To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, February 25, 2013

ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway: so far, so good


By Steve Hymon, February 25, 2013


 The 10 freeway on Monday morning; the westbound lanes are on the left. Photo by Metro.

 The 10 freeway on Monday morning; the westbound lanes are on the left. Photo by Metro.


The ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway between Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway opened early Saturday morning and thus far all has been going well. A few interesting stats:

•Speeds in the ExpressLanes through this morning’s commute remained above 45 miles per hour 100 percent of the time.

•The average toll to use the entire 14 miles of the ExpressLanes during peak periods has been $4.19. The maximum thus far was $5.15 for the westbound 605.

•Sixty-seven percent of the private vehicles that used the ExpressLanes during the Monday morning peak period were carpools with three or more occupants or two-person carpools. However, two-person carpools pay a toll during the peak period. So the ratio of toll-free to toll-payers was 52 percent HOV 3+ carpoolers to 48 percent single occupant vehicles and carpools with two people.

•The traffic volume in the ExpressLanes on the 10 on Monday morning was 99 percent of what it was on Monday, Feb. 4, the previous non-holiday Monday.

Remember, every vehicle that uses the ExpressLanes on the 10 or 110 freeway needs a FasTrak transponder — with the exception of buses and motorcycles with standard California license plates.

You can order a transponder online by clicking here.

If you obtained a transponder through AAA, Costco or Albertson’s, click here to complete the registration process.


 Liu introduces bill to sell state-owned homes not needed for 710 project


By Daniel Siegal, February 25, 2013

 Sen. Carol Liu (D-La CaƱada Flintridge)  is putting forth legislation once again to encourage the California Department of Transportation to sell state-owned homes that are no longer needed for any extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway.

Liu’s bill, SB 416, would make it easier for Caltrans to sell these homes by allowing the agency to sell the homes in “as-is” condition with an accordant discount to the prospective buyers.

Caltrans was slammed by a state audit last year for mismanaging the approximately 500 properties it purchased over the last six decades in preparation for the potential connection of the 710 from its current terminus in Alhambra to Pasadena.

“We need to get Caltrans out of the rental housing business and sell off these properties,” Liu said in a statement. “Real estate management is not part of the department’s mission.”

L.A. County Metroplitan Transportation Authority’s plans to close the so-called 710 gap no longer include the surface freeway for which the homes were originally purchased.Transportation officials are currently reviewing five final options for the project, including a 4.5-mile tunnel that has met with strong local opposition.

Under current law, Caltrans would have to make any repairs required by lenders or government assistance programs before selling the homes at fair market value to eligible tenants, and then an affordable housing entity.

Liu’s bill would change the definition of “fair market value” to allow the homes to be sold in their current condition.

Liu put forth a bill last year that would have compelled Caltrans to quickly sell any homes not required for the 710 freeway project, but it was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who said it was too early in the study process on the 710 project to sell homes that might be needed for future construction.

In January, however, Caltrans identified 17 homes that would not be used in any of the five options under study by the MTA for closing the 710 gap, and which thus could potentially be sold.
City Hall’s Brand of Socialism: Soak the Working Class with Higher Taxes to Support Millionaire Cops and Firefighters


February 25, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: At 5:30 p.m. tonight and again at 10 p.m., KCET’s SoCal Connected will drop another bomb on City Hall’s DROP program — Deferred Retirement Option Plan — that is letting retired cops and firefighters retire one day on a 90 percent pension and come back the next day at their full salary with their pension check being banked for up to five years at 5 percent interest. Read more below about double-dipping retirees getting earning six-figure salaries and then getting lump sum checks of more than $1 million when they finally retire for good.

This is your last chance Los Angeles: If you pass Proposition A’s sales tax hike and put Greuel or Garcetti in the Mayor’s office, Feuer in City Attorney’s office and Zine in the Controller’s office with eight failed legislators, five obedient staffers and two cops on the City Council, you deserve the calamity that is coming.

Check out City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana’s “Road to Financial Recovery” Analysis released Feb. 7 and see just how feeble City Hall’s efforts have been to rein in costs and how precarious the city’s financial position remains because of the inadequacy of the measures taken — more smoke and mirrors than substance, to be sure.

Santana who’s own position is said to be even more precarious than the city’s because the unions that so heavily funding the sleazy Greuel, Garcetti, Feuer and Zine campaigns have demanded he be fired. His crime: Daring to suggest over and over that stronger measures were needed while the elected officials showed what moral and political cowards they are by remaining silent.

You can see the depths of political perversity that reigns at City Hall in the opening words of Santana’s report when he credits “the steadfast leadership of the mayor” and “the resolve of the City Council” for a serious of half measures that have reduced general fund positions by 14.4 percent but not reduced salary costs a single penny.

Between the lines of his report, deep in the details, is a shocking story of mismanagement by those who would presume to rise to higher office like Greuel, Garcetti and Zine and those who want to double their salaries at public expense as Councilmen after years of destroying the state’s financial position as legislators in Sacramento.

What the report makes clear is the only losers are the residents and taxpayers. Of 5,300 positions eliminated from the general fund, barely 400 people lost their jobs, 2,400 were paid off handsomely to retire and the rest were transferred to the DWP, Harbor, Airport and the special funded positions.

It’s public services and maintenance of public facilities, roads and parks that have suffered.

The poster child of this failure is the city’s continuing use of the DROP program for cops and firefighters.

Two years ago, SoCal Connected exposed just how outrageous the program is at a time when there’s an unending budget crisis driven by out of control costs and people lined up dying to get great paying jobs in public safety.

Monday night, the show reports an updated look at how the program is working with more than 3,000 officers and firefighters having taken advantage of it over the last decade at a spectacular cost to the public.

Shockingly, the program reports that the city has never studied the cost and benefits of DROP even though other cities across the country are dropping DROP

Greuel and Garcetti — the gutless wonders — fully support DROP and despite their total ignorance of any facts, since there aren’t any, insist it’s cost effective and keeps veteran personnel on the job.

That from the people who created and endorsed the early retirement buyout for senior civilian workers, a shotgun approach that left numerous departments in chaos.
That from people that are too timid to speak out strongly against the sales tax hike on the ballot. That from people who don’t the courage to denounce the police and fire chief threatening to put your life in jeopardy by eliminating hundreds of public safety jobs as punishment if you don’t vote for a regressive, destructive and unnecessary tax that punishes low income people the most. i

Vote for these people if you want, it’s your right, it’s your city — just know you will have to live with the consequences and they won’t be pretty.
My Sunday Column: Seeking the Straight Story on the Billions the State Confiscated in Abolishing Community Redevelopment

February 25, 2013

Twenty months after Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature abolished
community redevelopment agencies statewide, local officials have gone through all the stages of grief — from horror to anger to confusion.

