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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sheila Kuehl says she prefers a different subway route in Beverly Hills

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-kuehl-subway-route-20140516-story.html

By Catherine Saillant, May 16, 2014



Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver

L.A. County supervisorial candidates Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver during a recent debate. 

Los Angeles County supervisorial candidate Sheila Kuehl said Friday that she would support altering the route of the proposed Westside subway if a consensus can be reached to avoid tunneling under buildings on the Beverly Hills High School campus.

Kuehl said she was not proposing a new plan or specific action but stating a personal preference.

Her comments highlighted a difference on a sensitive issue with her two main opponents in the race to replace Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Both former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver and West Hollywood Councilman John Duran said they support the currently adopted route under Beverly Hills High, which has been supported by Yaroslavsky.

The city of Beverly Hills and its school district have been engaged in a years-long battle to stop subway construction under the high school, arguing that tunneling would present a danger to students. Beverly Hills officials and opponents of Metro's chosen route have lost lawsuits in state court. Litigation is continuing in federal court.
In an interview with The Times, Kuehl said she doesn't like the adopted route. She said she "would have preferred" a discarded plan that would have taken the subway along Santa Monica Boulevard and the northern edge of Beverly Hills.

She said she supports trying to seek agreement on an alternative route, but only if it doesn't jeopardize the project.

"I don’t like the route under the high school. I had been hearing about a third way, which I hoped to help happen. But I am not in any way going to stand in the way of the completion of the Purple Line."

 The Times interviewed Kuehl, a former state lawmaker, after the Beverly Hills Courier, a weekly newspaper,  published an editorial endorsing her run and citing her backing of an altered route.
Kuehl's remarks raised concerns among some supporters of the $6.3-billion subway project. 

Ilissa Gold, spokeswoman for the Miracle Mile Democratic Club, said she sent an email to Kuehl asking for clarification of her position after reading the  endorsement. Club members are "extremely concerned," Gold said.

"The extension of the Purple Line is by far our biggest issue at the Miracle Mile Democratic Club, and we adamantly oppose anything that would delay it any further,'' Gold wrote in the email. "That includes opposing any candidates who would work to delay it."

Gold said Kuehl's staff sought to reassure the group that the candidate wouldn't delay the project. "It's something we will continue to monitor," Gold said.

Yaroslavsky said any attempt by a candidate who wins his seat to change the subway's route, other than minor alterations that would still place it underneath the Beverly Hills High campus, could put the project in serious jeopardy.

 "If they want to keep it from going under the high school property that would kill the project,'' Yaroslavsky said. "There is no 'third way.'”

Shriver said that a statement in the Courier's endorsement's that he, too, is opposed to the current route is incorrect.

"I support Zev’s position,'' he said. "He's done a very thorough analysis. He's worked very hard to explain his analysis, and I support his position."

Duran, a West Hollywood councilman, said,  "Los Angeles County must make the hard decision and build a transit grid for future generations."

A majority of the countywide Metro board would have to vote to make any changes to the subway route.

Cities to suburbs: Where’s the transit love? Suburbs to cities: Where’s the bus?

http://grist.org/cities/seattle-transportation-woes/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily%2520May%252016&utm_campaign=daily

By Amber Cortes, May 15, 2014




 

By now I know all the tricks of my morning bus commute: Walk a few blocks out of the way to another stop in order to grab a seat before the bus gets full (which it always does). If the bus is already packed to the gills (which it sometimes is), hover over someone sitting down who might get off the bus soon. Don’t do it menacingly, but subtly let others know that if this person gets off the bus, that seat will be mine, suckers! Hey, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in the land of public transportation.

And here in Seattle, it’s about to get worse. Our bus provider, Metro, faces an ongoing budget gap of $75 million and, if we can’t find a way to close that gap, it will cut at least 72 routes starting in the fall. With the completion of a light-rail extension still years away, commuters who rely on public transportation here will find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place, much like a certain tunneling machine in another ill-conceived Seattle transportation plan fail.

