Native Angeleno who has worked in public, academic and special libraries, as well as museums and college instruction. I am responsible for maintaining the Metro Transportation Library website, all of our social media properties, and digitization efforts to bring more of our resources to our users whenever they need them. For more information, visit The Metro Library website.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

We've moved!

Visit us at and update your links. After 5 seconds, you will be automatically redirected.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Recent Research: Urban Congestion Trends, High-Speed Rail Lessons & Travel Assistance Device Deployment

Is traffic congestion getting better or worse? The Federal Highway Administration collects various statistics each year to help us understand whether traffic is improving or increasing.

We wanted to take a closer look at a document titled 2009 Urban Congestion Trends: How Operations Is Solving Congestion Problems (8p. PDF).

Of course, we need to understand what we're looking at. Congestion is defined as the amount of time when freeways operate below 50mph. The FHA statistics show that "whatever the day of the week, whatever the time of day, mobility has improved -- almost across the board." When looking at the three primary performance measures,, improvement can be seen in at least one of them in 20 of 23 monitored regions. much? And why?

First off, there is less traffic on the road. Whether people are using public transit, telecommuting, combining trips, spending more time with family, consciously lowering their fuel consumption or are simply out of work, we see fewer cars on the roads travelling shorter distances.

Additionally, the economic downtown of the past few years has also played a role in congestion reduction in the United States.

Finally, traffic operations are playing a role in congestion management. The document contains a number of success stories detailing how state and local agencies reduced the effects of congestion in their locales.

As America moves toward construction of new high-speed rail networks in regions throughout the country, we have much to learn from experiences abroad.

In A Track Record Of Success: High-Speed Rail Around The World And Its Promise For America (53p. PDF), the U.S. PIRG Educational Fund reports on the wealth of information about what the United States can expect from high-speed rail and how we can receive the greatest possible benefits from our investment.

They base their report on
the track record of high-speed rail lines that have operated for more than 45 years in Japan and for three decades in Europe -- with some exciting conclusions.

Indeed, the experience of high-speed rail lines abroad, as well as America’s limited experience with high-speed rail on the East Coast, suggests that the United States can expect great benefits from investing in a high-speed passenger rail system, particularly if it makes steady commitments to rail improvements and designs the system wisely.

High-speed rail systems in other nations have been able to dramatically reduce the volume of short-haul flights between nearby cities and significantly reduce inter-city car travel.

Some particularly interested examples include:

The number of air passengers between London and Paris has been cut in half since high-speed rail service was introduced.

High-Speed rail service between Madrid and Seville reduced the share of car travel between the two cities from 60% to 34%, and service between Madrid and Barcelona, once the world's busiest passenger air route, has been cut by one-third.
The ability to travel where and when one desires is a basic requirement for independent living that most people take for

To travel independently, a transit rider practices at least 23 skills including finding the route, arriving at the correct stop on time, and determining when to exit at destination.

The University of South Florida's National Center for Transit Research has published Travel Assistance Device Deployment To Transit Agencies (103p. PDF) which discusses the successful deployment of devices assisting those with cognitive challenges in these tasks.

Travel trainers who provide one-on-one instruction on public
transportation, report that recognizing a landmark near the desired bus stop, requesting a stop at the proper time, and exiting the bus at the destination stop are among the most challenging skills to master for individuals with cognitive disabilities.

Parents/guardians are often reluctant to encourage the use of fixed-route transit due to their own hesitations about a person's abilities and well being.

Prior studies by the research team developed the Travel Assistance Device (TAD)
mobile phone software application that addresses these challenges and supplements the trainer’s instruction.

TAD provides various informational prompts including the audio messages “Get ready” and “Pull the cord now!” and vibrates to alert the rider to pull the stop cord. These prompts are delivered to the rider in real-time as he or she rides the bus using the embedded global positioning system (GPS) technology in off-the-shelf cell phones.

TAD’s real-time location of the rider can be viewed by the travel trainer or family member through a Web page.

This document reviews how the TAD application has been successfully deployed in the Hillsborough (FL) Area Regional Transit (HART) bus system.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New And Notable: Oil On The Brain, Transport Geographies & Early Downtown Los Angeles

Oil On The Brain: Petroleum's Long, Strange Trip To Your Tank is a smart, surprisingly funny account of the oil industry — the people, economies, and pipelines that bring us petroleum, brilliantly illuminating a world we encounter every day.

Americans buy ten thousand gallons of gasoline a second, without giving it much of a thought. Where does all this gas come from?

