Purpose

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

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Check out this smoggy photo of Santa Monica Bay — very grody!

http://thesource.metro.net/2014/01/02/check-out-this-smoggy-photo-of-santa-monica-bay-very-grody/

By Steve Hymon, January 2, 2014

 Photo by Steve Hymon.
Photo by Steve Hymon.


Good morning, riders and readers — and, of course, Happy New Years!

We’ll be back to our normal programming on the blog next Monday. As is our usual custom, we took some time off over the holidays and also put aside our daily chores to work on some long term stuff.
I took this photo from Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades last week. The trio of oil tankers sit in Santa Monica Bay with a band of smog obscuring Catalina Island thanks to the Santa Ana winds.

Of course, this is the same crud that usually blows inland, giving the Inland Empire a big snootful of nasty. I’m posting the photo as a reminder that although our region has enjoyed some very clear days in recent times, smog is hardly an issue of the past.

While ground-level ozone — a primary smog-causing agent that results from burning fossil fuels and other chemical reactions  – has been on the decline, the amount found in our air is still way, way, way above federal standards as the chart below neatly shows.

What to do about it? There’s a lot that needs to be done on many fronts, but I hope among the solutions is getting some people out of cars and onto transit, bikes and sidewalks at least some of the time. And I think expanding our transit system also makes sense so that transit is a viable option to those who feel like driving is the only choice.

As for the above photo, feel free to put on your marketing hat and come up with a pro-transit slogan.
Chart: South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Chart: South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Truck pollution deadline extended

 But there's a catch: Rig owners must prove they're working diligently to comply

http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140102/A_NEWS/401020317

By Alex Breitler, January 2, 2013

Truckers will have more time to comply with major new pollution rules, but they must prove by the end of this month that they're making a good-faith effort to do so.

Wednesday was originally the deadline for many truckers - including thousands in the San Joaquin Valley - to begin upgrading their rigs to emit less harmful diesel pollution.

Officials have expressed concern, however, for the smallest fleets, including businesses comprising just one, two or three trucks. Owners typically lack the financial backing of a large company to pay for new filters that could cost anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000.

 Now those owners have a little more time. Enforcement of the new law will not begin until July 1 for those who file paperwork by the end of January showing that they've taken certain steps, such as entering into an agreement to have a new filter installed, seeking financing to pay for one, or ordering a replacement truck.

Also, the California Air Resources Board next spring will consider changing the rule in ways that could exempt some lower-mileage vehicles and give trucks operating in some regions of California (but not the Valley) until 2015 to comply.

"We're hearing people and their concerns, and there are plenty," said Karen Caesar, a spokeswoman for the air board.

The rule was adopted in 2008 but was delayed several years because of the recession. Under the rule, most heavy trucks in the state must install soot filters or upgrade to newer models by this year. By 2016 nearly all trucks will have been required to do so.

In November, the air board reported that an estimated 20,000 trucks were still in need of filters, most of those trucks belonging to smaller fleets. Air pollution officials in the Valley expressed concern that compliance rates would be low and made available $7 million to help truckers replace their rigs entirely.

Michael Shaw, a spokesman for the California Trucking Association, said this week that the association believes the state can still do more to help small-fleet owners comply - to "ensure that all trucking companies are playing by the same rules."

IHS Predicts 54 Million Self-Driving Cars by 2035

http://www.sci-tech-today.com/news/54-Million-Self-Driving-Cars-by-2035/story.xhtml?story_id=0020007IEP42

By Jennifer LeClaire, January 2, 2013

 IHS Predicts 54 Million Self-Driving Cars by 2035

Egil Juliussen, co-author of the IHS Automotive study on Self-Driving Cars, describes several benefits of autonomous cars, including the possibility for accident rates to plunge to nearly zero. Traffic congestion and air pollution are also expected to decline. Several automakers have already announced plans to produce SDCs by 2020 or sooner.

Would you buy a self-driving car if you could? Although hybrid cars have yet to hit the mainstream, self-driving cars (SDCs) that include driver control are predicted to take off in a big way.

Indeed, global analyst firm IHS just pushed out a study that suggests SDCs will hit highways around the world before 2025. All told, there should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in use globally by 2035.

In the study, “Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Cars -- Not If, But When,” IHS Automotive forecasts total worldwide sales of self-driving cars will grow from nearly 230 thousand in 2025 to 11.8 million in 2035. Of those, 7 million SDCs will include both driver control and autonomous control, and the other 4.8 million will use only autonomous self-driving control.