Like a lot of other cities in this country, Seattle’s public transportation story is a sad tale of post-recession budget shortfalls, outdated urban planning, and a not-so-efficient bus system with a PR problem. And like a lot of other cities, its problems run deeper than just figuring out how to keep the buses running.


But Seattle might be the city that’s tried just about everything to avoid bus service cuts (so far). First there was Plan A: The state legislature would vote to provide funding. FAIL! As in other states, the legislature has not been keen to support the transit plans of cities.


Then came Plan B: Prop 1, a county-wide, mid-year ballot measure that sought to fund the ailing Metro service by charging $60 “tabs” for cars in the metro area. The measure passed 2-to-1 in the city, but failed spectacularly in the surrounding suburbs, as you can see from the map below. The blue shades, which are mostly urban areas, show where people voted to save Metro bus service. The red shades show the surrounding suburbs where the measure was not supported (click here for the full interactive version).
map prop 1 full size
After Prop 1 tanked, transit advocates started gathering signatures for what became known as Plan C, an initiative that would hike property taxes to prevent bus cuts — but only in the city proper. All those suburbanites who voted against the car tabs can sit in traffic and choke on their own exhaust fumes.

 But at a press conference last week, Mayor Ed Murray warned that if Seattle becomes “the Lone Ranger on transit,” the city risks “the Balkanization of Metro,” isolating the city from the surrounding region. “We don’t live in a hobbit village,” he said. “Tens of thousands of people leave Seattle every day to go to work and tens of thousands of people come from outside Seattle to go to work.”

Murray has promised to put yet another plan on the ballot in November – one that would create a car tab, like Prop 1, but this time it’s for Seattle city residents only. Unlike Plan C, however, Murray’s proposal would keep bus service running to the suburbs with a regional transit fund. He sees it as a short-term fix. Since a lot of folks here in The Shire Seattle proper consider public bus access our precious, we can support service to the ‘burbs until residents there can be convinced to pitch in.

Well, that’s awfully nice of us. But there’s a reason suburbanites don’t like to pay for public transit: It doesn’t work well for them. The map below plots the total number of jobs accessible within 1 hour on our existing public transit starting at 7:00 a.m. on a weekday. The dark blue shades show areas where you can reach about 500,000 jobs within an hour’s transit time. In the red areas have fewer than 10,000 transit-accessible jobs. 
King_County_commute_Brandon_Martin-Anderson_map

Look familiar? The colors on this map line up pretty well with the results of the Prop 1 map. Double rainbow! What does it mean?  Public transportation is just not a viable option for getting to and from work in the suburbs. No wonder suburbanites aren’t willing to support transit measures.

The thing is that, the way things stand right now, buses can’t really compete with cars. Without dedicated bus lanes, they fill up highway space just like everybody else (although certainly a lot less space than cars do). Buses aren’t as reliable and convenient as rails, which tend to be the more popular option in the suburbs. According to The Stranger, only 27.2 percent of voters in suburban Kent wanted to save Metro bus service in April’s prop 1 vote, but 50.8 percent voted for funding the light rail in 2008.

So what can a straphanger-filled, cash-strapped municipality do to strike a healthy public transportation balance between the city and the suburbs? There’s a number of ways to go that don’t involve taxes or car tabs. One option is to bring back the “employee hours tax,” which offers businesses tax deductions for employees who do not commute to work in a single-occupancy vehicle. And there are many ways to encourage carpooling. (Chances are that the only point of tension among carpooling Seattle commuters would be which NPR station to listen to.)

