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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

While the Economy Grows, Americans Continue to Drive Less


By Angie Schmitt, May 28, 2014

Americans have driven fewer miles per capita every year since 2005. Image: Doug Short

 Americans have driven fewer miles per capita every year since 2005. Image: Doug Short

The last time the average American drove this little, Bill Clinton was president and Seinfeld was the most-watched show in the country. Not since 1994 has per capita driving been as low as it is now, according to new data from the Federal Highway Administration compiled by economist Doug Short.
Per capita driving has been on the wane for nearly nine years and now stands at 9.3 percent below the 2005 peak:

Population adjusted driving is going down, down, down. Image: Doug Short
Population adjusted driving is going down, down, down. Graph: Doug Short

The steady decline in the driving rate means that even as population increases, total motor vehicle travel has inched upward just 0.2 percent between March 2013 and March 2014. For five years, total driving has essentially flatlined, and in the last year Americans drove 2.47 percent fewer miles than in the peak 12-month period:

Total miles driven by Americans has dropped 2.47 percent since 2007. Image: Doug Short
Total miles driven by Americans has dropped 2.47 percent since 2007. Graph: Doug Short

That pattern represents a break from the upward trajectory of the past, in which miles driven steadily grew, closely tracking economic highs and lows. For years now, total driving has continued to stagnate even as the economy has recovered from a recession, leading policy experts to conclude that we are witnessing a long-term shift toward less driving, not just cyclical variation.

Unfortunately, state departments of transportation, for the most part, are still forecasting the imminent return of rising mileage. They’ve been wrong about that for a long time now:

Graph: SSTI

And that means we’re spending billions to build more roads and highways while Americans are driving less.

Remembering the Designer Who Changed the Way We Think About Transit Maps

Massimo Vignelli, who died Tuesday at the age of 83, brought simplicity to American graphic design.


By Mark Byrnes, May 27, 2014


Whether it be an airline logo, a National Parks brochure, a shopping bag, or a subway map, there's a good chance you've come across something designed or influenced by Massimo VignelliThe man who helped bring minimalism to American graphic design died Tuesday at the age of 83. 

An architecture enthusiast his whole life, Vignelli, who was born in Milan, brought his aesthetic sensibilities, heavily influenced by men like Mies van der Rohe, to New York City in 1966. His impact on this country's design culture was almost immediate and, in some cases, endures to this day. 

Those brown shopping bags from Bloomingdales? Vignelli. The American Airlines logo that changed only last year? Vignelli. The 1970s New York City subway map every designer seems to pine for today? Of course, Vignelli. 

In the case of the 1972 MTA map, the design was quickly rejected by many of the city's everyday commuters and replaced with a more literal interpretation of the system's layout in 1979. 

Vignelli, in the 2007 documentary, Helvetica, blamed the map's demise on the world's verbally oriented population; a collection of people thrown off by his abstract approach to New York's geography. 

Never short on confidence, the designer admitted in the clip that he might have made a mistake—not being abstract enough. Perhaps, he thought out loud, having each borough's name and outline on the map threw off riders who expected a literal interpretation of the city. Removing them would make it even better, something more like London's iconic Underground diagram.

Vignelli did experience a redemption of sorts after the documentary aired. In 2008, he designed a revised version of the map for Men's Vogue. Three years later, the MTA had Vignelli and his firm design Weekender, an interactive map that shows the subway system's service changes due to scheduled maintenance and construction.

And earlier this year, Super Bowl attendees in East Rutherford were able to navigate their way between Manhattan and New Jersey with a Vignelli Associates-designed map. Not only did it closely resemble the 2008 revision, but it provided the closest thing the New York City area has gotten to having an all-in-one rapid transit map.

Obsessed with simplicity, Vignelli's sense of design will always make sense in the world of transit. Few stand much to gain or lose when an airline changes its logo, but we'll never stop needing to know how to get from point A to point B. Vignelli knew, better than most, how to help.

So How is Traffic on the Brand New, Wider 405 Freeway?


By Bianca Barragan, May 27, 2014

View image on Twitter

Calling all commuters: 405 Freeway's new northbound carpool lane debuts in full today

Jamzilla, Carmageddon, The Rampture, and millions of smaller, unnamed closures on the 405 over the last five years were all leading up to this past Friday and the opening of the updated and widened 405 Northbound, with a new carpool lane stretching all the way from Orange County. So how is it?? The fruits of all those years of construction—on the part of the freeway that's home to the third worst traffic corridor in the nation—received both applause and eyerolls from users on opening day. The mayor, checking out the section by the Getty Center around noon last Friday, told the LA Times it looked like "carvana," but not everyone was so pleased.


The day the traffic "improvement" opens on the 405 is the day the traffic is worse than usual. And it's a Friday too.

 All that work on the 405 was totally worth it. Freeway speeds now up to 20 mph.

 More than a billion dollars to improve average freeway speeds.......5% max.
Well done, L.A.

  If you think any infrastructure project will improve traffic in Los Angeles, or anywhere with a traffic problem, you don't understand a lot about urban living.

 If there's too much traffic on the 405, it's because you're on it.

 I sat in gridlock both north and south bound over sepulveda pass. Carpool lanes slower than regular lanes. I posted a sea of tail lights on my face book page and wondered if the whole thing was just a political scam to line the pockets of developers. If traffic relief was the goal, this was an absolute waste.

