Schwarzenegger Proposes Making the 405 a Double Decker Freeway

To the casual observer, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger seems like an environmental crusader.  He signs anti-sprawl legislation, he sues the federal government over emission standards for automobiles, he flies around the world to attend greenhouse gas conferences.

But to those of us that live here and have been working to clean and green our transportation system; the Governor’s track record has been somewhat lacking.  We roll our eyes at his daily jet commute and react in horror at his efforts to roll back environmental protections in the name of environmental progress.  Yesterday, the Governor attended a press conference at the site of the most expensive highway project to be funded with Stimulus funds and unwittingly removed any doubt that he doesn’t understand the connection between freeways, the environment and public health.  From the Daily News:

“This is why it is so important because we have this bumper-to-bumper traffic to go and build an extra lane and build out the 405 freeway,” Schwarzenegger said at a news conference at a Caltrans construction yard along Mulholland Drive. “And hopefully, eventually, we will build on top of the 405 Freeway because I think we
need another freeway on top of the existing one.”

As you would expect, both the Daily News and KTLA, who’s story is above, are silent on the amazing environmental damage the construction and usage of an extra four lanes of 405 would bring to the area and the state.  If you don’t have a chance to watch KTLA’s coverage, reporter Jesse Gray seems a mix of whimsical and incredulous about the prospect; but ends with a wish that it happen in his lifetime.  And naturally, there’s no mention of the Governor’s plan to bankrupt transit agencies throughout the state at the same time he’s proposing ANOTHER massive freeway project for an area already choking in its own traffic.  Let’s not even talk about the report released earlier this week showing that living near freeways leads to hardened arteries.

Anyone that thinks that the Governor was just speaking off the cuff about his most recent attempt to destroy local air quality; the state has prepared a sketch of what the raised 405 would look like.

The state has made the official transcript, and full video, from yesterday’s press event available at its official website.  Joining the Governor are state officials, business leaders, and union leaders.  Mayor Villaraigosa wasn’t planning on attending, according to his daily schedule, but that didn’t stop the Governor from joking that he was “caught” in traffic.  As a matter of fact, it makes a fun game: go through the press conference and count the number of times the Governor jokes about people being late to the press conference because of traffic versus the number of jokes about the Terminator movie franchise.

As a last note to anyone reading this and thinking it’s impossible that this project will move forward, after all Metro and Caltrans just embarked on the I-405 HOV project through the Sepulveda Pass; remember the words of Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, speaking about the Governor’s newest scheme to rob transit last month.

…unfortunately with this Governor rumors often turn out to get worse as they get closer to policy.  The Governor is disingenuous when he claims to be green on transportation.  The only time he’s green is when a special interest lobbies to turn a brown project green or when it comes to promoting cars that are slightly more clean than others.

  • Eric B

    A few points (Walt throws out a few too many cherry-picked statistics to rebut all at once):

    1) Comparing the whole transit system with the whole auto system is misleading. For an urban area with total transportation capacity issues, it is the peak hour use of both systems that matters. In economic terms, it is not the total cost, or even the cost per passenger mile. What matters is the marginal cost of new capacity. If, as Walt asserts, busses are 70% empty, then the marginal cost of filling those seats is zero. I’ll be happy to ride one of those empty seats with you anytime (if you can actually find one in the over-crowded Metro system).

    2) Additionally, public transit provides two separate, but related, purposes: let’s call it “high-efficiency” or rapid transit and “social service” transit. Cato, et. al. are notorious for diluting efficiency transit stats with social service transit stats to make automobiles look relatively more efficient. Social service transit is designed to reach mobility-impaired groups (the poor, the disabled, the elderly) and take them to their destinations, whereas the efficiency transit is designed to attract discretionary users. To see the difference, ride a social-service bus in the low-density parts of the valley, then try getting on the 720 on Wilshire at rush hour.

    3) High quality public transit has a natural synergy with more-efficient modes, namely walking and biking. The existence of all these alternatives affect land-use patterns, providing an even more efficient system, further reinforcing transit-oriented development. It’s a virtuous cycle that current planning policy tends to break (with parking and density policy designed to protect Walt’s single-family home). Furthermore, the existence of a transit system that meets my demand for long trips allows me to not own a car, saving me $1000s annually and reducing the social cost of my car ownership.

    4) Parking… Walt entirely ignores it when he cites the 90% user-paid assumption for automobiles (which is dubious at best).

    5) Highways versus local roads. Cato, et. al. like to perpetuate the myth that gas taxes pay for roads. This has never been the case, nor is it likely to be until true road pricing is implemented. Furthermore, even if most of the highway program is paid for through the gas tax, far less than half of the local roads are. Those are paid for with property and sales tax from the general fund. Try getting to the freeway if you have no road at the end of your driveway. These roads suffer a disproportionate amount of wear and tear from private vehicles, which is recovered through general (not user) taxes.

    6) Because it’s so important, I’ll mention again: parking. Tell me the last time you paid its full cost. Here’s a hint: your parking space is likely more valuable than your car. And to serve your auto-driving ways, you require more than one (at point A and point B). Currently it’s bundled in the price of all goods we all buy. I walk to my grocery store because I moved to an area where I could do that. But, my gallon of milk and loaf of bread subsidizes the giant free parking lot I half to walk through on my way there, even though I have never used it.

