San Francisco residents and transit operators have reviled seeing private buses using public facilities in transporting their workers to their jobs. Civic officials have finally found a way to at least cash in on the craze by charging companies who wish to use public bus stops as boarding areas for their employees. The 18-month-long pilot program is expected to bring in $1.5 million for San Francisco, with revenues to be spent on monitoring the program and improving bus stops.
For years, airlines have tried to find a way of seating passengers in the fastest way possible, since even minute delays can quickly increase operation costs. Recent academic research concludes that airlines should instead focus on how to seat passengers with carry-on bags. The study in question noted that passengers and air crew waste time in finding a suitable place to stow their carry-on baggage. The lead researcher proposed that airlines should instead board from back to front, from window to aisle, and organize passengers according to what they are carrying with them, with bags organized in predictable patterns. Though the method cuts 3% of the boarding time, this could amount to millions in savings for airlines each year.
In other airline news, with some airlines lifting cellphone bans thanks to new federal regulations, passengers in a survey said that they would be willing to pay more if they were seated in quiet zones where cellphone use would remain restricted. Also, the USDOT will enforce reformed regulations that govern rest time for pilots. The matter gained urgency after an investigation into a 2009 plane crash cited pilot fatigue as a contributing factor. New sleep research helped develop the remodeled requirements, where pilots must rest according to a variety of factors instead of allotting a fixed amount of time.
The Transit Coalition has long explored ways to improve longer distance inter-regional mobility transit options throughout the Inland Empire. The expansion of private sector coaches and intercity bus competition can certainly address this. One sector that is performing well in terms of ridership are casino buses which ferry patrons from pick up points all over Southern California to the gaming resorts.
However, with the ridership growth came the unexpected uprising in bus collisions. During the 2013 Christmas holiday season alone, four separate reported casino bus wrecks occurred on Inland Empire highways which included fatalities. In addition, a Riverside Transit Agency bus crashed in December along State Highway Route 74 near Hemet.
Because of this serious situation, regulators and lawmakers at the state and federal level are being pressured to act. Existing law on inspection of fleets needs to be better enforced. Accountability of the proper training of casino bus drivers needs better oversight. Officials also need to be careful not to drive out the industry by over-regulating the market. Drawing a sound solution will require productive debate between the affected parties.
During December, the LAPD cracked down on jaywalking in Downtown LA, with officers handing scofflaws tickets for even the most minor infractions. What was more troublesome, however, are the outrageous fines levied onto those who were ticketed. This could not have come at a worse time, as Downtown LA is reinventing itself as a pedestrian-friendly destination and an explosion in the residential population has made street-side businesses more viable. The Los Angeles Daily News editorial board expressed its discontent, stating that the crackdown seriously jeopardizes efforts to make LA more comfortable for people who walk.
However, the lack of safe sidewalks across Los Angeles has also hampered the creation of an attractive walking environment. City leaders are currently crafting a ballot measure that would authorize the city to issue $3 billion in bonds for street repairs. Those interested in better pedestrian environments see this proposal as an opportunity to repair and install sidewalks. The proposal could also set aside money for bike facilities, if advocates clamor for their inclusion in the bond measure.
Gas prices in Los Angeles and Orange Counties continue to climb, leading to a new record for New Year’s Day. Prices reached $3.694 per gallon, surpassing the previous record of $3.655 per gallon in 2012. However, AAA projects that drivers will have lower fueling costs in 2014, with AAA attributing the price decreases to increased oil production within the United States. Indeed, said production increase is already producing economic results as oil import decreases drive the national trade deficit to a 4-year low.
Despite this development, columnist Andrew Korfhage warns that the advent of climate change must expedite our exit from dependency on this energy source. While smaller governments enact their own projects to combat climate change, the federal government remains indifferent to the looming problem. In light of this, Korfhage suggests individuals take matters into their own hands. Specifically, the author believes financiers at all levels should divest from companies directly or tangentially linked to the fossil fuel industry and instead invest in those that produce clean energy products.
One such local initiative has taken effect across the ports of California. The state is enforcing a new mandate requiring ships to use energy from portside electric sources instead of their own engines. Shore power, or cold ironing as this method is also known, was developed by the Navy with the explicit purpose of reducing fuel consumption. However, port officials are implementing the technology to improve the health of residents in surrounding neighborhoods who must otherwise grapple with the effects of port pollution. Proponents cite that ships connected to electrical sources at the ports while docked reduce emissions by as much as 95%. However, officials have yet to find long-term power sources for the new mandate and must also communicate the changes to international shippers.
Even as the Purple Line extension gets most of the attention, the LADOT will start major work on a series of bus lanes along Wilshire Boulevard. One such set of bus lanes opened last year in Koreatown. Notably, the bus lanes will run only within the boundary of the City of Los Angeles, meaning that no such lanes will exist in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. Moreover, a portion of Wilshire Boulevard through Westwood will not get such lanes either due to community opposition. When complete in early 2015, the lanes could reduce travel times by as much as 24%.
Proponents of an alternative form of transport known as Hyperloop hope that the negative news on statewide HSR can bring good tidings to their nascent efforts. The brain child of entrepreneur Elon Musk, the Hyperloop would consist of vacuum tubes that suction pods of passengers over the I-5 right-of-way to their destinations. To determine the concept’s viability, Musk united architectural, engineering and physics scholars to design a prototype. A discussion on the Hyperloop concept will be held at UCLA on Wednesday, January 15, with more details available in Upcoming Events.
Governor Jerry Brown will release a proposed budget on Friday that will prominently feature revenues from the cap-and-trade auction held last year. Part of the budget calls for spending $250 million this year on high-speed rail, irking some environmentalists and pundits. This is despite the fact that the $250 million represents only 17% of the cap-and-trade funds. The rest will be spent on initiatives that would combat climate change such as forest management and home improvements.
The new year will prove pivotal for the HSR project, as Brown will most likely run again for office amidst a wave of support from prospective voters. Whoever challenges Brown to the governorship is bound to use his support of the controversial project as an expression of his perceived lack of fiscal control. Opponents will cite declining support among voters as a means to undermine his potential campaign. Additionally, the authority in charge of overseeing construction has yet to make a definitive decision as to when the project will break ground, frustrating project observers.
A fire that consumed a train carrying crude oil through North Dakota forced the evacuation of a nearby town, though no injuries have been reported. The incident marked the fourth in 2013 within North America that involved the transport of hazardous crude oil. The federal government, at the behest of private railroads, is working to reform safety standards for crude-carrying rail cars.
In other news, gas prices continue to climb in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, reaching an average of $3.681 per gallon by Monday. An LA transplant laments his increased use of the automobile despite readily available transit alternatives, but promises to change his tune in the new year. Finally, construction jobs in both counties are also increasing in number.
With the increase in bicyclists over the years, officials are mulling whether or not to charge bicyclists licensing fees that could finance bike facilities. Chicago is the latest setting for this fight, as a recent proposal to levy a $25 annual cycling tax floundered amidst confusion from citizens and festering hostility from both bicycling and automobile advocates. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made improved cycling conditions a top priority in his administration, but the message of bicyclists not “paying their fair share” continues to resonate among the general public. Automobile drivers and business owners note that bicyclists often either share roads with cars or are given as much as a full segregated lane that cannot be used by cars. Bicyclists respond that many of them also drive cars and must pay the associated operational fees that go to maintaining streets.