The Source turns five years old: how are we doing?

Featured

I glanced at the calendar this morning and realized five years had suddenly rumbled by. It was on Oct. 20, 2009, that The Source debuted on Metro’s website. At the time, I wrote this:

Local media has taken more than a few hits (I was one casualty although I prefer to look at it as the long-awaited liberation of my soul ). At the same time, the Internet has provided government a way to directly speak to taxpayers without having to go through the media. No longer can government complain the middleman got it wrong or wasn’t interested in doing a story.

Readers will naturally wonder if an agency can honestly write about itself. Here’s what I can tell you: The agency still very much wants and needs press coverage and invites and needs outside scrutiny. As for the Source,  I’m not here to invent some new form of propaganda, nor am I the agency’s new inspector general. The goal is to honestly and fairly explain how Metro works.

As I write this, we’ve had 7,333 posts, more than 26,000 reader comments and have been viewed on more than one million different computers. As far as I can tell, we’re certainly one of the most frequently updated government blogs out there — the result of a lot of teamwork and hard work on the part of my colleagues at Metro — and a lot of us have come to believe that providing info on the blog and Metro’s social media is an essential service.

Since five years is a significant milepost, I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk a little bit about the blog (don’t worry–I’ll be asking for your feedback in a sec). A few thoughts:

•I’ve done my best to avoid the “everything is awesome” approach to the blog. While the blog is certainly not independent media, we’re not traditional PR either and I hope that readers find the information on the blog to be credible. We try to include outside viewpoints about the agency — i.e. the daily headlines linking to media stories about Metro, some positive and some bit — and point readers to staff reports that include a wealth of information about Metro’s projects and programs.

•I do hope that The Source has proven helpful for journalists, even if it’s just calling attention to an ongoing issue or upcoming project that makes for a good story. I sense there’s an uptick in coverage of the agency. Some of that is because there’s a lot going on with so many transit and road projects under construction. Some of that (I think) is because the agency has been proactive about getting the word out via social media and traditional media channels.

Continue reading

Zocalo Public Square event Monday: are trains the future of L.A.?

Our friends at Zocalo Public Square have been all over transportation issues this year. That trend continues Monday night at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles (317 S. Broadway). Here’s the description from Zocalo:

For a century, the hearts of Angelenos have belonged to cars and to flying machines, not trains–even though we never would have become a city without the railroad, and couldn’t survive as a global trade center without the rail links to our seaports. But today, in a potentially historic shift, Southern California governments are betting billions that trains can win us over. Five rail lines are under construction right now in L.A., part of a 30-year wave of projects that could give Southern California the most highly developed rail system in the country, save New York. But will we go along for the ride? Only a small percentage of us use the Metro rail regularly, and California’s high-speed rail project is unpopular in L.A. Will we change our ways and depend on trains daily–and embrace development around rail networks? What is it about rail that captures people’s hearts–and why has L.A. remained immune to this almost universally beloved mode of transport? Journalist and Chapman University English scholar Tom Zoellner, author of Train, and UCLA and UC Berkeley legal, business, and environmental scholar Ethan Elkind, author of Railtown, visit Zócalo to discuss the past and future of trains here, and whether Los Angeles will finally fall for rail.

 

Sounds intriguing. BTW, I’ll be recording a podcast with Ethan Elkind that we’ll have on the Source soon talking about transit past, present and future in our region.

More info on registering to attend the event at the Zocalo website. Grand Central Market is a short walk from the Red/Purple Line’s Pershing Square Station and numerous Metro Bus lines, as shown on the map below. All Metro maps and timetables are here.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

City of La Cañada Flintridge held sound wall dedication ceremony

photo

The City of La Cañada Flintridge held a sound wall dedication ceremony yesterday to celebrate the completion of three sound wall segments in the Arroyo Verdugo subregion along the I-210 freeway. The project cost $4.813 million and 95 percent of the funding was provided by Measure R. The sound walls will provide noise mitigation to nearby residents along the I-210.

