A proposed site for a Century City tower may lie above an active fault line. The Los Angeles City Council said when it approved the building in 2009, it did not mandate a prior fault investigation. The Santa Monica fault is approximately 25 miles in length and runs from the Pacific Ocean to Century City. Seismologists say this fault may be able to produce an earthquake with a magnitude exceeding 7.0. Experts said that the area in which the tower would be built is in a zone of earthquake faults.
New enhancements are in place at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. Improvements to the terminal cost $1.9 billion and included multimedia displays and 42 high-end vendors, such as Michael Kors and Hugo Boss. However, a survey revealed that some amenities requested by frequent fliers were not added. Among these requests were more charging stations, better Wi-Fi, desks to do work for business travelers, and printing stations.
The government shut-down is underway as Congress continues debating a plan for government spending covering the first few months of the 2014 fiscal year, which started today, October 1.
Regardless of what happens, it looks like transportation programs will be cut as a result of sequestration. Sequestration requires at least a 7% cut for discretionary programs to meet the FY14 budget caps. For many programs this will mean a 7% cut from the FY2012 funding levels for 2014, deeper than the 5% required for the expired 2013 fiscal year. As severe as the cuts in FY14 are, they are only the leading edge of devastating cuts to come if Congress does not agree on a long-term way to provide the transportation trust fund with more, dedicated revenues. Relying only on existing revenue from the federal gas tax would lead to massive cuts to highway and transit projects starting next fall in FY15.
In general, programs funded from the highway trust fund are not subject to the sequester. Federal-aid highway programs and core transit formula programs funded by the trust fund were not cut in this last year. In fact, funding for those programs increased slightly over their FY2012 levels to match the authorized levels in MAP-21. In addition, Amtrak will also continue to run during the shutdown. However, the sequester will hamper certain functions of the Federal Transit Administration, including doling out transit grants, which would seriously affect the progress of the Wilshire Subway and the Regional Connector, among other things.
However, in FY 2014, because fuel tax revenues won’t be sufficient for the funding levels authorized by MAP-21 for those programs, MAP-21 also called for a transfer of $12.6 billion from the general fund into the Highway Trust Fund. That $12.6 billion is subject to the sequester, and will face cuts of over $900 million. Unlike other programs, though, this cut does not directly lead to cuts in funding for highway and transit projects. What it will do is speed up the timeline for the Highway Trust Fund going broke, creating the potential for greater cuts or the need for similarly large transfers of general funds — a difficult proposition. In fact, some are concerned that, due to sequestration, the Trust Fund may not remain solvent through even this next fiscal year as originally expected when MAP-21 was enacted.
Despite numerous initiatives to reduce deaths along the tracks of the Blue Line, the light rail line still remains tempting for those who wish to commit suicide. Metro has installed gates for both cars and pedestrians as a means to at least reduce accidental deaths. The agency has pursued other ideas, such as installing suicide hotline information at crossings and safety officers that, among other things, keep on the lookout for those who might want to take their own lives. The generally sour economic situation in communities served by the Blue Line may exacerbate the problem, according to psychology experts, never mind the effects a suicide has on family members, witnesses and train operators. Now Metro is reaching out to the public by asking them to help others who might contemplate taking their lives.
While residents may not feel the effects of the slowly receding recession, businesses are gradually purchasing more business class seating on flights. One study notes that, over a span of a year, 4.6% more travel agents claim that at least 11% of their customers are booking business- and first-class flights. Bookings of upscale hotel rooms catering to business travelers increased 3.5%. However, the study notes that most of the increase comes from executive travelers, not lower-level managers and businesspersons who continue to travel economy class. Airlines will continue to cater to lucrative business-class passengers as a means to stay in the black. While the industry remains stable, fuel prices and disappointing results in new markets have depressed profits across the board.
The food truck craze continues to sweep Southern California, and even airports are not spared. Long Beach Airport already has a parking lot set aside for food trucks every Tuesday. However, security regulations do not allow food trucks to park in front of the terminals. So then what is the solution? Build a facsimile food truck inside the airport, just like LAX plans to do. The airport concessions operator will install the fake food truck inside Terminal 4, to which established food truck chefs will operate the stand on a rotational basis.
Meanwhile, four LA mayors of past and present came together to inaugurate the rebuilt southern concourse of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. The refurbished gate terminals are designed to handle larger aircraft that pundits believe will dominate air travel in the near future. Two of the former mayors in attendance, Richard Riordan and James Hahn, supported plans to expand the airport but ran into community opposition. It was former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who successfully settled the lawsuits stemming from opponents. However, construction continues on the northern and eastern ends of the terminal, and completion is slated for 2015.
Columnists have added a few musings of their own when it comes to local transportation issues. Venice resident Jim Smith opined that Metro must move away from building Downtown-centric lines and instead enhance inter-community services. Downtown LA continues to see a boom in new residences and businesses, but Smith argues that these improvements come at the cost of the needs of transit-riding Angelenos who otherwise view the central city as a bothersome transfer point and nothing else. One curious option to look at according to Smith is adding a streetcar connecting Venice with Santa Monica parallel to the beach. (It stands to note that the Pacific Electric Railway had one such service that ran as far south as Redondo Beach, while the cautious eye can still discern the right-of-way for a different PE line towards Centinela Avenue.)
On a different topic, researcher Charles Chieppo took a shot at the deceptively simple rule that required the Department of Labor to approve transit employee deals before the federal government doles out funds. Invocation of the rule led to a near-cannibalization of transit services in California last August and in fact increased costs for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Chieppo believes that the rule is antiquated, needlessly shoulders increasing pension costs onto taxpayers and must be rescinded.
Metro announced that the agency will move forward with a 10-month seismic overhaul of the historic North Hollywood train depot. It remains unclear what kind of service or business the restored depot will host, although community members hope that a museum may come to fruition once the depot is reopened.
After numerous failed attempts by bicycle advocates to increase street safety across the state, Governor Jerry Brown finally signed into law a Give-Me-3 bill that requires motorists to give bicyclists traveling on the street at least 3 feet of clearance. Brown previously vetoed two bills that called for the same rule due to questions regarding liability and safety concerns. This iteration, AB 1371, makes a concession that requires drivers to slow down when approaching bicyclists if drivers cannot offer a 3-foot buffer space.
Also, the state Public Utilities Commission approved new rules that would govern peer-to-peer car sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, effectively legalizing such services. The vote is seen as a reflection of a change in economic models where customers select multi-owner transportation providers. On a more negative note, the Beverly Hills City Council voted to file an additional complaint against the Wilshire Subway in federal court. The new claim states that the environmental document for the project should have taken into account new seismic information released by the Beverly Hills Unified School District, which is vehemently opposed to building the subway underneath a high school.
The Los Angeles Times profiled a group of Latina bicyclists who aim to increase bicycle awareness to women who may feel apprehensive about the concept. Despite the explosion in cycling over the last several years, only one in five cyclists is female, according to the LA County Bike Coalition. Those familiar with this problem cite the lack of resources, the fear of injury and the absence of training as some of the factors women consider when deciding whether to bike it or not. Some of those concerns are justified, since almost half of all car crashes in Los Angeles are hit-and-runs, many of which involve bicyclists. The aforementioned group, known as the Ovarian Psyco Cycles Brigade (yeah), seeks to empower women into using bicycles and keep the machismo that permeates through the male-dominant bike culture in check. Inviting the whole family, men and women, boys and girls, to the upcoming CicLAvia event on Sunday, October 6, would make for a good start. Of note, event organizers recently received a $500,000 grant to set up future events.