Southern California environment news and trends

California cities rank on new U.S. public transportation list

Expo Line Test Run

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

The Exposition Line train at the La Cienega/Jefferson station after finishing a test run.

According to a new report, five California locales placed among the top 25 American cities for public transportation.

The rankings were determined by exceedingly useful website Walk Score through a series of calculations resulting in a “Transit Score” which “measures how well a location is served by public transportation, and is based on data released in a standard open format by public transit agencies.”

In California, San Francisco rated the highest, coming in second overall with a transit score of 80, just one point behind the top-rated city of New York. Los Angeles just missed the top ten, scoring the 11th spot just behind Portland, OR and ahead of Milwaukee, WI. Walks Score considers L.A. the 13th most “walkable” city in America, citing downtown L.A., Koreatown and Mid-City as the best neighborhoods for getting around on foot. Los Angeles is sure to rank even higher on the site’s next survey, given the completion of the new L.A. Metro Expo Line that recently opened for service.

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Younger Americans are driving less

Chris Yarzab/Flickr/Creative Commons

According to a new study, teens and young adults across the country are choosing alternative means of transportation over hopping behind the wheel of an automobile.

The report, “Transportation and the New Generation,” found that younger Americans are driving “substantially fewer” miles than previous generations, often not even bothering with acquiring a driver’s license, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Released by the CalPIRG Education Fund, the study says that mass transit, biking and walking are the preferred methods of getting around.

In hard numbers, the report details how from the year 2001 through 2009, the average number of miles driven by people aged 16 to 34 fell by 23 percent. Also during that time, the same demographic of people increased their public transit mileage by an impressive 40 percent.

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Public transportation use on the rise across America

Mercer 10165

David McNew/Getty Images

In 2011, Americans took a whopping 10.4 billion trips on various means of public transportation. According to an update from the American Public Transportation Association this week, that’s an increase of 2.3 percent from the year before. It’s also the largest that number has been since way back in 1957. It should come as no surprise that the top spot is still held by 2008, when the U.S. saw gasoline prices soar north of $4 per gallon. Sound familiar? 

“Two top reasons for the increased ridership are higher gas prices and in certain areas, a recovering economy with more people returning to work,” said Michael Melaniphy, the president and CEO of the APTA in a press release. “Since nearly sixty percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it’s not surprising to see ridership increase in areas where the economy has improved.”

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Regional transportation plan could mean more buses & bikes; southern California might want that

Opponents to public transportation point to its sometimes sizable price tags. Or to the fact that it's often mandate-driven, and thus, the argument goes, vulnerable to political vagaries, like the need to snap a photo of someone putting people to work. But what if most people just want it? 

The Southern California Association of Governments is the planning agency for Imperial, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and tomorrow it's going to vote on what's called its "Regional Transportation Plan."  Law requires them to make that document every four years, setting goals and priorities for transport. This time around, it's combined with a "Sustainable Communities Strategy." SB 375, the state's smart-growth-strategies law, requires the same planning agency to think about how to make the region's growth circulate better. 

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