Looking further into the future, the study anticipates that nearly all of the vehicles in use after 2050 are likely to be self-driving cars or self-driving commercial vehicles.

The price premium for the SDC electronics technology will add between $7,000 and $10,000 to a car’s sticker price in 2025, a figure that will drop to around $5,000 in 2030 and about $3,000 in 2035 when no driver controls are available.

The Benefits of Self-Driving Cars 
 
“There are several benefits from self-driving cars to society, drivers and pedestrians,” said Egil Juliussen, principal analyst for infotainment and autonomous driver assisted systems at IHS Automotive. Juliussen co-authored the study with IHS Automotive senior ADAS analyst Jeremy Carlson.

“Accident rates will plunge to near zero for SDCs, although other cars will crash into SDCs, but as the market share of SDCs on the highway grows, overall accident rates will decline steadily,” Juliussen said. “Traffic congestion and air pollution per car should also decline because SDCs can be programmed to be more efficient in their driving patterns.”

Carmakers Getting Ready 
 
Several automakers have said publicly they will have autonomous cars by 2020, or earlier. Autonomous car technology is already affecting driver assist systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and collision mitigating brake systems.

What’s more, the IHS study says the first group of autonomous cars will have so-called Level 3 capability -- limited self-driving that enables the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic and environmental conditions. Level 3 control also includes auto pilot for highway travel and parking. Coming later in the decade will be SDCs with Level 4 capability -- self-driving but with human controls.

 North America is forecasted to account for 29 percent of worldwide sales of self-driving cars with human controls (Level 4) and self-driving only cars (Level 5) in 2035, or nearly 3.5 million vehicles. China will capture the second largest share at 24 percent, or more than 2.8 million units, while Western Europe will account for 20 percent of the total, 2.4 million vehicles.

Hold Your Horse Power 
 
Of course, the study also notes some potential barriers to SDC deployment and two major technology risks: software reliability and cyber security. The barriers include implementation of a legal framework for self-driving cars and establishment of government rules and regulations.

We turned to Charles King, a principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get his take on the predictions. He told us SDCs are an intriguing idea and he can see where the use of self-driving cars could be quite valuable, particularly in urban areas where traffic congestion is an endemic problem without a decent solution. But King also offered a major caveat.

“Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but we’re living in a country currently that seems to have an aversion to investing significantly in infrastructure upgrades,” King said. “I have a feeling that despite whatever the benefits there would be from self-driving cars, just like cellular telephony and even Internet service, there are places in the U.S., let alone places globally, where the cost of deploying the self-driving infrastructure will outweigh any potential benefits from it. Will they find some success and be a significant presence over time? Yes, I think so but not to the level this study suggests.”

Scraping the bottom

City officials and local residents join forces against sediment removal plans for Devil’s Gate Dam 

http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/scraping_the_bottom/12700/

By Andre Coleman, January 2, 2013



Scraping the bottom

Pasadena officials opposed to a five-year, $70-million sediment clean-up of Devil’s Gate Dam in Hahamongna Watershed Park, which they say could increase health risks and negatively impact local traffic, are making their feelings known in a letter to Los Angeles County officials pushing the controversial project. 

County Public Works Department officials want to remove up to 4-million cubic yards of sediment and build up around Devil’s Gate Dam, located in the southern portion of the park, but the excavation would also force workers to remove trees and vegetation in the area. 

Along with ordering the drafting of a letter expressing their concerns about the project, on Dec. 16 the Pasadena City Council instructed City Manager Michael Beck to hire a private environmental consultant to conduct an independent analysis of the county plans and create a task force to further explore the issue.
 
The revelations were made in an environmental impact report (EIR), which was pushed by Supervisor Michael Antonovich. According to Antonovich’s Director of Communications Tony Bell, no decisions have been made yet on how to remove the sediment.  

“Our position has always been to discuss the issue with the community,” Bell said. “The community’s position is the highest priority.”

Antonovich insisted on a meeting at Jackson Elementary School in Altadena with environmental consultant Brian Mooney of the Chambers Group, a firm contracted by the county to conduct the EIR. The report states that four of the five options, with option no. 4 including sluicing or wincing away the debris over 150 years, would require 50 trips by dirt-hauling trucks every hour six days a week between the dry period of April 15 and Dec. 15 for five years. 