Bus systems can also be retrofitted to serve the ‘burbs better. Grand Rapids, Mich., just launched the Silver Line, a “bus rapid transit” solution that functions like a light rail, with hybrid-electric buses that offer suburban commuters a straight shot into and out of downtown during peak rush hours on two designated bus lanes. Riders ditch the boarding lines with an honor system, and these ‘smart’ buses can even GPS their location to traffic lights so that they get a green light when behind schedule. (Seattle tried a less ambitious version of this kind of express bus service called RapidRide, but the restructuring efforts around it may have done more harm than good for some neighborhoods.) And the best part is the Silver Line was not funded by local dollars, but instead by a hefty Federal Transit Administration grant and state department of transportation money set aside for transit.

Seattle transit activist Ben Schiendelman from Keep Seattle Moving says that ultimately, this may be more a crisis of land-use than one of transportation. “King County Council was responsible for most of the zoning and initial construction in a lot of the places where Prop 1 failed hard,” says. “They allowed only one or two houses per acre — construction that’s totally highway dependent — and so the people who live there don’t see any benefit from transit. Once the highway gets built, it’s in your best interest to use it.”

So now that the highway’s already here, will it be used by buses or more cars? Seattle voters will decide in November.

Metro Tunnel Under Beverly Hills High School

From an email received May 16, 2014, from the Beverly Hills Courier:

Beverly Hills Courier
May 16, 2014 
 
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Third District Supervisor - Sheila Kuehl

The Courier has the highest regard for the service of Zev Yaroslavsky as 3rd District supervisor all these years.  That said, we continue to have a vital disagreement with him over his actions to put two subway tunnels barely 30 feet underneath Beverly Hills High School and right through the oil field.  After more than 250 articles The Courier has researched and written, The Courier believes without a doubt that these tunnels jeopardize the safety of our children and staff at Beverly Hills High School.  We also disagree with how he has helped JMB Realty use a virtually-unknown loophole in Los Angeles to get the OK to build a massive new project in Century City that violates the Century City Specific Plan.  Now that he is leaving office, who should succeed him? 

The Courier believes the entire subway fight involves political contributions, politics overriding child safety, traffic, quality of life, "pay for play," overdevelopment, traffic impact on Beverly Hills and the adjoining areas - not to mention the key reason our School Board fights.  If the tunnels go under Beverly High, they create an existential threat to our only high school and thus the entire school district and city.  The increase in cost compared to the Santa Monica route posed by this ill-conceived "S" curve squiggle is $250 million and climbing, just to move the subway 800 feet. 

It should thus come as no surprise that this is the #1 issue for The Courier in considering the leading candidates to succeed Zev.   Based on that issue - including the "spinoff" issues above - The Courier endorses Sheila Kuehl for 3rd District supervisor.  Kuehl told The Courier yesterday that she is adamantly opposed to the routing under Beverly Hills and "never understood why it was moved from Santa Monica Boulevard."  As more and more science comes out about seismic safely and faults, Kuehl is clearly on top of the facts.  

This is a close call.  Bobby Shriver also has a fine record.  He impressed the editorial board of The Courier with his diligence, determination and his fight for veterans at the Los Angeles Veterans Administration facility in Westwood.  If veterans are your top concern, then your choice should be Shriver.  In a late call yesterday and the day after The Courier's editorial board interviews, Shriver said he would oppose the route under Beverly Hills High School.  Shriver will tour the Beverly High campus next week and do some more reseach on his own, but the election is coming and as of today The Courier backs Kuehl. 


Sign the Petition

From Sylvia Plummer, May 16, 2014



Please sign the petition if you want to help fight the connection of the 710 to the 210, which Metro says will bring an additional 140,000 vehicles a day to the 210.

With the delay of the SR-710 Draft EIR we want to continue asking people to sign the petition.

SR-710 Draft EIR scheduled for release: February 2015

Current signature count for NO 710 Tunnel Petition: 2,114
   
Goal: 5,000

The only way we will reach our goal is to ask other people to sign the petition.
Recruit friends, family and neighbors to sign the petition!!

1.  Go to www.NO710.com

2. Click on the words "Sign the Petition" that appear in the yellow oval. This will take you to a page that shows all the officials who will be contacted each time the petition is signed.

