Friday, April 12, 2013

Please sponsor my ride on Aids Life Cycle this year

I know my blog has been kind of quiet of late, but transit stories seem to come in waves.

One of the things that I have been doing in the meantime is training for Aids Life Cycle.  This is an annual charity 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles during the first week of June.

I am asking for sponsors to help me raise money to fight HIV, which has taken too many friends of mine over the years.  Aids Life Cycle raises money for Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center's AIDS Services and the San Francisco Aids Project.

This is a cause very dear to my heart and has meant a lot to me.  Riding my bicycle all over town has awoken me to the issue faced by cyclists in Los Angeles for which many of you were already too aware.  I love these new Metro signs, "Every lane is a bike lane".

Bicycles can help solve the first/last mile problem as Metrorail and Metrolink expand in Southern California.  It can also help create healthier Southern Californian in danger of becoming couch potatoes.  I will have more to add about how heavy rail, light rail, streetcars, buses, pedestrians, and yes, automobiles can all share the roads and transportation burden in Los Angeles.

In the meantime, if you have enjoyed my column, I could use your help making my fundraising goal so I can do the ride this year.  You may send a donation to http://www.tofighthiv.org/goto/danwentzel



Any amount is appreciated.  Every amount helps.  These problems have low overhead and high reward.  Thank you.  Together we can fight HIV, help prevent new infections, while prolonging and saving lives by helping people who cannot afford life saving medications receive them.

God bless,

Dan

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Positive Sign for Los Angeles - Palm Springs Passenger Rail Service

According to a Desert Sun article, recent draft of the 2013 California State Rail Plan includes a Coachella Valley Route that would connect Los Angeles to Indio, expanding passenger rail service for the Palm Springs region.  The proposal calls for eight stops, with three — Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Indio — in the Coachella Valley.

So what has been the hold up?  Freight rail owning these rail rights-of-way.  From the article:


The project would require cooperation with Union Pacific Railroad, which may be the largest obstacle.
“The main challenge to implementation of passenger rail service in this corridor is securing cooperation with UPRR,” the draft rail plan reads.
“Service initiation is contingent upon an operating agreement with UPRR (Union Pacific Railroad) and securing necessary capital and operating funding,” the draft continues. Union Pacific officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The project would cost an estimated $161.7 million, which includes $83.4 million for trains, $62.6 million for new stations and $15.7 million for maintenance facilities, according to the rail plan.
Train industry watchers in the Coachella Valley say Union Pacific could be amenable to increased passenger traffic given the mostly public-funded rail upgrades in Colton that make freight traffic flow smoother.
“We’re going to hold their feet to the fire on this one,” said Robert Manning, president of the Southwest Rail Passenger Association. “I’m sure if we push, we’ll get this.”

What is not determined yet is whether this increased passenger rail service would be Metrolink or Amtrak.


Tourism officials in the Coachella Valley have long wanted better passenger rail service between Indio and Los Angeles, ideally with daily service — up from the three-day-a-week service the area currently receives via Amtrak — and at times better suited for weekend travelers.
The rail plan does not get into scheduling specifics or the operator of the line. Local tourism officials say they hope it’s Amtrak, which is well-suited for the 125-mile trip to Palm Springs.
“We in the tourism industry are pushing for Amtrak because of the better consumer experience over Metrolink,” said Tim Ellis, general manager for the Palm Mountain Resort and Spa in Palm Springs and vice chair for the Hospitality Industry and Business Council, a valley-wide consortium of tourism leaders. Metrolink operates commuter trains reaching areas like Riverside and San Bernardino.
“Metrolink has commuter cars designed to move many people on shorter trips,” Ellis added, characterizing them as “public transportation rather than an experience.”
Manning also said he’d like the Coachella Valley Route to be operated by Amtrak, which has indicated a willingness to operate the train service.


So who would you rather see operate the service, Amtrak or Metrolink?  At this point I'd cheer for either.

And it isn't just tourists.  This region is expecting explosive population growth:

The California State Rail Plan points out the significant population growth the region is expected to see in the next 30 years, with the Los Angeles-Indio corridor expected to add 5.8 million residents. Riverside County will experience the bulk of this growth — 52.4 percent. Added access to rail should be a vital part of the transportation picture and one that needs to be started today, Manning said.


Right now when I travel to Palm Springs I take Amtrak to Fullerton and transfer to an Amtrak bus with WiFi.  I look forward to hopefully taking the trip to Palm Springs on one direct trail soon.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

How about a West Hollywood Transit Tunnel (inspired by Seattle)

Seattle has a transit tunnel downtown in which buses run underground unencumbered with auto traffic.  Seattle's growing light rail system also uses this transit tunnel creating a four station underground transitway shared by buses and rail.  Here is a picture.


West Hollywood could put one of these under Santa Monica Boulevard.

We do not necessarily need to wait for Metrorail to build it.  Perhaps our City Council candidates could be asked to raise bond money to build it for Rapid buses today (while local buses continue to run on the surface), while we can add light-rail tomorrow as Seattle has done.

With ever more congested traffic and density, we cannot depend on single-occupancy vehicles as the sole means of transportation to/from/within West Hollywood anymore.