  • @ Walt

    Given the land use pattern of greater Los Angeles, private vehicular travel isn’t going to dramatically decrease overnight (unless there’s an oil shock). However, I just can’t support adding more freeway space.

    Not when we haven’t yet made a serious attempt at bike friendly streets. Not while there’s potential to expand telecommuting. Not while we haven’t seriously looked at retrofitting our suburbs to make them more walkable and capable of supporting frequent transit service. Not while we haven’t explored road pricing/VMT tax options to encourage people to live close to where they work.

    And most directly to the point, not as long as cars have all of the negative social consequences I’ve described above. Make me a car that doesn’t pollute, doesn’t kill, doesn’t contribute to obesity, and doesn’t contribute to sprawl and show me a plan to get everyone (including the poor and the disabled) using these magical cars, and then I’ll support more freeways.

    Unfortunately, it’s impossible.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Chewie. Major points I’m trying to cover:
    1), Despite a furious lobby to keep building little used mass transit vehicles and the anti-automobile New Urbanist movement, there is national attention recognizing personal transportation is essential, and more efficient autos have the most leverage to provide it in the near term using considerably less energy and GHG.

    BUT: Transportion/mobility comes from systems, and for autos that means roads which are not being provided. Minor improvements will come from the expensive and sometimes worthwhile ITS projects. This is a serious disconnect in USDOT which has no means to bridge the effectiveness gap between mass transit and highways or develop both productivity and social needs criteria for doing so. (Beats the hell out of me why the centerpiece for new transportion is $ 8 to 14 billion for HSRail when its impact on the number one problem, urban congestion and mobility, it will not be noticed.)

    2), Try to get across the roughly 50 to 1 gap betwenn the mobility provided by mass transit plus walk/biking compared to autos/roads. And the evolutional process based on both social druthers and and productivity needs in an intense global competitive environment. Many on this list seem to think building more mass transit, or encouraging walk/biking are in the same league meeting in quantity the needs of the vast majority. Funding ratios don’t match performance ratios. Listing transportation problems, and then mentioning mass transit vehicles as if the canonical solution is no help.

    I fully agree the best we can do is provide mass transit at considerable subsidy to non-drivers, disabled, etc etc. But some stats from San diego show that’s about 30% of the population, but only 5 % OF THOSE show up on an overbuilt underused well run transportation system. Are not these some hints about meeting needs?

    Mass transit leaders seem to give priority to “coercing” people out of cars. (Transporation Secretary quote.) Shouldn’t they be working on better fracilities and procedures for their primary clints?

    I have no objection to reducing travel when communities’ missions can be met; telecommuting, walk/biking, etc etc. I bike nearly every day for exercise and run a few erronds. But again the magnitude of contribution is being badly misjudged for overall productivity/social needs.

    3), I’m accused of selling Automation, PRT, etc. But more broadly the consern is lack of search for real system level innovation for urban transportation. Compare what’s happened in the last 100+ years in aviation, commercial and military, motor vehicles, telecommunications,etc, with urban transportaion. The mass transit sytems being promoted are neater, more comfortable, sometimes wi-fi equipped, etc etc. But they don’t go noticably faster, usually not directly to real destinations. These are the same reasons they were rejected decades ago. Their potential for energy savings is lost buy rejection of utility demonstrated by travelers.

    Why aren’t we, national level involved, looking for mutiples in performance improvement to meet productivity and social needs?
    Indeed one example is PRT which can provide personal on demand direct to destination travel for non-drivers and drivers alike. Properly located it meets whatever special needs are relevant, promtes safety by separtion and does not experience the mass transit detriments of inconvenience and time wasted.

    There may be other approcahes. I’m not on anyone’s payroll. I’m a retired engineer who has contributed for many years to new technolgy major system concepts and developments at risk levels that make transportation look like the tea cup ride at Disneyland.

    Sorry for the length, but let’s stop sweeping out a litle corner of the room and get to work on major pay-offs.

  • Excellent cleanup by Chewie and Eric B. I’d like to add that most of the statistics being thrown out by Walt to invalidate transit require, shall we say, a more accurate interpretation. Subsidyscope reports that as of 2007, user support for highways contributed slightly over 50% of their cost. Eric makes the excellent point that this figure doesn’t include either parking or surface streets, which more often than not are funded from the general fund.

    http://www.subsidyscope.com/transportation/highways/funding/

    As for public transportation not absorbing ridership, I suspect the figures Walt cites are nationwide. One of the reasons nationwide transit went from 2.5% to 2.1% (assuming that figure is correct) is that federal transportation funding for roads and freeways vastly outstrips federal funds for transit. Cars will always be more effective in suburbs and exurbs, but that doesn’t mean we should build more freeways, it means we should abandon national policy that props up suburbs and lets urban cores languish. To see how integral public transit is to urban life, look at the transit strike in New York a few years ago. Car traffic was so snarled that the city mandated that personal vehicles with fewer than four passengers couldn’t enter Manhattan. Even in “car centric” LA, a transit strike in 2003 caused a noticeable spike in car congestion, and was one of the reasons Metro Rider LA was created.

