Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Expo Line Reaches the Beach!

An Expo Train promoting itself at the 26th Street/Bergamot Station
Los Angeles transit aficionados have been awaiting this weekend for many years.  The Expo Line is now open to Downtown Santa Monica!  Expo Phase I involved connecting Downtown Los Angeles with Downtown Culver City with light rail.  Phase II of the line extended it to West Los Angeles and Downtown Santa Monica, just a few blocks away from the 3rd Street Promenade, the Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean.

I couldn't help myself and rode the extension end to end on opening day, Friday May 20th, even though I knew it would be crowded due to excitement and the fact that Metro always makes the first day free.  Today I rode the line in more depth, exploring the new stations besides Downtown Santa Monica (an area I'm already pretty familiar with).  It was still very crowded even though you had to pay today!

What strikes me about Expo Phase II is that many of the station areas have a high density of housing and jobs nearby, which bodes well for ridership.  Palms is mainly residential and features a lot of apartment buildings.  Bundy and Bergamont have impressive amounts of office space nearby.  Downtown Santa Monica of course is a strong destination for shopping, tourism and has a lot of office space and apartments.

Another interesting thing is that Phase II has a lot of grade separations, usually aerial structures that fly the train over major arterials.  I wonder why many of the arterials in Phase I didn't get the same treatment.

There is a bike and pedestrian path alongside the line that looks pretty solid.  The Expo stops in Santa Monica also have Breeze Bike Share stations nearby.  The amount of bike parking and particularly bike lockers at each station has also been beefed up compared to Phase I.

A view of the Expo bike path near the Bundy Station
Honestly, there's so much you could potentially say about this and I'm not even going to try to be comprehensive.  My favorite thing about the newly complete Expo Line is how it makes it easy to get to the Landmark Theater at the Westside Pavilion (just a few blocks north of the Westwood/Rancho Park Station).  The Landmark is one of a handful of movie theaters in Greater Los Angeles that screens limited-release movies.  Being able to see films like that is one of the perks of living in a global city like Los Angeles, and the Expo Line means doing that without having to worry about the hassles of driving and parking has never been easier.

The Landmark Theater is one of the biggest cultural advantages of living in Greater Los Angeles!
So overall a good day for transit in Los Angeles.  But don't get cocky Metro.  On the way home I sat down on a seat on the Red Line which was damp (gross).  I'm hoping that someone spilled a bottle of water, but the realistic part of my brain is telling me that's just wishful thinking and I sat in a puddle of pee, left perhaps by one of Los Angeles' increasing number of homeless people.  You're lucky I love transit, because if I were a normal person trying transit for the first time today, that would have been my last ride (more perspective on that issue here).  I hate to say it folks, but touch your seat before you sit down (you'll notice experienced riders doing this).  If it's dry, it'll fly, if it's wet, let it set :(

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Gatito precioso: inscríbete y vota en la elección de 7 de Junio

Si no te inscribes y no votas en la elección del 7 de Junio este gatito será tan triste :(

California tiene una elección inicial de Presidente este Martes 7 de Junio de 2016 (más información aquí y aquí).  La fecha límite para inscribir para votar es 15 días antes de la elección (el 23 de Mayo).  La última vez que California hizo esta elección, en 2012, nuestra tasa de participación fue muy mala: solo 22% de los que fueron elegibles para votar y solo 31% de los que fueron inscritos para votar votaron.

Quizás estás pensando "será Clinton contra Trump para presidente, por tanto esta elección no es importante."  Pues lo importante es que hay mucho más que será decidio que cuales candidatos representarán sus partidos para Presidente (y más que dos partidos políticos en nuestro sistema).  Esta elección también decidirá los que se enfrentarán para un asiento del Sendado Federal, asientos en la Cámara de Representantes y la Legislatura Estatal.  Hay una propuesta de ley sobre como los legisladores estatales pueden ser supendidos de sus puestos y muchos asientos judiciales.  En el Condado de Los Ángeles escogemos el Fiscal del Distrito y unos miembros del Consejo del Condado (y más que no veo en mi boleta de práctica).