Now they have reached the point where all they can see is darkness at the end of the tunnel of their experience, uncertainty over whether the revised redevelopment law and its interpretation by state Finance Department officials will be the same in six months or six months after that as it appears to be today.

For all the successes that cities like Glendale and Burbank claim in terms of using the property tax dollars they kept under redevelopment to create projects like the Americana at Brand with new jobs and long-term revenue streams, regenerated neighborhoods, upgraded infrastructure and affordable housing, there were endless examples of abuses.

Take Los Angeles, where the CRA was little more than a slush fund providing welfare to the rich and to giant corporations — not as the law was intended, to remove blight and support a healthy economic future for the community.

“When you look at the communities that abused the program, yes it’s cleaner, but a lot of cities used redevelopment appropriately and did some good work, as we did in Glendale,” said Phil Lanzafame, chief assistant director of community development.

“I’m not asking for the redevelopment law back; I’m not asking for a new tool. I’m just asking for some surety going forward so that we don’t get into the same bind again where for 60 years everybody recognized what was lawful and then in one year cities were told, ‘OK, you’re on your own. It’s over.’

“We fought it. We challenged it. The court didn’t agree. We lost. So now we’ve bit the bullet. But going forward, we don’t know if we can rely on the law they’ve given us. How we can plan anything when we don’t know what the rules will be in six months or the six months after that.”

The heart of the financial problem for Glendale is that in order to expedite projects, the city lent its redevelopment agency $78 million and was being paid back $6 million to $7 million a year with interest from the increased tax revenue that otherwise would have gone to the state.


NFL Talking to Dodgers Owners About Football at Chavez Ravine


 By Adrian Glick Kudler, February 25, 2013


Oh damn, this NFL stadium at Chavez Ravine rumor is getting real as hell: while we heard last fall that the league liked the idea of bringing a football team to the current home of Dodger Stadium, SportsBusiness now reports that it "has had direct talks with Los Angeles Dodgers owner Guggenheim Partners about the possibility of a football stadium" here. LA Live developer AEG has been working for a couple years now to build a football stadium in South Park; the city approved the plan last year but the plan hinges on attracting a team and not a single one made this year's deadline to move to LA. On top of that, AEG is up for sale and Guggenheim is one of the final bidders. Another planned stadium in far-flung City of Industry has been out of fashion for ages. Apparently, "the NFL is not fully comfortable with either site." Meanwhile, the NFL is also interested in a "several other sites," including the Hollywood Park Racetrack, which is supposed to get a massive mixed-use redevelopment that's been delayed for ages.

Dodger Stadium is undergoing a big renovation and updating right now, so SB points out that "that would seem an odd investment if the stadium were to be torn down to make way for an NFL venue." There's plenty of land at Chavez, but the LA Times notes that the Dodgers's much-hated last owner Frank McCourt still has part-ownership of the parking lots that surround the stadium, which means he'll have to be in on any plan to build (during his ownership, McCourt was interested in bringing the NFL to the site). Chavez is also surrounded by residential property and neighbors might not like the idea of a second stadium nearby.

Four bills that affect California cyclists


By Richard Masoner, February 25, 2013


Proposed laws include agency immunity from liability on any street with bike lanes; CEQA exemption for bike plans
The deadline to submit bills for the 2013 legislative session passed last Friday. Among the 2200 bills submitted by our representatives since the legislative year began, I’ve listed the bills I found that directly affect cyclists in California.

Sacramento Bus with bike rack

Bigger bike racks on city buses, but only for Sacramento. AB 206 allows Sacramento buses to
carry bike racks with a capacity for 3 bikes, instead of the 2 bike racks currently in use. Current California law limits fold down bike racks on the front of buses to 36 inches. Roger “No Relation To Bruce” Dickinson’s AB 206 extends this to 40 inches for Sacramento Regional Transit District. The 2 bike racks used by most transit agencies fit within the 36 inch limit, while 3 bike racks can extend 40 inches from the front of the bus. California Vehicle Code 35400, which defines maximum allowable lengths for city buses and bike racks, already has similar exceptions for Alameda – Contra Costa County Transit and Gold Coast Transit.

CEQA exemption for urban bike plans. AB 417 by Jim Frazier exempts urban bicycle plans from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. This expands the exemption that some bike lanes now have from CEQA review. While Los Angeles has been aggressive with bike projects using the the AB 2245 CEQA exemption, planner Christopher Kidd tells me that San Francisco Bay Area cities have been reluctant to move forward because of the ambiguous requirements about traffic studies in the current law. AB 417 removes the traffic studies requirement and extends the CEQA back from a specific project back to the planning phase, so a city can exempt all bike projects from CEQA requirements in one fell swoop.
Bicyclists Begin BIke Lane Here

Immunity from bike lane injuries. AB 738 from Diane Harkey of Orange Coubty provides immunity for public entities and their employees “for an injury caused to a person riding a bicycle” while that person travels on a roadway with a bike lane. The immunity applies whether the cyclist is in the bike lane or not. Currently, public agencies and employees already have fairly broad “design immunity” under California Government Code 830.6, according to transportation engineer Bob Shanteau of the California Assocation of Bicycle Organizations (CABO). State and local bike advocacy groups are already gearing up to fight this bill

Bicycle questions on the drivers license test. Tom Ammanio of San Francisco introduced AB 840, which adds a requirement that the driver’s license test include “a test of the applicant’s knowledge and understanding of the provisions of the California Driver Handbook relating to bicycling, including, but not limited to, bicycle markings, bicycle lanes, and bicycles in travel lanes.” Is that cool, or what?
Steinberg Submits SB 731 to Reform CEQA