Two days before the council met, dozens of residents from Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta linked hands and stood on the bridge overlooking the dam in protest of the project.

The public comment period for the draft environmental report ends Monday. The sediment removal project is scheduled to begin in 2015 and will last for at least five years.

“He has seen all of the alternatives,” said Antonovich’s Planning Director Edel Vizcarra. “The process is not over yet. We are very concerned with one truck trip per minute ratio. It has got to get cleaned up. We cannot just sit back [and do nothing]. The valves have to be unclogged. The purpose of the dam is for flood control. We were getting letters from the Rose Bowl and the Rose Parade committee. We have heard from the Altadena Town Council and La Cañada residents. There are a lot of interests out there, but the one thing that everybody agrees on is something needs to be done.”

The last time the county removed a significant amount of sediment from the area was in 1994, when workers hauled out 160,000 cubic yards of soil. Since that time, about 2.7 million cubic yards have built up around the dam. An additional 1 million cubic yards of debris was dumped into the area by the Station Fire in 2009, which burned 160,000 acres in Altadena, Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge and Acton.

“They have not been maintaining this reservoir,” said Pasadena Councilman Victor Gordo. “They are trying to play catch-up at our expense, and they’re trying to play catch-up in a way that potentially destroys both a riparian and ecological resource, not to mention all of the recreational aspects of Hahamongna.” 
 
The county contends sediment compromises the dam’s ability to contain debris and floodwaters. If it is not removed, locations along the Arroyo Seco downstream from the dam — including the Rose Bowl, the Pasadena (110) Freeway and neighborhoods in West Pasadena — could be in danger of flooding. 

Despite those dangers, limited options to remove the sediment have left many people worried about the potential impacts on Hahamongna Watershed Park. Local residents have long been fighting to maintain the 1,300-acre park as green space for families and hikers. Located between Altadena and Pasadena in the Upper Arroyo Seco, Hahamongna provides access to foothill trails in La Cañada Flintridge and US Forest Service property further north, into the San Gabriel Mountains. 

The park is managed by the city under guidelines laid out in the Hahamongna Watershed Park Master Plan, which calls for the city to restore, enhance and reestablish the historic native plants of the Arroyo Seco. In April, the city abandoned plans to use a state grant to place a soccer field in the park.
 
The property, which gets its name from the Native American Tongva people who lived in the Arroyo Seco hundreds of years ago and means “flowing water, fruitful valley,” was sold to the Metropolitan Water District in 1970 for $490,000. The land was sold with a stipulation that its usage would support open space and recreational activities. In 2005, MWD sold the land back to the city for $1.2 million after the agency admitted that it had no plans for its use.

“When I speak to people in the park about this project they are horrified,” said Altadena biologist Lori Paul. “There has not been proper notification. The whole area is going to be scraped. It goes from the dam to [nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory] and turns it into a large scraped crater. It is going to be useful to JPL for testing moon rovers, but not for much else. It is going to take out the trees and shrubbery that slow flood waters. It will destroy Hahamongna as we know it.”
The EIR states: 

“The storms that occurred in the two wet seasons after the [Station] fire increased sediment accumulation in the reservoir by more than 1 million cubic yards. This major sediment inflow significantly reduced the reservoir’s capacity and also buried a large portion of the reservoir vegetation, although significant amounts of vegetation, including numerous mature willow trees remain present. In its current condition, the reservoir no longer has the capacity to safely contain another major debris event; and the outlet works have a risk of becoming clogged and inoperable.”

The EIR does not mention potential health and traffic impacts of the five-year project.
“[The city] needs us to get the county’s attention,” said Laura Garrett, who chairs Pasadena’s Environmental Advisory Committee. “The county has made no scientific case for removing this sediment. 

They are using fear-mongering and the press when they say the Rose Bowl would be washed away if they don’t remove sediment. It will increase cancer, emphysema and asthma rates across the city, not just the neighborhood around the Hahamongna where trucks will be driving by once per minute.” 

Several local schools are close to Hahamongna, including Cleveland Elementary School, Flintridge Prep, and La Cañada and John Muir high schools. Officials with the Pasadena and La Cañada Unified school districts have expressed concern along with eight other city agencies in Pasadena.

“We have a responsibility as the owners of the property to properly measure whether or not the county is overburdening the easement and I think in this case there’s clear evidence they intend to do that,” Gordo said. 

