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Posts from the "Editorial" Category

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If A Tree Falls In A #RoadBond, Do Editorial Writers Hear?

Trees are just one amenity that this RoadBond really needs. photo: Thue via Wikimedia

Trees are just one “amenity” that L.A.’s RoadBond really needs. photo: Thue via Wikimedia

Today’s Los Angeles Times has two editorials that don’t quite go together.

In the editorial South L.A. needs trees, the Times reviews tree removal underway for Metro’s Crenshaw rail line. Almost channeling their inner Lorax, the Times lauds the city and county’s “ambitious post-construction plans” for “planting twice as many trees as they remove, and adding seating, lighting and walkways.” The Times values South L.A.’s trees for “fighting against drought, desert climate, urban blight and concrete streets.”

Indeed, trees are critical for urban livability. Especially for pedestrians and transit riders, trees provide much needed shade. Trees are often an important buffer between pedestrian space and vehicle space. They clean air and water, and lessen noise pollution.  

On the other hand, the editorial Fixing L.A.’s asphalt jungle won’t come cheap isn’t so keen on those same tree, seating, and walkway “amenities.”

(SBLA tries hard not to use that a-word to describe important infrastructure for biking, walking, or transit. When was the last time someone called a parking lot or a freeway an amenity? Who ever heard of a “car amenity”? Just googled it and they do exist – stuff like jeweled hubcaps – but amenity is nearly never used to publicly funded car infrastructure. We digress.)

Here’s what the Times editorial has to say:

Los Angeles’ streets are a potholed mess and its sidewalks are cracked and jagged. Some 35% of the streets have been given a failing grade by the Bureau of Street Services, and a city consultant estimates it will cost nearly $3.9 billion to fix the worst of them. Add to that the cost of repairing the sidewalks and the tab jumps to $4.5 billion.

In the past, City Council members have floated the idea of a bond measure, to be approved by voters and repaid by property owners, to cover the cost of repairs. [...] Community groups have since called for the proposal to also include sidewalk repairs, street trees, streetscapes, “green streets” to absorb storm water, “complete streets” that incorporate bicycle and pedestrian enhancements — all great amenities, but ones that could increase the project’s cost and complexity. City leaders must define their mission. Is it to fix crumbling asphalt? Or remake L.A.’s urban landscape? Can both be done affordably?

Should livability fans be happy that at least there’s sidewalk icing on this asphalt cake? Should those pesky “community groups” be content that bike and walk stuff are at least “great amenities”? The Times could have called them “lousy amenities.”

Read more…

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In a Low Key Piece, the L.A. Times Shows How It’s Done When It Comes to Discussing Traffic Enforcement

Today, the Los Angeles Times published its own opinion piece by Robert Greene of the #roadsharela team discussing the reality that drivers are too often excused for behavior that endangers or even kills cyclists and pedestrians. While Greene’s piece doesn’t offer prescriptions or bash the police and prosecutors for their boredom whenever a person is killed in the street by a vehicle.

spring street

Photo: LACBC

Greene’s piece is a pretty quick read, and the format is easy to follow: some storytelling from attendees at the California Bike Summit, a quick review of some prescriptions, and an even quicker show of support.

The Los Angeles Times’ column won’t attract the attention that the New York Times op/ed did this weekend, and that’s too bad. Greene manages to stay away from inflammatory headlines, victim blaming, silly graphics or the now-obligatory paragraph castigating the rampant law-breaking that apparently the vast majority of cyclists do hundreds of times everyday just to annoy opinion columnists and message board contributors.

Heck, the L.A. Times story even uses an image from a recent Ovarian Psycos ride without commenting on the lack of helmets being worn by the riders.

And that’s a good thing.

The problem with the New York Times piece which doesn’t appear in the L.A. Times piece is there is no false equivalency. As has been pointed out in Streetsblog, Biking in L.A. and Bike Snob, the New York Times, while bravely stating it is not o.k. to intentionally kill a cyclist, still paints the problem of cops not enforcing the law as partially “the cyclists” fault. Read more…

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CEQA Opponents Incorrectly Point to Expo Lawsuit as Reason to Weaken CEQA

Progress continues on the Expo Phase II bridge over Venice Boulevard....or Does It? Photo: Gökhan Esirgen

Over the past week, I’ve been studying CEQA and the politics behind the various reform efforts to better report on what’s happening in Sacramento as Senator Darrell Steinberg’s SB 731 moves through the legislature. I’ve stumbled on some amazing arguments over that time, but none are quite as amazing as the one made by economist John Husing of Economics and Politics Inc. on behalf of the pro-business CEQA Working Group.

To make his case that CEQA lawsuits are bad for business and jobs, Husing goes through the brief history of Expo Phase II’s long environmental process, and the ultimately unsuccessful CEQA lawsuit brought by Neighbors for Smart Rail. Then Husing laments the job creation delayed while the lawsuit played out.

