Representatives of BART operators and management resolved the latest and hopefully last dispute over a previously ratified contract. While the two sides agreed to a new labor contract, the question on paid family leave was not properly answered during contract negotiations. The approved solution would require existing resources and the refurbished contract must still be ratified by both union members and the BART Board of Directors.
Foothill Transit will soon inaugurate its first new commuter bus line in seven years. Line 495 will run from the Industry Park and Ride to Downtown Los Angeles starting in January. The line will make use of the El Monte Busway and stop only at Cal State LA and the LA County Medical Center. The service will cost $4.90 each way when the service launches this January, a stark contrast to the $8.50 Metrolink riders must pay each way to reach the same area. The one-year pilot project is funded by Measure R and will cost $71,000 a month to operate.
With a nearly 75% increase in parking fines throughout the last six years, Los Angeles is generating more than $150 million per year in parking revenue. Combined with receipts from parking meters and the 10% Parking User’s Tax, the City of Los Angeles makes more than $300 million annually. Additionally, an estimated $100 million of parking revenue comes from the Staples Center, Los Angeles International Airport, LA Convention Center, and various locations owned by Los Angeles. According to an opinion piece in CityWatch, the rise in parking fines was approved without informing neighborhood councils, homeowner associations, and other stakeholders.
For misinformed reasons like this, the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative, a new grassroots movement, is receiving support throughout Los Angeles. Among other things, the group aims to create a parking strategy that consults with stakeholders. The Parking Freedom Initiative also wants to reform parking enforcement so that citizens can view regulations in a more positive fashion. It should be noted that removing or weakening parking regulations negatively affects traffic and the local economy, as Donald Shoup and other parking researchers increasingly realize.
Finally, KCET’s River Notes section offers a summary of what has transpired so far in regards to the Sixth Street Viaduct, which is slated for replacement. “Concrete cancer” has irreversibly compromised the condition of the existing historic structure. The City of Los Angeles selected HTNB as the designer of the new bridge in October 2012, and demolition of the old structure will begin no earlier than December 2014. Opinions are mixed as to what effect the new bridge and its construction will have on residents and business owners who depend on the bridge to access Downtown LA.
A fatal NYC Metro-North Railroad crash caused by excessive speed through a curve left 4 dead and scores injured in its wake. No anomalies have been found regarding the train’s controls. The train operator, who was suspended without pay, is cooperating with investigators. Pundits across the board now believe that positive train control technology could have prevented this tragedy. PTC allows trains to slow down automatically when arriving at certain portions of track. Metrolink in Los Angeles has been installing such a system for years and plans to launch the technology in the coming months.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced that new cars and trucks sold in the US during 2012 attained a record high of 23.6 miles per gallon, thanks to improved engines and transmissions. This marks a significant improvement of 1.2 mpg over 2011. Mazda led the way in selling cars with the highest gas mileage, at 27.1 mpg on average. Collectively, mileage is up 12% since 2008 and 22% since 2004. EPA Transportation and Air Quality Director Christopher Grundler noted that, while cars will increase in price as a result of these innovations, the savings at the pump will more than offset the price of a new vehicle.
You know you’re in trouble when you anger comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s wife over a $415 car ride. Similar stories took center stage during the freak snowstorm that hindered transportation in the Northeast, where Uber users were charged exorbitant amounts for even brief trips across town. The ridesharing service relies on a pricing model that is directly correlated to supply and demand, keeping in tune with the libertarian ideals of the service’s chief executive Travis Kalanick. However, it has been noted that similar pricing models tend to break down during extreme events and emergencies, where people with less income are at an even greater disadvantage than wealthier counterparts. Critics also take exception to the fact that the service remains largely unregulated (except in California, where lawmakers recently enacted regulations for Uber and similar services).
The US Department of Transportation forecasts higher revenues, profits and profit margins for airlines in 2014. The development comes as a result of stable fuel prices, growing demand and route refinements that were possible through several mergers during the recession. To no one’s surprise, 13.5% percent of said increase in revenues comes from reservation change fees. Overall, airlines earned over $3.2 billion in profits during the last quarter. Also to no one’s surprise, loud and unruly children are the number one etiquette violators on planes according to a recent survey. Curiously, the same survey noted that passengers reclining their seats back for the duration of their flights ranked 7th place, even though 80% of passengers admitted to doing the same thing.
A lack of action in Congress could force the reduction of the transit commuter benefit back to $130 per month, a reduction from the current amount of $245. Both the transit and the parking commuter benefits (the latter also worth $245) are an employer-provided federal tax benefit designed to defray the cost of traveling for workers. The parking commuter benefit is permanent and rises with inflation, with the benefit increasing to $250 next year. By contrast, the transit benefit is usually extended, with the threat of returning back to $130 always present. However, an opportunity exists to let transit riders voice their opinion to their Congressmembers on the importance of either extending the transit benefit again or, better yet, making the higher transit benefit amount permanent and indexed to inflation.
A boom in oil production across the upper Midwest is seriously affecting rail travel through that part of the country. The Amtrak Empire Builder, which transports rural residents between Seattle/Portland and Chicago, is bearing the brunt of the disruptions caused by the uptick in freight traffic. BNSF, which operates the railway shared by Amtrak and freight trains, is adding as much capacity as possible, but its efforts are not coming fast enough. As a result, Amtrak was forced to cancel select Empire Builder runs while other trains faced delays of as much as 5 hours. To maintain some sort of service, Amtrak has run stub service from Seattle/Portland to Spokane and from Minneapolis to Chicago. Even so, many of these now-cancelled runs have previously sold out. With no parallel Amtrak service available and train equipment in short supply, the problems facing the Empire Builder is endemic to a passenger rail network that remains vulnerable due to a lack of alternatives despite high demand.