We could partner with the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills to create a transit tunnel from Hollywood/Vine to Century Century using the unused Metro right-of-way through Beverly Hills.

However, a four stop transit tunnel underneath Santa Monica Blvd. through West Hollywood would be very attractive to bringing future transit improvements. Stations at San Vicente/Robertson, La Cienega, Fairfax and La Brea come to mind. Imagine rapid buses entering the tunnel through at Doheny and exiting at La Brea.  Eventually the neighboring areas would want to extend it and add light-rail and streetcar.

And as an affluent city, I believe West Hollywood could start on this as a capital project were it so inclined.  West Hollywood voted 86% in favor of Measure R and was also the highest voting  city for Measure J.  Right now we are getting NOTHING for that vote.  For those who want to build something cheaper than an underground tunnel, we could create our own transit-only lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Metro depends on the overwhelming "Yes" votes West Hollywood, Hollywood and surrounding areas in order to pass countywide transit measures, yet it still offers us NO Metrorail projects for our sales tax dollars. While I strongly supported Measure R and Measure J and still do, what if instead of voting to spend our sales tax money on the rest of the county, West Hollywood spent its own sales tax revenue on its own transit infrastructure?

Just a thought.  What are yours?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Streetcars are coming to Downtown L.A. (and one suggested change)


As you may have heard, streetcars are returning to downtown Los Angeles, and downtown voters gave overwhelming approval to streetcar funding, with this one way circular route being the first alignment of many.



I am excited for this project, but would make one small tweak if the money were available.  I would add streetcar tracks on 7th Avenue both ways between Hill and Broadway as the first upgrade to this line.

We would have three streetcar routes immediately:

(A)  The full clockwise loop we see constructed.
(B)  A northern clockwise loop from Bunker Hill to 7th Avenue
(C)  A southern clockwise loop from 7th Avenue to 11th.



That's a lot of mobility right there for the streetcar system before any counter-clockwise routing is built.

I have a strong hunch that when this streetcar goes online that there will be demands for similar routes all over Southern California.

Note:  That dotted line on the map is the norther extension of the Blue/Expo Lines toward Union Station and connection with the current Gold Line, also called the Regional Connector.  These are exciting times for transit downtown and for the whole region.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Recent travel to Palm Springs by Amtrak

On this blog I have previously discussed and advocated for more passenger rail between Los Angeles Union Station and Palm Springs.

Based on the recommendation of my friend Rob who began using this service, over Labor Day Weekend, I traveled to Palm Springs via Amtrak for only $24 each way.



We ride an Amtrak train between Los Angeles Union Station and Fullerton Station and then catch an Amtrak thruway bus between Fullerton and Palm Springs.  There are several destination stops in the Coachella Valley for this Amtrak bus, such as downtown Palm Springs, Palm Springs International Airport, Indio, etc.


The train car was clean, comfortable and had WiFi.  But guess what?  So did the Amtrak thruway bus!

 

One of the discussion points about increasing passenger rail through this area is whether or not people would actually commute between Palm Springs and Riverside or Los Angeles, or whether this area is more of a resort/vacation destination.  While Metrolink is designed to serve the needs of commuters, a few Amtrak trains per day might be sufficient for vacationers.

Note:  SunLine Transit Agency, which provides local transit service within Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, has begun a new Commuter Bus between Palm Desert and the Riverside Metrolink Station:  Line 220, covered by the Palm Desert Patch.  It will be interesting to see how it does.


Soon everyone will hopefully come out to see the giant statue of Marilyn Monroe








Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Can we get higher capacity buses on the Orange Line?

As those of you who have read this blog know, I believe the Orange Line should have been built as and should be upgraded now as a light-rail line.

In the meantime, every time I ride the bus line everyone is stuffed like sardines into regular articulated buses.  Why not have tri-articulated buses as they have for other BRT systems in the world?

Here are two examples of what these type of buses look like.



Metro, can we purchase some of these so we can breathe again?


Monday, August 13, 2012

West Hollywood Entertainment Shuttle "Party Bus" in the works?

Someone just informed me about a proposed West Hollywood "entertainment shuttle" that would be an effort to reduce traffic congestion and drunk driving.  It would have a party atmosphere.

West Hollywood Patch had the articles:



Considering how stuffed and crowded Line 4 is at night, I think this is worth exploring.  I'm imagining a double-decker bus with house Music and go-go dancers.

However, if I were designing an evening party shuttle, I'd do something a little different than just a circle around West Hollywood.  

I'd see about partnering with the City of Los Angeles and connect to the Red Line at the Hollywood & Vine Station.  Hollywood & Vine is the historical center of Hollywood and an evening Party Bus that runs there could connect with Theatre Row and the emerging nightclubs east of West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd.  

Here is one map with a circulating bus that would run clockwise and counter-clockwise:



Here is the route I prefer.  



It shuttles people back and forth from the Hollywood & Vine station and passes through Theatre Row, goes through the east side of West Hollywood, then up Holloway to the night clubs on the Sunset Strip and then down San Vicente deep into the heart of  "boystown" down to LaCienega/Wilshire.  (Note:  I also think this would make a marvelous streetcar route and northern alignment extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line.)