The CA High Speed Rail Authority released a draft business plan for 2014, which forecasts slightly lower construction costs and higher operations costs and ridership. The new plan anticipates an increase in shorter trips, leading to lower fares and revenues. However, as previous plans have stated, the bullet train is expected to pay for its own operations costs, without the need of government subsidies. After a public hearing on the plan, the Authority is expected to approve the plan in April, with consideration by the state legislature starting in May.
Once-predominant African-American communities across LA have become Latino-majority and eventually disappeared. However, Leimert Park remains the sole hold-out as the village retains its culture, but is fully aware of the societal changes that may invoke future change. The community successfully fought to have a stop for the future Crenshaw/LAX light rail line added. Even though residents are concerned that the community is in a decline due to retail options elsewhere, the same residents have largely opposed developments that might bring new businesses. Those advocating for a revival believe that any effort should also foster the local arts community as well as local businesses.
Even as the City of Los Angeles advances its bike plan, no one is lost on the reality that biking in LA remains a harrowing ordeal. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez concluded as much when he joined city bike coordinator Michelle Mowery on a ride that explored some of the new facilities on Glendale Boulevard and 2nd Street (the latter featuring a buffered bike lane in a tunnel) near Downtown LA. Despite new bike lanes running along existing city streets, some of these, including the buffered lane in the aforementioned tunnel, required taking a lane away from car traffic, leading to automobile congestion and frayed nerves. Moreover, drivers perceive that the bike lanes are hardly used for the amount of street space they take. Nevertheless, Mowery states that the city hopes that 5% of all commuters will use bikes even as elements of the bike plan come online in the coming years.
Metro is on a roll as the agency schedules public meetings covering a variety of topics. One of the first public hearings on proposed service changes was recently held in Van Nuys, which had a surprisingly good turnout. Riders were generally supportive of the new Line 588X, a proposed express service between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, despite skipping service to Sherman Oaks. Meetings for other service areas (except South Bay, where no service changes are proposed) are listed in Upcoming Events.
Additionally, Metro is hosting meetings on its arts program, where participants can learn how to form part of the program. A hearing on the proposed fare restructuring will be held on Saturday, March 29. Finally, a pair of meetings updating community members on the Purple Line Extension will be held on Thursday, February 13. Information on these is also listed in Upcoming Events.
Transit advocate Neil Bjornsen has died at the age of 68. Hailing from San Marino High School and earning a Bachelor’s degree in transportation, Bjornsen has advised for Metro and its predecessor agency and served in their Citizens Advisory Councils since 1977. During his tenure, Bjornsen advocated for investments in deferred maintenance and bus and rail safety improvements. Bjornsen also worked with other organizations such as NARP and the Orange Empire Railway Museum.
Last week, the California State Transportation agency released an external review of Caltrans that paints the agency as stagnant and backwards. It offers a refreshingly candid and detailed critique, and more importantly points to a host of critical reforms, starting with a proposed one-month quick start to establish a new mission, vision and goals for the agency. The report recommends the direction come “from the top down and outside in”, to avoid the long-standing status quo at Caltrans where bottoms-up planning via staff just leads to “the culture endorsing itself”.
Additionally the report finds that Caltrans has not adapted its mission and goals to support statewide objectives that include reducing carbon emissions, promoting smarter land-use, and providing multimodal transportation choices. Instead the agency has continued its focus on “improving” auto-mobility by age-old investments in widening highways and roads. The result of this policy has been intense traffic congestion, poor air quality, and cemented the transportation sector as the number one emitter of greenhouse gases. Just as importantly, it has left many Californians without the transportation choices they need to access jobs, educational opportunities, healthcare, and other destinations that are critical for improving economic competitiveness and improving quality of life. To be sure Caltrans will not change overnight but it has been firmly put on notice.
The California Supreme Court granted Governor Jerry Brown’s request to expedite review by an appeals court of a lower-court decision to freeze access to bond money for the state high-speed rail project. However, the Supreme Court stopped short of taking the case themselves as desired by Brown. However, even with the accelerated timeframe, a decision may come well after April 1, when the state must spend its own money to start construction in order to receive matching federal funds. Despite the recent, short-term setbacks, it is important to keep an eye on the larger vision of intercity HSR. A pair of contributors argues as much, stating that HSR will be essential in reducing carbon emissions per state objectives in the coming decades.
While discussion on HSR continues, the National Association of Railroad Passengers reports that the California State Senate announced the formation of the Select Committee on Passenger Rail on January 27. The committee will meet this spring to discuss policies to improve passenger rail service in the state.
In the Bay Area, the gentrification wars circling around Google employee transport has worsened. A recent agreement will allow the city to charge buses transporting Google employees from San Francisco proper to the Google campus in Mountain View. However, long-time residents have remained irate over the perceived gentrification of their communities and the increase in housing costs. Now, a group styling themselves as the Counterforce are making the fight personal by protesting at the Berkeley home of a Google employee who uses one of the company’s self-driving cars for his work commute. Perhaps in response to these developments, Google announced that it will run a trial ferry service between Alameda and Redwood City.
Folks living in Southwest Riverside County have long been wondering how much longer they must wait to get faster connections to other portions of Southern California through public transportation outside of peak commute hours. We can say for certain that both The Transit Coalition and the Riverside Transit Agency are hearing ongoing requests for better bus service and seamless timed connections to the Perris Valley Line Metrolink extension. Both the recommended routes from RTA’s Comprehensive Operational Analysis of 2007 and the Western Riverside Council of Governments’ Bus Rapid Transit Route Planning Project study of 2010 find faster streamlined connections between the Temecula and Murrieta regions and the rest of RTA’s transit network up north feasible and desirable. Our blog goes into detail what needs to happen in order to speed up bus travel times for southwest Riverside County.
Meanwhile, columnist Steve Lopez ponders why Los Angeles does not repair its sidewalksdespite repeated legal actions in favor of injured pedestrians and disabled persons. In response to a previous Los Angeles Times editorial on Pasadena contemplating a road diet on Colorado Boulevard, readers ask Pasadena officials to think twice before going forward. Opponents point towards Santa Monica, where similar policies were placed into action at the expense of automobile travel. At the other end of the country, New York is cracking down on jaywalking in response to a string of pedestrian deaths.