Mientras la elección presidencial en Noviembre será importante, ignorar las muchas otras elecciones que pasan por lo menos una vez cada año no es inteligente, y la gente de la izquierda política hacen este error más, que daña a las políticas progresistas.  No tienes un derecho quejar si no haces tu obligación cívica: educar a ti mismo en las politicas y vota en cada elección.  ¡Hazlo para el gatito, y más importante, para la democracia!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Adorable Kitten: Get Registered and Vote in CA's June 7th Election!

If you don't get registered and vote in California's June 7th election, this kitten will be so sad :(

California has a Presidential Primary Election coming up on Tuesday June 7th, 2016 (more info here and here) and the deadline to register to vote for that election is 15 days before the election (May 23rd).  The last time California held this particular election, in 2012, our turnout was pathetic: only 22% of eligible voters and 31% of registered voters actually bothered to vote.

Perhaps you're thinking "It's going to be Clinton versus Trump for President so what's the point?"  Well, the point is, there's much more at stake in this election than which candidates will represent their parties for President (plus, more than two parties in our political system).  This election will also nominate the finalists for one of California's Senate seats, seats in the House of Representatives and the State Legislature.  There is a statewide ballot measure regarding how legislators can be suspended from office and several judicial offices that need to be filled.  In Los Angeles County, we're selecting a District Attorney and a member of the Board of Supervisors (and that's just what I'm aware of from my sample ballot).

While the November Presidential Election will be important, ignoring the many other elections which happen at least once a year is stupid, and people on the left are more likely to make this mistake, to the detriment of the progressive agenda.  You don't have a right to complain about what's going on unless you do your civic duty: educate yourself on the issues and vote in every election.  Do it for the kitten, and more importantly, for democracy!

Soluciones de estacionamiento para un sendero de Whittier

En caso de que no te has dado cuenta ya, soy un gran ganso de política.  Por eso hago cosas como escuchar reuniones del Consejo de la Ciudad de Whittier.  Un asunto que actualmente enoja a unas personas en mi ciudad es la situación de estacionamiento alrededor de los senderos que pasan por las montañas.  Por ejemplo, un sendero de Hellman Park empieza por el lado norteño de la Avenida Greenleaf justo al norte de Orange Drive y tiene un aparcamiento pequeño que frequentemente llena muy temprano.  Los motoristas que quieren hacer una caminata estacionan sus coches en las calles alrededor, que enoja a la gente que vive allá, que queja a la Ciudad, que hace Distritos de Estacinamento Preferente (DEP) para residentes solamente, que causa los excursionistas estacionan un poco más lejos, que causa esos vecinos quejar, que causa un nuevo DEP, etc.  Los DEP siempre me han parecido chistosos ya que los excursionistas, por definición, son gente a los que no importa un poco más caminar.

El sistema actual no pone feliz a nadie.  Los excursionistas tienen que estacionarse un poco más lejos, y los residentes tienen que comprar permisos de estacionamiento.  Aumentar el estacionamiento al principio del sendero costaría mucho dinero que la Ciudad no tiene, y destruiría la naturaleza.  Además el sitio está cerca de infraestructura de almacenar agua que probablemente no puede ser movido en una manera económica.

Hay dos cosas que Whittier puede hacer en este sendero que no hace ahora.

Primero, puede añadir estacionamiento de bicicletas.  Ahora, el sendero de Hellman no tiene este tipo de estacionamiento (por lo menos que puedo recordar).  Estacionamiento de bicis usa mucho menos espacio que estacionamiento de coches, así que puede caber muchos ciclistas en una cantidad pequeña de tierra.  También es barato, especialmente frente al costo de un aparcamiento.  Las calles alrededor no son malas montar bici y el sitio es más o menos cerca al Sendero Verde de Whittier, un sendero importante de bicis, y carriles de bici en partes cercas de Broadway y Greenleaf.

