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.
Former Caltrans Director Will Kempton proposes a ballot measure that, if approved, would double the vehicle license fee with the proceeds going to road repair and mass transit. Former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed the fee when he came into office in 2003. Since then, however, gas tax revenues have not kept up with the demand for repairs, and more fuel-efficient vehicles generate less revenue.
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.
California HSR proponents are disheartened but not defeated upon hearing two rulings that sided with project opponents that claimed the project as currently conceived is in violation of Proposition 1A, the 2008 voter-approved mandate that also allowed the state to issue bonds and finance the project. Among other findings, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that the Authority did not concretely identify all sources of funds for building the initial operating segment, which the Authority estimates will cost $30 billion. However, the ruling stopped short of halting the project, meaning that design work can continue on the first segment between Fresno and Madera.
The Los Angeles Daily News argued that what will soon be under construction is not what the voters wanted and that said voters should at least get a chance to approve a scaled-down but more costly project (at least in comparison to what was approved under Prop 1A). The San Francisco Chronicle, however, countered that, while the problems with the project should be addressed, now is not the time to send it back to the table or have it succumb to the actions of affirmed opponents who simply want to stop the project altogether.
In order to collect real-time traffic data, highway maintenance agencies install loops on roads that tally how many cars are passing through a given section of road and at what speed are they traveling. California has 27,000 such sensors installed on the surface of state highways. However, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that 9,000 of these (about a third of the total) do not work. The loops in theory should work for decades if properly maintained. However, repeated resurfacing work on highways, copper theft and general wear and tear are cutting down the life span of these devices. Several apps and websites use data received from these loops to properly inform drivers of traffic snarls and help them choose alternate routes so as to not make things worse for themselves and the traveling public.
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.