What happened to bikesharing in Los Angeles? The LA City Council voted last December to move forward with the plan, but nothing has come of it since. Much of the problem stems from permit issues and the advertising plan, which caused conflicts with previous advertising agreements between the city and ad purveyors. BikeNation, which promised to bring bikesharing at no cost to the city, initially banked on the idea that the concept could be built through advertising revenues. Now Metro has come into action, as its Board voted last week to find a vendor that would bring bikesharing to Los Angeles County and discern the state of the industry. However, bringing bikesharing to the county may add its own hurdles, particularly when it comes to working with municipalities on installing bike stations and hiring operators.
In airline news, a recent report revealed that, when taking inflation into account, domestic airfares decreased 3.6% between April and June. However, this does not take into account the slate of fees that airlines charge today, which collected a global total of $27.1 billion for airlines in 2012, a 20% increase over 2011. Notwithstanding, other good tidings have come to international travelers as European airports are phasing out liquid bans thanks to the gradual adoption of technology that quickly screens containers for dangerous substances. Also, parents are poised to benefit the greatest from the equally gradual lift of bans on electronics, since their children would stay entertained throughout takeoff.
It’s no secret that attaining an education that prepares young people for the competition of the national and global marketplace is growing increasingly difficult. School budget cuts, perpetually increasing tuition increases, and the lack of employment and internships are bad enough but students young and old also face transportation barriers that make it hard, and expensive, to access the opportunities they need to build a future. As school districts have been forced to cut budgets, they’ve also cut back, or even entirely eliminated, bus service. This has left families on the hook for the costs of driving to and from school. For lower and middle class families still struggling from the Great Recession, this is a burden that makes life difficult.
Enter free and low-cost transit passes for youth. Pilot programs are popping up around the state to provide transit passes to K-12 and college students. In addition to the economic benefits for students and their families, the passes also help to reduce traffic, which in turn helps clean the air. However, for these programs to have a lasting impact they must be expanded and become permanent. An op-ed from TransForm published in the San Diego Union-Tribune this week proposes using state cap-and-trade auction revenues to expand these programs as a way to fight climate change and provide a boost for hard-working families.
The Los Angeles City Council recently voted on a new growth plan for Warner Center, which would guide the transformation of the mainly auto-centric business hub into a transit village. The Warner Center 2035 Plan would focus on pedestrian-oriented design and environmentally sound transportation options. Unique to Los Angeles, this new plan calls for the installation of “slow vehicle lanes”, which offer dedicated travel lanes for vehicles slower than bicycles. The success of the Orange Line bolsters the notion that transit-oriented development will fuel future growth in the area, according to proponents. The plan also calls for “activity nodes” that encourage public gatherings. The plan has the support of various local groups.
In Orange County, residents continue to fume over the proposed HOT lanes for the 405 Freeway. To quell the furor, the Orange County Transportation Authority Board, in response to a committee recommendation reported in our last eNewsletter, discussed the issue at its most recent regular meeting. A lengthy discourse ensued, with most attendees expressing disgust at the proposal but a few other groups expressing support for the lanes. The proposal would add toll lanes between the 73 and the 605 Freeways and make other improvements for general users at a cost of $1.47 billion. Caltrans has made it clear that they will not move forward with the toll lanes unless OCTA gives them the go. The OCTA Board will now hold a vote on the proposal at its December 9 meeting, during which the OCTA can hold more public hearings receive more input.
Both the Riverside Transit Agency and the City of Riverside have big plans to bring rapid transit along the city’s dense corridors. A light rail car to be delivered to San Diego made a stop in downtown Riverside. The Siemens S70 train was parked on University Avenue offering a real-time preview of what rapid rail transit might look like along the streets of Riverside. Based on a Riding in Riverside blog post, city officials hope that one day, Riverside will mimic Portland complete with multi-modal transit mobility and transit oriented development. The project at hand is Riverside Reconnects, a streetcar proposal advocated by the City of Riverside.
Public debate on this project has been robust. For Riverside Reconnects to work, it will need to be done right and coordinated with the Riverside Transit Agency. The finished product must not duplicate existing RTA bus service, proposed bus rapid transit, nor obstruct existing traffic flow. The technology used to move the citizens of Riverside must also be fact-based and cost-efficient. The local press has opposed the streetcar for those very reasons. RTA has recently proposed to phase in peak-hour limited stop runs of Route 1 within the next few years with long term plans for all day RapidLink BRT service with station stop amenities. The Transit Coalition originally envisioned dedicated transit lanes for the higher density areas for the RapidLink service so that the rapid buses neither obstruct existing traffic nor get stuck in congestion, much like how sbX system is being developed in San Bernardino. Also envisioned are RTA ticket vending machines at each of the RapidLink stations that will help accelerate the boarding process. We also have a blog post on how officials can speed up the BRT project. RTA and the City need to network and coordinate these two projects. We don’t want RTA to spend precious resources on RapidLink only to find out that a separate trolley line will scrape and replace BRT only a few years later.
