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.

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."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New And Notable: Sprawl Repair Manual, Republic Of Drivers & Urban Mass Transit's Life Story

There is a wealth of research and literature explaining suburban sprawl and the urgent need to retrofit suburbia. However, until now there has been no single guide that directly explains how to repair typical sprawl elements.

Sprawl Repair Manual demonstrates a step-by-step design process for the re-balancing and re-urbanization of suburbia into more sustainable, economical, energy- and resource-efficient patterns, from the region and the community to the block and the individual building. (Even more information can be found at the Sprawl Repair Manual website).

Author Galina Tachieva asserts in this exceptionally useful (and exceptionaly handsome) book that sprawl repair will require a proactive and aggressive approach, focused on design, regulation and incentives.

The work provides much-needed, single-volume reference for fixing sprawl, incorporating changes into the regulatory system, and implementing repairs through incentives and permitting strategies. It draws on more than two decades of practical experience in the field of repairing and building communities to analyze the current pattern of sprawl development, disassemble it into its elemental components, and present a process for transforming them into human-scale, sustainable elements.

The techniques are illustrated both two- and three-dimensionally, providing users with clear methodologies for the sprawl repair interventions, some of which are radical, but all of which will produce positive results.

Rising gas prices, sprawl and congestion, global warming, even obesity—driving is a factor in many of the most contentious issues of our time. So how did we get here? How did automobile use become so vital to the identity of Americans?

Republic Of Drivers: A Cultural History Of Automobility In America looks back at the period between 1895 and 1961—from the founding of the first automobile factory in America to the creation of the Interstate Highway System—to find out how driving evolved into a crucial symbol of freedom and agency.

Author Cotten Seiler combs through a vast number of historical, social scientific, philosophical, and literary sources to illustrate the importance of driving to modern American conceptions of the self and the social and political order.

He finds that as the figure of the driver blurred into the figure of the citizen, automobility became a powerful resource for women, African Americans, and others seeking entry into the public sphere.

And yet, he argues, the individualistic but anonymous act of driving has also monopolized our thinking about freedom and democracy, discouraging the crafting of a more sustainable way of life.

As our fantasies of the open road turn into fears of a looming energy crisis, Seiler shows us just how we ended up a republic of drivers—and where we might be headed.

In Urban Mass Transit: The Life Story Of A Technology, the history of mass transit is vividly illustrated as the technological and social struggles that have accompanied urbanization and the need for an efficient and cost-effective means of transportation in cities.

From the omnibus and horsecar in the 1830s to the renaissance of urban mass transit at the turn of the 21st century, author Robert C. Post depicts mass transit as a technological system that provided an essential complement to industrialization, urbanization and, ultimately, to the rise of consumer culture.

At the heart of the story is the streetcar, a conveyance that played a central role in the development of U.S. cities and towns. Once dominating the urban landscape, the streetcar has all but disappeared. Post traces its evolution and demise, debunking the urban myth that the downfall of the electric streetcar was directly attributable to the corporate malfeasance of General Motors and others from the automotive world.

Post concludes with a meditation on the prospects for mass transit in a postmodern society that must face up to the contradictions of privatized mobility and the reality of dwindling natural resources.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Digitization And Transportation: Northwestern University's Google Books Project

Beginning today, Northwestern University's Transportation Library begins its Google Books Digitization Project.

The University Libraries and Google are partnering to digitize hundreds of thousands of print volumes from their collections, rendering the contents readily available to scholars and researchers worldwide.

This is no small undertaking. The Transportation Library alone is one of the most extensive in the United States, containing over 500,000 items.

The Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of the Midwest's Big Ten Schools' plus the University of Chicago, signed on to digitize their libraries in June, 2007 but the process is just getting underway this Fall.

The project is expected to take several years, but the Transportation Library is one of the first campus libraries to send library items to Google for digitization. Google covers the transportation and digitization costs and Northwestern has received a generous donation from the Office of the Provost to help cover other technical costs.

We are told that books sent to Google for digitization may be off the shelves for up to three months. Once everything eligible for converting into electronic format has been digitized, those searching the library catalog will have the choice of borrowing the original print item or accessing the full-text document online.