    http://metroriderla.com/2008/03/26/the-journey-to-a-transit-oriented-life/

    Walt needs to understand that, while there are compelling arguments for transit on the basis of fuel efficiency, transit advocates don’t support a better transit system just to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. As Chewie points to, it’s an issue of space. A car requires 100-150 sq. ft. to transport 1 to 2 people. This doesn’t sound like much until you multiply it by millions of car users, which requires an urban landscape tailored to the car. Many of us feel that urban land could be put to better use than freeway lanes, which are quite unpleasant to be around even inside a car. This is not to say that efficiency improvements shouldn’t be implemented for cars, or that transit advocates don’t also support more efficient cars, I have always been a supporter of converting most of our cars to all-electric or plug-in electric. But we feel that capital transportation spending is better spent on transit, which unlike the freeway network doesn’t yet provide comprehensive coverage of the LA area and has the potential to offer higher capacity that cars simply can’t anymore.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Eric B. I suggest my post to Chewie covers the basis overall for my previous comments.

    Copying your message, I’ve added a few details which may be helpful.

    ### Comments ###

    A few points (Walt throws out a few too many cherry-picked statistics to rebut all at once):

    1) Comparing the whole transit system with the whole auto system is misleading. For an urban area with total transportation capacity issues, it is the peak hour use of both systems that matters. In economic terms, it is not the total cost, or even the cost per passenger mile. What matters is the marginal cost of new capacity. If, as Walt asserts, busses are 70% empty, then the marginal cost of filling those seats is zero. I’ll be happy to ride one of those empty seats with you anytime (if you can actually find one in the over-crowded Metro system).

    ### Yes and there is also ~70% vacant sets in cars. Neither would be easy to fill. The car gap represents the importance of use in time, and willingness to spend more for the productivity provided. The mass transit gap represents a mismatch between the service provided and traveler needs. But as stated earlier for ego and conspicuous consumption image reasons, I agree most cars are over built.
    Try using your one more doesn’t cost anything argument some day with an economist, or a TV set salesman withe room full of unsold TV sets! ###

    2) Additionally, public transit provides two separate, but related, purposes: let’s call it “high-efficiency” or rapid transit and “social service” transit. Cato, et. al. are notorious for diluting efficiency transit stats with social service transit stats to make automobiles look relatively more efficient. Social service transit is designed to reach mobility-impaired groups (the poor, the disabled, the elderly) and take them to their destinations, whereas the efficiency transit is designed to attract discretionary users. To see the difference, ride a social-service bus in the low-density parts of the valley, then try getting on the 720 on Wilshire at rush hour.

    ### Yes there are externalities, and as noted I agree untill a better form of transportation comes along, mass transit leaders should pay more attention to their core clients. ###

    3) High quality public transit has a natural synergy with more-efficient modes, namely walking and biking. The existence of all these alternatives affect land-use patterns, providing an even more efficient system, further reinforcing transit-oriented development. It’s a virtuous cycle that current planning policy tends to break (with parking and density policy designed to protect Walt’s single-family home). Furthermore, the existence of a transit system that meets my demand for long trips allows me to not own a car, saving me $1000s annually and reducing the social cost of my car ownership.

    ##Clearly the vast majority has decided higher cost is worthwhile because of auto’s diverse capabilities. If some wish otherwise, so be it. Mass transit has little commanality with the personal transport bikes and walking provide. Perhaps you have been to dense cities in China with built in major mass transit capabilities? Note the continued use of bikes, (now becoming motorbikes), because for the short distances involved are faster to real destinations. But is the future of USA cities resembling Shanghai, now overrun with autos also, what we want? Have you visited Moscow, post “wall”, to see what kind of personal transportation has emerged, despite nearly every street with mass transit? ###

    4) Parking… Walt entirely ignores it when he cites the 90% user-paid assumption for automobiles (which is dubious at best).

    5) Highways versus local roads. Cato, et. al. like to perpetuate the myth that gas taxes pay for roads. This has never been the case, nor is it likely to be until true road pricing is implemented. Furthermore, even if most of the highway program is paid for through the gas tax, far less than half of the local roads are. Those are paid for with property and sales tax from the general fund. Try getting to the freeway if you have no road at the end of your driveway. These roads suffer a disproportionate amount of wear and tear from private vehicles, which is recovered through general (not user) taxes.

    ### Can’t argue the costs in detail. But consider LA 27% of funds for 2.1% rideshare mass transit provides.
    Agree much can be done to lessen parking space, probably through automation. PRT also reduces the need drasticaly. Do you think splitting big box stores into many will reduce parking needs and energy? ###

    6) Because it’s so important, I’ll mention again: parking. Tell me the last time you paid its full cost. Here’s a hint: your parking space is likely more valuable than your car. And to serve your auto-driving ways, you require more than one (at point A and point B). Currently it’s bundled in the price of all goods we all buy. I walk to my grocery store because I moved to an area where I could do that. But, my gallon of milk and loaf of bread subsidizes the giant free parking lot I half to walk through on my way there, even though I have never used it.

