Southern California environment news and trends

Biggest winner of the #FlightVsBike Tour de Carmageddon...not who you think

So, bicyclists won handily in the race Saturday, beating Jet Blue. Wolfpack Hustle could soon be a household name in LA, which is kinda awesome. Jet Blue got its piece: the airline was a trending topic on Twitter Saturday, and got plenty of publicity, which was probably at least part if not all of its goal. But the real winner in LA might have been mass transit. Carmageddon's just the latest in a line of mass-appeal public events that suggest there's a car-free world out there in LA, if you want it. 

My compadre on this blog, Kathie Butler, wrote earlier about the general joy accompanying the absence of carsduring #Carmageddon weekend. I'm here to take a slightly more transit-specific tack on the thing. 

Gary Kavanagh - @GaryRidesBikes on Twitter - mixed it up not as a bike rider, which he is, but as a last minute public transportation guy. The original plan of the #flightvsbike race was to highlight the strength of pedal power against jet power, and point out the absurdity of scaring people into staying home because cars can't go on the 405. Gary added another angle

L.A.'s public transit system may be behind some of the other mega cities of the world, with needed improvements on the way, but it often does not get enough credit for what it is already able to do. As well as how many people already ride it.

His whole blog about his metro travels on Saturday is worth a read. And yes, Tweeple I followed Saturday under the hashtag #flightvsbike seemed to be 99.99999% bicycle fans. But after all that, here's the official MTA twitter feed - entertaining now the idea of real investment in non-car infrastructure:

Does that happen without a Tour de Carmageddon? Perhaps not. 

There's no singularly catchy catch-all name for mass transit & bicyclists: personally, I only just heard the phrase "multi-modal transportation" at the LADOT confirmation hearing at LA City Council, and it's the worst kinda bureaucraticspeak. It does mean commuter rail, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians. In LA, it begins to make sense: the enemy of my car is my friend, if I'm a bike or a bus or a pair of rollerblades or a comfortable pair of shoes. So, where do we stand on the, ahem, "multi-modal transportation" front? In other words, how's it going making LA and California more friendly to getting around without a car? A VERY abbreviated thumbnail sketch of what's going on, from the bottom up.

BIKES As Treehugger says, "A network of "bikeways" - i.e. painted lanes and sharrows on main streets -- is scheduled to increase from 378 miles to 1,680 miles of roadway. Dedicated bike paths, such as one along the Los Angeles River, are also scheduled to expand." They're talking, at least in part, about LA's Master Bicycle Plan - something my esteemed friend and departed colleague Siel "GreenLAGirl" Ju covered for us here at Pacific Swell. Mayor V is sort of doing rather less lately on some environmental causes, but on this one, he seems to be stepping up his game. CicLAVia's been doing a lot to raise the profile for alternative transportation too. The next CicLAVia event is October 9.   

LADOT (LA City) LA's City Council has confirmed Jaime de la Vega to the top post at LADOT. De la Vega's the one who used the phrase "multi-modal transportation" last week. He also said that the LADOT would increase "emphasis on transit, cycling and pedestrian improvements." He even used the word transition. "That doesn't mean we're going to abandon our mission to optimize traffic flow on city streets. There will still be cars, but we do need to transition to alternative modes to give people choices that are fast, reliable and healthy." Not surprisingly, LA Streetsblog has a really good interview with Jaime de la Vega about his goals, priorities, and the department's strategy. And check out LADOT Bike Blog - run by an intrepid urban planning student and interns at LADOT - for more going forward. 

METRO (Regional Authority) The LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority just got a new chair: LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. It's a challenging time for Mayor V. Of late, the agency's politics have been plagued by class disputes. MTA's taking flak for cutting bus routes, as my KPCC colleague Corey Moore has reported. And will Subway to the Sea get a nice fat federal loan? For a basic idea of what's up with MTA, you need look no further than Metro's own site. Metro runs not just one but two big blogs for regional public transit: The Source and El Pasajero (en Espanol). In addition, Don Knabe - the LA Supervisor who chaired MTA's board before Mayor V - wrote of recent successes and issues in an editorial this month. (His editorial is heavy on tax talk, and light on Our Bold Future, though.)

HIGH SPEED RAIL It could cost $43 billion, or $67 billion (that higher number courtesy of the legislative analyst's office). It could connect up Anaheim to San Francisco within 9 years. In theory, contractors will start building it in the middle of 2012. The California High Speed Rail Authority has been collecting up wads of federal money...but some communities still don't want it to come through, and others desperately do, and then there's that fear of ballooning costs. The stakes are high for California, and for high speed rail supporters nationally. The authority's next big date is in October, when they release a revised business plan - possibly one with more private sector support to help pay for it. 

Other blogs delve more deeply into one issue or the other, bikes or busses or trains or freeways. What do you want us to pay better attention to here? Love to hear your top mass transit/public transpo issues in the comments below. 

 

(Photo by MikeyWally via Flickr.)

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