2013 in City Transportation — Two Steps Forward…

http://streetsblog.net/2014/01/02/2013-in-city-transportation-two-steps-forward/

By Angie Schmitt, January 2, 2013

Looking back at the year in transportation reform, there are certainly many reasons to be encouraged about what’s happening in cities around the United States. Here are some 2013 retrospectives from Streetsblog Network members that give snapshots of two places that are making progress on active transportation, and one where the prevailing dynamic is still stuck in the 20th Century.

Atlanta was one of a handful of U.S. cities that broke ground on a streetcar project in 2013. Image: ##http://atlurbanist.tumblr.com/post/71777748322/atlantas-great-urbanism-success-of-2013-alternative## ATL Urbanist##
Atlanta was one of a handful of U.S. cities that broke ground on a streetcar in 2013.

Atlanta Makes Progress: Despite 2012′s transportation tax electoral defeat, Atlanta made some real strides in 2013 toward a healthier array of transportation choices, reports Darren at ATL Urbanist. The city broke ground a new streetcar near its downtown, and it got busy installing bike infrastructure, including some protected bike facilities that will truly make a difference. Meanwhile, the city began to see some returns from its ambitious Beltline project — a partially-completed rail-trail loop around the central city.

“So far, the Beltline’s multi-use path and adjacent parks have brought in $1billion of new investment; and they’ve done so not by expanding road lanes but by offering a new way to move through our neighborhoods: human-powered transportation,” Darren writes.

Despite Atlanta’s reputation as a traffic-snarled mess, driving is down 12 percent since 2005, he reports.

Portland Surges Forward: It was another impressive year for the city known as America’s bike capital. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland reports that the city recorded zero bike fatalities in 2013, even though it has the highest bike commute rate of any major American city at 6 percent mode share. Zero cyclist deaths is actually not too uncommon an occurrence in Portland, he reports.


“The number-one reason Portland is the country’s best big city for biking is that this is, compared to any other large U.S. city and lots of the smaller ones, an extremely safe place to ride a bicycle,” says Andersen.

The city of Portland isn’t just pulling ahead in bike safety, Andersen reports. Its economy is also thriving.

“This September, the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that only two major metro areas in the country (San Francisco and New Orleans) saw faster real GDP growth per capita last year than Portland. Since 2001, no major metro in the country has done better.”

Andersen says it’s probably no coincidence that biking and economic growth have risen in tandem.

A Bad Year for Pedestrians in Southwest Florida: In other quarters of the country, though, road conditions remain extremely hostile to people on foot and bike. Network blog BikeWalkLee reports that in Lee County, Florida, pedestrian fatalities nearly doubled from 13 to 23, and there were nine cyclist deaths. (Lee County, as it happens, has about the same population as Portland.) Even worse, the Fort Myers News Press reported that several crashes involved children traveling to and from school.

Dan Moser of BikeWalkLee told the News Press that part of the problem is a lack of legal accountability for drivers.

“This tendency to exonerate drivers whenever the non-motorist had any degree of fault … perpetuates the current mindset we as motorists have in terms of ignoring Florida laws that clearly define the high level of responsibility we have when behind the wheel,” he said.

In brighter news, this year Florida passed a law banning texting and driving (though it has flaws), and total statewide traffic fatalities fell. Meanwhile, last year Lee County won a substantial TIGER grant to enact its complete streets vision — an effort that is bound to reduce the number of these tragedies.

Should Distracted Cycling Be Banned?

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/01/should-distracted-cycling-be-banned/7995/

By Eric Jaffe, January 2, 2013

 Should Distracted Cycling Be Banned?



By now, most American states have some law in place against distracted driving, but those rules are reserved for a moving motor vehicle. Laws against distracted cycling have failed to break through at the state level. A few individual cities have established rules against riding a bike and using a cell phone (without a hands-free device), but such regulations are far from sweeping.

Whether you're for or against distracted cycling rules — more on that in a moment — you can't deny that using a cell phone changes the way a person rides a bike. If logic alone doesn't convince you, there's plenty of empirical evidence to do so. The foremost research team on the subject comes from the psychology department of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

The group's most recent work, published this month, observed 24 test participants engaging in common cycling activities as they rode along a public bike path. Some texted on a smartphone, some texted on a conventional cell phone, some texted and listened to music simultaneously, some spoke on the phone, some spoke to a cyclist beside them, some even played a phone game. A few rode without doing any secondary task.