Results from Google Book Search show up in both general Google searches as well as through the dedicated Google Books site.

The entire Google Books project has been a source of controversy over the last decade. Some hail the initiative's capacity to provide "anytime, anywhere" access to all of human knowledge. Others question the application of copyright laws for works published in one place but accessed around the world.

The Google Books enterprise is a complicated endeavor. While access to the ever-increasing (and increasingly digitized) world of knowledge is great, how can Google maintain a high-level of retrievability from a growing pool of millions of items? A recent article in The Atlantic highlights this challenge, with a concise overview of "Rich Results," Google's latest search algorithm that helps users find what they're looking for...even when they don't specifically ask for it.

Last month, Google speculated that it had scanned more than 15 million books from more than 100 countries in over 400 languages since 2004. Google Books' Engineering Director James Crawford went on to state:

"Our shared vision of bringing all the incredible content stored in the world's books online depends on working with libraries, publishers, authors and book lovers.

The greater the diversity of content on the web, the more useful it becomes. And the more people who can access the information cataloged in books, the more enlightening those works become."

Our goals are the same. Here at Metro's Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library & Archive, we have embarked on a digitization project of our own (sans Google) as outlined here. We want to provide greater access to our rich collections, make items more easily findable and retrievable, and preserve information and knowledge for generations to come.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Los Angeles In Maps & The Curious Case Of Miss Laura J. Whitlock

One the most exciting new books in a long time has been released this month: Glen Creason's Los Angeles In Maps (New York: Rizzoli, 2010).

Creason is the Map Libraran at Los Angeles Public Library and co-curated the landmark 2008-2009 exhibition L.A. Unfolded: Maps From The Los Angeles Public Library.

This new work guides the reader through the variety of maps created for Los Angeles, from the 1849 Plan De La Ciudad De Los Angeles ("Ord's Survey") to modern day interactive maps.

The book works on a number of levels: as history lesson, as a beautiful coffee table book with intriguing graphics, as a thought-provoking work showing how spatial depictions have changed over the past century and a half, and how Los Angeles can be viewed in historical context in ways other than chronological.

It is organized into chapters that tell the various stories of Los Angeles, such as Early Growth, Social Life, Water, Age of the Automobile, Tourism, etc.

Fortunately for us, there is a Transportation section, where we learn the story of Laura J. Whitlock, official mapmaker of Los Angeles County - and the only female map publisher in the United States when she was working in the early 20th century.

Pirated copies of her work were widely distributed without her consent, and she filed suit for copyright infringement. We'll leave it to you to discover what happened with this landmark case, but it did set a precedent for map copyright -- an important contribution to American map history made here in Los Angeles.

The rest of the transportation maps and information are equally interesting, as are the other subject areas covered, but you'll have to read the book yourself to find out more.

It suffices to say that the highly-readable nature of Los Angeles In Maps makes it an instant classic for those interested not just in maps, but the history and growth of the city as well.

We had hoped to find the same maps featured in the book on the Los Angeles Public Library website. Unfortunately, the L.A. Unfolded exhibit is not listed on the LAPL Past Exhibits webpage, but some of their 100,000 maps can be found in their digital collection online.

We, however, maintain an online map collection titled Past Visions Of L.A.'s Transportation Future: Mass Rapid Transit Concept Maps.

Here you will find an online gallery from 1925 to present-day, focusing on proposed rail and rapid transit plans over the years.

We are hoping to bring more map resources online as time permits.

(Above: 1925 Pacific Electric Route Map, click to enlarge. These old maps are full of intriguing tidbits, like Sunset Boulevard being the original Beverly Boulevard - as noted here).

Readers are also invited to explore our full-text digital collection of Los Angeles Transit And Transportation Studies, 1911-1957. These documents also include rare maps and other illustrative material from L.A.'s transit and transportation history.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Light Rail On Wilshire? Why, That Would Be Illegal!

The recent selection of a route alignment for the Westside Subway Extension, as well as the release of the Wilshire Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit final environmental impact report started us thinking about something we read aways back regarding Wilshire Boulevard.