    ### Aren’t we glad it’s still a free country? ###

  • Eric B

    @ Walt,

    It sounds like we agree that the current automobile system is overbuilt. I don’t dismiss the potential of PRT at some technologically-enabled point in the future, but to call any public transit solution as a waste of money when your PRT alternative doesn’t yet exist seems a little skewed. By all means, research, invent, and if something is feasible, implement. I’m all for it. But in the interim, let’s change the city and its streets to be a little more hospitable to people trying to live here.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Eric B: In addition to sloppy spelling I guess better wording: AUTOMOBILES are overdesigned for their primary functions.
    The automobile/roads SYSTEM is out of balance with inadequate capacity for new gas and/or electric auto to be used to their potential.

    Drew Reed’s comments are perfect examples of how the 50 to 1 gap in autos vs mass transit function is not recognized. Multiples in MT performance don’t compare to a few percent change in auto functions.

    That’s why the innovation approch is needed, I agree after due eveluation and testing, to provide capacity meeting needs.

  • Walt, I don’t understand why we can’t make cars more efficient and work towards higher mass transit ridership simultaneously. Both are needed, and progress toward one doesn’t necessitate neglect of the other.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Drew Reed.

    I’ll get around to your important question because it helps illustrate what Prof Charles Lave describes as the impact of “the law of large proportions”.

    In the meantime there is useful reading from an article by him awhile backat: tinyurl.com/6c58os

  • The Cato Institute is evil. You’ve proven yourself a fool by citing anything those evildoers have written as proof of anything but their own hackneyed attempts to dupe us all into doing as their silent financial backers want us to do.

    Stand behind me Satan, stand behind me!

  • Ben

    @Walt Brewer You are correct in that cars offer more freedom in mobility, but I would like you to consider another fact: 17% of household income is spent on owning automobiles (bls.gov). What percentage of Americans are in debt I wonder? Expanding public transportation is a way to ease the financial burden on families. Will everyone still be able to drive when they are completely broke? Stay tuned.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Drew Reed:

    I agree we need improved cars, adequate roads for them to operate efficiently or equivalent, and mass transit, all matched to the nature of the demand. Experience San Diego has had with its much praised light rail system can help to put in context how the law of large proportions needs to be considered when making expensive transportation decisions.

    The original “trolley” starting ~ 25 years ago, using available tracks is very successful transporting daily workers to/from the Mexican border and work in downtown SD. Observing that success, fares pay for operating part of expense, and peak period it carries the equivalent of one freeway lane, leaders since have expanded the LRT system to about 70 miles throughout the developed part of the region. Justification for using 1/3 the total transportation budget for this has been to eliminate congestion, take cars off roads, force people out of cars, reduce free parking, etc, etc. Some promotions mention accommodation non-drivers, minorities, etc,. LRT additions have been greeted by complaints for riders of more flexible buses, and most LRT ridership has been transfers from buses.

    The net result after about 25 years is that mass transit total has absorbed 2% of ridership, less than 1% by LRT. (Yes the peak period is better; 3.6%.) Average vehicle occupancy ~ 25% similar to autos including those pesky SOV’s

    Leaders simple misjudged the demographics for most of the region were very different. In fact the entire expanded part carries hardly more than the original 16 miles.

    Meanwhile there has been some road expansion, but cost of congestion has increased by a factor of 3, and Texas Transportation Institute ranks SD most congested of about 25 large metro regions.(Less than 3 million population I believe.) Annual cost of congestion $1.8 billion contributing to the nation’s $70+ billion. And the plan for mass transit expansion continues, ignoring the law of large proportions that even doubling MT ridership will put a noticeable dent in road use now, or as post recession projected ~ 1% per year growth.

    The LA Metro region story is about the same. Daily there are about 410 million passenger-miles of travel. Mass transit’s share is less than 9 million. (2.1 % overall, 4.6% peak).Despite significant expenditures, both MT and roads, congestion cost has increased by a factor of nearly 2 in 25 years to $ 10.3 billion /year.

    Where is the evidence more mass transit can close meaningfully the law of large proportions gap approaching 50 to one? And do it with meaningful improvement to current emphasis on reducing energy use and emissions. Previously I’ve mentioned the high leverage favorable impact of small improvements to auto performance. Another: If the national auto 30% mpg improvement by 2016 also extends to mass transit and air travel, and in addition MT travel is doubled, the savings for the auto improvement still exceed by more than 10 to 1.

    Certainly if effective ways to reduce driving can be found w/o disruption of regional productivity they should be encouraged if there is public support. But considering the nation’s struggles in the global market place we can’t afford choices, and comfortable living emphasis in communities. Hopefully telecommuting will increase, although the Internet is expanding far flung contacts. Earlier I gave the example of a community’s 50% development density increase requiring a 6 to 1 increase to 40% rideshare on MT/walk/bike just to prevent increase in auto congestion. Take it a step further, and assume a 25% reduction in travel also, all by less driving; The 6 to 1 MT/walk/bike increase is still needed and their rideshare has gone to 53% of the reduced total trips.

    Looking ahead how likely is it that the heavily promoted transit oriented development performing thusly even can put much of a dent in total regional travel considering projected post recession population increases?

