In other automotive news, a Northwestern University study revealed that auto repair shops charge women more than men, with proprietors perceiving that women are not as informed of repair costs as men. Notably, however, when prospective clients started bargaining for a better price, 35% of women attained the lower price, while only 25% of men succeeded. Researchers caution that drivers of both sexes must call in to various repair shops, compare quotes and learn as much about their vehicles as possible so as to be better prepared to demand a more reasonable price.
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.
With Metro releasing its preliminary findings on the I-110 HOT lanes, the Los Angeles Times gets in on the action. Notably, tolls have reached as high as $15.40 per trip (though the article does not make it clear whether this is for the entire length of the HOT lanes). As expected, travel times on the free lanes increased, while those on the HOT lanes decreased. Metro attributes this to the removal of illegal solo drivers from the formerly free carpool lanes. Seeing that vehicle numbers on the HOT lanes are slowly recovering, however, Metro and Caltrans hope that traffic volumes will even out as the one-year pilot project continues. Readers responded with grumblings on how their travels have been hampered on account of the HOT lanes.
Elsewhere, Silver Lake State Assemblymember Mike Gatto expanded the scope of a bill to allow solo drivers to use carpool lanes during off-peak times. Instead of applying the proposed law only on the 134 Freeway as originally proposed, the amended bill now includes other freeways with their own carpool lanes. Down south, the operator of the Orange County toll roads received a report criticizing the less-than-effective methods to stem the financial problems of the agency.
Smart Growth America just released a new report ranking the strength of new Complete Streets policies passed by local communities in 2012. Three of the top 10 cities that conform to Complete Streets policies are in California: Hermosa Beach, Huntington Park, and Rancho Cucamonga. See the full list here.
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.
Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., which owns Ralph’s and Food 4 Less, announced that they will install electric vehicle charging stations at their California and Arizona stores. This follows trends set by other retailers with California stores, who have charging stations in their parking lots. California currently has about a quarter of all charging stations across the country. The $1.5 million Kroger will use to pay for the installation will be matched by funds from charging station operator Ecotality, who in turn will contribute US Energy Department grants towards the installation.
Ever wonder what a day in the life of a parking enforcement officer looks like? LA Times columnist Gale Holland goes into the trenches to witness the parking wars that unfold on the streets every day. Between enforcement officers who are just doing their job and the citizens who fight for scarce spaces, often getting citations in the process, who wins? Why, it’s the city, of course, with the power to raise and collect parking fines, since these are a major source of municipal income.
With a $6 billion bond proposal to repair LA streets resurfacing, Councilmembers Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino are doing the smart thing by announcing a series of meetings to collect public input. This could make for a great opportunity to advocate for complete streets and the implementation of the LA Bike Plan as part of street repaving. In any case, there is no denying that something must be done to bring our streets into a state of good repair, despite the fact that repaving them as scheduled would cost the city about $300 million a year.
Speaking of HOV 2+ lanes, Caltrans has also concluded that much of Orange County’s carpool lanes are congested during peak congestion times, which could signal the need to increase the carpool occupancy requirement to three during peak hours to get the lanes moving again. Also up for discussion are converting the HOV 2+ lanes into HOT 3+ lanes. If the latter, officials must not impose a mandatory transponder requirement for usage; otherwise the county risks seeing a decline in HOV usage.
- In other news, LA Times readers weigh in on what Wilshire Boulevard means to them, in response to architecture reviewer Chris Hawthorne’s piece on this special street.
- The embattled green bike lanes on Spring Street face new criticism from location scouts who believe that the lanes hinder filmmaking.
- A judicial ruling favoring construction of the Perris Metrolink extension could be more complicated than meets the eye.
- Could Southwest Airlines soon join the parade of airlines charging new and altogether novel fees on its passengers, if its recent ads are any indication?