La cosa segunda, más eficaz y más controvertida sería hacer disponible los permisos de estacionamiento a todos, no solo a los residentes.  Esto permitiría que los excursionistas compren los permisos.  Esto ganaría dinero para la Ciudad, que lo podría usar para pagar mejoras en el vecindario (quizás con el tiempo una estructura de estacionamiento o un autobús que conecta el sendero con el estacionamiento en el Centro de Whittier).  Mi filosofía es que las calles públicas deben ser abiertas para el público.  Los propietarios quizás piensan que son dueños de la calle en frente de sus casas, pero no lo son, ya que es tierra pública.  El Parque Hellman es un bien regional que suministra accesso importante a la naturaleza en medio del Área de Los Ángeles.  No debe ser tratado como la propiedad personal de los vecinos más inmediatos.  Sin embargo, los políticos locales tienen intereses muy fuertes hacer feliz a sus constituyentes.  Los residentes son votantes potenciales, y los excursionistas no necesariamente viven en la Ciudad, y por tanto, tienen mucho menos poder político.

Consejos para la gente llegando: siempre puedes estacionarse en el garage en 6711 Avenida Bright en el Centro de Whittier y caminar al sendero.  Esto añade 2.5 km a su caminata.  Este estacionamiento es barato y puedes parar para comer en el Centro.  Además el Autobús 10 de Montebello y el Autobús 270 de Metro son opciones que puedes considerar.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Parking Solutions for a Whittier Trailhead

In case you haven't figured it out already, I'm a huge politics nerd.  That's why I do things like listen to Whittier City Council meetings.  One issue that currently vexes some folks in my home city is spillover parking at trailheads.  For example, the Hellman Park trailhead at the north end of Greenleaf Avenue just north of Orange Drive has a small parking lot that is routinely overwhelmed.  Motorists looking to hike park on the streets, which angers the people who live on those streets, who complain to the City, which makes preferential parking districts (PPDs) for residents only, which causes the hikers to park on the streets a little farther out, which causes those neighbors to complain to the City, which causes a new preferential parking district to be created, etc., ad infinitum.  I've always thought the PPDs were funny, since hikers, by definition, are people who don't mind walking a bit farther.

The current system doesn't really make anyone happy.  Hikers have to park farther away and residents have to buy parking permits.  Expanding the parking lot at the trailhead would cost the City money it doesn't have and would pave over valuable nature, plus the site is constrained by water storage infrastructure that probably can't be moved except at an extraordinarily high cost.

There are two realistic things Whittier could do at this trailhead that it is not currently doing.

First, it could install some bike racks.  Currently the Hellman trailhead has no bike parking at all (at least that I can recall).  Bike parking takes up much less space than car parking, so you could accommodate a lot of cyclists on a small amount of land.  It's also cheap, especially compared to the cost of expanding a parking lot.  The surrounding streets aren't too bad to bike on, and the site is reasonably close to the Whittier Greenway Trail, a major bike path, not to mention bike lanes on nearby portions of Broadway and Greenleaf.

The second, more effective, and more controversial thing would be to open up the parking permits to anyone, not just residents.  This would allow hikers to purchase parking permits.  This would make money for the City, which it could use to fund improvements in the neighborhood (perhaps culminating in a parking structure for the trailhead or a weekend shuttle to the parking in Uptown).  My philosophy is that public streets should be open to the public.  Adjacent property owners may think they own the parking in front of their houses, but they really don't.  It's in the public right of way.  Hellman Park is a regional asset that provides important access to nature in the middle of Greater Los Angeles.  It certainly shouldn't be treated as the private property of the people who live immediately around it.  However, local politicians have strong incentives to please their constituents.  The residents are potential voters, whereas the hikers may not even live in the City, and hence, have much less political clout.

Tip for people coming in: you can always park in the garage at 6711 Bright Avenue in Uptown and walk to the trailhead.  This adds 2.5 km (round trip) to your hike.  The parking is cheap and you can stop for lunch in the heart of Whittier!  Also, the Montebello 10 Bus and Metro 270 Bus are options you can consider.

R-2, el nuevo suburbanismo

A veces me interesa como la gente aceptará cosas como normal y inevitable sin parar considerar por que.  En diseño urbano una idea que parece invencible es que vecindarios de los suburbios se forman por dividir tierra en propiededades con una casa por propiedad.