By Robert Cruickshank, February 23, 2013

Yesterday State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg submitted SB 731, a bill to reform the California Environmental Quality Act. But that was overshadowed by the even more dramatic news that the primary backer of CEQA reform in the legislature, State Senator Michael Rubio, was resigning to take a lobbying job at Chevron.
Darrell Steinberg
First up, SB 731. The bill itself lacks detail and is a placeholder that describes the legislature’s intent. According to information released by Sen. Steinberg’s office, SB 731 would “modernize” CEQA through the following steps:
Key elements of SB 731 include:
* Updating CEQA to encourage and expand infill developments to reduce urban sprawl. This will help jump start the state’s housing market while promoting development consistent with state climate and planning laws like SB 375.
* Expedite the CEQA process, without compromising underlying public disclosure or environmental protection, for new investments in clean energy, bike lanes and transportation projects that help California meet its renewable energy, clean air, jobs, and transit goals.
* Modernize CEQA and its implementing regulations to set clear minimum thresholds for impacts like parking, traffic, noise and aesthetics to allow local agencies to standardize mitigation of those impacts. This change would preserve local control to set more stringent thresholds where communities choose to do so.
* Reduce duplication in Environmental Impact Report filings by expanding the use of “tiering.” This streamlines and limits further paperwork whereby local land use plans that have sufficient detail and recently completed EIRs can be used by people building projects within those plans.
* Where Environmental Impact Reports have been successfully challenged, allow the courts to send back for repair only the portion of the EIR that is found to be incomplete or lacking required specificity. This would eliminate the need for the entire EIR to be recirculated for public comment which can create additional delays.
* In those cases where project developers and agencies haven’t made any substantive change to a project and the public has already had time to comment on it, limit or prohibit so-called “late hits” and “document dumps” designed solely to delay projects late in the environmental review process.
* Appropriate $30 million in new funding to local governments to update their general, area, and specific plans so that they can be better used to “tier” and streamline environmental review of projects built pursuant to those plans.
Many of these proposals make a ton of sense. Encouraging infill development is a very important part of reducing carbon emissions, since dense areas well-served by transit have smaller carbon footprints than low-density auto-dependent areas. With the climate crisis far and away the biggest threat to the environment, encouraging infill development is exactly what CEQA should be designed to do. I also like the idea of sending back just parts of an EIR for revision rather than tossing the entire document, although it might be wise to limit this to infill development and to mass transit projects.

The second item, expediting things like bike lanes and mass transit (including, perhaps, high speed rail?) is also welcome news, since again these alternatives are essential to reducing carbon emissions. Cars and trucks represent 35% of California’s overall carbon emissions as of 2009, by far the largest single category.

The third item might just address the Level of Service problem I described on Thursday, potentially allowing cities like San Francisco to strictly limit or maybe even do away with LOS as a category for review and mitigation under CEQA. But we’ll have to wait for more detailed bill text to determine how exactly this would work.

The language regarding “tiering” is sure to be controversial. Environmentalists had fought the
concept since it was first floated back in August. Steinberg’s proposal appears to have some significant innovations to address those concerns. First, it requires the general plans to have a “recently approved” EIR, although how recent isn’t specified. It also requires them to have “sufficient detail,” an undefined but potentially significant requirement. And it gives money to local governments to help update their plans, addressing a concern that outdated plans could be used to enable bad projects to be built.

My guess is that the CEQA defenders will not support this concept. And they may balk at other parts of the bill. We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.

Steinberg’s proposal was almost lost amidst the energy generated by the day’s bigger news, that of
Sen. Rubio’s resignation. Sen. Rubio was the key backer of CEQA reform, and many speculated that Sen. Rubio may have decided to leave in part because CEQA reform wasn’t going to go his way. On the other hand, this proposal looks like something he could have lived with, especially since it includes tiering language.

Rubio’s departure has two significant effects. First, it is undoubtedly a blow for CEQA reform efforts. Rubio’s departure deprives the effort of a key leader, but the manner of his departure – especially his destination – will not help reconcile those concerned about reform to this proposal.

Opposition to hydraulic fracking for oil production in the Monterey Shale has been growing, and it is an opposition I personally share. Chevron is one of the major property owners of land in the Monterey Shale, especially in western Kern County. By heading to Chevron, Sen. Rubio has already started to generate questions about a possible connection between fracking and CEQA reform. Ethan Elkind at Legal Planet makes the point explicitly:
With the news that CEQA “reform” champion and State Senator Michael Rubio resigned today to lobby for Chevron, I have to wonder if his push for CEQA reform was really just to benefit oil and gas fracking. Sure, CEQA reform proponents liked to trumpet how a weakening of the law will help businesses and infill development and the like, but the reality was that the standards-based reform effort that Rubio and others advocated would primarily have benefited large sprawl projects — and of course the fracking industry, based in Rubio’s district in Kern County. Certainly there is not a lot of infill development happening in Kern County right now to motivate the former State Senator to champion reform for that outcome. And not only is Rubio an interested party in the oil and gas industry, but Tina Thomas, the lawyer who worked with Rubio to draft his CEQA reform legislation, counts Chevron as one of her clients.

So why would fracking proponents care to push for changes to CEQA? Currently, California and the United States do not have regulations in place to address fracking, and CEQA has been largely ignored when it comes to this extraction process. But in 2011, California Department of Conservation employees who review permits for new fracking projects (correctly) argued that CEQA review should apply to these projects. In response, the Brown Administration promptly fired them. But with the law on the side of CEQA proponents, companies like Chevron had to know that California’s premiere environmental law would delay and possibly limit their fracking projects. That’s where Thomas and Rubio came in, joined by longstanding business critics of CEQA.
Elkind’s analysis has already been widely circulated among environmentalists and climate hawks worried about the CEQA reform effort. If Sen. Rubio’s goal was to help speed CEQA reform, his move to Chevron has instead undermined that project.

The other major impact of Sen. Rubio’s resignation is that it temporarily deprives the Democrats of a supermajority in the State Senate. That’s because an empty chair is functionally equivalent to a Republican seat – 27 of the 40 seats are needed to have a 2/3 majority in the Senate, even if some of those 40 seats are vacant. Democrats had a 29-11 advantage in the Senate after the November election, but because three of the Democratic seats are now vacant, they only have 26 votes, one shy of a supermajority. They’ll get seat number 27 back on March 12 when a special election in San Diego is held, and likely get seat number 28 back in May when a special election in the San Gabriel Valley is held.

Rubio’s seat has a strong Democratic majority, so his successor is likely to be another Democrat. Rumors have been flying that Fran Florez might run, which triggered rumors that her arch-rival Nicole Parra might run. I’ve also seen the name of Assemblymember Henry Perea mentioned for this seat, and he has been a strong advocate of high speed rail.

So the Democratic supermajority is safe. But CEQA reform certainly is not. After yesterday, SB 731′s passage looks less likely than it did just a day or two ago.
Car Share Parking Attracts an Unlikely Foe in San Francisco


By Isabel Angell, February 21, 2103



(San Francisco — KALW) San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors recently passed an ordinance to allow residential developers to add more parking spots to their new apartment buildings–- if those spots are dedicated for car-share programs.

