The Los Angeles City Council approved the environmental documents for the Southern California International Gateway project, amidst outcry from both neighbors and the City of Long Beach. Despite pleas to at least postpone approval, the City Council moved forward in the belief that the project will be the most environmentally friendly of its kind, on top of the economic benefits it would bring. Opponents contend that the project is nothing like such and vowed to fight it in the courts. Curiously, Port of Los Angeles Director Geraldine Katz asserted that the city is working to have on-dock rail facilities, but even then there would be a need for an off-port area to handle all the cargo. Perhaps Katz should look into the GRID Project, which features a ship-to-rail design that would process all cargo in one area, without the need of a second facility.
After years of driving much less than historic trends, Americans’ average number of vehicle miles travelled (VMT) per capita are down to levels last seen in 1995. A new report from the US PIRG Education Fund shows that this is not a one-time blip. Rising vehicle operating costs, new technology, aging baby boomers and a younger generation driving much less are all propelling a long term shift. The report’s three scenario projections from business as usual to a more radical shift show sharp declines from the prevailing assumption that VMT will continue increasing as it had for decades.
What does this mean for the future of our transportation programs? A lot less money, for one thing, unless we change our dependence on the gas tax; these revenues are collapsing as vehicle efficiency increases and people drive less. With tightening revenues, we must make sure we are setting aside funds to fix our existing system. We must also continue to invest in the metropolitan regions and mid-sized cities that are trying to give their citizens more reliable and affordable options. This suggests that we must shift towards mixing revenue sources to build a unified transportation fund that can cover all our infrastructure needs.
Read more about the new report and what these trends meann the Transportation for America blog.
The Southern California International Gateway, whose environmental documents were recently approved, was the subject of a New York Times piece. Residents are certainly incensed that LA City harbor commissioners voted to move forward with the new railyard, over the former’s objections. Channeling that fury is Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, who took exception to the notion that the City of Los Angeles stands to gain much from the SCIG at the expense of his own City of Long Beach. Of course, if anyone gives consideration to the more promising and less taxing GRID Project proposal, this whole point might be moot.
Despite fears that federal sequestration would lead to problems at the airports, a flight monitoring website reports that on-time performance of flights across the nation remains the same compared to a year ago, with said performance actually improving at LAX over the same time period. However, the effects of sequestration on TSA screening times are unknown as of yet, though officials are working to keep moving passengers through as quickly as possible. Yet, passenger complaints rose anyway during the same period, according to an academic report. Also, LAX Terminal 5 is getting $229 million in upgrades. Delta will fork over $12 million of that, mostly towards a new VIP lounge.
Even as residents near the proposed Southern California International Gateway fester their consternation, both the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News came out in support of the project. The two editorials cite the economic contributions the ports bring to Southern California, often in a manner that is taken for granted. However, both also note that concerns from nearby residents must be allayed before a shovel of dirt is turned for the project, even as proponents assure that the project will remove 1.5 million truck trips on the Long Beach Freeway every year. If the GRID Project was built, the SCIG would be unnecessary.
For some years, California has regulated the content of sulfur in gasoline, allowing just 10 parts of sulfur per million parts total (ppm). The rest of the country follows more generous requirements of 30 ppm. However, the Obama Administration is proposing to bring the national limits in line with those of California. Automakers and environmentalists joined forces in supporting the proposal, stating that lower sulfur content can improve the efficiency of catalytic converters in vehicles, which in turn further reduce the amount of harmful particulates exiting exhaust pipes. However, oil companies and Congressmembers from oil-producing states are against the change, claiming that the health benefits are minimal.
A $1.6 billion harbor maintenance initiative by the federal government could mean good tidings for the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Previously, the Port of LA received nothing from this pot of cash, to which US Senator Barbara Boxer offered a bill that would provide the port with $2 million to $5 million a year initially. California ports have long suffered fiscal neglect from the federal government, raking in $430 million in taxes on shippers for the feds in 2011 but getting back $54 million. However, this effort also reveals more cunning ways lawmakers are getting around laws and rules prohibiting earmarks.
After reviewing the California high-speed rail project, the federal Government Accountability Office concluded that the ridership and revenue projections were reasonable. However, the agency also noted that the CAHSR Authority, which is responsible for managing the project, has adopted only some of its recommendations, to which the GAO warned that the Authority risks incurring cost overruns and delays if advice is not heeded. However, former proponent Quentin Kopp won’t hear any of that, for he is now against the current project on account of its perceived change of scope, including the blended plan through the San Francisco Peninsula. Former Congressmember Lynn Schenk has also changed alliances precisely because of this development. How can HSR succeed with friends like these?
Thanks to sequestration, the skies may be a little less safe for traveling as 14 air traffic control towers in Southern California may cease operations on April 7. These particular towers serve as an extra set of eyes and ears that inform pilots of traffic conditions in the air, reducing the risk of collisions and airport approach issues. Meanwhile, American Airlines is testing a boarding process where those without any carry-on luggage may board early, as a means of saving on costs related to passenger boarding.