3. Click on the words "Sign the Petition" in the yellow box on this page and you will taken to the petition at Change.org.

4. Fill in the information at the right to sign the petition.  You can also uncheck the boxes under your information to opt out of receiving more petitions from Change.org.
5. Finally, click on the red box that says "Sign".

South Pasadena 4th of July Parade--You're Invited

Save the Date - You are Invited!

Mark your calendar

Join us on the 4th of July

South Pasadena 4th of July Parade
9:30am to 12:30pm.

All SR-710 Tunnel Fighters are invited to march in this Fourth of July Parade.

This year we must show that the opposition to the 710 extension has grown throughout the region

 We want everyone from the various communities to join us in the parade. Plan to join the marchers.  Bring your friends and family (children too!).  You can walk or ride your bicycles, scooters and skateboards.

We will send more information on this event very soon.

Call to Action: Opinion - Voters for 710 Tunnel

From Sylvia Plummer, May 16, 2014


In today's (5/16/14) Pasadena Star News there is a letter in the Opinion section that needs our comments.  Also send a copy of your letter to the San Gabriel Valley COG, see details below:

Unable to find the link, here is the letter as it appeared:

Voters for 710 Tunnel

Two-thirds of the voters of Los Angeles County approved the 710 Freeway tunnel as part of the Measure R transportation sales tax in 2008.  Even voters in the five cities supposedly opposing the 710 overwhelmingly supported Measure R:  Pasadena (60 percent), South Pasadena (66 percent), Glendale (65 percent),  Sierra Madre (58 percent), and La Canada Flintridge (53 percent).  For too long, a vocal minority has blocked the greater good.  It's time to fulfill the will of voters and connect our freeways in the San Gabriel Valley
signed:  Victor D. Lucchesi,  Alhambra

Please respond to this letter (Voters for 710 Tunnel) by emailing 

 
 
My Opinion (Sylvia Plummer):

Gold Line vs 710 Tunnel
Most people that voted for Measure R did not know that they were voting for the 710 tunnel.  Measure R was advertised as building light rail, including the completion of the Gold Line to Claremont.  That's the project voters in the San Gabriel Valley want completed and voted for.   Instead, the section of the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont got dropped from the list of light rail projects to be completed under Measure R.   And who do we have to blame for that decision:  The San Gabriel Valley COG.  There is one way to get the Gold Line done in our lifetime, and that's to cancel the 710 tunnel and transfer the Measure R funds to the Gold Line project.  Transfer of funds is allowed and can be done under Measure R in 2019.  Contact Andrea Miller, Executive Director, for the San Gabriel Valley COG, and let her know your opinion.

Andrea Miller, Executive Director SGVCOG

The 7-Year History of SaMo's Most Controversial Development

http://la.curbed.com/archives/2014/05/the_7year_history_of_samos_most_controversial_development.php#more

By Bianca Barragan, May 15, 2014

2014%205%20bergamot%20repeal.jpg 


















In February, the Santa Monica City Council approved the huge Bergamot Transit Village multi-use development for a site in the Bergamot Arts District near a future stop on the Expo Line extension. Two days ago, following a massive NIMBY protest that managed to get the project on to a future ballot for a public referendum, they unapproved it. Now it's back to the drawing board for developer Hines, which has been working on this project since 2007. This may be one of the most controversial projects in a city known for development controversy. We've traced its sordid history:

August 2007: Texas-based developer Hines announces plans to put "two- to four-story office buildings totaling about 300,000 square feet" on the seven-acre site at Twenty-Sixth and Olympic (formerly a Paper Mate factory, now unused). Hines reportedly paid "over $75 million" for the property. It's predicted the property will be used for the entertainment industry.