The city considers itself a national leader in car share, and in 2011 it began reserving on-street parking for area nonprofit City CarShare.

So it wasn’t a surprise when the ordinance, which was proposed by Supervisor Scott Wiener, passed unanimously. What surprised some was the opposition to it.

In a letter, Sierra Club secretary Sue Vaughan said the plan “will add to overall congestion and negatively impact the flow of transit and air quality.”

The Sierra Club says building more parking spaces — even for car share — violates the city’s Transit First policy. That’s a 1973 initiative that puts public transit investment as the city’s top transportation priority, and is designed to discourage private automobile traffic.

Apartment parking is hot commodity in San Francisco– under the current rules, developers can only build one space per unit. But for many San Franciscans, that’s not enough. A quick search on Craigslist shows people renting their coveted spots upwards of $300 a month.

Now, the city is considering reducing that amount: a recent development on Market and Castro was allowed just one half of a parking spot per unit. The idea behind the restriction is to get people out of cars and into other methods of transportation, like Muni or biking.

Before the new ordinance, car-share spots counted toward the development’s maximum. For example, the planned building on Market and Castro has 24 units, so that means 12 parking spaces. If the developer wanted to add a car-share spot, it would have to be included in that 12. Under the new ordinance, they could add between two to five spots designated for car-share only, in addition to the 12.

Instead of making new parking spots for car-share programs, The Sierra Club suggested converting existing street parking spots. But Supervisor Wiener’s office countered by offering studies that show each new car share vehicle replaces between eight and ten private cars. In fact, a UC Berkeley study found that after signing up with a car-sharing program, almost half of households with a car got rid of their vehicle.

The San Francisco Supervisors hope that developers will take advantage of these new car-share spots. So do the city’s car-share members, who are seeing their usual spots at gas stations and open-air lots disappear as they get converted into buildings and other uses.

This isn’t the first time the Sierra Club has taken a counterintuitive position. Last summer, the group 
opposed a regional transportation referendum in the Atlanta area that would have generated $3 billion in transit funding. The Sierra Club said that proposal didn’t go far enough.  The referendum didn’t get the majority it needed to pass.

California’s chance to wise up on rail transit


U-T San Diego Editorial Board, February 23, 2013


The federal government’s flirtation with fiscal restraint may give California the tough love it needs to sober up from its high-speed rail pipe dream.

In 2008, Congress gave California until October this year to absorb the full cost of subsidizing in-state Amtrak service, including the Pacific Surfliner, which runs from San Diego to San Luis Obispo through Los Angeles with stops in Solana Beach and Oceanside, among others. Keeping Amtrak service intact would add $25 million to the state’s $90 million annual subsidy.

The 2008 law represented a tangible step toward weaning Amtrak off the federal dole. Although it increased capital spending for repairs and upgrades, it cut operating subsidies by 40 percent over six years and required improved performance.

Since then, ridership has risen between big cities. And passenger fares covered 79 percent of operating costs in 2010, a figure Amtrak says was the highest reported for any U.S. passenger railroad.

Still, Amtrak remains ripe for reform. Ostensibly a private company, it is hopelessly handcuffed by Congress; unable to cut labor costs, drop many money-losing routes, or switch to the lighter, efficient rail cars used in Europe.

At the same time, California’s added subsidy seems reasonable, especially compared to its massive annual spending on various local transit systems, which tops $1.2 billion in this year’s budget alone. 

The Pacific Surfliner is the nation’s second-busiest line, after the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston.

And the 2008 law struck a blow for federalism: There’s no good reason for taxpayers nationwide to subsidize an express train ride from San Diego to Los Angeles.

Yet Amtrak’s recent baby steps toward reform only further expose the madness of California’s high-speed rail project.

For openers, California’s $115 million in subsidies for Amtrak will keep service rolling to all its major cities. That figure wouldn’t even pay the interest on the debt for a high-speed rail system: 

Voters in 2008 approved $9 billion in bonds for seed money, but construction cost estimates for the full system have jumped from $33 billion to $99 billion.

Now the state’s cost projection is $68 billion – but that doesn’t include the segment from Los Angeles to San Diego with stops in Murrieta and Escondido, which may never be built.

President Barack Obama has promised $3.5 billion in federal “stimulus” funding, thus showing where he stands on federalism and social justice. Why should an airline mechanic in Chicago help fund a rail competitor in California?

But it is Obama’s unfunded health care overhaul and refusal to reform entitlements that doom California’s high-speed rail boondoggle. State officials are betting on $39 billion in federal grants that will never come.

It’s time to cancel high-speed rail and focus on improving the system we have.

(Note: There is also the Coaster rail line from Oceanside to the San Diego Depot with six stops in between, but the last time I checked, if I got off Amtrak at the Solano Beach station, I would have to wait 1.5 hours to connect to the Coaster to take it to a stop five minutes from my son's house. Not very efficient.)

California facing big challenges in improving state roads


 By Ronald D. White, February 22, 2013

Angeles Crest Highway

A section of Angeles Crest Highway that was washed out during rains in 2009.

The Reason Foundation, a libertarian-leaning think tank, says in a new report that California is facing big challenges in improving driving conditions on its state-owned roads.

The foundation tracked spending per mile in seven areas: miles of urban interstate highways with poor pavement, miles of rural interstates in poor condition, congestion on urban interstates, deficient bridges, highway fatalities, rural primary roads in poor condition and the number of rural roads that are too narrow.

California was the only state that failed to improve in at least three areas, making strides only in repairing and retrofitting deficient bridges and in reducing fatalities during the period studied.

"California has struggled across the board. They are struggling simply to maintain pavement conditions," said Chris Mitchell, director of communications for the foundation. "In 1989, only 4% of California urban interstates were rated as poor. By 2008, the number ballooned to 24.7%."

Eleven states (North Dakota, Virginia, Missouri, Nebraska, Maine, Montana, Tennessee, Kansas, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Florida) made progress in all seven categories. An additional 37 states made progress in five of the seven categories.

The Reason Foundation study covered the years between 1989 to 2008, the latter being the most recent statistics available.

Preliminary figures for 2009 showed states, including California, benefiting from the first federal stimulus package, but things have changed considerably since then.

"The problem is that the money is getting thinner in almost every state," said David Hartgen, emeritus transportation professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and a senior fellow at the Reason Foundation. "There has been a slowing of dollars into the various transportation trust funds."