The three sound wall segments are located:

  • South of I-210 – Foothill Boulevard eastbound on-ramp to Berkshire Place eastbound off-ramp
  • North of I-210 — Berkshire Place westbound on-ramp to Foothill Boulevard westbound off-ramp
  • Between Indiana Avenue and Union Street along the south side of Curran Street

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, October 29

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.  

Zombies attack

This begs the question: do the walking dead need to TAP? (Photo: Dan Cooke)

Don’t Believe the Headlines: Bike Boom Has Been Fantastic for Bike Safety (Streetsblog USA)

This article is in response to the Governors Highway Safety Assn. (GHSA) study released on Monday that showed bicycling fatalities on the rise within the past two years.  Among the issues the authors had with the study was its lack of perspective and resulting sensationalism, considering bike trips in the country have tripled since 1975, yet bicycling deaths — despite increasing the past few years — are still much lower than they were then.

Put those figures together, and what’s actually happening is that for an infinitesimal fraction of the cost of the nation’s transportation system, Americans are enjoying billions more bike trips every year than they were a generation ago. And because the sheer number of bikes on the street is teaching drivers to keep an eye out for bikes, every single bike trip is far, far safer than it was.

It’s worth adding that maintaining awareness of your surroundings, defensive bicycling and following simple safety precautions (like those from Metro’s Bike page) never hurt either.

L.A. area has many freeways that stayed on the drawing board (L.A. Times)

A look at the history behind Los Angeles’ freeway system and why some of those that were planned were never built. Two of the major causes of this, the author says citing UCLA urban planning professor Brian Taylor, were lack of funds, community opposition and rising costs due to the space required to build modern freeways. But 60 years ago, building highways was easy.

Initially, money for freeway building flowed. California gasoline taxes were raised in 1947 and 1953, and Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. Seizing homes for freeways was astonishingly easy after World War II; Taylor writes it took less than three weeks for the state to begin tearing down homes along the 110 Freeway route south of downtown after asking a court for permission.

The last freeway project in L.A. County, the 105 Freeway, needed nearly 20 years to do the same.

Taking a look at the supplemental map of the “forgotten freeways,” I can’t help but think we’re far better off with most of those proposed highways never being built. After all, we were able to sprawl just fine without them. It might have also taken longer to realize freeways and cars were unsustainable long-term at the expense of many more communities.

Mapping London’s “Tube Tongues” (CityLab)

A researcher at the University College London made this interactive map of the London Tube based on census data that shows which languages other than English are most spoken near each station.

The map is great. Knowing very little about London, I was able to get a sense of the geography and diversity of London’s neighborhoods in one quick look. Any takers on creating a similar map for L.A.?

29 vintage photos from 110 years of the New York subway (Time Out)

Some old-timey photos of the New York subway from the past century…

Public meetings in November for East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project

This is a project that I know many people have been following. The aim of the project — which has some Measure R funding — is to improve transit on Van Nuys Boulevard and San Fernando Road between Ventura Boulevard and the Sylmar/San Fernando Road Metrolink station.

Here is the project’s web page on metro.net — which has tons of great info — and here is a Source post from last October looking at project. Among the alternatives being studied: the legally-required no build option, road and traffic signal improvements, light rail, bus rapid transit and a tram, a type of train easy to board from street level.

esfv_study_area

The news release from Metro is below with all the details on the public meetings:

Meetings to be held at locations along the corridor on November 6, 12 & 13.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will host a series of informational meetings beginning November 6, 2014 to update the community on the status of the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Project.

The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project, a Measure R funded transportation project, will add a new public transit system along Van Nuys Boulevard and San Fernando Road in the east San Fernando Valley. Transit alternatives being considered for the line include: Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail Transit in addition to the required No Build and Transportation Systems Management options.

