Despite numerous initiatives to reduce deaths along the tracks of the Blue Line, the light rail line still remains tempting for those who wish to commit suicide. Metro has installed gates for both cars and pedestrians as a means to at least reduce accidental deaths. The agency has pursued other ideas, such as installing suicide hotline information at crossings and safety officers that, among other things, keep on the lookout for those who might want to take their own lives. The generally sour economic situation in communities served by the Blue Line may exacerbate the problem, according to psychology experts, never mind the effects a suicide has on family members, witnesses and train operators. Now Metro is reaching out to the public by asking them to help others who might contemplate taking their lives.
While residents may not feel the effects of the slowly receding recession, businesses are gradually purchasing more business class seating on flights. One study notes that, over a span of a year, 4.6% more travel agents claim that at least 11% of their customers are booking business- and first-class flights. Bookings of upscale hotel rooms catering to business travelers increased 3.5%. However, the study notes that most of the increase comes from executive travelers, not lower-level managers and businesspersons who continue to travel economy class. Airlines will continue to cater to lucrative business-class passengers as a means to stay in the black. While the industry remains stable, fuel prices and disappointing results in new markets have depressed profits across the board.
The food truck craze continues to sweep Southern California, and even airports are not spared. Long Beach Airport already has a parking lot set aside for food trucks every Tuesday. However, security regulations do not allow food trucks to park in front of the terminals. So then what is the solution? Build a facsimile food truck inside the airport, just like LAX plans to do. The airport concessions operator will install the fake food truck inside Terminal 4, to which established food truck chefs will operate the stand on a rotational basis.
Meanwhile, four LA mayors of past and present came together to inaugurate the rebuilt southern concourse of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. The refurbished gate terminals are designed to handle larger aircraft that pundits believe will dominate air travel in the near future. Two of the former mayors in attendance, Richard Riordan and James Hahn, supported plans to expand the airport but ran into community opposition. It was former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who successfully settled the lawsuits stemming from opponents. However, construction continues on the northern and eastern ends of the terminal, and completion is slated for 2015.
Columnists have added a few musings of their own when it comes to local transportation issues. Venice resident Jim Smith opined that Metro must move away from building Downtown-centric lines and instead enhance inter-community services. Downtown LA continues to see a boom in new residences and businesses, but Smith argues that these improvements come at the cost of the needs of transit-riding Angelenos who otherwise view the central city as a bothersome transfer point and nothing else. One curious option to look at according to Smith is adding a streetcar connecting Venice with Santa Monica parallel to the beach. (It stands to note that the Pacific Electric Railway had one such service that ran as far south as Redondo Beach, while the cautious eye can still discern the right-of-way for a different PE line towards Centinela Avenue.)
On a different topic, researcher Charles Chieppo took a shot at the deceptively simple rule that required the Department of Labor to approve transit employee deals before the federal government doles out funds. Invocation of the rule led to a near-cannibalization of transit services in California last August and in fact increased costs for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Chieppo believes that the rule is antiquated, needlessly shoulders increasing pension costs onto taxpayers and must be rescinded.
Metro announced that the agency will move forward with a 10-month seismic overhaul of the historic North Hollywood train depot. It remains unclear what kind of service or business the restored depot will host, although community members hope that a museum may come to fruition once the depot is reopened.
After numerous failed attempts by bicycle advocates to increase street safety across the state, Governor Jerry Brown finally signed into law a Give-Me-3 bill that requires motorists to give bicyclists traveling on the street at least 3 feet of clearance. Brown previously vetoed two bills that called for the same rule due to questions regarding liability and safety concerns. This iteration, AB 1371, makes a concession that requires drivers to slow down when approaching bicyclists if drivers cannot offer a 3-foot buffer space.
Also, the state Public Utilities Commission approved new rules that would govern peer-to-peer car sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, effectively legalizing such services. The vote is seen as a reflection of a change in economic models where customers select multi-owner transportation providers. On a more negative note, the Beverly Hills City Council voted to file an additional complaint against the Wilshire Subway in federal court. The new claim states that the environmental document for the project should have taken into account new seismic information released by the Beverly Hills Unified School District, which is vehemently opposed to building the subway underneath a high school.
The Los Angeles Times profiled a group of Latina bicyclists who aim to increase bicycle awareness to women who may feel apprehensive about the concept. Despite the explosion in cycling over the last several years, only one in five cyclists is female, according to the LA County Bike Coalition. Those familiar with this problem cite the lack of resources, the fear of injury and the absence of training as some of the factors women consider when deciding whether to bike it or not. Some of those concerns are justified, since almost half of all car crashes in Los Angeles are hit-and-runs, many of which involve bicyclists. The aforementioned group, known as the Ovarian Psyco Cycles Brigade (yeah), seeks to empower women into using bicycles and keep the machismo that permeates through the male-dominant bike culture in check. Inviting the whole family, men and women, boys and girls, to the upcoming CicLAvia event on Sunday, October 6, would make for a good start. Of note, event organizers recently received a $500,000 grant to set up future events.
While Los Angeles waits for its bike sharing program to take off, New York City forges ahead with its own program, the largest in the nation. Columnist Alex Marshall opines that, while it’s still too early to see the results of bike sharing there or elsewhere, the concept could be a game-changer in one particular facet. Marshall noted that bike sharing allows a user to check out a bike at one station, ride it to another station and return the bike there; this means that one only uses the bike when one is riding it, saving the trouble of owning and maintaining the bike. Bike sharing can form a critical and practical answer to the “last-mile” problem that many transit services around the nation must grapple with.
Drivers and transit riders who regularly pass through Temecula along the southbound side of the I-15 freeway are well aware of long off ramp traffic queues which often spill over onto the freeway at the city’s three city exits: Winchester Road, Rancho California Road, and Temecula Parkway. The Temecula Parkway exit is by far the most hazardous as the off ramp lacks an auxiliary lane which causes the long lines to back up into the far right general purpose lane. Sometimes the backup spans a whole mile. With a curve along the freeway just a half mile north of the off-ramp, the hazard is serious. Traffic in the far right lane cruising along at 70 mph will often, without warning, see the lane come to a dead halt, leaving drivers little time to react. The area has been the site of numerous traffic collisions. The hazard has also created a minor traffic bottleneck.The City of Temecula has moved one step closer toward breaking ground on restructuring this congested and hazardous freeway interchange located on the southern end of town, a project long overdue. The city also reported that this construction is dubbed “ultimate” with the expectation that this will be the final interchange upgrade and the new configuration is expected to be able to handle growing traffic volumes until 2030. As much as officials want to designate the Temecula Parkway interchange upgrade as “ultimate,” it certainly will not be the area’s final transportation upgrade to come, especially with the projected growth in Temecula’s west side and lack of bus transit infrastructure.
For years, Arlington, VA, has been seen as an example of sensible, transit-oriented planning, and many of the residential and commercial projects within its boundaries that accommodate transit users are nationally recognized. However, the once unified coalition of smart growth proponents is coming undone by, of all things, a proposed streetcar. Much of the trouble stems from one newly elected local boardmember who has criticized the $300 million project for siphoning funds that could be used for other needs or at least a lower-cost busway. The sudden existence of a streetcar opponent at the municipal government level has enabled those with other grievances to come out of the woodwork and assail the project and the perceived political patronage that opponents believe has allowed smart growth ideas to flourish in Arlington. Some of the criticism is at least attached to the belief that streetcars lead to revitalized communities, a claim that is in dire need of further research and scientific validation.