Finally, the Southland blog takes a look at the forest of oil derricks that once peppered the landscape of Los Angeles. Today, oil extraction is done in more subtle ways through creatively designed buildings that hide the wells, but such was not possible back in the day. Also, KCET explores the communities that will one day house the South Bay Extension of the Green Line. Some of the destinations include Eastgate Plaza, a shopping center that has become a de facto gathering place for the local Japanese community, and the Madrona Marsh Nature Center.
Will LA Mayor Eric Garcetti reshape the transportation landscape of the city he leads? The mayor will oversee new rail lines and complete streets initiatives during his tenure, even though many of these initiatives were ushered in by his predecessor Antonio Villaraigosa. However, while Villaraigosa was seen as a visionary, Garcetti is considered more pragmatic in his approach to addressing transportation problems. Garcetti may very well focus on reassessing the relationship between the citizens of Los Angeles and its existing infrastructure. The same could probably be said of whoever is set to lead the city’s Department of Transportation, which one pundit feels Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner for the City of New York, would be more than capable for the job.
As the state continues its climb out of the recession housing affordability around the state is once again moving front and center. While much of the media’s attention is focused solely on the cost of housing there is much more at stake. For middle and low-income families, affordable housing options accessible to transportation choices, jobs, education, and other services and amenities are critical for their economic well-being and health as well as that of our regions and state as a whole.
As California’s regions invest in expanding transit systems and building walkable communities it is critical that housing in these areas is affordable to a diverse set of incomes. On average low and middle income residents ride transit at significantly higher rates than those at the higher end of the scale. In other words, in order to maximize carbon and air quality emissions reductions affordable homes in existing and future transit rich areas are critical. At the same time, the true measure of affordability is not the cost of housing alone but instead the combination of housing and transportation costs.
The most glaring example we are currently seeing is from San Francisco where there is a growing backlash against Silicon Valley “techies” that are driving soaring housing costs that are pricing out middle and low-income families. In our own backyard, rapidly rising housing prices in Silicon Beach are making news for the same reason. Of course housing prices in much of the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro regions have been out of reach for a large proportion of working families for a long time. The important lesson for us is that in order for us to achieve our emission reduction and economic goals we must invest in transit and affordable homes in an integrated, strategic manner. The result will be less sprawl, healthier communities, and enhanced economic opportunities for all and competitiveness for our regions.
LA City Councilmember Janice Hahn called for better working arrangements for port truck drivers. Hahn noted that, even as the ports generate a multitude of middle-class jobs, most drivers come from other countries and work as independent contractors, to the convenience of the truck companies that regularly deduct expenses from truckers’ salaries. Moreover, while the councilmember cited the success of the Clean Trucks Program, which has reduced air pollution at the ports by up to 80%, much of the costs to modify tractors are shouldered on the truck drivers themselves. To date, however, state and federal labor agencies have increasingly enforced regulations that favor drivers, while some transportation companies have answered the clamors of drivers by offering better wages and various benefits. Truck drivers and transport companies should get their act together if our ports want to stay competitive in light of an expanding Panama Canal.
The LA Times recently profiled LA County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Jennifer Klausner, an avid bicyclist since childhood who worked for several toy manufacturers before taking the helm at LACBC. While she enjoys bicycling to her destinations, including social gatherings, Klausner is not lost on the challenges of doing so, including dealing with rude and entitled drivers. Some neighborhoods and cities such as Beverly Hills remain averse to installing any kind of bike infrastructure, while others must balance the needs of automobile drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, such as what is unfolding regarding efforts to repair and reconfigure the Hyperion Avenue Bridge near Glendale. Klausner believes that a complete change of transport culture, not just more bike lanes and safety features, is required in order to make streets safer for all users and that change can only come if people demand it.
Confusion has arisen as to how the locking of turnstiles at Metro Rail stations has affected ridership numbers. A survey by the Los Angeles Times determined that the turnstiles have reduced as many as 800,000 monthly boardings, to 4 million boardings a month. Currently, Metro does not use turnstiles to count boardings as other agencies do. Instead, Metro relies on staff counting a sample of passengers at stations, then interpolating the data according to the time of day and adding seasonal adjustments. However, turnstile and sample counts have differed greatly, with turnstile numbers much higher than what was sampled, and vice versa. Metro depends on these counts to receive federal funds and hope that turnstile counts can be incorporated to ridership numbers in the future.
Celebrated architect Frank Gehry is back into the fold of the Grand Avenue Project. His firm Gehry Partners recently submitted a proposal for residences, retail space and a hotel on the parcel of property across Grand Avenue from Disney Hall, which currently houses a parking garage. The firm proposes developing the entire parcel all at once, replacing the phased approach initially favored by primary developer The Related Companies. The Grand Avenue Authority will review the new, $650 million project proposal. If things go well, construction could start in 2015 and be finished by 2019. The proposed project would sit a block west of the Civic Center Red/Purple Line Station. Readers weigh in on the news.
Metro has also begun discussion as to how to bring about a new ballot measure that could bring transit and highway projects about at a faster pace. Though Metro tried to extend the existing Measure R by 30 years in 2012, the ensuing ballot measure, Measure J, failed to cross the required 2/3 supermajority by the thinnest of threads. Pundits attribute the failure to the lack of new projects, apart from what Measure R would fund, that soured some voters. Hoping to learn from their mistakes, Metro will craft a new measure with input from other communities and officials that may make the measure more palatable to voters. The new measure may possibly enact an outright sales tax increase instead of an extension of the Measure R tax. The Los Angeles Times believes proponents should take their time to write up the measure, which could come to voters either in 2014 or 2016.
Metro has started rolling the ball on general fare restructuring with a discussion brought about by the agency’s Finance, Budget & Audit Committee. With TAP now fully implemented and subway station turnstiles latched, Metro believes an opportunity is at hand to bring about distance-based fares on rail lines. However, Metro staff is also considering more innovative schemes that would encourage transfers that in turn would help make commuting faster and free up resources. Financial pressures have made discussion of the subject a necessity, since a lower farebox recovery ratio (currently at 26%) would lead to reduced federal grants and less service. It will be several months before Metro can divulge more concrete plans and discuss them at public hearings. In the meantime, view the agenda item to see what Metro has in mind.
Finally, let us delve back into the history of Los Angeles, where more than 70 years ago the portion of the Hollywood Freeway through the Cahuenga Pass opened. At the time, the road contained railroad tracks in the median that transported Pacific Electric trains between Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. The tracks did not last long, however: Rail service ended in 1952, with the tracks paved over to provide additional traffic lanes. Fortunately, rail returned to this corridor in 2000 with the opening of the North Hollywood Red Line. In relation, a recent LA City Council motion asks to support a repeal of rail on the segment of a former railway west of North Hollywood (now occupied by the Orange Line), which has a history of its own.