Author Lisa Margonelli’s desire to learn took her on a one-hundred thousand mile journey from her local gas station to oil fields half a world away.

In search of the truth behind the myths, she wriggled her way into some of the most off-limits places on earth: the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the New York Mercantile Exchange’s crude oil market, oil fields from Venezuela, to Texas, to Chad, and even an Iranian oil platform where the United States fought a forgotten one-day battle.

In a story by turns surreal and alarming, Margonelli meets lonely workers on a Texas drilling rig, an oil analyst who almost gave birth on the NYMEX trading floor, Chadian villagers who are said to wander the oil fields in the guise of lions, a Nigerian warlord who changed the world price of oil with a single cell phone call, and Shanghai bureaucrats who dream of creating a new Detroit.

Deftly piecing together the mammoth economy of oil, Margonelli finds a series of stark warning signs for American drivers. Rave reviews for Oil On The Brain include:

“If you drive a car, you must read this book.” —Mary Roach, author of Stiff

“By giving voice to the people who are the links in the global oil chain, Margonelli invites us to leapfrog all the rhetoric, dry statistics, and dire pronouncements about oil in order to truly understand it.” —Fast Company

“Hugely enjoyable, compulsively readable, and brilliantly reported.” —Po Bronson, author of What Should I Do with My Life?

The PBS Newshour conducted an extensive interview with the author, which can be found here.

Transport Geographies: Mobilities, Flows And Spaces brings together a formidable range of expert insight to introduce the key ideas, concepts and themes of transport geography.

Using an issues-based, qualitative approach, the contributors feature a wide range of case-study material.

This work explores the relationship between transport geography and wider geographical concerns, as well as connections to other areas of study -- economics, engineering, environmental studies, political science, psychology, spatial planning, sociology and transport studies.

The book highlights the role of transport geography in globalization, and its interplay with economic, social and environmental geographies at a range of spatial scales. It reviews contemporary policy and the role transport geographers can play in policy debates.

Both empirically informed and theoretically robust, this compelling text shows the significance of transport in terms of the needs and demands of future travel.

Growing south from the plaza where the city of Los Angeles was founded as a tiny pueblo in 1781, the area now known as downtown L.A. was first developed in the late 1800s as a residential neighborhood, complete with churches and schools.

As the population surged at the turn of the 20th century, the downtown area was transformed into a busy business and entertainment center of shops, banks, hotels, and theaters.

The explosion of the postcard craze in the early 1900s coincided with this period of downtown's tremendous growth toward a formidable metropolis.

Early Downtown Los Angeles
is a collection of vintage postcard images offers a glimpse into the changing city through the 1940s. Transportation is afforded its own chapter.

It includes rarely seen images of La Grande Station, the passenger terminal constructed by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1893. Santa Fe and Southern Pacific's competitive rail pricing fueled the real estate boom and unprecedented population growth throughout the region in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Early interior images of Union Station, Angels Flight, and other rail lines are of particular topical interest.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Resources To Know: California Transit Association & Its Annual Legislative Summary

Since its founding in 1965, the California Transit Association (CTA) has been a primary advocate for public transportation in the state.

The Association's team of legislative advocates works to promote multi-year transit funding and to represent transit's interests before the California State Legislature, the Governor and regulatory agencies on the local, state and federal levels.

CTA is dedicated to a collaborative approach to advocating for improved transit operations throughout California. Key to that approach is engaging our members in the advocacy process.

Members are frequently updated on policy developments through a variety of communications processes, and their participation is enlisted in numerous outreach efforts, including personal visits with elected officials, testifying before legislative committees and regulatory agencies, and conducting media relations campaigns.

To cultivate support and increased member activity, the Association strives to strategically mobilize members in key political districts and to build statewide coalitions to focus pressure on policy development.

Of increasing importance is the mobilization of organizations other than transit providers in the

CTA's partnership with such "non-traditional" transit advocates has supplemented the advocacy effort and has helped members to forge relationships with and utilize the resources of everything from nationwide public interest organizations to local ridership groups.

With support and active engagement from member organizations and other community interests, CTA is focused on implementing transit-friendly policy, a balanced transportation system, and increased transit funding.

Each year, CTA publishes a Legislative Summary that provides a synopsis and analysis of state legislation affecting public transportation and the transit-relevant components of the state budget process.

Compiled by the Association's team of legislative advocates, the annual publication is a great reference tool for those seeking information about statewide transit and transportation legislation.