It was in Kevin Roderick's Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse Of Los Angeles (Santa Monica: Angel City Press, 2005). The author briefly mentions (on page 20):

"New subdivisions around the periphery of Los Angeles were not unusual in the mid-1890s, but the Wilshires had grander ambitions. Across the center of their land, they promised to grade a generous, one-hundred-twenty-foot-wide graveled boulevard.

It would stretch just four blocks between the two parks, but the brothers believed that even a short stub of remarkable avenue would attract lot buyers.

To spur sales, they lobbied to encircle the tract with special streetcar lines, but insisted that the city council forbid the laying of tracks - forever - on their boulevard."

Forbid the laying of tracks?



We had to determine if this had actually been codified, and turned to the City of Los Angeles Municipal Code to investigate.

Sure enough, we discovered in SEC. 62.129. PUBLIC BOULEVARDS - USE OF:

That the following regulations shall apply to those certain streets in this City, known as Wilshire Boulevard, from Park View Avenue to the west City limits; Adams Street from Grand Avenue to Hoover Street; Boyle Avenue from Whittier Boulevard to First Street; Alvarado Street from Seventh Street to Hoover Street; and Occidental Boulevard from First Street to Sixth Street; which have been heretofore dedicated as open, public boulevards:

(a) No railroad or pipe line franchise shall ever be granted, and no railroad track or pipe line shall ever be laid or constructed, except water pipes, sewers, gas mains and conduits for telephone and electric wires, for service of the property fronting on said boulevards and house connections and connections of water, sewers, and gas pipe lines, or conduits for telephone and electric wires on intersecting streets.

The early developers of Wilshire were successful in banishing rail lines from the Boulevard forever. Despite having the greatest urban rail system in the world in its heyday, no streetcars ever rumbled down Los Angeles' grandest street.

This 1925 Kelker DeLeuw City/County Comprehensive Rapid Transit Plan Urban Map shows nothing on Wilshire - cross-town streetcars were designated for Pico Boulevard, 3rd Street, and Hollywood Boulevard.

A 1938 Los Angeles Railway map depicts cross-town streetcars on several east-west lines: 3rd Street (R), 10th Street / Olympic Boulevard (L), Pico "Street" (P), Washington Boulevard (W), and Jefferson Boulevard (J). Only motor coaches served Wilshire Boulevard.

Wilshire still became the city's grandest boulevard despite its lack of "rapid transit" - or perhaps because of it - and Rodericks' book is a fascinating account of Los Angeles' iconic boulevard and how one street can influence such a large city.

We can't know how the street or city would have developed had streetcars run along it, but Wilshire Boulevard never got stuck with overhead transit either.

We might be thankful we didn't end up with a Wilshire monorail, as one proposal depicted the intersection of Wilshire & Fairfax here.

Meanwhile, this Saturday marks the annual Great Los Angeles Walk, which goes back to its roots this year.

The day-long trek will take participants 15.6 miles along the entire length of Wilshire Boulevard, from Pershing Square downtown to its west end at the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica.

The L.A. Conservancy has a wonderful interactive website that helps visitors create their own customized tours of Wilshire Boulevard's past and present.

Monday, November 8, 2010

New & Notable: America's Failing Infrastructure, "Climatopolis," & Why Do Shepherds Need A Bush?

In August 2007, the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, MN, collapsed, killing 13 and injuring 145 others. Investigations following the tragedy revealed that it could have been prevented. The grave reality is that it is a tragedy that threatens to be repeated at many of the thousands of bridges located across the nation.

In Too Big To Fall: America's Failing Infrastructure And The Way Forward (New York: Foster, 2010), author Barry LePatner chronicles the problems that led to the I-35W catastrophe — poor bridge design,shoddy maintenance, ignored expert repair recommendations, and misallocated funding — and digs through the National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the tragedy, which failed to present the full story.

From there LePatner evaluates what the I-35W Bridge collapse means for the country as a whole — outlining the possibility of a nationwide infrastructure breakdown.

He exposes government failure on a national as well as state level, explains why we must maintain an effective infrastructure system — including how it plays a central role in supporting both our nation’s economic strength and our national security — and rounds out the book by providing his own well-researched solutions.

Too Big to Fall presents an eye-opening critique of a bureaucratic system that has allowed political best interests to trump those of the American people. It contains special comments by James Oberstar, the outgoing Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure.