Members of the public can participate in three informational meetings to be held in November at the following locations and times:

Thursday, November 6, 6–7:30 p.m., San Fernando Regional Pool Facility, 208 Park Ave., San Fernando, CA  91340

Wednesday, November 12, 4:30 – 6 p.m., Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Room 1A, Van Nuys, CA  91401. This meeting will be available via live-stream and on-demand at http://ustream.tv/channel/eastSFV.

Thursday, November 13, 2013, 6 – 7:30 p.m., Pacoima Neighborhood City Hall, 13520 Van Nuys Blvd., Pacoima, CA  91331.

Special accommodations are available to the public at Metro-sponsored events. All requests for reasonable accomodations must be made three working days (72) hours in advance of the scheduled meeting date. Please call (818) 276-3233 or the California Relay Service at 711. Spanish language interpretation will be available at all meetings.

The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project is currently in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report (EIS/R) stage of planning. Public meetings were held last year to begin the process and to provide stakeholders the opportunity  to provide input on the options originally proposed through the Alternatives Analysis (AA) process. As a result of comments received and additional technical analysis, the alternatives were refined to better meet the transit needs of those travelling in the East San Fernando Valley.

The project’s Draft EIS/R is expected to be completed in 2015 and will be made available for public review. Following a Public Comment Period, the Metro Board of Directors will be asked to select the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the project and authorize completion of the Final EIS/EIR. The Final EIS/R is anticipated to be completed in 2016.

$170.1 million of funding for the project has been identified in Metro’s 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). A portion comes from Measure R, the ½ cent sale tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

When finished, the project will run approximately 9.2 miles north-south along Van Nuys Boulevard and San Fernando Road through the communities of Van Nuys, Panorama City, Arleta, Pacoima and the City of San Fernando. This corridor is currently the seventh busiest bus corridor in the entire Metro system with more than 24,800 weekday bus boardings and in the San Fernando Valley is second only to the Metro Orange Line.

For questions, please call (818) 726-3233 or email eastsfvtransit@metro.net.

About Metro

Metro is a multimodal transportation agency that is really three companies in one: a major operator that transports about 1.5 million boarding passengers on an average weekday on a fleet of 2,000 clean air buses and six rail lines, a major construction agency that oversees many bus, rail, highway and other mobility related building projects, and it is the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County.  Overseeing one of the largest public works programs in America, Metro is, literally, changing the urban landscape of the Los Angeles region.  Dozens of transit, highway and other mobility projects largely funded by Measure R are under construction or in the planning stages. These include five new rail lines, the I-5 widening and other major projects.

Stay informed by following Metro on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.net, facebook.com/losangelesmetro, twitter.com/metrolosangeles and twitter.com/metroLAalerts and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.

Expo Line Construction Notice: Full closures of Barrington Avenue between Olympic and Tennessee

Two full weekend closures will be required in order to complete track work and roadway improvements on Barrington Avenue for the Expo Line project. Here’s the construction notice from the Expo Line Construction Authority, the independent agency building the six-mile project between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica.

expo barrington closure expo barrington map

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, October 28

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.  

ART OF TRANSIT: The turkeys are out, but it's not even holiday yet. Hmm. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The turkeys are out, but it’s not even holiday yet. Hmm. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gold Line lays final tracks in Azusa, project 80 percent complete (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Coverage of the completion of track work for the Measure R-funded 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border. The article provides a nice overview of the project and its long history along with a look forward:

Monrovia is betting that $25 million in Metro and state funding for a transit plaza, a promenade for live music and food trucks, and a new park with an amphitheater will connect the south part of town and Gold Line station to its vibrant north Myrtle Avenue location.

Duarte, not to be outdone, has plans for a hotel and a movie theater, said Mayor Liz Reilly, both amenities Monrovia has had for years. “We will be closer to the Gold Line station than they (Monrovia) are,” she said.

