In the Bay Area, the gentrification wars circling around Google employee transport has worsened. A recent agreement will allow the city to charge buses transporting Google employees from San Francisco proper to the Google campus in Mountain View. However, long-time residents have remained irate over the perceived gentrification of their communities and the increase in housing costs. Now, a group styling themselves as the Counterforce are making the fight personal by protesting at the Berkeley home of a Google employee who uses one of the company’s self-driving cars for his work commute. Perhaps in response to these developments, Google announced that it will run a trial ferry service between Alameda and Redwood City.
Folks living in Southwest Riverside County have long been wondering how much longer they must wait to get faster connections to other portions of Southern California through public transportation outside of peak commute hours. We can say for certain that both The Transit Coalition and the Riverside Transit Agency are hearing ongoing requests for better bus service and seamless timed connections to the Perris Valley Line Metrolink extension. Both the recommended routes from RTA’s Comprehensive Operational Analysis of 2007 and the Western Riverside Council of Governments’ Bus Rapid Transit Route Planning Project study of 2010 find faster streamlined connections between the Temecula and Murrieta regions and the rest of RTA’s transit network up north feasible and desirable. Our blog goes into detail what needs to happen in order to speed up bus travel times for southwest Riverside County.
Meanwhile, columnist Steve Lopez ponders why Los Angeles does not repair its sidewalksdespite repeated legal actions in favor of injured pedestrians and disabled persons. In response to a previous Los Angeles Times editorial on Pasadena contemplating a road diet on Colorado Boulevard, readers ask Pasadena officials to think twice before going forward. Opponents point towards Santa Monica, where similar policies were placed into action at the expense of automobile travel. At the other end of the country, New York is cracking down on jaywalking in response to a string of pedestrian deaths.
When Los Angeles officials last fall released its proposals for a reconfiguration of the Hyperion Street Bridge as part of a seismic retrofit, bike and pedestrian advocates assailed the plans as being too car-centric, with no allowances for alternative modes of transport. After a sudden and passionate outcry from opponents and further brainstorming, LADOT released new designs that would eliminate a car lane and provide bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge instead of just one side at present.
While most development in Hollywood has stayed close to Hollywood Boulevard and the three Red Line stations that serve the business district, one developer is taking his act further away with a proposed mixed-use development on Vine Street. The block where the project would occur was bought from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences when the latter opted to scrap plans to build a museum at the block. (AMPAS itself opted to use the former May Company Building on Wilshire and Fairfax, which is set to receive a Purple Line stop in the future, as the site of their museum.) The developer hopes that the project will provide space not only for more residents but for the new entertainment-related business sprouting within Hollywood.
At the other end of town, efforts are underway to take a study of rail to LAX into the environmental study phase. However, doubt continues to linger as at least one transportation cynic believes the Crenshaw/LAX line under construction and the separate LAX rail line would still be inconvenient to most travelers. For example, even though no-traffic days are rare on roads between downtown and LAX, a car trip would still take less time than a rail trip that includes a transfer between the Expo and Crenshaw lines. More glaringly, however, the Crenshaw/LAX line goes only as far north as the Expo Line, which would discourage those traveling to popular destinations such as Hollywood from using the rail network. It should be noted that The Transit Coalition proposes extending the Crenshaw/LAX line into Hollywood and then to Pasadena. Meanwhile, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern warns that discussion of this particular rail line must eliminate racial overtones and move towards job creation and preservation. Alpern also provides a primer on the options to bring rail to LAX.
Meanwhile, in response to a previous article on how rail should not be the only answer to Los Angeles’ transportation woes, Phillip Hart, who previously served on the Expo Line Urban Design Committee, agreed that transit-oriented development will remain critical in developing the rail network. Hart believes that such development will make the rail system efficient, foster growth within Los Angeles and empower economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority recently approved studying an extension of the line past Claremont and towards Ontario Airport. However, the study will look into two other transportation modes to see what would work best to connect Gold Line passengers to the airport. A previous study commissioned by the agency in 2008 concluded that a light rail line to the airport was feasible. Sadly, rapid transit from Claremont to Ontario Airport ranks low in a list of recommended projects formulated by a San Bernardino Associated Governments committee. The list awaits final approval by the SANBAG Board.
Metro continues to discuss increasing its fares over a period of time while adjusting other prices as a means to counter an operations deficit in coming years. Metro is currently advancing two proposalsthat have different rates of increase for the base fare. However, both proposals would allow for free transfers within 90 minutes of paying the base fare. While fare increases are never popular, they are necessary to keep existing transit service afloat. In any case, each proposal might actually lead to a decrease in travel expenditures for some travelers. Human Transit also gives insight into the advantages and shortcomings of the two proposals.
In the meantime, Metro must also contend with the immediate problem of fare cheats, especially on the Orange Line busway. Metro estimates that as much as a fourth of all Orange Line riders do not pay their way. Admittedly, at least part of the problem stems from riders not tapping their TAP cards at stations upon entering boarding platforms. At least one rider believes that Metro Liner operators should allow only those with valid fares to board, as though one was boarding a typical Metro Bus.
In other news, the LA Times editorialized its discontent at San Francisco charging fees for private companies to shuttle their employees using public bus stops. An op-ed from the same paper warned that rail transit alone will not transform LA and that policies should foster transit-oriented development, job creation and destinations around rail stations. Finally, the behemoth Big Boy locomotive has left the Pomona Fairplex and will start its trek to Wyoming for restoration by Union Pacific Railroad, with its first stop near Colton.
After months of study, and at the behest of private freight rail companies, the National Transportation Safety Board issued three new rules aimed at protecting the public from dangers associated with the transport of crude oil. The NTSB expedited release of the new rules in response to an explosion in North Dakota that involved a crude oil tanker. The most critical new rule calls for better route planning for trains carrying crude oil so as to avoid heavily populated areas. The other two rules call for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to develop new standards for tankers so as to avoid punctures and for carriers to properly classify the flammability of crude they are transporting.