Residencial de una familia (R-1).  El estandár.  ¿Tan estadounidense como pastel de manzana verdad?  Pues ¿por qué no dos casas cada propiedad (R-2)?  Este sistema tiene muchas ventajas.  ¿Que pasa si quieres vivir cerca de alguien pero todavía darle una medida de privacidad, digamos su niño de 25 años o su madre de 75 años?  Con R-1 no puedes en la misma propiedad.  Con R-2 puedes hacerlo.  Con R-2 puedes rentar una segunda unidad cuando las circunstancias se vuelven difícil.  Con R-2 podemos aumentar la oferta de alojamiento en nuestras ciudades costosas donde la gente sufre por el costo de alojamiento.  Con R-2 la agencia de transporte público puede tener más servicio de autobús porque hay más gente montar el autobús.  Con R-2 hay más clientes cerca de tiendas, negocios más fuertes y más empleos.  Con R-2 podemos salvar lugares naturales de la destrucción por el crecimiento de ciudades.  Con R-2 podemos aumentar por doble la cantidad de alojamiento en los suburbios sin cambiar la apariencia de los suburbios: pon casitas en yardas de atrás, no es una ciencia complicada.  Podemos hacer suburbios que funcionan mejor mientras aparecen lo mismo.

Sí, habrá argumentos en contra.  Demasiados coches estacionados en la calle.  Demasiado ruido.  Pérdida de carácter del vecindario.  "Personas no desadaos" viviendo cerca (código por gente pobre y gente de color la mayoría del tiempo).  Y pensado, pero apenas dicho, pérdida de valores de propiedad, y por tanto, estatus social y sentido de identidad.  Creo que estos argumentos exageran los problemas de modelos de densidades más altas, pero aun si pongamos que son ciertos, yo dicho que esas consideraciones son mucho menos importantes que los objetivos descritos en el párrafo anterior, particularmente la necesidad de suministrar más alojamiento económico y más alojameinto para familias "no tradicionales."

R-1 tiene inercia cultural seria, pero es cada vez más siendo desafiado por gente que entiende sus problemas mientras luchan para suministrar alojamiento y cuidar a su famila extendida.  Necesitamos un nuevo suburbanismo que mira R-2 primero.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

R-2, the New Suburbanism

Sometimes it strikes me how people will accept things as normal and inevitable without even stopping to consider why.  In urban design one idea that seems invincible is that suburban neighborhoods are made by subdividing land into residential lots with one house per lot.

Single-family residential (R-1).  The default.  As American as apple pie, right?  Well, why not two homes per lot (R-2)?  This approach has a lot of advantages.  What if you want to live close to someone but still give them a measure of privacy; say your 25 year old son or your 75 year old mother?  With R-1 you can't on the same lot.  With R-2 you can.  With R-2 you can earn some extra income by renting out a second unit when times get tough.  With R-2 we can increase the supply of housing in our expensive metro areas where people are getting crushed by the cost of housing.  With R-2 the local transit agency can run buses through the neighborhood more often, because there are more people there to ride them.  With R-2 there are more customers near stores, stronger businesses and more jobs.  With R-2 we can save natural habitat from the bulldozer.  With R-2 we can double the the amount of housing units in suburbia without even changing the look of suburbia: put little cottages in back yards, it's not rocket science.  We can make suburbia work better, while looking the same.

Sure, there will be objections.  Too many cars parked on the street.  Too much noise.  Loss of neighborhood character.  "Undesirables" moving in (code for poor people and people of color more often than not).  And, thought but seldom stated, loss property values, and hence, social status and sense of identity.  I think these objections exaggerate the problems of higher density arrangements, but even if we grant that they are valid for the sake of argument, I submit to you that these considerations pale in importance compared to the objectives outlined in the previous paragraph, particularly the need to provide more affordable housing and house "non-traditional" families.

R-1 has serious cultural inertia, but it's also increasingly being challenged by people who see its flaws more and more clearly as they struggle to afford housing and care for their extended families.  We need a New Suburbanism with its defaults set to R-2.