On December 21, the Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, deployed a suite of communications satellites, and, in impressive fashion, came back down to Earth. Using its engines to dull the force of gravity, it survived re-entry and hit its football-field sized landing pad like a Tesla backing into a garage.
The Falcon 9’s return from the heavens was an early Christmas miracle, courtesy of Elon Musk, one of the world's few celebrity engineers. It is a product of SpaceX, Musk’s pioneering private space-travel company based in Hawthorne. He can now add space to the list of fields — from electric cars, to battery power, to credit card payments — that his ventures have conquered. (A similar launch Jan. 17 didn't go quite so well.)
Next, Musk hopes to revolutionize long-distance transit. That one may make rocket science look like child’s play.
There’s a scene in "X Men Origins: Wolverine" in which a government scientist infuses every bone in the title mutant’s body with an inviolable metal called adamantium. The process is excruciating, but it leaves Wolverine with the distinct benefit of near-indestructibility. And claws.
That’s kind of like what the city of Los Angeles is doing to its transportation network. With the adoption of Mobility Plan 2035 , the world’s first great automobile-oriented city could become the first city to de-orient itself from the automobile. The city will not merely cease adding lane-miles; it will, in fact, take space away from personal automobiles.
“In built-out cities, we’re not in the business of widening streets anymore, particularly in downtowns,” said Seleta Reynolds, director of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
As almost any transportation planner in Los Angeles County will attest, the car capital of the world is well on its way to becoming a transit capital as well. With tens of billions of dollars invested in recently opened and anticipated mass transit lines, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has transformed the county. Even so, Metro can’t be everywhere.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen a lot of moves that suggest it may be time to change the way California funds transportation, including the following:
- Board of Equalization Member George Runner has been touting a 21% cut in the gas tax as part of the “fuel tax swap” formula from a few years ago.
- A committee headed by former San Diego City Councilmember Jim Madaffer is looking at how to implement a mileage tax as an alternative to the gas tax.
- Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins has proposed a $52 annual fee on most drivers as a way to raise almost $2 billion for road repairs.
So, one of the biggest questions in planning and development today – in California and elsewhere – is what accounts for the Millenials’ preferences for urban living and less driving. Is it generational? Or a lousy economy?
“I think our answer is yes,” says Brian Taylor, an urban planning professor at UCLA and head of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies there.
Fresh from its major Atherton win (see Bill Fulton's writeup at http://www.cp-dr.com/node/3540), the High-Speed Rail Authority won another key ruling July 31 that upheld the validity of its authorization to issue bonds for the project and said the project's preliminary funding plan did not need to be redone.
The Governor’s Office of Planning & Research is a month late in issuing its final recommendation on whether to replace “level of service” as the measurement of significant transportation impacts in transit priority areas under the California Environmental Quality Act. But there’s not much mystery: OPR has sent clear signals that it is going to propose replacing LOS with vehicle miles traveled, or VMT.
In the latest decision on a long series of legal challenges by Peninsula cities and environment groups to the California High Speed Rail project, the Third District Court of Appeal has upheld the final programmatic environmental impact report for the portion of the project that calls for a route from the Central Valley over the Pacheco Pass into Bay Area suburbia.
Had it been written about, say, Shanghai or Dubai, Railtown would have been scarcely longer than a page. Autocracies have a knack for infrastructure development.
Where is Robert Bruegemann when you need him?
A few years back, Bruegmann wrote Sprawl: A Compact History, an exaltation of low-density growth. It called for cities to double-down on all the conventions and mistakes of the previous 50 years. It was a disturbingly anachronistic, but it was provocative, and it was passionate.
It seems that these days there's still plenty of in urbanist literature, but, for better or worse, provocation is getting harder to come by.