The report for the 2010 legislative session (31p. PDF) is divided into three catagories:

Significant Transit Legislation: identifying and describing high-priority legislation supported by the Association, pending the Governor's signature in 2010

2010-2011 State Budget: describing the budget's impact on public transportation and the State Transit Assistance (STA) Program, and Proposition 1B allocations

Matrix Of Significant Transit-Related Legislation: Identifying the most significant transit-related legislation considered by the Association's Legislative Committee during the 2010 Legislative Session, whether enacted or not.

Once an information-seeker has located legislation of interest, they can visit the CTA's Advocacy webpage to search for the full-text of bills (as well as fact sheets, links to other reports, etc.)

The CTA website also features Legislative Bulletin Resources for recently passed legislation, and an Advocacy Archive featuring resources such as a Summary Of Provisions And Impact Of The Gas Tax Swap, as proposed earlier this year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New And Notable: Smart Growth Manual, "Unplanning," & Asphalt And Politics

Everyone is calling for smart growth...but what exactly is it?

In The Smart Growth Manual (New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2009), two leading city planners provide a thorough answer. From the expanse of the metropolis to the detail of the window box, they address the pressing challenges of urban development with easy-to-follow advice and broad array of best practices.

With their landmark book Suburban Nation, Andres Duany and Jeff Speck "set forth more clearly than anyone has done in our time the elements of good town planning" (The New Yorker).

In this long-awaited companion volume, the authors have organized the latest contributions of new urbanism, green design, and healthy communities into a comprehensive handbook, fully illustrated with the built work of the nation's leading practitioners.

This work also features a valuable Smart Growth Directory, with contact information for national, regional and state organizations.

Lieutenant Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom, writing as Mayor of San Francisco, touted The Smart Growth Manual as "an indispensable guide to city planning. This kind of progressive development is the only way to full restore our economic strength and create new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete in the first rank of world economies."

An extensive interview with the authors is featured on the American Society of Landscape Architects "The Dirt" blog.

The conventional wisdom says that we need strict planning to build walkable neighborhoods around transit stations - even though these neighborhoods are like the streetcar suburbs that were common in America before anyone heard of city planning.

In reality, many of our greatest successes in urban design have occurred when we treated the issues as political questions - not as technical problems that the planners should solve for us.

According to Unplanning: Livable Cities And Political Choices (Berkeley, Calif.: Preservation Institute, 2010), the anti-freeway movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the anti-sprawl movement of recent decades were both political movements, and citizen-activists often had to work against projects that planners proposed and approved.

This book uses an intriguing thought experiment to show that, in order to build livable cities, we should go further than the anti-freeway and anti-sprawl movements by putting direct political limits on urban growth.

Political choices about how we want to live can transform our cities more effectively than planning.

From animal paths to superhighways, transportation has been the backbone of American expansion and growth.

Asphalt And Politics: A History Of The American Highway System (New York: McFarland, 2009) examines the interstate highway system in the United States, and the forces that shaped it, includes the introduction of the automobile, the Good Roads Movement, and the Lincoln Highway Association.

The book offers an analysis of state and federal road funding, modern road-building options, and the successes and failures of the current highway system.

Resources To Know: The MUTCD -- A Book In The News This Week You May Never Have Heard Of That Impacts You Every Day

A relatively obscure book is receiving its 15 minutes (or more) of fame this week, The Manual On Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

This set of federal standards for traffic signs, road surface markings, and signals is a primary resource to know about, so we wanted to take a closer look – especially since it is in the news right now.

New MUTCD standards announced recently require compliance over the next several years, depending on what type of changes are required.

For example, states, counties, cities and towns across America will need to increase the size of letters on street signs for roads with speed limits over 25 mph from 4 inches to 6 inches by January, 2012.

Street signs requiring new reflective lettering which is more visible at night must be installed by January, 2018.

These required changes will affect both large cities and small jurisdictions across the country. ABC News reported on some sample impacts this week:

“In Milwaukee, this will cost the cash-strapped city nearly $2 million, double the city’s entire annual for traffic control.
In Dinwiddie County, Virginia – with lots of roads but not many people – the cost comes to about $10 for every man, woman and child.”
So where did these regulations, which some may consider to be overly-bureaucratic, come from?

In the early 20th Century, roads were promoted and maintained by automobile clubs of private individuals. Each road and highway had its own type of signage, without regard for directional assistance or safety promotion.

By 1927, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO - the predecessor to today's AASHTO) published the first standards, titled the Manual And Specifications For The Manufacture, Display, And Erection Of U.S. Standard Road Markers And Signs, a precursor to the MUTCD that is still in use today.

The first MUTCD was released in 1935, setting standards for both road signs and pavement markings. Since then, eight more editions have been published with numerous updates that include changes in usage as well as technological improvements over the years.