    As noted previously the law of large proportions provides leverage for automobile improvement. But with roads already overloaded where are they going to operate?

    The Governor sees this, thus the 405 double decking that started this thread. Many may not agree with that approach. But instead of piling on more mass transit and pleasurable villages that sound useful, where is the support for ridding the room of the 800 pound gorilla called travel capacity? The ITS program is spending a lot for some small useful improvements, but we need multipliers. Packing in more cars/mile has been virtually abandoned. HOT lanes reduce total freeway people throughput. Double decking is a multiplier if for efficient cars, but has huge aesthetic-founded resistance. Emerging developments in automated personal transport have potential, are compatible with increased density, and most important preserve on demand personal travel, reduce parking etc. But, unlike the other big government monopoly, military space and missiles, transportation management and adoption of new technologies is moribund with unimaginative organization.

    I don’t know the answer. But I believe when options are looked at with numbers rather than even well meaning ideology, the current approach to keep expanding failed systems, coupled with incomplete info to the public, is just another example of repeating the same mistakes over and over expecting a favorable result.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Ben.

    Indeed autos cost more than public transport. And auto users pay nearly all costs, including roads, etc etc. I’m willing to let individuals and families decide if they are worth the benefit. Over 90% have decided they are.

    I agree society has agreed on extreem subsidies for public transportation, that with few exceptions carries about 2% of trips. Typically users pay about 1/3 the operating costs and none of the capital cost for the facility. Example: In a recent addition to the light rail in San diego, each boarding costs taxpayers $9 just for those original construction cost. Add about $4 for the operation subsidy.

    90+% of taxpayers, pay thusly for the 2% who use public transportation. isn’t that enough pay for non-drivers?

    There are new developments in public transportation that will be superior to current mass transit for drivers and non-drivers alike. Unfortunatly transportation leaders don’t have them near the front burner.

  • Let’s take a look at an urban ZIP code in LA: 90020

    According to the 2006-08 American Community Survey (available here: http://factfinder.census.gov/) 21% of workers went to work on transit and 25% of households had no vehicle available.

    This is a dense urban area, with a subway line. The moral of the story is that we shouldn’t generalize about the whole country or the whole state or even the whole county. The transportation behavior of people varies widely from place to place, because in places with the density and mixture of land uses that make it easy to walk and support frequent transit, people aren’t slaves to cars. They have other options.

    Look, I use transit. I pay fares and I pay sales taxes in this county so I’m covering the costs of my transportation both directly and indirectly.

    When you consider the massive externalities caused by cars from pollution to deaths to traffic, and things like the 1956 Interstate Highway Act’s 90% federal subsidy, and even the suburb-friendly mortgage interest tax deduction, it becomes clear that the mode of transportation that is most subsidized in America is the private motor vehicle.

  • Eric B

    “Indeed autos cost more than public transport. And auto users pay nearly all costs, including roads, etc etc.”

    It’s simply not true. Studies from TxDOT (hardly a bastion of liberal transportation policy) have declared that “there is not one road in Texas that pays for itself based on the tax system of today.”

    http://www.houstontomorrow.org/livability/story/txdot-no-road-pays-for-itself/

    In fact, most roads according to the study recover less than half of their cost through user fees, making transit farebox recovery rates look pretty good. Nationally, user fees cover about 51% the cost of driving (not parking).

    99% of car trips in America begin and end with free (read: subsidized) parking.

    Walt, get your facts straight and then maybe we can talk.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Chewie and Eric B:
    I’m trying to emphasize major priciples and issues based on more then sellected excusions from the mean, and documented by other than national sources.

  • Eric B

    If your “major principle” is that autos pay for themselves and transit doesn’t, then we have a strong disagreement. This blog promotes the idea that streets can be more than traffic sewers flushing cars through the system. There is an unmistakable trend toward livable, walkable communities that bring in more of our daily needs within easy access. You’re still promoting the old mobility paradigm which is now out of date. Todd Litman at VTPI has shown the lack of correlation between VMT and economic activity, but you continue to believe that mobility for the sake of mobility and driving for the sake of driving are good things.

    Also, Chewie cited the most local data of any of us, yet you completely ignored his point.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Eric B; Sorry you missed the point of the whole law of large proportions reasons why the friendly TOD’s etc are unlikely ever to meet mobility needs.

    I said YES, CARS COST MORE, but the vast majority believe they DO more.

    I’ll go with that even though minority opinions appear.

    I’m familiar with Litman’s work, and even though he is trying to discourage autos, the info seems accurate.

  • Another thing to consider is the Census transportation figures only cover the transportation behavior of one kind of person (workers) for one kind of trip (going to work). What about people who don’t have jobs, like the retired, most teenagers and children, adults who are unemployed, etc.? And what about all the other trips we make like running errands, visiting friends, taking vacations or just killing time?

    We shouldn’t forget that for children, driving is not an option. They only have walking, cycling and transit available. The same is true for those with disabilites that prevent them from driving (these people may not even have walking and cycling available). Also, for many of the poor, driving is simply too expensive.