Moreover, Hartgen said, there is more competition for the money in terms of money for transit programs and other projects, such as high-speed rail.

"Since this report was prepared," Hartgen added on a more positive note, California had begun to make some progress, enough to make him "cautiously optimistic" about the state's future.
California "reduced the percentage of rural interstates rated as poor from 16% to 7%. The percentage of urban interstates rated as poor fell from 25% to 16%. But congestion increased

Bay Area to get dual carpool-toll lanes


By Michael Cabanatuan, February 24, 2013




A common complaint about carpool lanes - except, of course, from those driving in them - is that they're always empty. Throw them open to everyone, say solo drivers sick of sitting in traffic, and gridlock would vanish.

Neither carpool lanes nor congestion will disappear anytime soon; in fact, Bay Area transportation plans call for expanding the patchwork tangle of lanes. But much of the growing network will be open to all drivers - if they're willing to pay a price.

By the end of 2015, solo drivers will be able to buy their way into 90 miles of express lanes on some of the most-clogged Bay Area freeways: Interstates 80, 680 and 880 and the East Bay approaches to the Dumbarton and San Mateo bridges.

Regional transportation officials are moving forward with the first phase in a long-range plan to create a 550-mile network of combined carpool-toll lanes also known as express lanes. Work on the first 90 miles of the system is under way. Legally required environmental studies are in progress, and the toll system is being conceived.

In the next few months, studies will determine what the conversion will cost, how to pay for it and how construction should proceed. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission also will make decisions on the type of toll collection and violation enforcement system to use, hours of operation, and whether to require carpoolers to use a new type of transponder now used on new express lanes in Los Angeles.

At the same time, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which has separate state approval to build a South Bay express lane network, will develop lanes on Highways
101 and 85.

"Carpool lanes won't go away; they are only going to get more heavily used," said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the MTC, which created the regional express lane network plan.

Two stretches of express lanes - 14 miles on southbound Interstate 680 over the Sunol Grade and 4
miles through the Highway 237-Interstate 880 interchange in Milpitas - are already operating, giving some Bay Area drivers a taste of what's to come. A 12-mile express lane is under construction on eastbound Interstate 580, and scheduled to open this year, with a westbound lane expected to follow about a year later.

Express lanes work by continuing to allow carpoolers free access to the fast lane but then selling unused capacity to drivers who wouldn't normally qualify to drive in them. Tolls are collected electronically using FasTrak transponders, and electronic systems are used to monitor traffic and set tolls at a rate designed to keep traffic in the lanes flowing at 50 mph or faster.

As the lanes get more congested, tolls rise, and as gridlock eases, they drop. Toll rates for the network have not been set yet, but on the existing lanes they have varied from a 30-cent minimum to about $5 or $6.

"The goal here is to get the maximum we can out of the system we have," Rentschler said. "Letting people who are willing to pay have access to carpool lanes is a way to do that."

The MTC plans to use money from the express lane to help pay for the next tier of the system and perhaps to fund express bus service along the same corridors.

Before building new toll lanes, the commission plans to convert about 175 miles of existing Bay Area lanes. Then it would build 85 miles of new lanes to close gaps in the network. Lanes built by the Alameda County Transportation Commission on I-580 and I-680 and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in the South Bay would add 90 and 190 miles of lanes to the network.

The first 90 miles will involve converting existing carpool lanes in the following locations:

-- I-80 in both directions - from around Air Base Parkway to I-680 in Fairfield and the Carquinez Bridge to the Bay Bridge toll plaza.
-- I-580 in both directions between I-680 and Hacienda Road in Livermore.
-- I-680 southbound from the Benicia-Martinez Bridge to I-580 and northbound from I-580 to south of Walnut Creek as well as a stretch from Concord to the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.
-- I-880 between Highway 237 in Milpitas and south of Marina Boulevard in San Leandro, and on the approaches from the freeway to the San Mateo and Dumbarton bridge toll plazas.

'Angelenos Against Gridlock' protests delays in 405 widening 


February 23, 2013


A group calling itself Angelenos Against Gridlock plans a demonstration Saturday afternoon to protest delays in the 405 Freeway widening project.

David Murphy, the group's president, said the 2 p.m. protest would be held on the sidewalk outside the Westwood Federal Building at 11000 Wilshire Boulevard.

Months of delays and added costs recently announced at a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority construction meeting "will have an onerous effect on commuters, businesses and residents," Murphy said.

Metro said much of the delay relates to the complexities of locating and moving utility lines along Sepulveda Boulevard through the Sepulveda Pass. Most of that work has been completed, but it took longer than expected.

The $1-billion-plus project's key goal is to add a 10-mile carpool lane between the 10 and the 101 freeways. To accomplish that, workers have had to demolish and rebuild a number of bridges and entrance and exit ramps.

After three years of work, Metro reported this week that the project was two-thirds complete. It said segments would continue to be opened in phases.

Affordability As A Transportation Planning Goal 


By Todd Litman, February 25, 2103

What do transportation system users consider to be the most important problem? Here’s a hint: it’s not traffic congestion.

The 2009 National Household Travel Survey asked respondents to rate the importance of six transport problems: traffic safety, congestion, price of travel, availability of public transit, and lack of walkways or sidewalks. Virtually every demographic group rated affordability (“price of travel”) most important, as indicated in the graphs below.

2009 National Household Travel Survey
According to a major national survey, virtually every demographic group rated affordability (“price of travel”) the most important transport planning issue.

Affordable transport is important, particularly for lower-income people. Increased affordability is equivalent to an increase in income.

Yet, conventional planning ignores this concern. Affordability is seldom recognizes as a transportation planning objective, and if it is, it is usually evaluated based simply on fuel costs. Conventional planning ignores vehicle ownership and parking facility costs, which are much larger than fuel costs, and so ignores the inaffordability caused by automobile dependency, and the user savings that often result from increased transport system diversity and land use accessibility.

Conventional planning assumes that faster modes are more important than slower modes, and that congestion reduction is the most impotant planning objective, and so favors wider roads with higher design speeds and longer block lengths over narrower, lower-speed, more connected roads. Similarly, conventional planning assumes that it is desirable to require generous parking supply at new developments which stimulates sprawl and reduces housing affordability. These planning decisions create automobile-dependent communities hostile to affordable modes: walking, cycling and public transport.