In every case where a phone was involved, bicycle speed was reduced compared to riders who weren't engaged in a secondary task. "Lateral position variation" — the technical term for veering or swerving — also increased when cyclists were on their phones. Cyclists on phones also detected fewer signs planted along the bike route. Riders using touch screens generally fared worse than those on conventional phones.

The study should be taken for what it is: a controlled study of cycling behavior that took place outside real world conditions. Still, combined with similar findings in previous research from the Groningen group (including a study showing that hands-free phone use didn't eliminate distraction), the work suggests pretty clearly that riding a bike is tougher when using a phone. The current study concludes that cycling on a smartphone, in particular, will "pose a threat to traffic safety."

So it's fair to say that distracted cycling should, at the very least, be on the radar of city officials in charge of public safety. At the same time, it's not clear whether or not the problem warrants action.
Some cyclists argue that using a phone on a bike shouldn't be regulated because distracted riders aren't much of a danger. Certainly they aren't anywhere near as much of a hazard as distracted drivers. Then again, distracted cyclists could endanger pedestrians or cause a car to swerve into another, and it seems reasonable to assume that distracted cycling accounts for at least as many hospital visits a year as distracted walking (1,500 by the most recent estimate).

Still, at the end of the day, the biggest threat distracted cyclists pose is to themselves. In that sense, some cities may see distracted cycling rules the same way they deal with helmets: something that should be mandatory for young people but optional for older riders. Indeed, at least in the Netherlands, the odds of being in a crash increase for young riders who habitually use an electronic device compared to those who don't, but not older ones.

Cities that do regulate cycling would be wise to consider the model set by Chicago, where cyclists receive a fine for distracted riding that's considerably smaller than the one received by distracted drivers ($20 to $75 as of 2011). That seems equitable, not just because cyclists pose less of a danger, but because they're far more vulnerable to enforcement. They can't hide phone use from a police officer as drivers can, and the windshield perspective of many police forces might lead to unfair targeting.

As cycling gains in popularity, more cities will have to confront the question of whether or not to ban distracted riding. But before they do, especially in these fiscally challenged times, it's worth weighing the cost of enforcing the law against that of protecting the public in other ways — namely, creating safer bike infrastructure. One may discourage unsafe behavior from a few riders, sure. The other will encourage safe riding for everyone.

'Disgusting': Rail commuters protest at New Year fare rises

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/disgusting-rail-commuters-protest-at-new-year-fare-rises-9033735.html

By Matthew Beard, January 2, 2013





'Poor service': Passengers at King's Cross in London


Commuters today branded the rising cost of travel as “disgusting” as rail fare increases came into effect on the first working day of the New Year.

Passengers travelling to London are paying several hundred pounds more for their season tickets which ministers have hiked on average by 3.1 per cent, with some tickets rising by five per cent.
Commuters travelling to London from Dover or Northampton became reluctant members of the “£5,000 club” as season tickets broke the £5,000-a-year barrier for the first time, while Swindon commuters face paying £8,000 for their tickets.

At a commuters’ protest rally at King’s Cross station, travellers said their wages were failing to keep pace with the rising cost of travel and they would be forced to make cutbacks elsewhere.

Teacher Simon Jones, 30, who commutes from Wandsworth, said: “Fares are pretty high. My salary has just gone up one per cent but fares are rising around three per cent. There are delays on practically every day. We’re not really getting value for money. At Clapham Junction you can hardly get on a train.”

Meanwhile at Victoria station, commuters hit out at the fare rises.

Rachel Yates, 31, a department store buyer in Victoria who commutes from Gillingham, said: “I pay £3,600 for my annual season ticket and I think the increase is pretty disgusting seeing as we see no improvement in the service. The trains are quite cramped and you always have to stand. I make sure I leave 15 minutes extra so I get a seat on the way home. If the fares go up any more I’m going to have to make cut backs.”

Technical analyst Nicola Yandle, 29, from Maidstone, added: “It’s my first day back at work after maternity leave. My season ticket is £3,800, which is about a sixth of my wages.”

Suggestions that ministers are planning to ease overcrowding by reducing the number of first class seats on key commuter routes got a mixed response.

Rick White, 39, who travels in from Rainham to his job in Soho at a post-production firm, said: “I pay £256 a month and it’s gone up by £10. For the service we get, it’s far too expensive, there’s often a lot of delays.”

Finance student Marjolaine Basuiau, 22, from Paris: “Getting rid of first class is a great step forward in equality for all passengers, but I still pay less to travel in England than I do in France.”