    The way I think about transit and the environment is transit’s primary function in a society where most non-disabled adults have cars (except in places like NYC) is to provide transportation for the people who don’t have cars. Hence, even if the buses are mostly empty, they can still be doing a good job at their primary mission: giving mobility to those who can’t drive. From an environmental perspective, I’m just hopping into a seat that would otherwise be empty instead of putting another car on the road. This has virtually no impact on the amount of fuel the bus uses to fulfill its critical mission of providing mobility to those who cannot drive.

    One of the huge problems with suburbia is that it doesn’t support frequent transit, which means the vulnerable groups who cannot drive are basically out of luck. Hence, I advocate for cities and denser suburbs.

    In rural areas transit can’t survive in any real way and people will inevitably drive for almost everything (unless they’re avid cyclists). Rural areas are necessary to some extent, but car-dependent suburbia isn’t necessary at all.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Chewie,

    I agree that in their zeal to take over a large share of urban transportation, mass transit agencies have short changed their core clients; the ones who do not drive.

    LA numbers are probaly similar, but for San Diego about 30% of travelers do not drive for at least reasons you give. But only 5% OF THOSE show up using mass transit. To be sure many are kids who walk. Many bum rides with friends in cars etc.

    That should be a red flag that the service is not a good match. They represent about 3/4 mass transit users. Thus demonstrating also the lack of acceptance of “choice” riders using MT

    There should be more emphasis on on-demand service beyond regulations to do so for disabled. Agencies have resisted using small buses for offpeak because a driver is still necessary, and the capital cost. But the latter is mitigated by using both large and small buses for more years.

    And here comes the PRT “pitch”: automation, and on demand direct to destination remove the driver, and the near empty bus problem.

    Speaking of near empty buses, good luck with the free ride argument. We should be more interested in why the buses are near empty in the first place.

    All the above well and good, and involves a lot of emotion. But the sum total is still well into the single digit minor component of the urban transportation scene.

  • I think every commuter should be part of a carpool. Imagine… it would be so much easier to get into the city. It also help to reduce the GHG emissions dramatically. I tried the carbon dioxide and cost calculator on the carpooling network ( http://www.carpoolingnetwork.com ) and they suggest huge savings : up to 2000 $ and 1,5 tons of ghg per year.

  • Welcome Walt. I may not agree entirely with what you state or the interpretation of the statistics you cite, but anyone who introduces data and the concept of TANGIBLE – QUANTIFIABLE – MEASURABLE output and objectives into the online dialogue of urban transportation is a welcome addition in my book. Expect to frustrate many and to constantly experience rebuttals limited to the questioning of your motives. (Think middle school playground.)

  • DW

    “We really need more freeways in southern California.”

    Evan is absolutely correct. And, to be very clear, our existing freeways do not need more lanes. Instead, we need additional freeways. More lanes does not get it done.

    Two four-lane freeways will flow far more traffic than one with eight-lanes.

  • DW

    “I think Arnold should be advocating for the completion of the La Cienega/Laurel Canyon Freeway, which is partially built already in Baldwin Hills”

    Outstanding idea, Erik G. The Topanga Freeway from PCH to the 118 would also be an excellent idea.

  • Hopefully you all read this blockbuster cover article in the LA Weekly this week: http://www.laweekly.com/2010-03-06/news/black-lung-lofts/ You need at least 500 feet between a residence and a freeway to reduce harmful health risks to children. While existing properties next to freeways are there, if you cut new swaths of freeway, you will need to buy out a quarter mile swath of homes, or else residents will sue you into oblivion under CEQA, NEPA, and Environmental Justice (EO 12898) rules. At the very least, density should be lowered near freeways, not increased, and although Houston-style strips of billboards, warehouses, and strip malls next to freeways are visually unappealing, at least they are the right uses next to roadways that carry hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks a day, and leave only adults working 40-60 hours a week, compared to the young children in their homes for 70-100 hours a week.

  • Walt Brewer

    For calwatch, Damien and others recent: Following a “work in progress” attempting with som numbers to show how off the mark are attempts to substitute mass transit for personal transportation. It is San Diego oriented, but I believe the principles apply more generally.
    Inded the land use detrimet of residences neer freeways is only partially allowed for. But I would add living near rail tracks is not a premium either.
    Comments about this draft please.

    Draft:
    By ignoring LOLP, TOD’s have threatened UT with RMB insanity.

    That is Acronymspeak, and for those with no LOA (See footnote), translated it means.: By ignoring the Law Of Large Proportions, Transit Obsessed Direction has threatened Urban Transportation with Rita Mae Brown’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”
    Referring of course to San Diego’s obsessed spending year after year on mass transit that continues to have the same lack of meaningful impact on increasing mobility needs. And pre-Recession at least $ 1.8 Billion yearly cost of congestion.

    Indeed we need a mix of mass transit with increasingly “green” automobiles in proportion to their respective contributions. But that is not the same as mix of funds allocations. Nor consistent with the national “coerce people out of cars” slogan.
    Indeed the best we can do for the core non-driver clients is mass transit. While they are about 30% of travelers, only 5% of those show up on the well run trolleys and buses. That is less than 2% of total travel with 3.5% during peaks, hoping to increase to 5% or so.