The most comprehensive way to evaluate transportation affordability is relative to household incomes or expenditures. Many experts define affordability based on household’s ability to spend less than 20% of their budgets on transport expenses and less than 45% on combined transport and housing expenses, in recognition that households often make trade-offs between housing and transport costs, so a cheaper home is not truly affordable if it greatly increases transport costs. When measured this way, affordability tends to increase in more accessible, multi-modal neighborhoods.

On average, U.S. households spend 18% of their budgets directly to transportation (not including indirect costs, such as the portion of housing costs devoted to residential parking or general taxes devoted to roads), 20-40% more than other wealthy countries, and residents of transit-oriented communities typically spend 40-60% less on transportation than residents of sprawled communities.

Household Expenditures Devoted To Transport

Residents of more transit-oriented U.S. cities spend a smaller portion of their household budgets on transportation

It is not only planners who must change our approach. Many people, including well-intended anti-poverty advocates, mistakenly support policies that contribute to automobile dependency, with the intent of making driving more affordable. Anti-poverty advocates often oppose fuel tax increases and road tolls, and support parking subsidies, although these ultimately harm poor people by increasing other taxes and housing costs, stimulating sprawl, and reducing affordable transport options. For example, a study by Lisa Schweitzer and Brian Taylor found that financing urban highways with general taxes is regressive compared with road tolls because virtually all low-income households pay general taxes and only a few drive on major highways during peak periods. Road tolls and fuel taxes can be progressive overall if revenues help finance affordable transport options (walking, cycling and public transit improvements), which helps lower-income households save money and transfers wealth from higher-income to lower-income households.

I can report from personal experience that affordable transportation is possible and beneficial, but requires an appropriate planning. Our demographically average household (two parents, two children, dog and cat) owned just one car, and five years ago when its engine failed we became car-free. We now rely on a combination of walking, cycling, public transport, taxi, delivery services and occasional vehicle rentals. We spend less than $2,000 annually on local transport, saving at least $5,000 compared with peer households. These savings finance our children’s university educations, and using affordable modes provide other benefits including increased personal fitness and more positive interactions with neighbors. These savings and benefits are possible because we live in a compact community that has relatively good walking and cycling conditions, good public transit and taxi services, and local stores that offer delivery services.

How can planning increase affordability? Here are specific recommendations:
  • Recognize transportation affordability as a planning goal of equal or greater importance than congestion reduction.
  • Evaluate ways that common planning decisions (roadway expansion, parking requirements in zoning codes, the location of public facilities such as schools) affect transport and housing affordability.
  • Support affordable modes (walking, cycling and public transit), for example, by applying complete streets policies which insure that roadways accommodate diverse modes, users and uses.
  • Support carsharing, which reduces the need to own a vehicle for occasional use, and distance-based vehicle insurance and registration fees, which give motorists a new opportunity to save money if they minimize their annual vehicle travel.
  • Support smart growth (compact, mixed, multi-modal development) and transit-oriented development which reduce the distances that people must travel to reach services and activities, and improves their travel options.
  • Reduce or eliminate parking requirements, and encourage parking unbundling (parking is rented separately from building space), particularly for lower-priced housing, so residents are not forced to pay for parking they do not need.
  • Encourage stores to offer delivery services.

For More Information 
Joe Cortright (2010), Driven Apart: How Sprawl is Lengthening Our Commutes and Why Misleading Mobility Measures are Making Things Worse, CEOs for Cities (www.ceosforcities.org).
Yingling Fan and Arthur Huang (2011), How Affordable is Transportation? An Accessibility-Based Evaluation, CTS Report 11-12, Transitway Impacts Research Program, Center for Transportation Studies.
Housing + Transportation Affordability Index.
Todd Litman (2011), Affordable-Accessible Housing In A Dynamic City: Why and How To Support Development of More Affordable Housing In Accessible Locations, Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
Todd Litman (2013), Transportation Affordability: Evaluation and Improvement Strategies, Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
Lisa Schweitzer and Brian Taylor (2008), “Just Road Pricing,”Access 36;  Spring, pp. 2-7.
ULI (2009), Beltway Burden: The Combined Cost of Housing and Transportation in the Greater Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, ULI Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing, Urban Land Institute.


Condomania and the campaign


By Bill Boyarsky, February 23, 2013


 In the months before the recession struck, I spent a lot of time covering “condomania,” an L.A. affliction marked by conversion of affordable apartment houses into expensive condos. Many tenants, facing eviction, told me their stories. Then the economy collapsed and the condo developers disappeared, along with their plans to tear down the apartments.

Now they’ve returned. Construction of transit stations has focused developers back to the job of turning lower rent apartment houses into high-end rentals and condos, according to tenant advocate Larry Gross, executive director of Coalition For Economic Survival. He told me it’s happening in Hollywood, Koreatown, Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Valley Village. “And on the Gold Line into East L.A. we will see gentrification expanding,” he said, as well as along the Expo Line from downtown into West L.A. and eventually Santa Monica.

Affordable housing is generally defined as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a low-income family’s pay. Gross said 58 percent of L.A. renters are paying more than 30 percent and a third are paying about 50 percent.

Yet the fate of tenants has not been a major issue in the election for mayor. That is until recently when the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, the city’s major landlord group, announced its support for candidates Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilwoman Jan Perry.

It’s not known whether this will help or hurt the recipients. As the L.A. Times’ Michael Finnegan wrote, “landlord endorsements are not entirely a badge of honor in a city where about 60 percent of the housing is occupied by tenants.”

Greuel said it was a sign of her support among business and labor. But tenant advocate Gross said the apartment house owners “have fought us for years, they have fought rent control and they are coalescing behind Wendy Greuel. Tenants need to know this when they go to the ballot box.”

He was kinder to City Councilman Eric Garcetti. Garcetti, Gross said, “has a mixed record. He hasn’t been with us on every issue, such as supporting a rent freeze. He voted against it. But on the other hand, he has provided leadership and support on some other key issues.”

Actually, Gross’ constituency of low income and middle-income renters have few, if any friends in city hall. If they had an enemies’ list it should start with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and include the city council and high-level building and planning bureaucrats. The big campaign-contributing construction unions and developers who have great power in city hall have always favored condo conversion. Before the recession, Mayor Villaraigosa, beaming at all the construction, said the crane—a construction crane—should be the city’s official bird.

The council and the mayor support big construction around transit stops. As Dakota Smith noted in the Daily News, Villaraigosa, Perry, Garcetti and Greuel favor a Hollywood community plan that would allow pockets of high rises in the area, with its Metro station..
The trouble with such developments is that they sharply increase the value of buildings for many blocks around the station, totally changing neighborhoods and driving out low-rent dwellings.