December 2009: The first community meeting about the project happens this month. Hines's plans (now including a 71-foot building and retail space) first start to worry anti-development Santa Monicans, who cite fears about traffic. Although the "massive" development is right next to a stop on the planned Expo Line's route, many are doubtful that will encourage car-free trips. Said one resident, "You're saying people are never going to go outside of that building complex — that's unbelievable, that's like a jail."

January 2010: A short article announcing the planning commission meeting for the Bergamot Transit Village states that the development will have "far-reaching, irreversible impacts" on the community and encourages residents to show up and complain about it. Opposite the print article is a letter to the editor "blasting" the project.

December 2010: The project's grown to 80 feet in height, and now includes 2,000 car spaces, further irking and reinforcing the fears of those who worry that this so-called transit-oriented development would flood the city with cars.

March 2011: The anti-Bergamot campaign starts to get nasty, with residents accusing some city councilmembers of being biased in favor of the project because their campaigns got money from the developer of the 969,000-square-foot Transit Village. Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis picks apart the aesthetics: "the proposal is too reliant on monolithic, rectangular shapes."


March 2011: Bergamot is sent back to the design drawing board with instructions to jazz up the "insular campus with tall, unvaried buildings with blank walls ..." and address residents' concerns with the design.

June 2011: The development receives an unofficial federal blessing from US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who tours the project site then gives $652,000 toward the building of the Transit Village. The award also puts SaMo in the running for more federal money for public transit.

August 2011: Hines presents a newly redesigned Bergamot. It's smaller (767,000 square feet) and incorporates a park facing Nebraska Avenue, pocket parks throughout, and a new arrangement for the five buildings that reduces the dreaded canyon effect. Retail space has also been shrunken down from 83,712 square feet to 47,123. Neighbors are not impressed and want it to be even smaller.

February 2012: Santa Monicans against the Transit Village get some support from the West LA Neighborhood Council, which votes to oppose the project. "I think everyone is sick and tired of Santa Monica dumping traffic in our district with no mitigations possible. The agenda is to build and grow, which is fine if it's done in a responsible way," says the West LA Council Chairman.

March 2012: The LA City Council jumps on the anti-Bergamot bandwagon, fearing that the mitigation efforts in the project's draft environmental impact report are "inadequate." They move to ask SaMo to extend the public comment period on the DEIR. Meanwhile, Santa Monica's director of City Planning hopes to up the number of residences in the project, reasoning that maybe if more people who work at Bergamot can live in SaMo, they won't clog up the roads trying to get in.

May 2012: The planning commission's review of the Bergamot Transit Village gets pushed from June 2012 all the way to 2013. Opponents rejoice. City planners want changes, and it's hinted that the megaproject might reappear in 2013 with more housing and less office space, which would alter the number of affordable housing units available.


May 2012: When the EIR for Bergamot is finally finished, it is 8,711 pages long—75 percent of which are dedicated to traffic analyses—and has cost more than $1 million to compile. Says one councilmember, "I'm not going to read 8,000 pages."

September 2013: New plan, same hate. Developer Hines comes in with a plan for 471 apartments (including 27 live/work units for artists), as much as 374,423 square feet of creative office space, 15,500 square feet of restaurant space, and nearly 14,000 square feet of retail space; it's criticized for "blandness," and called "a mini-LA Live" like that's a bad thing. Buildings are still five to seven stories tall and there are still about 2,000 parking spaces. Next stop: the city's design review, then a return to the planning commission, "who will vote on whether to recommend that the city council move forward with a development agreement."

October 2013: The planning commission preps to make their recommendation to the city council for the Transit Village, but grassroots group Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights is demanding even more housing. They'd like to see the development have 60 percent housing and 40 percent office space.

January 2014: The cIty council finally gets the chance to make a decision on the plans. 150 Santa Monicans comes out to air their grievances, prompting the council to spend so much time listening that they have to push a decision to February. That meeting will not allow public comments.

February 2014: After so many years, so much work, the city council approves the plan and makes only small changes to the Transit Village, which currently includes 427 apartments, about 30,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 1,926 parking spaces, 1,284 bike spaces, and around 375,000 square feet of office space.

