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.
In aviation news, Tutor-Saliba Corp., which built the reconfigured southern runway of LAX, bit back at allegations by the city that stated the construction firm built a defective runway that features exposed rebar, defective concrete and premature cracking. Tutor claims that the effort is part of a “witch hunt” by the city and that the defects were caused by poor maintenance. Airport officials believe that the runway is still safe for use by aircraft but will pursue its lawsuit against Tutor, which was filed last October.
Also, airports are increasingly improving their culinary offerings with a greater emphasis on healthy options. According to a survey, 76% of airport restaurants have healthy dining options for customers, a vast improvement over the 57% recorded in 2001. Denver International Airport claims the top spot, with 86% of restaurants providing options for the health-conscious consumer. LAX tied at third with 83%. Note that the study was done before LAX went forward with a massive expansion of eateries in the newly expanded Tom Bradley International Terminal. Meanwhile, a British company has come up with a solution for larger passengers who currently must make do with narrow seats. A demonstration of this new seating technology is now available.
A steam locomotive that’s been sitting in Pomona since 1962 at the RailGiants Train Museum is set for revival. Union Pacific steam engine No. 4014, also called “Big Boy,” was built in 1941 and was put to rest in 1959 after it traveled more than a million miles. It formerly carried 3,600-ton freight trains over the Wasatch Mountains, which ran through Utah and Wyoming. The locomotive will be converted to run on fuel oil rather than by coal. The revival of Big Boy is expected to take five years. After this, it will tour the country on Union Pacific’s more than 35,000 miles of track, which connects approximately 7,000 cities.
How can intercity bus competition strengthen Southern California transit without tapping into precious public transit funds? One traveler recently took a bus trip along a California intercity corridor served by two competing private bus carriers: Greyhound and Megabus. When the blue Megabus coaches came into California, Greyhound knew that it no longer had monopoly power of intercity services and therefore needed to upgrade its services and lower fares in order to compete. Of course when that happens, riders benefit with better bus service.
Last year in the Inland Empire, Stagecoach Group PLC brought Megabus into the state. In the Inland Empire, double-deck Megabus coaches operate non-stop express service between the Riverside Downtown Metrolink Station and Las Vegas. Also inland, Transportes Intercalifornias provides intercity service to/from Mexico with intermediate stops. To this day, numerous casino buses ferry passengers from all over Southern California to the Inland Empire’s gaming resorts. If this pattern continues, and carriers are inclined to connect with buses at existing transit centers, we may be able to travel through Southern California one day by bus during any time of the day at reasonable fares.
Inland public transit bus riders, especially those who are far from Metrolink, have demanded that public bus agencies like RTA and Omnitrans expand existing commuter express service to an all day service span so that riders can quickly connect to other portions of Southern California anytime of the day, but the agencies lack the public resources to do so. Greyhound still holds some monopoly power on many corridors which obstructs improvements. However when additional private carriers compete for high markets along the SR-91, I-15, I-215, and I-10 freeway corridors with competitive fares, riders benefit with the additional express bus service at times when public peak hour express services are not available. What can be done to entice an existing or start-up carrier to offer intercity express services with stops at existing Southern California transit hubs? Here are some conceptual routes through the Inland Empire with high market demands that could certainly use better competition.
It appears that the plan to provide train service that would run between Fullerton and North Las Vegas is as good as dead. The Las Vegas Railway Express (LVRE) was still $1 million short for this route, stating that there was no guarantee this money would be available to the company. The second quarter report from LVRE indicates that the plan to raise $100 million to launch the service was dropped. In doing this, the company lost a $600,000 deposit to Union Pacific, which owns some of the tracks between California and Nevada. The LVRE is now planning on putting efforts toward restarting Amtrak service between California and the Las Vegas area with the addition of casino-style train cars to the route. Amtrak, however, has said that no plans are in place.
Car manufacturers are having a difficult time catching up with new technological advances in consumer electronics. While most vehicles today will tout at least some ability to interact with mobile devices, the interactions between the car and the devices don’t always work as they’re supposed to. Consumer watchdogs point the finger at the fact that cars and devices don’t “speak the same language” and that carmakers develop interactive technology in cars at a far slower pace than electronics companies. It has become so bad that problems with car electronics have now outpaced mechanical issues as the leading reason why drivers bring their vehicles for service. The industry must develop standards that can nevertheless stay in step with technological developments, which may require some concessions from carmakers that would prefer to maintain their proprietary systems, according to analysts. The LA Auto Show, which starts on November 22, will dedicate a full day solely on technology.
A new two-story shopping center is in the works in the Crenshaw District. Would District Square, this 300,000-square-foot addition, enhance the area or deprive local businesses of customers? Whatever the case, the new project is set to have a Target, Ross, and Marshall’s. The site of the building will be located near the Crenshaw Expo Line Station, which will form the northern end of the future LAX/Crenshaw light rail line now underway. The project will also displace some small businesses, parking lots, and a Ralphs grocery store.
In a similar vein, Cumulus Media Inc. announced it will sell its longtime radio transmission facility on La Cienega Boulevard, which is just a short walk away from the Jefferson/La Cienega Expo Line Station. The transmitter is currently home to KABC, one of the oldest operating radio stations in the nation, and KLOS. TOD pundits believe that the property could fetch as much as $90 million for Cumulus, which expressed the option to keep the radio stations on the property as a tenant.