Union Station to get $350 million in track upgrades


By Dan Weikel, May 27, 2014

Union Station

Reviving a decades-old idea, Los Angeles transportation officials are planning $350 million in track improvements at Union Station that could dramatically reduce travel times for many trains and accommodate future growth of the famous terminal.
The Southern California Regional Interconnector Project is designed to benefit travelers by installing four sections of track that will enable Amtrak and Metrolink trains to run straight through the terminal, eliminating the 15 to 20 minutes it now takes to enter and exit the station at its lone north entrance. All tracks now dead-end in the terminal area.

The interconnector will significantly reduce turnaround times by extending several tracks out the south end of the station. They will cross over the 101 Freeway, turn to the left and connect with existing tracks heading north, south and east.

With the new layout, many trains would stop for just a few minutes or not at all if they were expresses. Planners say that would increase Union Station's capacity 40% to 50%.

"If you are coming from San Diego and can cut 15 minutes off your trip to San Luis Obispo, that is a pretty significant savings," said Don Sepulveda, executive officer for regional rail at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "This important project is long overdue."

Metro officials say the project will result in flexible scheduling, the addition of express service, lower costs for railroads, and additional track for storing engines and cars closer to the terminal.

Railroads first considered run-through tracks in the 1950s. Nothing was done until the mid-2000s, when Metro began planning and an environmental analysis. But a lack of funding and other priorities stalled the work.

Sepulveda said about 30% of the project's planning has now been completed and the Metro board has hired a consultant to finish the earlier environmental review. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2017 and be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.

 The project is being funded by state and federal grants as well as revenue from Measure R, the county's sales tax to raise money for transportation projects.

"This will be a game changer for intercity and regional rail in Southern California," said Paul Dyson, chairman of the Burbank Transportation Commission and president of the Rail Passenger Assn. of California and Nevada, a nonprofit advocacy organization. "The good news is that it makes better use of existing rail cars and locomotives, train crew hours and fuel, lowering the operating costs of both Metrolink and Amtrak."

Jane Reifer, a Fullerton businesswoman and avid public transit rider, agreed, saying the interconnector will make the rail system more user-friendly.

"Transit riders," she said, "favor reduced travel times."

To make the same trip today, riders must make the 45 to 50 minute trip on the Orange County Line to Los Angeles, get off the train at Union Station and walk through the tunnels of the platform area to find a Ventura Line connection for the hour trip to Simi Valley.

After arriving at Union Station "that person might have to wait 10 minutes or an hour depending on the schedule," said Jeff Lustgarten, a Metrolink spokesman. The interconnector "will allow us to bring trains through the station from all directions. It will increase our efficiency and be more convenient for passengers."

LACMTA Ridership Update – April 2014


May 23, 2014

Another three months has passed, so it’s time for another LACMTA rail ridership update.
First, the raw data. Highlighted cells represent the top 10 months for that line.


Blue Line ridership recovered a little in April, but the Green Line and Gold Line had some weak months. The big surprise is a nearly 10% drop in weekday Red Line ridership since January. I suppose you could blame it on locking the fare gates, but the drop isn’t reflected in weekend data. Possibly, the data just isn’t accurate enough to see changes on this short of a time frame. Weekend ridership, with the exception of the Blue Line, remained strong.

The bright spot in the last 3 months of data was the Expo Line, which after leveling off for about 6 months, saw ridership gains between January and April. Expo Line is now within spitting distance of 30,000 riders a day.

Here’s the rolling 12-month average of weekday ridership:


Again, boardings per mile is a better way to look at productivity. Here’s the update for the rolling 12-month average of boardings per mile:


Another metric I’m interested in exploring is boardings per revenue mile. This is daily boardings divided by revenue miles of service provided, i.e. the number of trips multiplied by the length of the trips. (For the detail-inclined, I’m using boardings per revenue trip-mile, not per revenue vehicle-mile, because I don’t know what the consists are for every trip.)

I just started looking at this, so I only have a few months of data – let’s consider this the initial benchmark. Here’s the raw data and chart.

bprm-201404 wkdy-bprm-201404

The subway is the clear winner in boardings per revenue mile, and I doubt that will change much when Westside Subway Extension is built. In fact, boardings per revenue mile may even go up because of the network effects.

For LRT, I find two interesting results in this metric. One, the Gold Line is the worst performer by a considerable margin. This is because LACMTA runs Gold Line Service just as frequently as the Blue Line, despite it not achieving even half the ridership. (Things wouldn’t look as bad on a vehicle-mile basis, because most Gold Line trips are two cars, while most Blue Line trips are three cars.) Now, you have to run service frequently so that riders can depend on it. But it does beg the question of why we’re running the Gold Line every 6 minutes during peak and every 10 minutes late night, while the Green Line achieves basically the same ridership with 7-8 minute peak headways and 20 minute late night headways. If the folks in Pasadena and East LA deserve 10 minute headways late night, why don’t the folks along the 105 corridor?

Second, the Expo Line is king – after only two years in service, it’s the most productive LRT line in boardings per revenue mile. This is partly due to the inexcusably poor peak period headway (12 minutes) which results in fewer trips on Expo Line than the Blue Line and Gold Line. But even if you assume Expo service is increased to Blue Line frequencies, you’d still get 11.92 boardings per revenue mile. If Reason wants to run a correction on its Expo Line hit piece, now might be a good time.

On a somewhat related note, you can’t beat my early AM carpool ride to downtown for convenience, but I do miss having firsthand experience on the rail system every day.