Cities are the engines of the economic growth and the foundation of our prosperity. But what will become of them as our world gets hotter?

In Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive In The Hotter Future (New York: Basic, 2010), Matthew Kahn, one of the world's foremost experts on the economics of the environment and of cities, argues that our future lies in our ability to adapt. Cities and regions will slowly transform as we change our behaviors and our surroundings in response to the changing climate. Kahn - professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the UCLA School of Public Affairs' Department of Public Policy, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research - shows us how this will happen.

The author is optimistic about the quality of our lives in the cities of the future, despite a high chance of less hospitable climate conditions than we face today. At the heart of his conviction in a bright future is our individual freedom of choice. This personal freedom will reveal pathways that will greatly help urbanites cope with climate change.

Taking the reader on a tour of the world's cities - from New York to Los Angeles, Beijing to Mumbai - Kahn's clear-eyed, engaging, and optomistic messages presents a positive yet realistic picture of what our urban future will look like.

An entire chapter is devoted to Los Angeles, including sub-sections titled "Los Angeles Has A Subway?" and "Could Public Transit Become Hip In Los Angeles?"

The names of the 300 or so London underground stations are often quite unusual, yet so familiar that Tube riders take them for granted.

We hardly ever question their meanings or origins—yet these well-known names are almost always linked with fascinating stories of bygone times.

In Why Do Shepherds Need A Bush?: London's Underground History Of Tube Station Names (Stroud, Eng.: History Press, 2010), author David Hilliam not only uncovers the little-known history behind the station stops below ground, but also explores the eccentric etymology of some of London's landmarks, offering trivia boxes that will surely amuse.

Until the mid-19th century, London was almost unbelievably rural, with names belonging to a countryside we could never recognize or imagine today.

Who in the 21st century, thinks of a real flesh-and-blood shepherd lolling back on a specially-trimmed hawthorn bush, when traveling through Shepherd's Bush underground station?

And who, traveling through Totteridge and Whetstone on the Northern Line, imagines medieval soldiers sharpening their swords and daggers at the aptly named Whetstone just before engaging in the appallingly bloody battle of Barnet?

This entertaining book will ensure that readers never view their normal Tube journey the same way again.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2010 Transportation Ballot Measures: An Examination Of Key Trends And Results

Election Day has come and gone. Yesterday, our daily Transportation Headlines highlighted the Center For Transportation Excellence's state-by-state results of all transportation ballot measures in 2010.

43 of 56 measures passed: a 77% success rate.

But what does it mean for local and national transportation issues? The pundits, planners, pollsters and prognosticators have only just begun reading the tea leaves as well as the writing on the wall.

This Friday, CFTE will host a webinar recapping the outcomes of this year's transportation measures across the country and take a look at key trends from other recent elections.

This is a great opportunity to learn how communities are using ballot measures to improve their transportation systems, so we wanted to share more information about it:
Free Webinar: Trends And Results From 2010 Transportation Ballot Measures (Register Here)
Hosted by the Center for Transportation Excellence, NAPTA and APTA State Transit Association Leaders

Fri, Nov 5, 2010 10:00 AM - 11:00 PM PST
In advance of the webinar, the following resources might be worth reviewing:

In other post-election news, Jim Oberstar (D-MN), Chair of the House Transportation And Infrastructure Committee, was defeated after 18 terms in the House of Representatives. John Mica (R-FL), the Committee's Republican leader, said in a statement today:

“Among my top legislative priorities will be passing a long-term federal highways and transit reauthorization, a long-overdue Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, a new water resources measure, and a long-term Coast Guard reauthorization.

“I will also focus on major initiatives to find ways within the Committee’s jurisdiction to save taxpayer dollars. That includes better management and utilization of federal assets, including real property, and more efficient, cost effective passenger rail transportation, including a better directed high-speed rail program.”

We also wanted to share more information about CFTE, which does an excellent job rounding up information about transportation measures and election results. They also serve as a "clearinghouse for information in support of quality transportation choices. "

CFTE is committed to two main objectives: (1) responding to transit’s critics and (2) equipping local leaders with the information they need to be successful with their public transportation initiatives and ballot measures.

