Finally, the Southland blog takes a look at the forest of oil derricks that once peppered the landscape of Los Angeles. Today, oil extraction is done in more subtle ways through creatively designed buildings that hide the wells, but such was not possible back in the day. Also, KCET explores the communities that will one day house the South Bay Extension of the Green Line. Some of the destinations include Eastgate Plaza, a shopping center that has become a de facto gathering place for the local Japanese community, and the Madrona Marsh Nature Center.
Will LA Mayor Eric Garcetti reshape the transportation landscape of the city he leads? The mayor will oversee new rail lines and complete streets initiatives during his tenure, even though many of these initiatives were ushered in by his predecessor Antonio Villaraigosa. However, while Villaraigosa was seen as a visionary, Garcetti is considered more pragmatic in his approach to addressing transportation problems. Garcetti may very well focus on reassessing the relationship between the citizens of Los Angeles and its existing infrastructure. The same could probably be said of whoever is set to lead the city’s Department of Transportation, which one pundit feels Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner for the City of New York, would be more than capable for the job.
In other news, Brazil is set to become the top global oil producer by 2035, producing as much as a third of all oil annually thanks to deep oil fields below Atlantic waters. Letters to the LA Timesexpress a mix of opinions on efforts by Metro to accelerate construction of new transportation projects through a proposed sales tax increase, apart from Measure R. Also, the New York subway system is working to provide wireless reception at all of its underground stations by 2017. Just a little south of that, Maryland is moving forward with an extension of the Purple Line light rail service (pictured at left), which would ring Washington, DC to the north and become one the largest transit projects to be built through a private-public partnership.
Affluent passengers continue to fill airplane seats at a fast clip, and airlines are not ignoring them as they increasingly cater to these particular passengers. In the past, this usually came in the form of more comfortable seats and in-plane complementary services. However, airlines have expanded their offerings to include posh waiting areas at airport terminals, expedited security checks and private ground transport between gates when necessary. Other passengers are finding their flights more satisfying, if decreases in complaints through the first 9 months of this year are any indication.
As the state continues its climb out of the recession housing affordability around the state is once again moving front and center. While much of the media’s attention is focused solely on the cost of housing there is much more at stake. For middle and low-income families, affordable housing options accessible to transportation choices, jobs, education, and other services and amenities are critical for their economic well-being and health as well as that of our regions and state as a whole.
As California’s regions invest in expanding transit systems and building walkable communities it is critical that housing in these areas is affordable to a diverse set of incomes. On average low and middle income residents ride transit at significantly higher rates than those at the higher end of the scale. In other words, in order to maximize carbon and air quality emissions reductions affordable homes in existing and future transit rich areas are critical. At the same time, the true measure of affordability is not the cost of housing alone but instead the combination of housing and transportation costs.
The most glaring example we are currently seeing is from San Francisco where there is a growing backlash against Silicon Valley “techies” that are driving soaring housing costs that are pricing out middle and low-income families. In our own backyard, rapidly rising housing prices in Silicon Beach are making news for the same reason. Of course housing prices in much of the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro regions have been out of reach for a large proportion of working families for a long time. The important lesson for us is that in order for us to achieve our emission reduction and economic goals we must invest in transit and affordable homes in an integrated, strategic manner. The result will be less sprawl, healthier communities, and enhanced economic opportunities for all and competitiveness for our regions.
Things were relatively quiet in terms of public transportation in the Inland Empire during the Thanksgiving weekend. However some private sector bus carriers stood out in the news.
Greyhound for example reported growing popularity of its new bus fleet over the holiday. ThePress Enterprise interviewed waiting passengers at the Riverside Downtown bus terminal and found that they find convenience in taking the bus for their holiday travel needs. Such passengers do not want to put up with the airport madness and expensive fares for short-haul trips. If this growth pattern continues, we may be seeing more robust marketplace competition for intercity bus travel very soon. We advocate for public officials to make both streetside and open bus bays at exiting public transit centers available for the private sector coaches which would considerably improve express bus transit options for riders at minimal public costs.
On a more local level, a free shuttle put together by Lake Elsinore businesses launched on Black Friday to ferry passengers between major destinations in the city. Unfortunately, rainy weather made the opening day not so grand as ridership was light. In the public transit field, it is typical for local city bus routes to experience lighter ridership in the rain. So, there is hope in expanding the city’s local transit services through the private sector. The shuttle does provide additional bus transit options in a transit-dependent region paid for entirely with private capital. So, we hope that this bus does become a success.
Gas prices this Thanksgiving were expected to average $3.27 a gallon, down 16 cents from last year and 5 cents below 2011, according to GasBuddy.com. This would translate to an extra $1.93 billion for would-be shoppers during the start of the holiday shopping season ( although a little sharing wouldn’t hurt). For Californians, much of the decreases are attributed to increased availability and delivery of oil from locations within the country, aided by new infrastructure to transport and store crude oil. One example comes from San Luis Obispo, where Phillips 66 recently completed a draft environmental document for a new rail terminal that would send up to 80 tank cars of crude oil to Southern California and the Bay Area. Refineries elsewhere are either adding or improving rail facilities at their refineries to receive these deliveries. However, the railroad industry is also calling on the federal government to provide stronger safety standards for oil cars in response to recent crashes and increased reliance by oil extraction companies to transport crude oil via rail. In any case, gas prices climbed back up by 10 cents per gallon since bottoming out in November.
LA City Councilmember Janice Hahn called for better working arrangements for port truck drivers. Hahn noted that, even as the ports generate a multitude of middle-class jobs, most drivers come from other countries and work as independent contractors, to the convenience of the truck companies that regularly deduct expenses from truckers’ salaries. Moreover, while the councilmember cited the success of the Clean Trucks Program, which has reduced air pollution at the ports by up to 80%, much of the costs to modify tractors are shouldered on the truck drivers themselves. To date, however, state and federal labor agencies have increasingly enforced regulations that favor drivers, while some transportation companies have answered the clamors of drivers by offering better wages and various benefits. Truck drivers and transport companies should get their act together if our ports want to stay competitive in light of an expanding Panama Canal.
The LA Times recently profiled LA County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Jennifer Klausner, an avid bicyclist since childhood who worked for several toy manufacturers before taking the helm at LACBC. While she enjoys bicycling to her destinations, including social gatherings, Klausner is not lost on the challenges of doing so, including dealing with rude and entitled drivers. Some neighborhoods and cities such as Beverly Hills remain averse to installing any kind of bike infrastructure, while others must balance the needs of automobile drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, such as what is unfolding regarding efforts to repair and reconfigure the Hyperion Avenue Bridge near Glendale. Klausner believes that a complete change of transport culture, not just more bike lanes and safety features, is required in order to make streets safer for all users and that change can only come if people demand it.
90% of car accidents can be attributed to human error, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In an effort to reduce such occurrences, the NHTSA is instilling ideas to carmakers on how to incorporate new technologies that would encourage safe driving habits. This includes the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, which uses sensors in the cabin to measure blood-alcohol content by breath or touch. Other technologies, which already exist, include collision warning and automatic braking systems, and transmissions that do not operate when a passenger isn’t wearing a seatbelt. Some of these technologies were on display at the now-concluded LA Auto Show. In a change of tone, carmakers, which previously resisted installing safety features, are working with the NHTSA in developing new features and providing them to the consumer.