Gross and the Coalition For Economic Survival want to keep these neighborhoods as they are, many heavily rent controlled and affordable. They are asking the candidates to “stand behind any attempt to weaken rent control” and to preserve rent-controlled buildings or at least require developers to replace the housing lost when they are leveled.

Good luck. With condomania taking hold, there’s not much chance of the tenants’ platform being adopted.

(an earlier version of this column incorrectly quoted Smith as writing Villaraigosa, Perry, Garcetti and Gruel favor the Millenium twin high rise development in Hollywood. Actually, she wrote they favor the Hollywood Community Plan, which allows more high rises in Hollywood).
Streetscape: DTLA giraffes


February 25, 2013


 Two giraffe heads peek over a fence on 5th Street on Saturday, keeping an eye on the Pershing Square Metro station. More artistry of Calder Greenwood? Click the pic to enlarge.
Today’s Sign That America Is Falling Behind on Transport Policy


By Angie Schmitt, February 25, 2013

You know we’ve reached a low point in U.S. infrastructure policy when state officials are selling off public utilities in order to fund $1.7 billion highway interchanges.
France's new OuiGo service aims to lure car owners onto high-speed rail trips by lowering fares. Image: Transport Politic

Contrast American gimmicks with the progress of some of our international competitors. Systemic Failure reports today that China is now operating four high-speed rail lines at a profit, even when factoring in payments to cover construction costs. By 2015, China will have built more than 11,000 miles of track for the country’s ultra high-speed “bullet trains,” and by 2020, they hope to expand to more than 31,000 miles.

Meanwhile, France is experimenting with a new fare system to make high-speed train travel more affordable for some trips, reports Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic. They call the new service OuiGo, and it’s designed to lure people out of their cars by charging peanuts for inter-city travel:
OuiGo will offer 300 km/h TGV speed at very low prices, starting at €10 for journeys between the Paris region and the Mediterranean coast (Montpellier and Marseille, via Lyon), a trip of about 500 miles (10% of overall tickets will be as low as that, with the rest increasing to a maximum of €85). SNCF claims that these ticket prices are the lowest available in the world for high-speed trains. Current TGV tickets start at €19 for similar journeys, but generally are above €50. OuiGo tickets will always be cheaper than equivalent TGV tickets on similar journeys.
Which country do you think will be best positioned if energy prices rise?
Elsewhere on the Network today: A View from the Cycle Path explains how Dutch “woonerven” — nearly car-free residential areas — differ from “shared space,” which author David Hembrow says is still designed to accommodate cars. Transit Miami thinks about what it would take to make Miami “a real city.” And Boston Biker reports that a project in Somerville has triggered the old bike infrastructure-vs-parking debate in the local press.

A 42-Part Murder Mystery, Chronicled on the Toronto Subway


By Eric Jaffee, February 25, 2013


A 42-Part Murder Mystery, Chronicled on the Toronto Subway

Most of us appreciate transit art as a nice break from the commercial overload of urban life. In New York, for instance, it's nice to find yourself in a car with a Poetry in Motion placard instead of yet another Dr. Zizmor ad. Toronto has taken things a great step further with "Murder in Passing" — a 42-part video mystery series that concludes this week.

Since early January, 30-second, subtitled episodes of "Murder in Passing" have played every 10 minutes (on weekdays) on platform screens throughout Toronto's subway system. The story tracks the investigation into the death of bike courier named Mars Brito in fictional Passing, British Columbia. The suspects include a "green bike boss," a train conductor, an anti-bike mayor, and others.

Among the universal urban issues addressed by the series is the ongoing problem of cyclists and drivers having trouble sharing the road.

"Being a lifelong bike rider and public transit user in Toronto, who doesn't own a car, I spend a lot of time thinking about transit issues — in particular, why Toronto is such a bike-unfriendly city, with too many bike deaths and 'door prizes,'" says writer and director John Greyson.

Recognizing the difficulties of capturing an audience on the go, Greyson embedded one clue per
episode to keep interest piqued. He also relied on the general entertainment value of his film-noir style, a number of plot twists, and a good bit of humor. Travelers who miss a spot can catch up online and also get additional clues. Above all, he hopes to spark a discourse on the topics addressed in the series.

"Underneath the pleasures of the genre and the humor, 'Murder in Passing' joins a serious conversation among Toronto commuters about issues of bikes, public transport and gender — issues which affect us all," says Greyson.

"Murder in Passing" is the brainchild of Sharon Switzer, arts programmer and curator for Pattison Onestop, the advertising company that manages the transit screens. Switzer had the idea of engaging commuters in a daily murder mystery as far back as 2007, but it took this long for all the pieces (not to mention the funding) to come together. The Pattison screens reach more than a million riders a day.

"The entire goal of this project is to bring culture to commuters," she says. "It made sense to create a project that commuters could interact with on a daily basis — follow the story over a prolonged period of time on their way to work."

The advertising screens on Toronto's subway platforms run an endless loop of ads, news clips, the occasional public service announcement, and an art project conceived by Switzer. Last year's program included a popular series called "Confessions Underground," which aired short public confessions from residents in cities across North America that ranged from the shocking to the poignant.

"Murder in Passing" is the biggest project on tap for 2013, but there are some others on the schedule that elevate the typical transit art medium as well. In April, the transit system run an annual "book club," with the city's public library promoting a book through Twitter and commuters tweeting responses to prompts on the book that are shown on the screens. In summer, transit art is planning another interactive project that asks people to share their observations of the city.

Switzer hopes to do more mystery narratives but recognizes they ask a lot of commuters, Some want a distraction without a commitment, others might enjoy the series but simply miss the spot each day. Still, she says, she's glad to see "Murder in Passing" finally come to fruition, and hopes the series augers a more progressive wave of transit art.

"It's the most ambitious project I've ever done," she says, "so I'm incredibly excited to have it on the screens."

Missed Connections

Seen but not spoken to: An atlas of where we’re (almost) finding love. 
February 22, 2013
Turns out Cupid has no boundaries—and he visits WalMart more frequently than you thought. So reveals Dorothy Gambrell's "Missed Connections" map, which appears in the February issue of Psychology Today.

The map, which breaks down, state-by-state, the most common hotspots for Missed Connections posted on Craigslist, has been making a stir on the web over the past couple of days. Denizens of states across country came away with their own interpretations, questions and repudiations. Some of the most common reactions:

Oklahomans crushing on Oklahomans at the state fair? Adorable!

WalMart, a leading love incubator in 15 states? How sad!