How does CFTE accomplish its mission? Their goal is to deliver the message of sensible transportation choice by:
  • Creating case studies that illustrate the power of effective public transportation
  • Developing “tool kits” that aid local leaders in communicating the benefits of their programs
  • Maintaining an interactive website that provides clear information on effective public transportation development
  • Reaching out to media sources with the arguments in support of sensible transportation choice
  • Mobilizing in response to media coverage of the opposition with Letters to the Editor, Op/Ed submissions, editorial board meetings, etc.
  • Tracking legislative efforts and ballot measures and reporting on the outcomes and trendsTracking research outcomes and publicizing research results to the media, stakeholders, and local leaders

Now more than ever, as state governments struggle with massive budget deficits, and communities suffer under burgeoning traffic, support for sensible transportation solutions is in peril. Opponents using erroneous arguments and fomenting fear are eroding the great strides made over the past decade.

Supporters of balanced, practical transportation development look to CFTE for assistance with:
  • Distributing information that proves the effectiveness of public transportation
  • Engaging the opposition wherever and whenever they appear
  • Coaching community leaders in techniques for engaging the opposition in their own communities
  • Promoting transportation victories at the local, state, and national levels
Image courtesy of Flickr

Our National Archives At Risk: What The Government Accountability Office Has Found

We wanted to share important (and frankly, frightening) news with you regarding the findings released last week of an audit of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The audit (42p. PDF) was prompted in part by the loss of the Wright Brothers' original patent and maps for atomic bomb missions in Japan.

These losses led investigators to discover that some of the nation's prized historical documents are in danger of being lost for good. It follows a previous audit (66p. PDF) earlier in October highlighting oversight and management improvements, but pointing out that more action was needed.

The Government Accountability Office has also released a Summary Of Audit Findings as well as a Highlights page. The NARA website has posted a Statement in response to the audit findings from Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero.

Nearly 80 percent of U.S. government agencies are at risk of illegally destroying public records and the National Archives is backlogged with hefty volumes of records needing preservation care, the audit by the Government Accountability Office found.

The report by the watchdog arm of Congress, completed this month after a year's work, also found many U.S. agencies do not follow proper procedures for disposing of public records.

The report comes more than a year after news reports of key items missing at the nation's record-keeping agency. Some of the items have been missing for decades but their absence only became widely known in recent years.

The patent file for the Wright Brothers flying machine was last seen in 1980 after passing around multiple Archives offices, the Patents and Trademarks Office and the National Air and Space Museum.

As for maps for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, military representatives checked them out in 1962, and they've been missing ever since.

The GAO report did not specifically mention those or other examples of missing items including Civil War telegrams from Abraham Lincoln, Eli Whitney's cotton gin patent and some NASA photographs on the moon.

Meanwhile, some documents face the threat of deterioration even though they're already at the Archives. Figures from 2009 show 65 percent of its holdings need preservation steps. In some cases, a document's condition already is so poor, it can't be read – a backlog amounting to more than 2 million cubic feet of records.

The National Archives and Records Administration has 44 facilities in 20 states, including 13 presidential libraries, funded by about $470 million this year from Congress.

NARA also maintains a "Help The National Archives Recover Lost And Stolen Documents" website.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Research Roundup: Social Media For Public Transportation, Funding The Needs Of An Aging Population & An Overview Of U.S. Parking Management Strategies

Each and every day, social media tools change the way that organizations
interact with their users.

A recent report from the Center For Urban Transportation Research at University of South Florida titled Routes To New Networks: A Guide To Social Media For The Public Transportation Industry (66p. PDF) explains how these new platforms offer not only more personal one-on-one interaction than traditional media, but also represent the essence of niche marketing.

It is undeniable that social media is all the buzz. For some, utilizing new media tools may come as second nature. For others, however, entering the world of social media means taking a giant leap into the world of online communications.

One thing is certain – social media platforms are allowing a new opportunity for transportation providers to directly communicate with their target audiences. Communication is moving in this direction – with or without your organization.

The report analyzes the usefulness of and applications for social networks, written blogs, audio/video blogs, microblogs (e.g. Twitter), photo sharing, video sharing, user-generated content and mobile web content.

