Has construction of the state high-speed rail system started yet? It depends on who you ask. No official groundbreaking has occurred, despite assurances that the project was to do so last year. Opponents point out that the CASHR Authority still needs to acquire more properties before full-fledged construction work can begin. The project must also deal with two lawsuits that are months away from a resolution and could indeed call for further delays. However, the Authority also noted that the joint venture in charge of building the first segment is already surveying acquired land, designing the line and hiring workers at a fast pace.
Passengers of the Amtrak Southwest Chief face the prospect of losing service to select towns in Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas on account of an antiquated right-of-way that is in need of repair. Track owners BNSF have stated that they have no interest in repairing the tracks solely for the sake of passenger service and, in any case, would cost more than $200 million. The National Association of Railroad Passengers has been on the case, asking the states to pitch in and repair affected portions of the railroad, lest Amtrak reroutes the Chief through a route BNSF is more inclined to maintain. NARP is asking those who live in the above three states to write to their governors and ask that their governments provide the necessary funding. While on the subject, Amtrak re-launched the fare search engine on its website so that customers can select one of four different ticketing tiers that allow for greater savings on rail travel.
In automobile news, automated safety technologies that manufacturers have installed in vehicles for the past few years are finally paying off in the form of reduced crashes, according to LA Times auto journalist Jerry Hirsch. Finally, The Atlantic Cities delves into the manufacturing of those ubiquitous London taxicabs that are globally growing in demand.
Meanwhile, an interchange improvement in Westwood is now open for business. The new flyover ramp connecting the southbound 405 Freeway with eastbound Wilshire Boulevard opened this Monday morning, just in time for the commuter rush. The opening forms part of an initiative to open each new facility of the northbound HOV lane project the moment it is completed. However, a similar ramp for northbound 405 motorists accessing westbound Wilshire Boulevard remains under construction. Metro projects opening the new ramp later this year, with completion of the entire project slated for summer 2014, a year behind schedule. Back in the Inland Empire, the 215 Freeway project through San Bernardino nears completion, with ancillary improvements on the way.
Are you interested in renting out your home to visiting vacationers? A variety of internet outfits have cropped up in recent years providing users the ability to rent a home instead of a typical hotel room. Airbnb is a major player in this industry, catering to business visitors who must stay at a particular place for an extended amount of time. However, a new company called Onefinestay promises to give Airbnb a run for its money when it debuted in Los Angeles last Monday. The London-based service is very much an extension of what is being dubbed the “shared economy”, where users share each other’s resources in the same way that Lyft and Uber do.
In general aviation news, Alaska Airlines ranked highest in fuel efficiency among air carriers thanks to various innovations and operational actions. Also, a major computer snafu allowed United Airlines to sell tickets for virtually free (except for a small security surcharge). Despite this, the airline announced it will honor the tickets anyway, receiving a mostly positive response from passengers and watchdog groups. Also, for all of our Hello Kitty fans reading our eNewsletter, Taiwan-based EVA Air launched three round-trip flights from LAX to Taipei using Boeing 777-300 ER planes painted in Hello Kitty livery, starting last Wednesday. Kawaii!
The US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit aimed to stop the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, claiming that the deal would create the world’s largest carrier and thus reduce competition and increase air fares. Curiously, the two carriers would almost certainly not raise fares while the lawsuit lingers, if only as a means to avoid giving regulators a pretext to stop the merger. Through 2013, there have been only two fare increases that have been matched by other airlines, and fares have risen by only 1%.
Opponents of moving an LAX runway further north were handed a defeat by the county Airport Land Use Commission, which approved plans to modernize LAX that included the reconfigured runway. Supporters charge that moving the northernmost runway further north by 260 feet would improve safety for planes landing and taxiing at the airport. Supporters counter that the reconfiguration would degrade the quality of life for Westchester residents and businesses that abut the airport. In contrast, Bob Hope Airport officials are considering demolishing their existing terminal to meet the same safety requirements. To wit, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority presented plans for a new 14-gate terminal this week.
Some pundits are having their way with transportation issues. Columnist Jack Humphreville expressed consternation regarding an LA city ballot measure that would ask voters to approve $3 billion in bonds towards street rehabilitation. Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern emphasizes the importance of linking transportation with land use when directing growth in the burgeoning “Lower Westside”. Public policy professor Lisa Schweitzer made three suggestions that would improve the outlook of the state HSR system: Don’t take voters for granted, don’t trump environmental laws and be realistic about where further funds for the project will come from.
The proposed Sherman Oaks development Il Villaggio Toscano netted the approval of the LA City Council in recent weeks. The project faced criticism from the local neighborhood council when it was proposed 10 years ago. Since then, development firm M. David Paul worked with community members to design a project that met the needs of its neighbors, resulting in a more modest structure that will include retail space. The path to the project’s approval shows just how much trouble it is ( second part here) to build dense housing when moving through byzantine design requirements and an ever hostile public.