    This, after 20+ years trying to convert auto users is one illustration of the Rita Brown defined insanity. Continuing as transportation plans show is also where the Law of Large Proportions, illustrated in the ‘70’s by Prof. Charles Lave, comes in. Consider the sheer steepness of the mass transit acceptance climb from 2% to that needed to support the ideological hope that any meaningful part of autos’ 45 or so times higher utilization can be achieved. Some associated examples for San Diego:
    1), Mass transit growth to a 25% rideshare by 2050 would require a growth compounded rate of 7.4%/year. To 50% rideshare, 9.3%/year.
    2), the post recession projected daily travel growth exceeds in each 2 years the daily total from the entire mass transit system. And that assumes Vehicle Miles Travelled growth won’t exceed that of population as it has in the past.
    3), Smart growth promotions cite increased development density will reduce congestion, energy use and emissions by replacing auto travel with mass transit. Example: A community growing 50% requires a factor of 6 to 40% mass transit rideshare to prevent increase in auto travel in the same area. Then reducing travel by 25%, all from less auto travel, requires 53% mass transit rideshare.
    4), Shift to 53% mass transit ridership, and assuming it 30% more efficiency would struggle to reduce greenhouse gases 10% compared to 15% wanted by 2020, or 80% by 2050.
    Auto’s fleet average by 2016 when incorporated will save 4 times as much, 40%, and there is potential well beyond.
    5), To equal the energy and emissions savings from a one mpg current auto improvement, the entire mass transit system would have to operate using no fuel. By 2016 auto mpg will be 8 mpg higher than current. 30% increase.
    6), Improvement in mass transit vehicles can be expected also. If all transportation auto, air, and mass transit experience the same 30% improvement, and mass transit rideshare is doubled for illustration, energy saving from autos would be 11 times higher than for the improved mass transit. Emissions including GHG would reduce similarly.

    For these examples autos are personal vehicles including light trucks. Source is the National Transportation Data Base. The mass transit penalty due to less convenient longer travel times, inflexibility, etc., is not included

    Using pictures of narrow trolley tracks compared to land grabbing freeways, mass transit advocates claim significantly less land use. Tough to compare, but penalizing autos 50% for highway shoulders, ramps, parking etc, at the critical peak hour mass transit’s only successful segment to the Mexican border generates about 110 passenger-miles per foot of right of way. Nearly identical to a freeway. Round the clock, autos on highways at 800 passenger-miles per foot double performance over mass transit. Thus despite possible uncertainties in land use, it’s not a multiplier to compensate for the mass transit deficiencies listed above.

    Tough leadership decisions are ahead. How to accommodate renewed growth and dig out of the hole left by repeating the mass transit mistake. Double decking the Governor has mentioned recently raised aesthetic hackles. U S Dept of Transportation sponsors incremental, but not decisive improvements to highway utility including a recent grant to San Diego. A dozen years ago on I-15 automated control of closely spaced autos with potential to more than double highway flow was demonstrated. Overseas, US originated concepts for automated personal vehicles are appearing superior to current autos in efficiency emissions land use and safety.

    The evidence seems clear that mass transit cannot overcome its deficiencies to balance the Law of Large Proportions advantage personal transport provides. Fighting for its life in the competitive marketplace to what extent can this natio afford retire-style villages emphasizing tree shaded benches, boutique shops and bikeways. If travel can be reduced while preserving competitive productivity and social activities at densities the people and business participants favor, by all means. The Law of Large Proportions still applies. As does the overwhelming demonstrated need and preference for personal transportation. Future concepts for it dwarf factual assessments of mass transit’s potential.

    If the repetitive battle cry for more mass transit can be defended by advocates, isn’t it time taxpayers are presented rational numeric objective arguments beyond community behavior modification? Where are some numbers describing communities for travel and energy savings citizens, business and industry leaders can see to consider functional practicality, and compare auto use vs mass transit?

    A current “Buzz Word” is Move San Diego. Correct, but in a positive forward innovative direction rather than repeating the mistakes of the past Rita Mae Brown calls insanity.

    Note: List of Acronyms.

  • Walt Brewer

    Sorry. Forgot the spellcheck!!

  • @ Walt

    The first rule of blogging, to quote NPR, is that rambling is the kiss of death. If I wanted to read a novel I’d pick up something by Dostoyevsky.

    Bottom line is you want me to subsidize your freeways with my income taxes and I’m not buying it.

    If you care so much about increasing fuel economy I hope you’ll join me in advocating for higher fuel taxes used to subsidize clean cars. That solves that problem, but still leaves the issue that most people are trapped in suburban neighborhoods where driving is the only convenient option.

    The lesson is tranist isn’t the problem, sprawl is the problem. If an urban/suburban neighborhood doesn’t put things within walking distance, it isn’t fit to live in. Those neighborhoods have the capacity to support frequent transit.

    I have no respect for peoples’ environment-destroying preferences to live in large-lot suburbia. Zero. It’s unsustainable.

  • Sorry, should have said “cleaner cars”, since no car can truly be clean when you consider its entire life cycle, even if it’s powered by electricity that comes from solar panels (which is a pipe dream as things stand today).