The report states that key points to consider when determining which tool(s) to use are:
1) Who is my target audience and what tools are they using?
2) What type of information do I want to communicate?
Content must always resonate with your audience. What can you provide that would be of value?

Earlier this year, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) published Funding The Public Transportation Needs Of An Aging Population (57p. PDF).

It explains how rapid growth in the number of older people in the United States during the coming decades will lead to greatly increased needs for expanded and enhanced public transportation services. This report:
a) identifies the range of actions that will be needed to expand mobility options for older people, including accessible public transportation services;
b) quantifies the demand for these public transportation services; and
c) estimates the funding that will be needed to provide them.
Needed actions have been identified by means of a review of the extensive literature on this
subject. The actions needed to expand mobility options for older people include:
  • Enhancements to fixed-route public transportation operations and planning such as additional bus operator training, incorporating travel needs of older people in route planning and stop placement, and coordination with other agencies and transportation providers
  • Enhancements to public transportation vehicles such as low-floor buses, kneeling buses, improved interior circulation, additional stanchions and grab bars, ergonomic seating designed for older riders, and accessibility features either required or encouraged by ADA like lifts and ramps, larger letters on head signs, and stop announcements
  • Actions to help older people take advantage of existing services, like presenting information in ways that are easy to read and as clear as possible, information and assistance programs to connect older people with appropriate services, and outreach and training programs
  • Expansion of supplementary services including flexible route and community transportation services, ADA complementary paratransit, non-ADA demand-responsive services, taxi subsidy programs, and volunteer driver programs
  • Application of universal design strategies at transit facilities, bus stops, and on streets and sidewalks in the immediate vicinity of transit facilities and stops
These are the actions of greatest concern to public transportation agencies, but they are not the
only actions needed.

Other important actions include assuring supportive services to caregivers
who provide transportation, encouraging further development of unsubsidized private
transportation services, increasing the availability of accessible taxicabs, coordinating with non-emergency medical transportation provided under Medicaid and Medicare, and supporting
modifications to automobiles and roadways to increase the safety of older drivers.

Finally, we wanted to take a closer look at U.S. Parking Policies: An Overview Of Management Strategies put out by the Institute For Transportation And Development Policy in New York.

This report highlights best practices in parking management in the United States.

In the last decade, some municipalities have reconsidered poorly conceived parking policies to address a host of negative impacts resulting from private automobile use such as traffic congestion and climate change. Unchecked, these policies have proven to be a major barrier to establishing a balanced urban transportation network.

Many aspects of current parking management in the United States do not work reliably or efficiently for anyone: Motorists find themselves circling for long periods in search of a place to park; retail employees take choice parking locations away from potential customers; developers are compelled to provide more parking than the market requires; and traffic managers encounter difficulty handling traffic generated by new parking as there is often no link between parking price, supply and the amount of available road space.

Finally, the old parking paradigm doesn’t work for the environment, as hidden subsidies encourage over reliance on private car use — a major, growing contributor to global warming and air pollution.

This report identifies core sustainable parking principles and illustrates how smarter parking management can benefit consumers and businesses in time and money savings, while also leading to more livable, attractive communities.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New & Notable: Inventing L.A.'s Autopia, Rival Trancontinental Rails, Rules For Sustainable Communities & Transportation Privatization

In 1920, as its population began to explode, Los Angeles was a largely pastoral city of bungalows and palm trees. Thirty years later, choked with smog and traffic, the city had become synonymous with urban sprawl and unplanned growth.

Yet Los Angeles was anything but unplanned, as Jeremiah B.C. Axelrod reveals in this compelling, visually oriented history of the metropolis during its formative years. In a deft mix of cultural and intellectual history that brilliantly illuminates the profound relationship between imagination and place, Inventing Autopia: Dreams And Visions Of The Modern Metropolis In Jazz Age Los Angeles (Berkeley: University Of California Press, 2009) shows how the clash of irreconcilable utopian visions and dreams resulted in the invention of an unforeseen new form of urbanism--sprawling, illegible, fractured--that would reshape not only Southern California but much of the nation in the years to come.