For this group of occupations, the  NIMBY lawsuit led to the equivalent of 679 prevailing wage workers not having jobs for 3½  years. The overall impact has been as follows (Exhibit 1):

  • $51.53 is the weighted average of the median hourly wage & benefit levels of the six  categories of prevailing wage jobs that were delayed.
  • Nearly all of the workers will earn from $50-$60 in wages & benefits except laborers  ($47.39).
  • The “other” category was the average of median hourly wages and benefits ($51.49) of  teamsters, sheet metal workers, plumbers and pipe fitters.
  • 1,358,335 hours of work will eventually be created at the prevailing wage & benefit rates  of the various occupations.
  • 679 full time equivalent jobs have been delayed. That is 1,358,335 hours of work spread = across 40 hours a day or 33,958 full time weeks of work. For a 50 week year, that means  679 full time equivalent jobs have been affected. The most were 281 laborers, 155  operating engineers, 66 carpenters and 62 iron workers The least was the equivalent of 55 
  • full time cement workers.
  • The weighted average wage & benefit earnings of the workers whose jobs were held up  will be $103,067 over the period of construction.

This is a completely compelling argument, or rather it would be if it were true. Somehow, Husing missed that no court ever issued a stay of construction on Expo Phase II and work has continued since design was completed. In other words, all the statistics presented above are completely wrong in every possible way.

While Husing’s mistake is lamentable, it gets even more outrageous when repeated by an editor for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Read more…

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The Los Angeles Times Wonders What Can Be Done About Freeway Pollution

This Freeway in San Diego is part of the problem. Is part of the solution building more freeways in San Diego? Image: San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers

The Los Angeles Times published a remarkable editorial today questioning why so little is done about the public health crisis caused by Southern California’s reliance on freeway travel. However, either because of confusion or lack of will, the editorial stops short of proposing any real solutions to the crisis. It merely note it exists.

The first step, is admitting you have a problem.

The Times reports:

University research over the years has found substantially worse air pollution adjacent to freeways, and worse health among nearby residents as well. A 2005 USC study concluded that children who lived within a quarter of a mile of a freeway were 89% more likely to have asthma than those living a mile away. The closer they lived to freeways, the higher the asthma rates. But these university studies, though they added to our collective knowledge, did not affect government regulations.

While the Times earns kudos for talking about the danger posed to those living near freeways, there are two points left out of the editorial that are crucial to understanding why freeway pollution is ignored in policy settings and informs just how difficult a battle to reign in said pollution will be.

The first is that there are powerful interests that want to see the current transportation system, a system that literally cripples and enfeebles the people that live near it, continued. Oil companies, car manufacturers, construction unions, are just some of the giants that will fight meaningful change in transportation policy unless the new policy involves clean car programs.

For examples, Xcel Energy is looking to pervert the democratic process in Boulder, Colorado because the city wants to convert to clean power. Locally, AAA and car dealerships have eschewed the public process to pull the levers of power behind the scene to attempt to block a road diet and protected bike lanes plan on South Figueroa Street.

The second problem missed by the Times is that the people whose lives are devastated by the pollution creating freeways are not the people creating the pollution. Traditionally, the communities dissected by asphalt scalpels are the poorest and least likely to wield power behind-the-scenes. Not coincidentally, they are also least likely to own cars and travel on a freeway for work/recreation/whatever. Read more…

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The Daily News Does It Again: Editorial Recognizes Dense Areas Need Progressive Planning

The Daily News Editorial Board has been on a role recently.  The paper, which is the second largest daily newspaper in Los Angeles behind the Los Angeles Times but well ahead of the Daily Breeze or The Wave papers, is undergoing a livable streets renaissance in its editorial page.

Today’s editorial, not the one on a certain baseball team and a certain point guard, focuses on the need to plan transportation networks differently for areas that are densely packed with residents.  Especially when residents are growing older, and are less likely to drive, and the younger generation is turning away from having driver’s licenses.

An excerpt:

But most of the region’s cities – including downtown Los Angeles, where 70,000 people now live – are poorly set up for what planners call “the first and last mile” of getting to public transit. The sidewalks are narrow. The streetscapes are entirely designed for automobiles and trucks, not for walkers or bicyclists. They are not at all ready in our infrastructure for the way the future generation says it wants to live.

Southern California has some planning to do.

I don’t know what’s going on in the Daily News newsroom, maybe Dakota Smith is spiking the water, but a paper known for its conservative views may actually be the most progressive when it comes to planning for livable communities.

 

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Daily News: More Measure R Funds for Bikeways

The Daily News, which still appears to be the conservative alternative to the Los Angeles Times in many respects, published an editorial earlier today calling on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to bicycle planning.  The message: it’s not enough just to pass a bike plan, how about spending some of your own transportation dollars to make it a reality.

Click on the image to see the plan.

For too long, those doling out transportation dollars have given preference to projects that benefit motorists, ignoring projects that would encourage use of alternative and environmentally friendly alternatives such as human-powered bikes and scooters…

County officials absolutely should tap Measure R for the bike plan. Voters endorsed the half-cent sales tax in order to build projects that can ease traffic and offer community alternatives. This is one of the few that comes with a small price tag.

Measure R is expected to raise $40 billion over 30 years. Surely there’s a few hundred million for building the region’s first system of bike-riding routes.