March 2014: Peeved NIMBY group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City file a lawsuit against the city, hiring one of the lawyers who (successfully) fought to repeal the Hollywood Community Plan. They're also ready to put the matter on the ballot for the November election.

May 2014: Just kidding! A "NIMBY-fueled change of heart" causes Santa Monica to take back all that good stuff they said about the Bergamot Transit Village. So it's either back to the drawing board, occupy the site as it is now, or do something with the land that it's already zoned for.

We look forward to many more years of drama, Bergamot Transit Village.

The Next Century of Sustainable Communities Will Be Organized Around Transportation

The era of transit-oriented development and "networked livable communities" has arrived.

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/04/next-century-sustainable-communities-will-be-organized-around-transportation/8980/

By John L. Renne, April 29, 2014




 Image

The Great Recession has fundamentally changed the trajectory of both real estate and transportation in the United States. For the past century, our nation's economy revolved around the production of vehicles, highways, sprawl, and more vehicles. Transportation policy emphasized a supply-side approach of building highways to increase the speed and mobility of our nation's vehicular-based mobility system. However, in the 21st century, transportation's focus will shift to a sustainable transport paradigm of managing existing infrastructure (as opposed to building new roads) and improving accessibility. This will be enhanced through transit-oriented development and "networked livable communities."

As their name suggests, networked livable communities are networked into both the Internet and multi-modal transportation systems. They're also also networked into the professional economy: they are hubs and corridors of cafes, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and shared-office settings. They include art, live music, and animated street life. These communities are emerging in former warehouse and industrial districts, downtowns, historic districts, inner-suburbs, TODs, college-towns, and artistic communities that have bucked national trends over the past five years of decline and eroding land values. As the saying goes, "being in the right place at the right time" is important to source opportunities. Networked livable communities are the post-recession "right places." Residents there network for jobs, business financing, new partnerships, and overall professional connectivity.

Several interrelated events have set the stage for sustainable transport and the rise of networked livable communities over the next several decades. During the first decade of the 21st century, America's total vehicle miles traveled peaked. Since our transportation system is funded from the gas tax, the peaking of VMT means that we no longer have a growing source of federal funds to expand highways. The Great Recession also reduced suburban sprawl, which has lost favor with many Americans now looking to live, work, and play in denser, mixed-use areas. A recent study reported that close proximity to shopping and transit was important to the majority of Americans.

There is a pent-up demand for TOD, which is an important element for the success of networked livable communities. As a nation, we have built more than 4,500 fixed transit stations, most of which are rail. However, only 38 percent of these station areas achieve a minimum gross density of eight residential units per acre within a half-mile of the station — the level of density identified by researchers as needed to support transit usage. Density is also vital for business establishments to survive.

A study that I authored last year with Reid Ewing reveals that TOD station areas have outperformed low-density transit adjacent developments (TADs) significantly in terms of sustainable commuting. TADs are the opposite of TODs; they are low-density, auto-oriented communities around rail stations which do not facilitate walking or transit ridership other than via car access. In 2010, nearly 53 percent of commuters in TODs traveled by transit, walking, or bicycling as compared to less than 16 percent living in low-density TAD station areas.

Perhaps surprising, TADs in the U.S. are wealthier on average than TODs, earning $68,409 in household income compared with $51,335. However, TOD residents only spent 37 percent of their income on the combined cost of housing plus transportation compared to TAD residents, who spent about half their income. In other words, the location efficiency afforded to TOD households yielded them significantly more in disposable income than TAD households for the year. On average, TOD residents earn less but have about the same disposable income in comparison to their wealthier counterparts in TADs, who drive for most of their commute trips.

Given these findings, it's no surprise that over time TOD home values have significantly outperformed the national market, including TADs. The TOD Index reveals that from 1996 to 2013, homes in over 449 TODs across the United States appreciated 325 percent, as compared with homes in 817 TAD station areas, which appreciated about 200 percent — same as the overall national market.