Speaking about the possible first-class carriage plan, Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: “There are some new ideas we are looking at. This is one of them. Is it going to happen? It may. It may not.”
A study published today showed that rail fares are rising so fast that the Government would be making a profit from passengers by 2018. In four years time fare revenues will cover 103 per cent of the operating costs of the railways up from 80 per cent in 2009, according to a report commissioned by the Campaign for Better Transport.
Consumer group Which? said the fare increases “will be a blow to people already feeling the financial squeeze”, while campaign group Railfuture said: “This latest fare rise comes after 10 years of inflation-busting fare increases, meaning that our trains are easily the most expensive in Europe.”

Why the London Tube Wants to Help You Do Your Grocery Shopping

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/12/why-london-tube-wants-help-you-do-your-grocery-shopping/7991/

By Feargus O'Sullivan, December 31, 2013

 Why the London Tube Wants to Help You Do Your Grocery Shopping



Does London's Underground system have a future as a supermarket chain? Transport for London announced last month that in 2015, it will close the ticket offices in London's 240 subway stations, obliging users to rely on machines alone. Setting aside the other implications of this staff and service cut, the move means stations will suddenly have vacant space. The commercial potential of these former ticket offices is huge, and retooling them as shopping spaces might provide a possible commercial template for transit systems across the world.

TFL are clearly thinking big on this. Last week, a spokesman told the Financial Times that London's transit network has the potential to be a massive "supermarket aisle" for time-poor Londoners.


Straight off, there are some limitations, though nothing insurmountable. London ticket offices aren't vast – they vary in size from that of a small studio apartment to a modest corner store – so their future commercial potential isn't endless. Current plans suggest their aisles will be virtual rather than literal.

Both Amazon and food and clothing chain Marks and Spencer’s have been exploring using them as pick-up points for online shopping. And supermarket chain Asda has already announced a pilot for something similar: a plan to use a handful of suburban station car parks in North London as rendezvous points for “click-and-collect” deliveries. Users would make their purchases online then pick them up at their convenience, either from staff at a window, or from electronic lockers for which they have been sent a code via email.  It’s easy to see the attraction of this model for retailers, who will get highly visible shop windows for online businesses and simultaneously reduce their delivery costs.

There are logistical hurdles to overcome – no one wants already congested rush hour stations clogged further by lines of people waiting to pick up their pre-bagged dinner. Still, the revenue benefits for TFL are obvious. Currently, the network makes £25 million annually from renting out shop spaces. Many stations have small kiosks, while central stations have other small outlets (such as key cutters and heel bars) and a few stations even open directly into shopping malls. Renting out old ticket offices in prime sites could double this amount, helping TFL towards its goal of being financially self-sustaining by the end of the decade.

Who could possibly fault such a plan? The logic seems seamless: better technology trims unnecessary staff, freeing up space that provides useful commercial services and simultaneously offloads some of the cost burden needed to maintain the system. Along this line, however, there are kinks and problems that should give us pause.

For a start, a machine cannot replace a human. TFL is already getting sketchy about staffing ticket windows and as a result, I've been forced on several occasions to walk to another station when I've found that a malfunctioning machine can't give me what I need.  Essentially unstaffed stations are only going to make this sort of situation more common.




Maximizing income and providing a great service may not be not mutually exclusive, but they are not same thing. Transport for London talks of new ways to cut costs while simultaneously raising fares that are already among the world's highest. To give an idea of by how high they are, a monthly pass in Paris (zones 1 and 2) costs around $90, while a Berlin pass covering an area the same size (zones A and B) costs $107. To pay for monthly travel across a comparable area of London (zones 1 to 3, as London’s zones are smaller) you have to pay $226. The reason for this higher level is that London has lower state subsidies, hence the scramble for more income from other sources.

A transit network is not an elective luxury, it's a basic public service without which a city like London cannot function, just like emergency healthcare and a police service. As things stand, London’s high transit prices are already failing much of its population, as the poorest are obliged to give up using the Tube and cross the city via cheaper but much slower buses. Quite aside from the hardship this causes, it’s a sign of a city working at less than efficiency.

Finding ways to further reduce state support for an already expensive network is not necessarily in Londoners' interests. Replacing a ticket office with a shop is essentially part of a battle to strip away state support for basic services and push them into the private sector. There are strong arguments to be made for this move, but let's not pretend it is a simple "common sense" move without either victims or an ideological motor.