Indianans missing connections at home? Hm...

New Yorkers, Atlantans and Northwesterners commiserated about nearly meeting someone in transit.
Californians patted themselves on the backs for working out all the time.

And Andrew Sullivan summarized a common sentiment, calling it the "saddest map in America."
See for yourself! Click the map below to see the full image.

Here are the highlights:
The Pacific Northwest breeds girls bold. This state had the highest percentage of ads from women seeking men (25) and women seeking women (5).
Home of the heterosexual male. The percentage of ads from men for women (76) and from men for men (7) were, respectively, the highest and lowest in the nation.
You’re not in Idaho anymore. The Aloha State had the country’s highest percentage of total ads from men seeking men (46).
*Map depicts the most frequently-cited location where a Missed Connection occurred, by region. All data are based on each state’s 100 most recent Missed Connections posted on Craigslist at the time of data collection.  

After M.T.A. Setbacks, No-Swipe Fare Cards Are Still Stuck in the Future


By Matt Flegenheimer, February 24, 2013


 MetroCards cost $10 million a year just to produce and can cause delays because of failed swipes.


For nearly 50 years, coins were the currency in New York’s subway and bus system. Tokens carried the next 40 years, until the MetroCard first slid into riders’ wallets in 1993. The next big thing was to be a contactless fare card — no swipe required.  

It was to be one of the defining accomplishments of Jay H. Walder, who, before becoming chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2009, oversaw in London the introduction of the Oyster card, which used a computer chip to track fares and account balances for riders. Mr. Walder spoke excitedly about the prospects of a similar card during his early days on the job in New York.

“You can see creative and innovative things that would happen with this,” he said then, adding that even the fare system itself could be overhauled with the cards, allowing the authority to offer discounts depending on the time of day.

Yet agency officials now concede that the MetroCard, which the authority had once hoped to phase out as early as 2012, is not going anywhere anytime soon, despite the rising cost of maintaining the system. And no one is quite sure what will replace it.

At an authority committee meeting last month, officials suggested that a single unfortunate bet had disrupted the project: While other transit agencies invested in contactless payment systems that they would construct themselves, the authority had hoped to evade the burden and cost of building its own. So the agency planned to replace MetroCards with riders’ own contactless bank cards, embedded with computer chips to facilitate fare payment without a swipe.

But banks did not issue the cards widely enough in recent years, officials said, scuttling a plan to introduce a new system as early as 2012.

The setback has placed New York City behind the pace of emerging contactless transit systems in 
cities like Chicago and even Philadelphia — where tokens have long been prevalent — burdening an already aging system with a fare card that officials say costs too much and does too little.

“This is a real setback,” Andrew Albert, a member of the authority’s board, said. “We’ve got to get away from this thing already.”

The authority said a new system would be put into effect within three to five years. Any further delay could prove perilous; officials have said that the current MetroCard system cannot be maintained beyond 2019.

Michael DeVitto, the vice president and program executive for fare payment programs at New York City Transit, said there was “no linkage” between the estimates for the new system and the expected breakdown of the MetroCard. He said he could not “envision any scenario” in which the authority would spend more money to extend the MetroCard’s stay.

Mr. DeVitto said the authority still expected to avoid building its own system, and would rely instead on a third-party device. But it is unclear what form that might take. Options the authority has mentioned recently, besides a smart card, include a key fob or a cellphone payment system.

The authority will also need to accommodate riders without access to bank cards or cellphones. “We’re still working that out,” Mr. DeVitto said.

The authority said it could not immediately calculate how much had been spent on the smart-card project already, or how much it expected to spend to replace the MetroCard.

A capital plan released under Mr. Walder, who left the authority in 2011, called for $247 million to introduce a new fare payment system while maintaining the MetroCard system for as long as necessary.

Some experts suggested that the MetroCard’s persistence could be a symptom of agency turnover. When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo names a replacement for the most recent chairman, Joseph J. Lhota, who quit to run for mayor, the authority will have its fourth chairman since 2009.

“When a new person comes in, they have to reassess. It’s only responsible of them,” said Richard Barone, the director of transportation programs for the Regional Plan Association, a research and advocacy group. “Obviously, it slows things down.”

In recent years, as the authority cycled through chairmen, the program’s standing appeared to vacillate between a leading long-term priority and a deferrable luxury expense. Though the first pilot to replace the MetroCard began in 2006, when Peter Kalikow and Katherine Lapp led the authority, the idea became something of a pet cause for Mr. Walder.

He helped execute a successful regional pilot in 2010 that allowed some riders to tap a single smart card to ride parts of the subway, bus, PATH train and New Jersey Transit systems.

A news release announcing that program called the MetroCard “outdated.” But when Mr. Walder resigned suddenly the next year as he accepted a private-sector job in Hong Kong, the smart card lost its most vocal cheerleader. His successor, Mr. Lhota, shuffled the structure of the project’s team, transferring management responsibilities from the authority’s headquarters to its individual agencies, like New York City Transit and the commuter railroads.

One of the project’s catalysts, Charles Monheim, the authority’s former chief operating officer, also left the agency during Mr. Lhota’s tenure. Mr. DeVitto said he did not believe the turnover had hindered the project. Mr. Walder and Mr. Lhota declined to be interviewed for this article.

Under the less centralized plan, some agencies have made ground. The Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road are seeking proposals from companies to develop an app to allow riders to buy tickets by phone, then display them on their screens for ticket agents to scan.
But for subway riders, progress has been difficult to gauge. “The tactical approach is what we’re now revising,” Mr. DeVitto said. “You don’t see construction going on. It’s not visible.”

Few at the agency have bemoaned plans for the MetroCard’s demise. Producing the cards alone costs nearly $10 million per year, and an authority spokesman said the system’s 2,200 vending machines were “magnets for vandals who disable them so they can have more impetus to sell you an illegal swipe.”

An authority pamphlet from 2010 estimated that “the M.T.A. spends 15 cents of each fare dollar just to sell or collect that fare.” Less calculable, if equally maddening, are the delays caused by riders’ failed swipes at subway entrances and their card-dipping aboard buses.

All the while, the authority waits for the governor to name its new leader. The acting chairman, Fernando Ferrer, has made clear that he expects to be rid of the responsibilities shortly. Asked last month what he would like to see replace the MetroCard, Mr. Ferrer demurred. “I remember the little tokens that are now part of my cuff links,” he said. “So I just got used to the MetroCard.”

Then he clarified: “I’m not suggesting we go back to the tokens.”