Some of these changes are particularly noteworthy. It wasn’t until 1971 that all center lines were to be painted in yellow (as opposed to white) and all highway signs were required to be in white on a green background.

The most recent edition (2009) weighs in at 864 pages, dictating required standards for everything from simple items like street names and route signs to more complex topics, such as how to designate Bicycle Lane Treatment At A Parking Lane Into A Right Turn Only Lane and Examples Of Light Rail Transit Vehicle Dynamic Envelope Markings For Mixed-Use Alignments.

Additions and revisions are recommended to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD), a private, non-profit organization, which is made up of twenty-one sponsoring organizations comprised of transportation and engineering industry groups, safety-oriented organizations, and others such as the American Automobile Association.

This takes us back to this week’s controversy.

Federal standards promote safety and recognizable meanings, but when those standards are changed there will be ripple effects across local jurisdictions with limited resources to comply.

In places like Dinwiddie County, Virginia, citizens may argue that standards compliance could take funds away from education or public safety.

The Federal Highway Association says the new regulations, written under the Bush Administration, are designed to be easily read by America’s aging population. However, the FHWA announced this week a 45-day period for public comment on the new rules, “a step that could lead to easing on the guidelines,” according to ABC News.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation took matters a step further today, stating:

“I believe this regulation makes no sense. It does not property take into account the high costs that local governments would have to bear. States, cities, and towns should not be required to spend money that they don’t have to replace perfectly good traffic signs.”

LaHood tried to put a balanced spin on the controversy by summing up, "Safety is our priority, but so is good government."

Monday, November 29, 2010

New And Notable: Los Angeles From The Air Then And Now, Makeshift Metropolis & Down The Asphalt Path

Avid readers of local history are usually intrigued by photos of historic sites juxtaposed against contemporary images. This format of visual history has a particularly strong impact when the subject is Los Angeles: a city that grew up -- and outward -- so quickly.

Those seeking pictorial overviews will likely have checked out aerial photography books as well.

Los Angeles From The Air: Then And Now (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 2010) is a hybrid of these two types of pictorial books. It presents decades-old photographs of both familiar and lesser-known landmarks along side more current ones.

This takes the reader on a trip through Los Angeles like never before, featuring inspiring, sky-high then-and-now images of some of LA's most famous locations.

Some of the landmarks' origins are well-known, but the authors provide context for both familiar and hidden pieces of Los Angeles history.

Many of the photos feature snow-capped peaks in the distance -- a testament to our clear Winter days being the best for photography.

Unfortunately, the work falls flat in its description of transportation in downtown Los Angeles. The authors write:

"Metrolink [sic] provides service to Union Station in the form of three rail lines -- Red, Purple, Gold..."

While Metro and Metrolink may sound similar to those outside of Los Angeles (the book is, after all, published in San Diego), it gives one pause that other information found here may not be entirely accurate. Ultimately, one can ignore the text entirely, as these beautiful photos speak for themselves.

In Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities (New York: Scribner, 2010), noted architecture writer Witold Rybczynski offers a glimpse of an urban future that might very well serve as a template for cities around the world.

Rybczynski integrates history and prediction of the development of the American city in a brisk look back that takes us from colonial town planning to the Garden City and City Beautiful initiatives of the early 20th century and on to the "Big Box Era."

He also examines how contemporary urban designers and planners are revisiting and refreshing older urban ideas, such as bringing gardens to a blighted Brooklyn waterfront.

Rybczynski's study is kept relevant by his focus on what the past can teach us about creating the "cities we want" and "cities we need."

The prose is instructive and always engaging, and the author's enthusiasm for the future of cities and his enduring love of urban settings of all kinds is evident.

He not only writes about what people want from their cities, he inspires the reader to imagine the possibilities.

In Down The Asphalt Path: The Automobile And The American City, author Clay McShane examines the uniquely American relationship between "automobility" and urbanization.

Writing at the cutting edge of urban and technological history, he depicts how new technology, namely the private automobile, and the modernization of the American city redefined each other.

The author motors us across the country -- from Boston to New York, from Milwaukee to Los Angeles and the suburbs in between -- chronicling the urban embrace of the automobile.

The New York Times calls this work "A treat to read, loaded with interesting facts...a notable book about urban transportation."

Barron's wrote that "this fascinating, well-researched history of the automobile written from a social and cultural perspective rarely included in traditional books about the business."

The Whole Earth Review claims "this fascinating treatise is the most credible look yet at how automobiles have changed American society for better or worse."