Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, is retiring at the end of the year. Knatz is the first department head to announce she is leaving during Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s assessment of department heads and general managers. Knatz’s departure from her post occurs amidst a $5-billion expansion of the Panama Canal, which threatens the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor complex. She was appointed by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Gary Lee Moore, city engineer and general manager of the Bureau of Engineering, will serve in Knatz’s position until a permanent replacement is found. In related news, Gina Marie Lindsay will remain as the executive director of Los Angeles World Airports amidst a flurry of personnel changes.
Fees charged by airlines are the reason the industry is profitable: They bring in more than $15 billion per year. Fliers are likely familiar with baggage and reservation fees, but revenue from these sources declined 7% from April to June compared to last year in this same time period. Now, airlines are exploring other means to collect fees, and fliers may find these alternatives more appealing. For instance, airlines are allowing passengers to pay for an empty seat next to them. They are also renting iPads with movies and selling first-class meals to economy passengers. By paying a fee, fliers can also bypass baggage claim and their luggage can be sent straight to their office or residence. In the future, airlines will make use of fliers’ purchase history to better target what they offer.
The percentage of seats filled in aircraft on worldwide flights hit a record-high 83.4% in August this year. The International Air Transport Association reported that demand growth surpassing capacity has caused the spike. The same report also states that the government shutdown is not expected to affect the operation of commercial flights, although it could have an impact on demand.
Thinner backrests are in the future for United Airlines aircraft, as a means to fit more seats into each cabin. This modification will not, however, increase legroom, and the width of the seats will remain the same. The airlines retort that thinner seats are ergonomically better.
Poor roads in Los Angeles are costing drivers in Southern California more than $800 a year. A national transportation analysis found that roads in LA are the most run-down in the United States. City data states that the network of roads in the area is graded a C-, while some received an F. Fixing these streets would cost $3 billion, officials say, and city staff members are looking into a borrowing program to possibly fund these repairs.
Construction for a seven-story apartment and retail building will commence in Downtown Los Angeles this January. The location of the building is bound by Olive Street, Grand Avenue, Pico Boulevard and 12th Street. The complex will have 640 apartment units above restaurants and shops, and will cost $245 million to build. There are to be 740 parking spaces for bicycles and 595 for cars in the site, as well as an acre of open space, two fitness centers and two swimming pools. High-rises are also in the future for downtown in residential blocks to the east of the Staples Center. Land acquired in this area is set for the development of a $750-million residential complex. Apartment units would start at $2,200 per month. In addition to this complex, Mack Urban, a real estate investment and development company, aims to establish approximately 1,500 apartments. One of the challenges in marketing these units is developing the area in which they are located into one with character, according to architect David Martin of AC Martin Partners.
A study examining the feasibility of extending the trolley at The Grove has begun. Los Angeles billionaire developer Rick Caruso is working with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see if it would be viable to use the trolley to transport people through the Fairfax area. He would also like it to take passengers to the Beverly Center via Third Street and other destinations along the way. Caruso Affiliated has suggested a connection between the proposed Metro Purple Line station near LACMA and The Grove. The study is anticipated to last between six to eight weeks. Some residents raised concerns that expanding the trolley’s route and laying out new tracks could increase traffic in the already-congested area.
The $1.9 billion renovations at the Los Angeles International Airport Tom Bradley International Terminal included a new automated system that allows lasers and lights to help park planes in place of glow sticks held by ramp agents. However, the upgrade failed to incorporate amenities widely sought by regular fliers, particularly improved Wi-Fi. Additions to the terminal include more high-end vendors and LED screens. Recent letters to the Los Angeles Times reveal disappointment with these new screens. Elke Heitmeyer of Sherman Oaks wrote that travelers “do not need to be bombarded by entertainment they didn’t choose” and simply wish to converse among companions, read, or utilize their electronics. Juan Matute from Claremont wrote that it is a shame that LAX does not seem to meet expectations.
The Transit Coalition is in dire straits. Despite various initiatives to advocate for public transportation improvements (including those from the CSUN Transportation Tiger Team), we need critical funds to continue preparing and distributing our weekly and monthly newsletters. Our October edition of Moving Southern California is ready to print, but without funding we are unable to do so. Many of our readers enjoy and depend on these news sources to learn about transportation policy that affects Southern Californians in real and tangible ways.
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Efforts by the Tiger Team to improve mass transit include enhancing transfer connections between Metro Bus and Metrolink, connecting Sylmar and Northridge with Metro Rapid service, improving Orange Line service, and advancing other potential projects. Meanwhile, The Transit Coalition continues to bring renowned transportation experts and officials to speak at dinner meetings and inform attendees on projects and developments. The Transit Coalition has also succeeded in advocating expansion of Metrolink weekend service, one of the critical tenets of our Metrolink MAX campaign. These and other Transit Coalition initiatives would also be in jeopardy without your continued support. Please don’t hesitate to make a contribution so that our work continues undisturbed. Thank you for your continued support.
In other news, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed new members to the city Planning Commission, which included former Metro Boardmember Richard Katz. Also, Governing magazine takes a look at LA’s interconnected traffic signal system, which can be operated in its entirety from a single remote location. Finally, AAA predicts that gasoline prices could drop by as much as 30 cents this December now that the busy summer driving season has ended.
In development news, the Los Angeles Times editorialized the need for developers to map out potential fault lines before going forward with their projects, precisely to avoid the situation in Century City mentioned earlier this week. Meanwhile, LA city and county officials asked Grand Avenue developer Related to go back to the drawing board and devise an alternative to Related’s current, underwhelming proposal for a property across the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Also, Governor Brown signed into law a major piece of CEQA reform that grants exemptions to developments within transit-priority areas and modernizes certain measurements regarding automobile traffic impacts.