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.
Even though the advent of electric cars brightens the prospect of transporting people and goods with fewer emissions, visionaries have long wanted to make use of the energy storage capabilities these vehicles possess. A pilot project at the University of Delaware may make this vision a reality. The project rebuilt several Mini Coopers so that the vehicles can stay connected to the local electrical grid when parked. Each vehicle can in turn store energy from the grid when the latter is overloaded, and the grid can take the energy back when needed. In theory, the car owner is paid for the exchange of energy. California Governor Jerry Brown alluded to such “vehicle-to-grid” technology in his latest transportation plan.
Pasadena-based Jacobs Engineering is a firm on the upswing these days, as the company continues to purchase smaller firms and establish itself as a major player on the international engineering scene. The late founder Joseph J. Jacobs had nothing but ambition and drive when he started his one-man consulting firm in 1947. By the time he retired in 1992, his firm had transformed into a $1 billion enterprise. Even after his death in 2004, Jacobs Engineering continues to grow, with 200 satellite offices and 48,000 employees across the world. Its latest purchase of Australian firm Sinclair Knight Merz will further expand Jacobs’ foothold into continents where the latter had only scant recognition.
In other air travel news, flight delays and cancellations continue to drop… if we are to follow existing calculation methods. Recognizing this, the USDOT proposes a new method of calculating delays and cancellations, namely by incorporating smaller airlines into the mix. Currently, the USDOT depends on counts from the 16 largest airlines, which operate 76% of domestic flights. Also, thanks to changes in traveler preferences and increased costs, hotels are eliminating mini-bars at a fast pace and replacing them with full-fledged food options in the hotel lobby. Meanwhile, Spirit Airlines raised its baggage fees this year. The airline is just one of two that also charge for carry-on bags.
Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey was interviewed on the future of LAX. Lindsey was not lost on how the airport has devolved into a drab and dreary campus of transport instead of the grand public space that other airports are becoming. Even with the opening of the refurbished Tom Bradley International Terminal and a better relationship with airlines that use the airport, Lindsey warns that there is still plenty to fix. In particular, Lindsey hopes that a new intermodal facility just outside the airport will remove commercial vehicles from the airport roadway. Lindsey also believes a bright future is in store for Ontario Airport, which has suffered on account of changes in the airline industry. Ontario city officials have until January 31 to reach a settlement with the agency that may seal Ontario’s fate.
Recently, the LA Times published an article about a woman, Carmen Mendoza, who must use as many as 8 bus lines to transport her children to disparate schools across Los Angeles. One reader was so moved by the story that he decided to help out by giving the supercommuter her own vehicle. The donor noted how Mendoza’s experiences reflected his own rise from humble beginnings to become the owner of a growing air conditioning and refrigeration equipment business. The donor pooled funds from himself and others, delivered the used but well-maintained 2004 Kia Sedona van to Mendoza and later gave her family money to purchase a car insurance policy. This act of generosity is a far cry from what transients must now deal with thanks to Metro’s new policy of limiting the use of Union Station waiting areas to those who possess a train ticket. While no easy solutions exist for this thorny issue, Times readers were divided on how this new policy should be interpreted.
The future of Los Angeles transportation aesthetics continues to intrigue the minds of urban designers. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne takes a look at Metro’s efforts to develop a design template for all of its transit stations. Known as a “kit of parts”, this new template would bring uniform designs for station portals, ticketing machines, street furniture and turnstiles. While the kit of parts will undoubtedly save Metro funds in the long run by keeping materials and maintenance methods consistent, the effort is more geared towards giving the Metro system a recognizable global brand that is in tune with transportation systems in other cities. However, Hawthorne fears that the kit of parts as currently conceived is too sterile and would take years to fully implement. Our September 2012 issue of Moving Southern California discussed this concept.
Hawthorne also turned his attention toward the ongoing discourse of public space in Los Angeles. In recent years, new architectural marvels and open spaces have lifted the city’s global profile. However, with more people using public transportation and thus making last-mile connections by foot, there is still plenty to do to make the experience inviting. According to Hawthorne, such efforts should also extend to connecting Los Angeles with its neglected river and adding park space even as demand for improvable property increases. Meanwhile, the same newspaper’s editorial board gave glowing remarks on an effort to convert the former Harbor Subdivision into a bike trail that would connect to the Los Angeles River.
A recent analysis concluded that numerous buildings in recent years were approved by local governments without considering their proximity to active faults. The state forbids construction of buildings on faults and requires developers to perform geological studies that would determine whether or not such buildings sit atop of or are near to faults. However, the state is also responsible for mapping out these faults so that developers and local governments can get prompt answers. Yet the state has underfunded this important endeavor, thanks to routine budget cuts that undermined what was once a steadfast effort to map such faults. State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) called on the state to increase funds and accelerate the pace of fault mapping.
As our newsletter previously announced, Metro is contemplating another ballot measure to both expedite Measure R-funded projects and construct entirely new ones. Considering that the last attempt to extend Measure R, in 2012, failed at the polls by the thinnest of margins, Metro is hoping that voters will favor a new and distinct measure that is more inclusive of the county’s transportation needs. The new measure could increase the county sales tax instead of extending the one enacted under Measure R. The agency’s Planning and Programming Committee recommended that the Metro Board bring the matter to voters in 2016, rather than 2014, so that the public can better vet the possible measure and officials from across the county can suggest projects not currently funded under Measure R.
In tune with this development, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern lists the 10 things he hopes to see in the new year. Alpern notes that Metro must communicate effectively to prospective voters and allow for greater transparency in its dealings in order to gain the trust of the public. Alpern also advocates that state and federal legislators representing Southern California be more aggressive in bringing home matching funds to turn local transportation projects from fantasy to reality. The Transit Coalition will keep tabs on this developing proposal and offer its own ideas as to how Metro can best use the funds garnered from this measure with regards to public transportation.
Here’s what we wish our state leaders would make for their New Year’s resolution: more money for real transportation choices! New funds from the state’s cap-and-trade climate program – and we’re talking billions over the next 7 years – could be spent on public transportation, biking, walking, green space, and affordable homes near transit. All it will take is some true leadership.
That’s why we need those interested in advancing environmentally friendly forms of transport to email the Governor now and ask him to propose a budget that prioritizes health, climate and opportunity for people of every income. The state government will release a draft budget in early 2014, so now is the time to make our voices heard and influence his proposal. By taking action today, the public can help create a California that we all love living in, with less pollution and more bikes, buses, trains, and affordable homes.