-priced and over-used by single passenger vehicles.

Next up was David Crane, special advisor to the Governor. Crane pushed Public Private Partnerships (wait, I mean "Performance Based Infrastructure.") 90% of what Crane said can be heard on a "video blog" on the Governor’s website. Oddly, he did jump off script once to explain that we Performance Based Infrastructure financing was "like financing a film project, maybe you can relate to that." Right, because I live in LA I must make movies.

Following Crane's commercial for PBI's, was a panel debating their value as a revenue tool. The panel discussed the value of PPP’s as a project delivery system. If there’s a major project and the state can’t pay for it, a public entity will build the road and then toll people to use it. Basically, there’s no cost to the state, all construction, operations and maintenance will be paid for by the operator.

The panel stayed away from the objection most have with PPP's. Why enter into an agreement that allows another organization to turn a profit by tolling drivers." Why not toll the drivers yourself and either a) save drivers money by tolling at a lower rate (because the government body wouldn’t have to turn a profit) or b) charge as much as the private operator and turn a profit to use on some other transportation project.

Janice Cooper, of investment firm Solutions International, urged us to think of PPP’s as a project delivery system, not a revenue stream. If there’s a major project and the state can’t pay for it, a public entity will build the road and then toll people to use it. Basically, there’s no cost to the state, all construction, operations and maintenance will be paid for by the operator.

Later in the conference, David Flemming, the president of the Chamber of Commerce also pushed Public Private Partnerships, but noted that by law any PPP must be approved by the legislature. Flemming argued that we need to work to get rid of that veto because no firm will even consider proposing and doing the legwork for a PPP in California just to get turned down by a legislature dominated by special interests.

Next up was Antonio Villaraigosa. Now a lot of you know that I haven’t been the biggest fan of the mayor, for a long time I wasn’t sure why everyone seemed to see in him. While I still question some of his policies, I can now see why everyone I know likes him so much.

The Mayor gave a fiery speech that touched on a variety of different issues. From the future of the Subway to the Sea ("If there’s one place to build a subway in LA, it’s along Wilshire Boulevard") to his advocacy for better bus service ("Poor people have the right to a first class bus system:) to general transportation reform ("If you want to get out of gridlock, you have to get out of your cars"), Villaraigosa was animated and impassioned throughout the speech.

Unfortunately, he didn’t come with a plan to "Get L.A. Moving." The best he could offer was that he hasn’t supported a sales tax for gasoline because "there are a lot of options that are available and we need to look at all of them." He did add that we should all work to get a Democrat in the White House because cities get more funding when there’s a donkey in the oval office.

Following the Mayor was Metro Board Member Yvonne Burke. Burke noted that polls show people in the L.A. area are willing to do something about transportation, even if they have to pay more. She suggested that the county should add a half cent sales tax to the gas tax, mirroring news reports on the possibilities being considered by Metro.

She also discussed one area where PPP’s absolutely make sense, improving the freight infrastructure needed by trucks. There are many small routes that are (or could be) used by freight more than other drivers. Building new routes to keep trucks off traditional roads and having them pay for it makes a lot of sense to me.

Up next was a panel discussion focued on the best ways for the group to move forward. Stuart Cohen, a smart growth advocate from San Francisco, discussed how difficult it can be to build and maintain a coalition between transportation reformers, labor, environmental groups and builders based on their experiences in San Francisco. Cohen also believed that framing new revenue streams as pollution or greenhouse gas taxes will gain more traction in California than those that don't.

Later in the panel, pollster John Fairbanks backed Cohen’s claims by showing that there’s a strong base of people that will vote for anything that improves the environment, over 30% in the city. Fairbanks’ poll also showed that 82% of people will support a fee increase for transportation projects if they know it will impact their lives.

Parking expert Donald Shoup was also a part of the panel, but his interesting plan for city parking has more to do with congestion relief than with raising funds for the city.

The last panel was moderated by the main force behind the conference, Denny Zane. Zane had a diverse panel of transportation leaders and put to them the question, "can we work together on a plan to refund transportation in LA County." The response, from environmental, labor, and business leaders was a universal "yes." How that pledge plays out over the next several months remains to be seen.