Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Passing Through Anything Helps

Passsing Thru Anytthing Helps

I discovered this oddity laying on the ground on my recent trip to Chicago. I'm going to interpret the crossed lines to be rail road tracks, and presume that the maker of this sign is in fact a rail advocate promoting the message that passing a train through anything is helpful.

In local news, Measure R, which would include significant investments toward expanding the L.A. rail network, has racked up some notable endorsements. The latest of which is the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed).
"The Los Angeles County Business Federation acts as a grass roots alliance of existing business organizations whose goal is to effectively mobilize the collective voice of the Los Angeles business community."
The group is made up of small and large business leaders alike and boasts a membership of 93,000 people that are now being encouraged to vote in support of Measure R.
“Residents and businesses are losing billions of dollars a year because our transportation infrastructure is failing to keep pace with our growing population. Measure R is crucial to retaining and attracting new companies and jobs to the region, and ensuring traffic congestion does not sap our economic vitality and quality of life,” said BizFed Chairman, David Fleming.
Measure R is a lot more then just rail expansion. It will fund direly needed road and highway repair projects, improve the bus network, and put money into local cities to spend on regional improvements like filling epic pot holes, and pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. A really big piece of this pie is for more trains, and trains are awesome, so vote yes on Measure R to make the future of Los Angeles an awesome one.

Yes it means there would be a half cent increase to our sales tax, and people hate taxes. However, over the course of a year it comes out to about 20-30 bucks for most people. Traffic is one of the defining problems of Los Angeles, one that will only continue to get worse if we rely on our existing infrastructure. It seems to me that transportation improvements city wide is something worth pitching in a 20 toward each year.


Rafael said...

What worries me here is the apparent lack of co-ordination with HSR planning. Granted, that's a separate statewide project and also just a paper tiger until voters specifically approve it. Nevertheless, I expect both measures would be more likely to pass if each plan included what-if scenarios related to the other.

Also, measure R calls for the eventual extension of the light rail (i.e. low capacity, slow) Green Line to LAX. It's unclear to me if there are also plans to extend it to Norwalk Metrolink on the other end. The line item "Regional connector (links local rail lines)" isn't precise enough. Even if HSR does go ahead, only local and a few semi-express trains will stop in Norwalk.

By contrast, all HSR trains will stop at Union Station. A new express heavy rail shuttle between LAX and LA Union Station might therefore be preferable to tinkering with the Green Line. The new Alameda Corridor has freed up capacity on the old BNSF line along Florence and Slauson Avenues. A new station at the half-way point would permit high-capacity double-decker trains to operate with headways of 25-30 minutes on what would otherwise be a legacy single-track alignment with level crossings. Diesel traction would be fine there, but trains would have to switch to third rail for any new underground sections. Century Boulevard would be an alternative route into LAX.

Another concern regarding measure R is the open-ended nature of many of the highway projects such as the controversial 710 tunnel in Pasadena. To me, that $2.6 billion contingency is a clear indication that road planners are piggy-backing their pet projects onto this measure well before these have reached a level of maturity appropriate for presenting them to voters.

Nevertheless, by and large, this measure does make sense to me, considering the expected population growth in LA county, energy security and global warming over the next 30 years. This is reflected in the heavy emphasis on the expansion of rail and bus services. As always, the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good.

Gary said...

Thanks for your comments, and I agree that neither bill is necessarily perfect, but I think they are necessary. Delaying either statewide or local rail development any further is going to make doing it later prohibitively expensive as development takes more land necessary for these projects. Personally I would have liked to have seen less highway funding in the Measure R, but without it, it may have been shot down by critics of transit. At least a large portion of this is for rail projects like the west side extension which is desperately needed for the region. Jody Litvak made a strong case for the westside extension subway in the recent Metro community meetings, and most in attendance were very receptive.

Rafael said...

@gary -

note that the escalated (i.e. inflation-adjusted) cost estimate for both the Wilshire Blvd-only and the less attractive Santa Monica Blvd-only options are around $5.6 billion (2008 dollars). The combo option would add up to about $8 billion.

Measure R's expenditure plan only allocates the unescalated cost estimate of $4.074 billion to extending the red and/or purple line(s) as far as Westwood/UCLA - not Santa Monica. Voter approval would therefore leave a hole of at least $1.5 billion in its budget.

However, the plan does include a prudent $3.276 billion contingency to cover total cost escalations for multiple transit projects.

Gary said...

The fact that the Measure R does not carry the subway all the way to Santa Monica was something addressed in the Metro community meeting. Their hope is that once money is on the table to get the project rolling that they will be able to seek federal matching dollars to help carry it further. It's not a sure thing, but they seemed confident that with the high ridership potential on the west side, more money could be secured by the feds, but federal support doesn't come unless the community is funding it first.

Wilshire is likely to still be prioritized first, but the citizens of West Hollywood came out to the community meeting there and voiced overwhelming support for the Hollywood extension. I wasn't at that meeting, but I heard the support was so strong as to suggest the extension there might receive support from local businesses to be completed.