Recently, the LA Times published an article about a woman, Carmen Mendoza, who must use as many as 8 bus lines to transport her children to disparate schools across Los Angeles. One reader was so moved by the story that he decided to help out by giving the supercommuter her own vehicle. The donor noted how Mendoza’s experiences reflected his own rise from humble beginnings to become the owner of a growing air conditioning and refrigeration equipment business. The donor pooled funds from himself and others, delivered the used but well-maintained 2004 Kia Sedona van to Mendoza and later gave her family money to purchase a car insurance policy. This act of generosity is a far cry from what transients must now deal with thanks to Metro’s new policy of limiting the use of Union Station waiting areas to those who possess a train ticket. While no easy solutions exist for this thorny issue, Times readers were divided on how this new policy should be interpreted.
The future of Los Angeles transportation aesthetics continues to intrigue the minds of urban designers. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne takes a look at Metro’s efforts to develop a design template for all of its transit stations. Known as a “kit of parts”, this new template would bring uniform designs for station portals, ticketing machines, street furniture and turnstiles. While the kit of parts will undoubtedly save Metro funds in the long run by keeping materials and maintenance methods consistent, the effort is more geared towards giving the Metro system a recognizable global brand that is in tune with transportation systems in other cities. However, Hawthorne fears that the kit of parts as currently conceived is too sterile and would take years to fully implement. Our September 2012 issue of Moving Southern California discussed this concept.
Hawthorne also turned his attention toward the ongoing discourse of public space in Los Angeles. In recent years, new architectural marvels and open spaces have lifted the city’s global profile. However, with more people using public transportation and thus making last-mile connections by foot, there is still plenty to do to make the experience inviting. According to Hawthorne, such efforts should also extend to connecting Los Angeles with its neglected river and adding park space even as demand for improvable property increases. Meanwhile, the same newspaper’s editorial board gave glowing remarks on an effort to convert the former Harbor Subdivision into a bike trail that would connect to the Los Angeles River.
A recent analysis concluded that numerous buildings in recent years were approved by local governments without considering their proximity to active faults. The state forbids construction of buildings on faults and requires developers to perform geological studies that would determine whether or not such buildings sit atop of or are near to faults. However, the state is also responsible for mapping out these faults so that developers and local governments can get prompt answers. Yet the state has underfunded this important endeavor, thanks to routine budget cuts that undermined what was once a steadfast effort to map such faults. State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) called on the state to increase funds and accelerate the pace of fault mapping.
As our newsletter previously announced, Metro is contemplating another ballot measure to both expedite Measure R-funded projects and construct entirely new ones. Considering that the last attempt to extend Measure R, in 2012, failed at the polls by the thinnest of margins, Metro is hoping that voters will favor a new and distinct measure that is more inclusive of the county’s transportation needs. The new measure could increase the county sales tax instead of extending the one enacted under Measure R. The agency’s Planning and Programming Committee recommended that the Metro Board bring the matter to voters in 2016, rather than 2014, so that the public can better vet the possible measure and officials from across the county can suggest projects not currently funded under Measure R.
In tune with this development, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern lists the 10 things he hopes to see in the new year. Alpern notes that Metro must communicate effectively to prospective voters and allow for greater transparency in its dealings in order to gain the trust of the public. Alpern also advocates that state and federal legislators representing Southern California be more aggressive in bringing home matching funds to turn local transportation projects from fantasy to reality. The Transit Coalition will keep tabs on this developing proposal and offer its own ideas as to how Metro can best use the funds garnered from this measure with regards to public transportation.
Here’s what we wish our state leaders would make for their New Year’s resolution: more money for real transportation choices! New funds from the state’s cap-and-trade climate program – and we’re talking billions over the next 7 years – could be spent on public transportation, biking, walking, green space, and affordable homes near transit. All it will take is some true leadership.
That’s why we need those interested in advancing environmentally friendly forms of transport to email the Governor now and ask him to propose a budget that prioritizes health, climate and opportunity for people of every income. The state government will release a draft budget in early 2014, so now is the time to make our voices heard and influence his proposal. By taking action today, the public can help create a California that we all love living in, with less pollution and more bikes, buses, trains, and affordable homes.
In a Q-and-A between Patt Morrison and Michelle Mowery, the senior bicycle coordinator at the Los Angeles City Department of Transportation, Mowery reveals some pieces of the puzzle of how LA is taking steps forward to better accommodate cyclists. Mowery compares how Copenhagen is similar to LA and how fourth graders in the Netherlands receive bike education. She says a grant is in progress that would take such education to high schools, similarly to driver’s ed. Other goals for the city include a mile grid (where, regardless of location, people would be within one mile of a bikeway) and implementing roundabouts instead of speed humps that the city no longer funds.
Many people travel to see loved ones during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. During last week’s rainstorm, three separate bus accidents in the Inland Empire occurred on wet highways, one involving Riverside Transit Agency Line 27 on Route 74 between Hemet and Perris, two involving casino buses along the 15 Freeway in Corona just south of the 91 Freeway and Pala Mesa in San Diego County. More recently, a separate wreck occurred on the I-10 in Baldwin Park which involved a casino bus.
All of the collisions are under investigation and should serve as lessons for all of us planning to travel during the holidays. Drivers should be extra careful on the roads and allow plenty of extra time. Also, if you are drinking, do not under any circumstances drive.
As an aside, for folks who happen to be in the Redlands area during the holidays, several local small businesses have pooled resources together to fund a program where people who may have had too much to drink can get a ride home for free or reduced cost in lieu of taxi travel. The Responsible Redlands Safe Rides Home Program will be available now through New Year’s Day. According to local reports, San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos praised the program.
Representatives of BART operators and management resolved the latest and hopefully last dispute over a previously ratified contract. While the two sides agreed to a new labor contract, the question on paid family leave was not properly answered during contract negotiations. The approved solution would require existing resources and the refurbished contract must still be ratified by both union members and the BART Board of Directors.
Foothill Transit will soon inaugurate its first new commuter bus line in seven years. Line 495 will run from the Industry Park and Ride to Downtown Los Angeles starting in January. The line will make use of the El Monte Busway and stop only at Cal State LA and the LA County Medical Center. The service will cost $4.90 each way when the service launches this January, a stark contrast to the $8.50 Metrolink riders must pay each way to reach the same area. The one-year pilot project is funded by Measure R and will cost $71,000 a month to operate.
With a nearly 75% increase in parking fines throughout the last six years, Los Angeles is generating more than $150 million per year in parking revenue. Combined with receipts from parking meters and the 10% Parking User’s Tax, the City of Los Angeles makes more than $300 million annually. Additionally, an estimated $100 million of parking revenue comes from the Staples Center, Los Angeles International Airport, LA Convention Center, and various locations owned by Los Angeles. According to an opinion piece in CityWatch, the rise in parking fines was approved without informing neighborhood councils, homeowner associations, and other stakeholders.
For misinformed reasons like this, the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative, a new grassroots movement, is receiving support throughout Los Angeles. Among other things, the group aims to create a parking strategy that consults with stakeholders. The Parking Freedom Initiative also wants to reform parking enforcement so that citizens can view regulations in a more positive fashion. It should be noted that removing or weakening parking regulations negatively affects traffic and the local economy, as Donald Shoup and other parking researchers increasingly realize.