The Transit Coalition has long been advocating for better Metrolink and bus service in Riverside through A Better Inland Empire. There is no question that both the Magnolia and University Avenue corridors are in need of better rapid transit options and a quick and speedy alternative to slower local bus service for longer trips. Both agencies need to work to get first-rate transit lines built for Riverside and both need to agree on which technology would work best in regards to transporting passengers and keeping costs in check, whether it be rail or BRT. The city also needs to ensure Riverside Reconnects doesn’t ignore the need to connect with Metrolink. In terms of connecting local transit to Southern California’s regional rail system, the sound idea of establishing the downtown transit hub at the Metrolink station with a pedestrian overpass across the 91 Freeway into the core has been on the drawing board for almost a decade.
As pictured here, developer incentives can transform the train station into a robust transit and marketplace employment hub with the transit center, a Riverside Reconnects station stop, and the bridge integrated into the development. The infrastructure would be fully paid for. Getting private capital and marketplace jobs into Downtown Riverside will be key to getting a funded, robust transit system for Riverside’s streets.
When Metro and its predecessor agencies set out to build the local urban rail system, a decision was made to exclude restrooms in station designs as a means to cut future maintenance costs and reduce opportunities for crime. This decision traveled over to the Orange Line busway, which similarly has no restrooms. However, residents along the line are complaining to Metro that the lack of such facilities are forcing riders to attend to their human needs in nearby streets, alleys and landscaped areas. However, jurisdiction issues could hamper both the enforcement of laws concerning such activities and the installation of appropriate facilities in the future, which could include pay-to-use restrooms such as one installed at the North Hollywood Red Line Station.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar hosted a public meeting on the proposed downtown streetcar on November 4. Despite the surprise increase in the streetcar’s price tag, Huizar vows to continue championing for the project. A report from city staff concluded that the streetcar could cost at least $232 million, not the $125 million originally estimated. By contrast, Huizar stated that the project could be done between $125 million and $165 million, a price range that does not include utility relocation. If nothing else, proponents assert that they wish to be as transparent as possible when it comes to the true costs of the streetcar. A downtown parcel tax voted into effect would provide $62.5 million for the project, while Los Angeles can secure $75 million in federal grants if officials can identify other funding sources.
Huizar believes that building the streetcar will foster investment in Downtown LA, especially as part of an effort to restore Broadway to its original glory. To be fair, new shops and residences are sprouting along the corridor even in the absence of a streetcar. However, other cities that are merely constructing them at this time are already reaping in the benefits. This is what Riverside officials had in mind when they brought in an assembled streetcar for denizens to peruse, as mentioned below. Critics contend that the high price of streetcars that serve a small area should make cities averse to installing them, despite their proven ability to garner economic growth.
In fact, one mayoral candidate in Cincinnati won the office last week on a platform to stop advancement of a streetcar project in that city for the reasons cited above. Mayor-elect John Cranley and three new city councilmembers vowed to stop the project despite ongoing construction, secured local and federal funds, and locked-in contracts for both tracks and cars. Supporters swiftly gathered to devise a strategy that would keep the streetcar alive and under construction, with the hope that they can enlist business leaders and entrepreneurs to convince Cranley of the project’s merits and the concept’s successes elsewhere. In fact, streetcar proponents point out that it may very well cost more to eliminate the streetcar at this stage than to continue the project. Mind you, this is coming from the same city that has a half-built subway that has never been in service.
Finally, UCLA released the results of a study on why Millenials are driving less. Contrary to the beliefs of transportation advocates on all sides, the study concluded that the reasons for the decrease in automobile use is much more complicated, but in the end the economic situation was proven to be one of the most critical factors in said decrease. The study also refutes the notion that Millenials are driving less because of alternative means of social interaction through the Internet and electronic devices. The study stated that no link between the two was found and that, moreover, income remains a major factor in determining both web use and travel.
US exports lacked much excitement in August, but trade outlook seems more favorable. Details of a report recently released by the US Census Bureau show that trade in the near future may well be on the bright side. For one thing, from January through August this year, the nation’s deficit was 13% lower than it was during the same time frame in 2012. Part of this is due to a decline in oil imports, as prices have dropped and domestic energy production has increased. Trade is looking good for America also because of improved economic conditions. China’s manufacturing sector has picked up from a slow start earlier this year, and the debt crisis in Europe is not as bad as it previously was. This is key, as Europe makes up 20% of US exports.