Earlier this week, the Supes passed the county’s own surprising-progressive bike plan which includes over 237 miles of bike lanes, 23 miles of bike boulevards (not “bike friendly streets”) and 832 miles of total bikeway improvements in the unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County.

While it’s unlikely that the Metro Board of Directors will make a change to the Measure R funding scheme, the Daily News’ editorial could be an important tool for bike advocates making a case for a portion of the funding pie in any “Measure R+” sales tax measure that goes on the ballot this fall.

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Welcome to L.A. Mr. President, Daily News Offers Mixed, Mostly Positive, Message on Transportation

By now, Air Force One is probably on its way to Los Angeles with President Obama, taking a tough line on transportation, onboard.  As the debate on how

The Mayor and the President share a laugh in 2006. Photo: Los Angeles Times

America should invest in transportation, and the President makes headlines for a ten year $476 billion plan and a threat to veto the “horse and buggy” legislation of the House Republicans, he hits Los Angeles to make some local headlines and raise some cash for re-election.

And the Daily News wasn’t going to miss it’s chance to make a statement.

In a mostly positive editorial on the President’s vision, the News’ editors lay out the stakes of the debate:

The debate on the proper role of government in transportation funding easily could break down along partisan lines. The Obama administration is touting its surface-transportation plan as part of the “blueprint for an America built to last” that the president outlined in his state of the union address; and advocates of nonautomobile transit accuse tightfisted Republicans of waging war on an inevitable future. Republicans are concerned about spending too much.

It’s more complicated than that. It’s about how much the nation and state should spend. But, just as important, also about how to spend it.

As I said, the article is a mixed bag.  It wouldn’t be the Daily News without a shot at High Speed Rail:

The Obama administration’s doubled-down support for the California bullet train should rile those who, rightfully, question the project. Public support for the plan to link Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area at speeds of up to 220 mph has fallen since last year’s new projections of a higher price tag (nearly $100 billion), longer construction schedule and lower ridership. But U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been urging state leaders to push ahead.

However, the most interesting part of the editorial is the end.  Instead of framing the debate as the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party wants, a car versus rail debate, but a high speed rail versus local rail debate:

Should money be spent on the grand plan for a bullet train covering hundreds of miles sometime in the future, or on local transit solutions that will get drivers off the 405 Freeway sooner?

Honk if you look forward to that debate.

Honk.

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LAT to GOP: Stop Playing Games With Transportation Funds

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board weighs in on the House Republican plan to reauthorize the transportation bill.  If it’s possible, the Times sounds even less impressed with the Republicans efforts to eliminate Safe Routes to Schools funding, decimate transit funding, eliminate programs for bicycle and pedestrian funding and pay for an expanded highway program by increasing opportunities to drill for oil.

Streetsblog will feature ads for the Regional Connector Final EIS/EIR throughout the public comment period.

On Tuesday, the House Republican leadership unveiled its version of the five-year bill. It isn’t just that this bill is so thoroughly partisan that it has no chance of being approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate; it’s that it is less a serious policy document than a wish list for oil lobbyists, and its funding proposals are so radical that they have been decried even by such conservative watchdogs as the Reason Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute andTaxpayers for Common Sense.

If you’re feeling angry about the state of transportation politics, reading the Times editorial is a good way to blow off some steam.  But don’t stop there, both Move L.A. and the Bus Riders Union have action alerts to help turn that anger into a little lobbying effort in advance of today’s hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee on transportation bill.

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Sounding Like Streetsblog, the Times Calls for Leadership in Wilshire BOL Debate

The Times wants a bus only lane project that looks like this.

In an editorial in today’s paper, the Los Angeles Times comes out swinging while calling on Council Man Bill Rosendahl and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to show some leadership in the ongoing debate over the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes Controversy.

The editorial is a powerful piece, and elevates the opposition to the Westside exemption from a crew of environmentalists and transportation reformers to a mainstream movement.  You can read the entire editorial here, and be sure to leave comments if you do.  You can read more of Streetsblog’s analysis of the piece after the jump.

But let’s give the Times the credit due on its reporting of this issue in the last week.  It hasn’t minced words, but has stuck to the facts in the two pieces by Dan Weikel.  That foundation makes today’s piece all the more important.

Read more…

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Times Backs Gutting of Transit Operations Proposition, Wants Transit Funded by Excise Tax on Gasoline

2_16_10_union.jpgI always thought this picture on Union Station makes it look as though the station is made of gold. Photo: Christopher Chan/Flickr

It's taken me the better part of a day to figure out how best to write about this Sunday's Editorial in the Times concerning the Governor's plan to end the transit subsidy that is part of the gas tax and cut the gas tax.  After spending the bulk of the column attacking the "gimmicks" that created the state transit subsidy and painting transit advocates as disingenuous for decrying the raids on the subsidy; the Times ends with a call for more funding for transit projects.  Regardless of what one thinks of the Times' coverage of issues, they are the "paper of record" for the second most populous city in America, and largest in the state of California so the influence of its editorial page shouldn't be discounted.

If you haven't done so already, take a moment to read the editorial, then click through to my analysis. 

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