The Duarte station lies across the street from its largest employer, City of Hope, a nationally known research and cancer treatment hospital that employs 4,300 people, many of whom she hopes will take the train to and from work.

But as the mountains sat down at the mouth of San Gabriel Canyon, the tracks reached APU/Citrus College station at the doorstep of the 1,250-home Rosedale planned development. It may be the first suburban housing project built train-station ready with a plaza to be built within walking distance.

Go get ‘em, Duarte! :) The Monrovia Station will be interesting as the tracks are on the south side of the 210 and the city’s very nice downtown sits about a mile away on the north side of the freeway. It’s not a crazy long distance between the two, but it’s a walk or bike ride through a more commercial area. It will be very interesting as the years go by to see what kind of linkage develops.

One other note: the views of the San Gabriel Mountains from the Foothill Extension tracks should be crazy good. Metro is currently forecasting an early 2016 opening for the line.

How commute times stack up (L.A. Times) 

The graphic compares 2013 median commute times to the previous year’s times (I think), with much of our region hovering around the national average of 25.4 minutes. Any readers care to hazard a guess why more centrally located Alhambra and East L.A. have greater average times than Santa Clarita, a northern ‘burb?

An accompanying story on the annual Texas Transportation Institute rankings for traffic delays, says our region has climbed back to the No. 2 position behind only the Washington D.C. area. I’m not a huge fan of such rankings — which seem to suggest that city dwellers should expect blissful quick commutes all the time — but an accompanying article has some interesting observations:

The good news, in the long view: Annual congestion-related delay for Greater Los Angeles is still below the peak of 79 hours per motorist reached in 2006, when gas prices were low and the economy was booming. The rise in average commute times is only a few minutes more than in 1990.

Wachs said it’s likely people are adjusting their work and travel habits to avoid commuting during rush hour. They work at home, change hours, move closer to their jobs and otherwise try to travel during off-peak periods.

Brian Taylor, an urban planning professor at UCLA, agreed with Wachs and Pisarski but cautioned that rising commute times may involve factors beyond street and highway congestion.

For example, longer travel distances and greater use of bicycles and public transit can increase trip times. Such a shift might be underway in the Los Angeles area, where the portion of those driving to work has dipped by as many as three percentage points since 1990.

 

My own three cents: most of my friends and acquaintances have pretty normal commutes whether driving, taking transit or walking and/or biking. The folks I know with the really long commutes tend to take Metrolink to travel from outlying ‘burbs to downtown L.A., although I have one friend who has a long-ish drive between Claremont and Riverside. Whereas in the ’90s I knew some people driving crazy long distances (San Juan Capistrano to DTLA, for example) on a daily basis, many people I know seem to be giving more thought to their commutes and transit that may be available when picking places to live, work and play.

New York MTA told it must focus on repairs, not growth (New York Times) 

Some back and forth between the New York MTA — which operates the busy New York Subway system — and the watchdog Citizens Budget Commission. The agency says its capital plan includes money for improvements that riders want, along with a second phase of the Second Avenue Subway (the first phase is under construction). The group points to increasing ridership on the subway and says modernizing the system and maintenance should be the first priorities.

The lost navigator (High Country News) 

Touching essay by Jane Koerner on her father succumbing to Parkinson’s Disease.

After church, he took us on drives into the country, navigating the gravel roads by instinct and the position of the sun. No street signs for guidance, acres and acres of plowed prairie the color of daylight, an occasional farmhouse with a bleached barn — nothing like my mountainous Colorado home. Dad never needed to consult a road map…He was fascinated by trains. From the comfort of his easy chair, with the TV chattering nearby, he’d plot a course across the Western United States and Canada, using the railroad timetables and histories that crowded his bookshelf.

Today’s fun, easy article to read on transit that doesn’t involve transit: Why fast food chains’ love (and deny) having secret menus (New Yorker) I knew about In-N-Out’s animal style fries but I really didn’t know about the 3×3. Which now I want. And certainly don’t need.