FTA COMPLIANCE REVIEW: For those who want to firmly understand the difference between a public transit agency and private for-profit business, take a look at the FTA’s Civil Rights compliance review of Metro released earlier this week.
Bottom line: as a public agency, Metro can’t just serve any one constituency — there are a lot of riders who rely on the system and Metro is obligated to provide a base level of service to them as well as find the best ways to communicate with them.
I’m not saying any of this because I think it’s a bad thing. Metro is government and government works to protect the most vulnerable and provide safety net services, such as mobility.
SERVICE CHANGES: I think it’s pretty clear from reading comments on The Source over the past year that many readers would like more information from Metro when service changes are proposed.
I think this can be accomplished by developing a basic template that explicitly states the basic changes to a particular bus or train route, a brief explanation for the change (the changes are sometimes to make service more frequent — it’s not always a negative, people) and who will be most impacted for better or worse.
CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY AUDITS: Let’s face it, the Foothill Extension Construction Authority got a negative story about its travel expenses and the Expo Line is behind schedule. I think then it’s hardly surprising then that three members of Metro’s Board of Directors are proposing an audit of three independent construction authorities (the two above plus the Alameda Corridor East C.A.).
I’m certainly not suggesting that Metro is perfect (see above item on the compliance review). But this is interesting in the context that construction authorities became somewhat of a fad in the 1990s when many critics didn’t see Metro as capable of managing or building its own projects.
The result is that we have independent construction authorities building the Expo and Foothill Extension of the Gold Line while Metro will build other projects such as the Westside Subway Extension, the Regional Connector and the Crenshaw/LAX Line, to name three.
Is that a great idea? I don’t know, but it certainly makes it harder to adhere to certain standards when you have a variety of agencies managing projects expected to cohere into a network at a later date.
UNION STATION MASTER PLAN: I think I was hardly surprised at the suggestions made by a Urban Land Institute panel last week that looked at ways to improve Union Station and the surrounding environs through the master plan that Metro is developing.
You don’t have to have a degree in urban planning to grasp that Union Station is somewhat isolated in the northern part of downtown L.A. — thank you 101 freeway trench! — and that the pedestrian environment in the surrounding area isn’t always peaches and cream.
I think one big obstacle to making this part of downtown more viable for housing and commercial properties is the number of parking lots intended to serve Olvera Street. The 101 coupled with those lots serves as a barrier of sorts between the Civic Center area of downtown and Chinatown and Union Station. It should also be said that the Civic Center isn’t exactly hopping — i.e. there’s not exactly an overflow of pedestrians in the Civic Center looking for somewhere to go much of the time.
To me, the other obvious fix that Union Station will need is to lose the parking lots in front of the train station. Yes, even transit stations need car parking — but there’s plenty of it in the underground garage that can be accessed from Vignes Street. Hint: if the garage seems crowded, just go straight to the fourth level where there’s always spaces.
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES: It’s disappointing but hardly surprising that mobility is once again a non-subject as part of the presidential campaign.
As I’ve said before, the story of America is the story of mobility (as in “Westward Ho”). But local mobility has never really been a federal concern — something that is becoming increasingly disappointing as the country becomes more urban.
Take the time to visit the websites of the candidates (including the incumbent). Look at their energy plans. See what I mean?