While Los Angeles waits for its bike sharing program to take off, New York City forges ahead with its own program, the largest in the nation. Columnist Alex Marshall opines that, while it’s still too early to see the results of bike sharing there or elsewhere, the concept could be a game-changer in one particular facet. Marshall noted that bike sharing allows a user to check out a bike at one station, ride it to another station and return the bike there; this means that one only uses the bike when one is riding it, saving the trouble of owning and maintaining the bike. Bike sharing can form a critical and practical answer to the “last-mile” problem that many transit services around the nation must grapple with.
Drivers and transit riders who regularly pass through Temecula along the southbound side of the I-15 freeway are well aware of long off ramp traffic queues which often spill over onto the freeway at the city’s three city exits: Winchester Road, Rancho California Road, and Temecula Parkway. The Temecula Parkway exit is by far the most hazardous as the off ramp lacks an auxiliary lane which causes the long lines to back up into the far right general purpose lane. Sometimes the backup spans a whole mile. With a curve along the freeway just a half mile north of the off-ramp, the hazard is serious. Traffic in the far right lane cruising along at 70 mph will often, without warning, see the lane come to a dead halt, leaving drivers little time to react. The area has been the site of numerous traffic collisions. The hazard has also created a minor traffic bottleneck.The City of Temecula has moved one step closer toward breaking ground on restructuring this congested and hazardous freeway interchange located on the southern end of town, a project long overdue. The city also reported that this construction is dubbed “ultimate” with the expectation that this will be the final interchange upgrade and the new configuration is expected to be able to handle growing traffic volumes until 2030. As much as officials want to designate the Temecula Parkway interchange upgrade as “ultimate,” it certainly will not be the area’s final transportation upgrade to come, especially with the projected growth in Temecula’s west side and lack of bus transit infrastructure.
For years, Arlington, VA, has been seen as an example of sensible, transit-oriented planning, and many of the residential and commercial projects within its boundaries that accommodate transit users are nationally recognized. However, the once unified coalition of smart growth proponents is coming undone by, of all things, a proposed streetcar. Much of the trouble stems from one newly elected local boardmember who has criticized the $300 million project for siphoning funds that could be used for other needs or at least a lower-cost busway. The sudden existence of a streetcar opponent at the municipal government level has enabled those with other grievances to come out of the woodwork and assail the project and the perceived political patronage that opponents believe has allowed smart growth ideas to flourish in Arlington. Some of the criticism is at least attached to the belief that streetcars lead to revitalized communities, a claim that is in dire need of further research and scientific validation.
Has construction of the state high-speed rail system started yet? It depends on who you ask. No official groundbreaking has occurred, despite assurances that the project was to do so last year. Opponents point out that the CASHR Authority still needs to acquire more properties before full-fledged construction work can begin. The project must also deal with two lawsuits that are months away from a resolution and could indeed call for further delays. However, the Authority also noted that the joint venture in charge of building the first segment is already surveying acquired land, designing the line and hiring workers at a fast pace.
Passengers of the Amtrak Southwest Chief face the prospect of losing service to select towns in Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas on account of an antiquated right-of-way that is in need of repair. Track owners BNSF have stated that they have no interest in repairing the tracks solely for the sake of passenger service and, in any case, would cost more than $200 million. The National Association of Railroad Passengers has been on the case, asking the states to pitch in and repair affected portions of the railroad, lest Amtrak reroutes the Chief through a route BNSF is more inclined to maintain. NARP is asking those who live in the above three states to write to their governors and ask that their governments provide the necessary funding. While on the subject, Amtrak re-launched the fare search engine on its website so that customers can select one of four different ticketing tiers that allow for greater savings on rail travel.
In automobile news, automated safety technologies that manufacturers have installed in vehicles for the past few years are finally paying off in the form of reduced crashes, according to LA Times auto journalist Jerry Hirsch. Finally, The Atlantic Cities delves into the manufacturing of those ubiquitous London taxicabs that are globally growing in demand.
Meanwhile, an interchange improvement in Westwood is now open for business. The new flyover ramp connecting the southbound 405 Freeway with eastbound Wilshire Boulevard opened this Monday morning, just in time for the commuter rush. The opening forms part of an initiative to open each new facility of the northbound HOV lane project the moment it is completed. However, a similar ramp for northbound 405 motorists accessing westbound Wilshire Boulevard remains under construction. Metro projects opening the new ramp later this year, with completion of the entire project slated for summer 2014, a year behind schedule. Back in the Inland Empire, the 215 Freeway project through San Bernardino nears completion, with ancillary improvements on the way.
Are you interested in renting out your home to visiting vacationers? A variety of internet outfits have cropped up in recent years providing users the ability to rent a home instead of a typical hotel room. Airbnb is a major player in this industry, catering to business visitors who must stay at a particular place for an extended amount of time. However, a new company called Onefinestay promises to give Airbnb a run for its money when it debuted in Los Angeles last Monday. The London-based service is very much an extension of what is being dubbed the “shared economy”, where users share each other’s resources in the same way that Lyft and Uber do.
In general aviation news, Alaska Airlines ranked highest in fuel efficiency among air carriers thanks to various innovations and operational actions. Also, a major computer snafu allowed United Airlines to sell tickets for virtually free (except for a small security surcharge). Despite this, the airline announced it will honor the tickets anyway, receiving a mostly positive response from passengers and watchdog groups. Also, for all of our Hello Kitty fans reading our eNewsletter, Taiwan-based EVA Air launched three round-trip flights from LAX to Taipei using Boeing 777-300 ER planes painted in Hello Kitty livery, starting last Wednesday. Kawaii!
The US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit aimed to stop the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, claiming that the deal would create the world’s largest carrier and thus reduce competition and increase air fares. Curiously, the two carriers would almost certainly not raise fares while the lawsuit lingers, if only as a means to avoid giving regulators a pretext to stop the merger. Through 2013, there have been only two fare increases that have been matched by other airlines, and fares have risen by only 1%.