After a contentious tug of war, state and federal officials reached a deal in the pension reform dispute that threatened the delivery of vital funds to state transit agencies. Specifically, the state will exempt public transportation workers from new pension restrictions. The state will in turn challenge the 50-year-old law that prohibits states from reducing pension benefits outside of the collective bargaining process. The compromise allows federal funds to resume their flow into state transit coffers for critical projects and operations.
The Alliance for Biking and Walking announced the six finalists for its photo contest and needs your help to decide the victorious photo! The Alliance held a summer photo contest to collect great images of biking and walking and has amassed a large amount of photos, all of which will be made available for state and local advocates to use in their work. Now, The Alliance needs to decide which photographer will win the grand prize: A brand new Tern folding bike. Please help out and vote for a winner by “liking” one of the six photos on Facebook.
Cal Worthington, the charismatic and ingenious car dealer famous for his non-indicative “Dog Spot” commercials, died Sunday at the age of 92. Worthington built an empire of car dealerships up and down the state partly through a spate of colorful and inviting commercials during the ’70s and ’80s that encased a philosophy of endearing the audience and not just peddling the deals he offered. This advertising philosophy is known to media pundits and scholars as “person brands”.
Go see Cal! Go see Cal! Go see Cal! Muahahaha! Now you’ll never get that jingle out of your head.
Angels Flight was shut down after one of its cars derailed. No one was injured, but inspectors representing the state Public Utilities Commission began their investigation in earnest. Also jumping into action is the National Transportation Safety Board, which believed its own investigation will take up to 9 months, inferring that the historic funicular would be shut down for as long. The railway had a previous closure on account of a fatal accident in 2001. Said closure lasted for 9 years, during which the railway was completely rebuilt once the related investigation was finished. Let us hope that won’t be the case.
Even as a state judge faulted the CAHSR Authority for not having all the funds for constructing an initial operating segment, the construction joint venture led by Tutor Perini is on its way to Fresno to set up shop this week. A Fresno job board is collecting applications for a new hire training program that has received intense interest despite having only 25 positions available for the moment. The San Joaquin Valley business community believes this will be the start of a major economic boost that the disadvantaged area is in dire need of. However, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal is hearing none of that. Through an op-ed piece, Coupal believes placing the HSR issue back on the ballot would entail fiscal and political benefits no matter how the voters decide.
It was more or less expected that a competitor hotel would sue the City of Los Angeles regarding the environmental clearances given to the Millennium Project in Hollywood. Now a coalition of homeowner groups has joined in the fray, as they also filed a lawsuit against the city that alleges the same thing. Particular scorn has been directed to what opponents believe was a slipshod review of earthquake faults that may run below the proposed project. Caltrans is also contemplating filing a lawsuit should its own concerns of traffic impacts on the 101 Freeway be ignored.
Another similar project, this time in Sherman Oaks, has also come under fire, albeit for different reasons. The proposed Il Villagio Toscano would abut the interchange of the 101 and 405 Freeways at a distance of 35 feet, when the state air quality board usually recommends at least 300 feet for residential developments. Federal air regulators have barely started to permanently monitor pollution stemming from freeways, though potential solutions are uncertain. Critics are concerned that vehicle emissions from the interchange would negatively affect the health of prospective residents. Despite these concerns, the LA City Council approved the project.
Despite the exponential growth in the Arts District of Downtown LA, the lack of even small-scale transit options means that residents and customers must drive to the area, resulting in serious parking shortages. It has become so bad that clothes manufacturer American Apparel has gone as far as instituting a valet service so that workers can arrive to work on time even as valets finds parking in their stead. The history of previous transit service is not so great: Metro once ran Line 58 along Alameda Street for a few years before cancelling the line due to, well, low ridership. A new Little Tokyo light rail station is on the way thanks to the Metro Regional Connector, but it’s still a good walk away to the Arts District, while a Red Line station near the Sci-Arc campus has been discussed for years.
Meanwhile, Larchmont Village, located within the Wilshire District, will have its central parking pay station replaced with individual meters. Users complained that the station created long lines that actually led to more citations. As with other new meters installed by the city, the meters will each be able to accept credit cards.
The woes of Ontario Airport continue to cause consternation with Inland Empire officials. With passenger levels reeling further down, a coalition of groups favoring returning the airport to local control are trying to drag down a proposal to move the northernmost LAX runway, with the hope that their opposition can be used as a bargaining chip to reach their ultimate goal. However, as a New York Times article points out, Ontario Airport’s woes are hardly unique. In fact, numerous regional airports are suffering because of lower passenger volumes. Airlines continue to consolidate their services around fewer airports to offset costs and cater to business travelers, which form a large chunk of their profits, reflecting an ongoing major shift in the way airlines operate.
Last week we wrote about the comments by the former Chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority stating his theory that the state will seek to divert much – and maybe all – of cap-and-trade auction revenues to the state’s high-speed rail projects. This would be a mistake because there are many other transportation related projects and programs throughout the state that need funding now.
These include funding to expand transit systems and increase frequency and quality of service, expand bicycle and pedestrian networks, urban green space and parks, and supply affordable, energy efficient homes near transit. These projects would provide real transportation choices for Californians in all corners of the state and support the state’s overarching goals of reducing per capita VMT to support climate emission reduction goals under AB 32. For everyday citizens, however, there’s a lot more at stake. Better access to more efficient transit means families can drive less and even make the choice to give up one or more cars. This means significant transportation costs savings at a time when so many are still struggling to make ends meet. It’s a win-win for the state’s economy and our environment.
One would think that, thanks to the advent of online travel shopping, the travel agent would go the way of the dodo bird by now. Instead, the industry is alive and well, despite doom-and-gloom forecasts by media outlets claiming the profession is obsolete. A trade group representing travel agents contend that their services are now focused on more complex trips that simply cannot be done by a few mouse clicks. Despite this, a new website allows potential travelers to find out the lowest possible price for a hotel room. Meanwhile, European discount airline Ryanair has been accused of not returning change to passengers purchasing items aboard in an attempt to boost profits.