Explaining Southern California's economy

With LA tourism booming, officials warn of hotel shortage



Chinese tourists walk past the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on October 24, 2014. Local tourist officials say that mainland Chinese tourists numbers have quadrupled and now make up nearly half the number of foreign visitors to Los Angeles.

Garcetti and Wooden

Brian Watt/KPCC

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Ernest Wooden, President and CEO of the Tourism and Convention Board mark a record setting year for Los Angeles Tourism

New Tom Bradley Terminal

Brian Watt/KPCC

Passengers at the new Tom Bradley International Terminal

Setting a tourism record for the fourth straight year, 43.4 million visitors came to Los Angeles in 2014, according to city and tourism officials. 

Those tourists spent money at hotels, restaurants, and places like LA Live, Venice Beach and Universal Studio. Last year, Mayor Eric Garcetti joined tourism officials, setting a goal of attracting 50 million annual visitors to L.A. by 2020.  

"This is a competition, and if we’re not out there hustling, people will go some place else," Garcetti said at a news conference in the new Tom Bradley Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. LAX climbed to the rank of the nation's 2nd busiest airport in 2014, with officials estimating a record 70.7 million passengers passed through the facility. The previous record was 67.3 million passengers in 2000.


Ports of LA, Long Beach look ahead to next rush: Lunar New Year

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Officials at the Port of Los Angeles, shown here, and the Port of Long Beach are preparing for the next big cargo rush, hoping to address the congestion that has marked recent months.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are using the historically slow period after the holidays to address the congestion that has plagued the nation's busiest port complex for months.

The next big cargo rush on the horizon is the few weeks before the Lunar New Year, to be marked on Feb. 19. It's a national holiday in China, and many Asia workers can take up to two weeks off

"There’s closure of a lot of the production lines in Asia for the Lunar New Year for one [to] two weeks," says Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield. "We normally see an uptick in cargo two to four weeks before the Lunar New Year and then there’s a big dip because there are no goods to ship during that period that they’re closed."

In 2014, Lunar New Year was observed on Jan. 31. For that January, the Port of L.A. statistics show workers processed 685,549 20-foot cargo containers. That number dropped to 559,786 units in February then jumped back up to 675,274 containers in March. In comparison, as many as 775,132 containers moved through the port in September at the height of the holiday season.


LAX, Ontario, John Wayne airports see passenger numbers grow

lax airport los angeles international

Photo by brendangates via Flickr Creative Commons

Passenger counts have grown this year at three Southern California airports, with the big one - LAX - on pace to climb out of a slump that's lasted over a decade.  Here's a look at the numbers.

Los Angeles International Airport

In November, 5.4 million passengers moved through LAX, a 6.4 percent increase over November of last year. The January through November total for LAX is 64.7 million passengers. Officials forecasted that nearly three million travelers would pass through during the holiday travel period.  

That would add more than enough to top the total of 66.6 million passengers for all of 2013 .

The last time LAX saw numbers like that was in 2000, when the airport hosted 67.3 million passengers.  The attacks of 9/11 knocked the numbers down in the next two years. The outbreak of SARS in 2003 kept those figures low. The numbers began to climb again in 2004, but the recession caused another drop in 2008.   


Time Warner Cable adds 'sports programming fee' to the bill. Thank you, Dodgers?

Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v St Louis Cardinals - Game Four

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 07: The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers as Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers walks off the field in Game Four of the National League Divison Series at Busch Stadium on October 7, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Starting Jan. 1, your Time Warner Cable bill is going to get a little more expensive, with the addition of a “sports programming fee” of $2.75 a month. The charge is modest, but remember a lot of your cable bill goes to sports already, to pay hefty carriage fees to ESPN and an increasing number of regional sports networks (RSN's).

Time Warner Cable will charge the fee whether you ever watch sports or not. (Though 75 percent of customers won't see the charge at first because they are on promotional plans.)

"The cost of sports programming has been escalating dramatically," said Time Warner Cable spokesman Bret Picciolo. "Since 2008, our cost for cable sports programming has gone up by 91% and we think it is important to show customers the impact of these rising costs through a specific item on their bills. The new fee will only reflect a small portion of the escalating costs we are now paying for sports."


Transit ridership drops in LA — Are low gas prices to blame?

Record High Gas Prices Turn More Commuters Toward Metro Rail

David McNew/Getty Images

In this file photo, passengers board Metro subway trains during rush hour on June 3, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

How’s this for a great Christmas present? An average gallon of unleaded regular costs less than $2.75 in Los Angeles, the lowest price in years. But falling gas prices don’t necessarily mean a decrease in the use of public transportation.

Metro ridership dropped to 36,646,614 in November, compared to 38,738,815 the same month last year, or 38,529,688 in November of 2013.

But Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales cautioned that it's way to early to know whether the drop is due to gas prices.

"We really cannot say," Gonzales said.

Nationally, transit ridership has been on the upswing, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The association reported that more than 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the third quarter of 2014, which is a 1.8 percent increase over the same quarter last year.