At 401 pages, it could seem like a daunting read, but those interested in Los Angeles history, urbanization, or the rise of the automobile will find this enjoyable. It's a great compliment to the Metro Library's historic transit and transportation studies collection. Many of these documents, which date back to 1911, have been digitized and are available on our website in full-text PDF.

Axelrod focuses on the 1920s when Los Angeles was growing at a fast clip. As we noted back in July, the number of automobile registrations in Los Angeles County quadrupled between 1914 and 1922 - making it very clear that the city's embrace of the auto would set the stage for decades of congestion and other issues.

Going back further in history is another equally seminal story about transportation in the West. Acclaimed historian Walter R. Borneman has written a dazzling account of the battle to build the first transportation system across America.

Rival Rails: The Race To Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad (New York: Random House, 2010) is an action-packed epic of how an empire was born—and the remarkable men who made it happen.

After the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, the rest of the country was up for grabs, and the race was on. The prize: a better, shorter, less snowy route through the corridors of the American Southwest, linking Los Angeles to Chicago.

Borneman lays out in compelling detail the sectional rivalries, contested routes, political posturing, and ambitious business dealings that unfolded as an increasing number of lines pushed their way across the country.

The author brings to life the legendary business geniuses and so-called robber barons who made millions and fought the elements—and one another—to move America, including:

William Jackson Palmer, whose leadership of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad relied on innovative narrow gauge trains that could climb steeper grades and take tighter curves;

Collis P. Huntington of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific lines, a magnate insatiably obsessed with trains—and who was not above bribing congressmen to satisfy his passion;

Edward Payson Ripley, visionary president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, whose fiscal conservatism and smarts brought the industry back from the brink; and

Jay Gould, ultrasecretive, strong-armer and one-man powerhouse.

In addition, Borneman captures the herculean efforts required to construct these roads—the laborers who did the back-breaking work, boring tunnels through mountains and throwing bridges across unruly rivers, the brakemen who ran atop moving cars, the tracklayers crushed and killed by runaway trains.

From backroom deals in Washington, D.C., to armed robberies of trains in the wild deserts, from glorified cattle cars to streamliners and Super Chiefs, all the great incidents and innovations of a mighty American era are re-created with unprecedented power in this new work destined to be a classic.

Turning now to urban planning, author Patrick Condon discusses transportation, housing equity, job distribution, economic development, and ecological systems issues and synthesizes his knowledge and research into a simple-to-understand set of urban design rules that can, if followed, help save the planet.

Seven Rules For Sustainable Communities: Design Strategies For The Post Carbon World (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2010) clearly connects the form of our cities to their ecological, economic, and social consequences. This book takes on a wide range of complex and contentious issues and distills them down to convincing and practical solutions.

Of particular importance is how city form affects the production of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The author explains this relationship in an accessible way, and goes on to show how conforming to seven simple rules for community design could literally do a world of good. Each chapter in the book explains one rule in depth, adding a wealth of research to support each claim. If widely used, Condon argues, these rules would lead to a much more livable world for future generations—a world that is not unlike the better parts of our own.

In Last Exit: Privatization And Deregulation Of The U.S. Transportation System (Washington, D.C.: Brookings, 2010), Clifford Winston reminds us that transportation services and infrastructure in the United States were originally introduced by private firms.

The case for subsequent public ownership and management of the system was weak, in his view, and here he assesses the case for privatization and deregulation to greatly improve Americans satisfaction with their transportation systems. How can this be done?

Writing in the New York Times, Harvard University economics professor Edward L. Glaeser points out that:

Because the public sector controls almost all roads, airports and urban transit, we see the downsides of public control on a daily basis, but we don’t experience the social costs that could accompany privatization. A private airport operator might try to exploit its monopoly power over a particular market or cut costs in a way that increases the probability of very costly, but rare, disaster.

The complexity and risks of switching to private provision means that Mr. Winston is wise to call for experimentation rather than wholesale privatization. An incremental process of trying things out will provide information and build public support.

Yet many of Mr. Winston’s recommendations are incremental and can be done without privatization or much risk.

The book covers privatization and deregulation of roads, airports, air traffic control, mass transit, intercity buses and railway networks.