In sum, homes in TODs are worth more, which generates more local property taxes for cities. Residents spend less on housing and transportation costs, which means they have more money for other purchases from local businesses. The higher densities and higher share of non-car commuters means that transit agencies can earn more revenue by expanding TODs around vacant stations.

As Americans demand more networked livable communities, cities can begin with increasing densities around empty rail stations and incentivizing more TODs. Metro areas that build at 8 units per acre (4,000 residential units or 10,000 people per station area) around all empty stations could accommodate 26.4 million of the next 100 million Americas by 2050 in such locations. Much of the transportation infrastructure is already there, but local investments are needed around stations to unlock their potential. Local zoning reform is also paramount. Adding this density would go a long way to enabling networked travel including walking, bicycling, and other modes to increase overall accessibility towards a sustainable transport system.

Are Streetcars Just for Tourists?

Evidence that streetcar ridership is unrelated to service frequency, bus connections, and job proximity. 

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/05/are-streetcars-just-for-tourists/9103/

By Eric Jaffe, May 16, 2014


 Image
D.C.'s getting a streetcar, but commuters may not ride it.

Another day, another massive U.S. streetcar project cost overrun. This time it's Arlington, Virginia's planned Columbia Pike line, which reports now say will cost as much as $100 million more than the latest county estimate. The news follows word from earlier this year that Atlanta's streetcar will cost "significantly more" to operate than anticipated, and from last fall that the proposed Los Angeles streetcar could double in costThis is exactly what streetcar advocates don't want to hear, because it's exactly what streetcar opponents have vocally feared.

To be fair, we should expect mega-transportation projects to come in way over budget. Whether as a result of the "planning fallacy" (people like their own ideas too much) or "strategic misrepresentation" (officials lie about the cost), roads and rails routinely cost more to build than initial projections suggest. Just because something is routine doesn't make it comfortable — think: colonoscopy — but taxpayers generally accept the higher cost in exchange for the promise of a social return on investment.

What's getting harder to see in the case of streetcars is how this return translates into improved mobility. Transit experts already question whether streetcars offer benefits over city buses, especially if the trolley runs on tracks that share a lane with general traffic. The data also suggest that streetcars aren't treated as integrated parts of larger transit systems; outside of New Orleans, no major streetcar accounts for more than 2 percent of all passenger miles traveled on city transit.

Some new figures further strain the connection between streetcars and core city mobility. Florida State planning student Luis Enrique Ramos recently led a comparison of ridership factors on U.S. streetcars versus those on light rail. (The work, not yet published, was presented at a recent conference.) What he found was that streetcar ridership was unrelated to service frequency, bus connections, and job proximity — the very factors that make light rail attractive to everyday commuters.

In other words, streetcars serve a completely different population of travelers than light rail does. Which population is that? Ramos and collaborators can't say for sure, but they have a theory: tourists. Just look at the hours of operation for the Tampa streetcar — beginning at noon on weekdays? — and ask yourself who rolls into work after lunch. (And please do let us know, because we want that job.)
None of this is to say that streetcars aren't necessarily worth it. Commutes make up a fraction of total travel in metro areas. Trolleys can operate very effectively in dense cores by running along a dedicated track, and when they arrive frequently they can promote a lively pedestrian culture. When paired with mixed-use zoning, trolleys can also lead to significant economic development (though arguably less than other modes, like bus-rapid transit).

 That leaves emerging streetcar cities with a mostly-tourist attraction they hope will generate business — an amenity that feels similar in spirit to a downtown sports stadium. Again, sometimes city taxpayers conclude that an arena is worth it, and many cities no doubt feel the same about trolleys, cost overruns notwithstanding. But residents who hope the streetcar will improve mobility should be careful to consider whether they're paying for a ride, or getting taken for one.