    And of course that’s before you throw in the externalities like the collisions, the obesity, and the sprawl, which is more about the land use pattern than the space taken up by the actual roads.

    I want you to know something Walt. I come from suburbia. I even own a car (which I drive under 1,000 miles per year). As soon as I realized what my actions were doing to society I decided that I had to start finding a way to stop.

    I CHOOSE TO REJECT DRIVING. Culture isn’t static. There’s a movement growing here and it will not be silenced by a few naysayers. I think people have the power to “wake up, refuse and resist”.

    Some things are more important than saving a few minutes, like SAVING THE WORLD! I refuse to accept the idea that Americans are too weak to demand a better way of living.

  • Eric B

    I’d like to briefly summarize Walt’s comments to see if I understand their gist:

    A) Most people drive most places
    B) Most people will always drive most places
    C) The best we can do is continue to design our cities such that people will always drive most places.
    D) The people that suffer from the externalities of this system can breathe my tailpipe.

    Is that essentially correct?

    Pretty much every authoritative source on transportation agrees on a three-legged stool approach to reducing the negative effects of cars. It’s not a matter of which is the “right” emphasis because we need to do ALL of them in order to meet our climate and environmental objectives:

    1) Increase vehicle efficiency
    2) Low carbon fuels standard
    3) Reduce vehicle miles traveled

    For the relative effectiveness of each leg of the stool, check out the Moving Cooler report that came out last summer by a diverse coalition of energy and environmental groups (including AASHTO until they pulled out at the last minute).

    I agree we need cleaner cars. But the law of large proportions doesn’t get us all the way there. If a productive economy required automotive dominance, then New York City would not have the highest GDP of any US city.

    Our current system is automobile based. It actually does a lot of things well. But, at peak hours there is a disparity between the amount of travel we want to do and the system’s capacity to handle it. We’re not about to decongest the roads because a place with no congestion is a place with no economic activity (like Detroit). What the goal is now is to strategically enhance system capacity in the most cost-effective way. I wish we could measure economic productivity per dollar of transportation investment to compare various decisions, but we can’t. What we do know is that for the marginal cost of new capacity, alternative modes are extremely competitive even by traditional measures. When you factor in externalities such as emissions, land use effects, etc., alternative modes are often far more effective in stimulating the cities we want to live in.

    Not all miles traveled are made equal. If I have to drive five miles to the store to buy a gallon of milk, it is not a more productive trip than walking down the street to buy the same gallon. So, the fact that most Americans live in places where they have to make inefficient travel to accomplish basic errands is highly unproductive and a drag on the economy. I’d rather that gas money go to a local business than Saudi Arabia.

    The way things have “always” been is not the way they always have to be. If you believe in the free market, then properly priced transportation options will yield a more efficient result. We’re not there yet but will hopefully move in that direction before our lack of sustainability catches up to us.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Chewie and others.

    Speaking of length, this is about the longest thread on one subject, (more or less), that I’ve seen.

    To each his/her own regarding lifestyle.

    You have missed the point the “sustainable” style being promoted with all its implications of community functions unacounted for can have its transportation segment better provided, in energy and pollution terms, by overwhelmingly preferred personal transporation. (now aka autos; later even more clesn automated vehicles.)

    Even if reduced travel materializes, the centerpiece of smart growth villages’ transportation.

    That’s what the Law of Large Proportions dictates.

    Arm waving assertions may be comforting to ideologies, but the public needs to know the real world numbers. If there are some better, your turn.

  • @ Walt

    This isn’t so much about numbers as you and Goodmon seem to think. I think this is fundamentally about value differences.

    I value environmental protection, road safety, providing convenient transportation to those who can’t drive, increasing the viability of things like walking, saving land, etc. etc.

    You value the freedom to drive, the freedom to live in any kind of housing and low levels of traffic congestion, and the environment and safety to the extent that they doesn’t interfere with these things.

    Since we’re starting from different values, I doubt we’ll agree much on solutions. Arguing is fun though.

  • Walt Brewer

    For Eric B.

    I agree with A, B, C. Instead of D, substitute future development will make tailpipes even cleaner than the last 20 or so years have generated.
    And yes biofuel, on mobile vehicles, and when electric energy can’t be provided.

    I guess I have to emphasize again transportation is not the end product. Efficient communities are served by it, business , industry, social as one important input.

    Most people want personal transportation because overwhelming evidence is that it performs essential functions best in their views. And adding high emphasis to energy/emissions, etc as correctly we should in the current environment, I think my numbers show personal transportion has the most potential and leverage to improve those factors.

    One again if ways can be found to reduces travel autos are still superior. But watch out for the density penalty.

    Good list of forinstances, but how about some numbers on a regional scale.

    NYC GDP may be high, but how about GDP per capata, and what population would you use? Even for Manhattan’s special demographics, mass transit does not carry a majority.

  • Walt Brewer

    Recently noted article about TOD’s

    http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress Second articleabout TOD’s

    San Fransisco may be a bit unique.

    A energy audit would be helpful.

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  • Guest

    Well because of earthquakes its likely that the 405 would collapse in on itself during one. So this wouldnt be the greatest idea lawl.

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