Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 12

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Attorney convicted in stealing nearly $2 million in MTA money (L.A. Times) 

James Vincent Reiss defended Metro as a contract attorney in injury cases. Reiss had pleaded no contest to two felony counts of grand theft. Excerpt:

Karen Gorman, acting inspector general for Metro, said a State Bar of California investigation into problems with Reiss’ other clients in 2012 tipped off the agency to the potential for trouble, and officials immediately began auditing his cases.

“We aggressively began to investigate … and working with the district attorney’s office we were able to bring Mr. Reiss to justice for his crimes.”

According to a Metro lawsuit filed against Reiss’ law firm in January for suspected malpractice, forgery and negligence, Reiss cost the agency as much as $2.5 million.

In 2011, Reiss allegedly told the MTA that it had negotiated a $2.5-million jury award down to $1.765 million. But when the Metro board authorized the settlement and ordered that two checks totaling $1.765 million be written, Reiss kept the money, according to the suit.

 

Sentencing is scheduled for March 26. The Times reports that he is expected to receive 10 years in state prison.

Los Angeles to launch nation’s largest interactive trail network (Gizmodo) 

The app will help tie together the many walking paths and trails that criss-cross the city — and many of which are not commonly known to the masses. Even more interesting is that key content about the trails on the app (scheduled to debut next month) won’t be unlocked unless the user is actually on the trail. The app is being produced by the Interpretive Media Library, a collaboration between UCLA and California State Parks — and it’s novel enough to get the attention of U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, who was in town yesterday for a media event.

What yesterday’s Supreme Court decision means for rails-trails (Streetsblog Network)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 on Tuesday that land granted the U.S. government granted to railroads doesn’t necessarily revert back to government property after railroads abandon their tracks. The ruling has implications toward rail-to-trail projects planned for government land — the problem being the land may instead belong to someone else. The post is an interesting interview with Kevin Mills, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s senior vice president of policy and trail development.

As he says, the ruling may have a deeper impact in the Western U.S., where railroad land grants were more common than in the east. Pretty interesting stuff. I personally want to see as many rail-trail projects as possible; on the other hand, the original government land grants dating back to the mid 1800s were often seen as blatant taxpayer giveaways to privately run railroads.

Wharf extension push surfaces as Central Subway crews dig on (San Francisco Chronicle) 

Transit advocates, neighborhood groups and others are starting to advocate for the Central Subway project in San Francisco to be extended to Fisherman’s Wharf. The project is extending the city’s light rail system (partially via a subway tunnel) from the Caltrain commuter rail station to the intersection of Stockton and Washington in Chinatown — about a mile shy of the popular and heavily visited Fisherman’s Wharf.

There are no plans on the books to extend the tracks any further — nor are there funds (at least not yet). I think it will be very interesting to see if there is any kind of similar push here on the Purple Line Extension project, which will eventually have a terminus in Westwood in front of the VA Hospital, just west of the 405 freeway (as far as Measure R funded the project). I imagine there will be some people in Brentwood and eastern Santa Monica who will want the subway closer to their homes, just as I expect there will be people in Brentwood and eastern Santa Monica who will not 🙂

Four designs to cleverly re-invent the suburban parking lot (Co.exist) 

With enough large lots on Long Island to cover an area the size of Central Park several times over, four architectural firms were asked to imagine a way to keep some parking but also make better uses of the land. Here’s one of the drawings:

3026727-slide-rsaudpg28

 

 

6 replies

  1. The Purple Line Extension is a great project and for the most part the station location decisions were made well. However, the VA Station doesn’t make much sense to hardly anyone. There is really very little in the VA other than the hospital, which is not nearly large enough to justify its own $250M station. The area is impossible for bikers or pedestrians to access and is right up against a freeway on-ramp. Meanwhile 3/4 of a mile to the West is a district of office and apartment high rises surrounded by a dense area of apartment buildings and University High School a block away with bus connections running North/South. Just the other day, it was announced a 34 story residential high rise is planned for this area.

    We have built subway stations where this kind of development is not allowed. It seems strange for the subway to skip an area where it is already there and zoned for even more density.

    • Hi Matt;

      All fine points, well articulated.

      The problem in short was that Measure R supplied X amount of money for the project and the agency Board of Directors stuck to the amount. In plain English, the train goes as far as the money allows. That said, I’m curious how many people who live west of the station will try to access it. There will be the Wilshire peak hour bus lane in place and presumably Metro, the county and city would work on other first mile/last mile improvements (bike lanes, for example).

      An extension of the subway beyond the Measure R segments is in Metro’s long-range plan (along with many other unfunded projects). It remains to be seen if there is real community or political interest in such an extension. I have heard people say that it makes less sense, with the subway and Expo Line not being that far away from one another. But I don’t think it’s a matter of a finite amount of riders choosing one train or the other; I think it’s a matter of putting good transit near as many potential riders as possible.

      Anyway, interesting issue and I think a potentially good media story. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. I can’t even begin to explain how happy I am that James Reiss was convicted for his many thefts. He caused many misery.

  3. @ Steve, Should the Purple extension goes all the way to Santa Monica in 25-30 years from now (or if a real community and/or a political party wants to get involved behind the scenes to happen 15-20 years earlier). Do you believe that both billion dollar rail projects could make history that both rail lines owned by the same company could potentially be the first time that both rails would compete with each other in the future?

  4. My understanding from what Metro staff has said at meetings on the Purple Line extension is having the VA as the terminal station is more for operational purposes. Westwood will have tremendous on/off and having equipment slow down if that was the end of the line would be very inefficient versus trains running through.

    The ridership projections west of Westwood are rather low. You’ll note that during peak hours a number of Rapid 720 runs shortline at Westwood. But I have experienced some 720 trips that have been seated loads all the way to Santa Monica (weekend afternoon with folks going to the beach and the Promenade) so I don’t think running further west is a bad idea, just something that likely won’t happen for a long time.

  5. Good points, Matt. Steve, I really hope you are right about the pedestrian and bicyclist improvements. As things stand now, I really can’t envision a bike lane on Wilshire Blvd. along the VA property. There is no space, especially where Wilshire crosses the freeway near the Federal property and the National Cemetery. It is the worst situation for pedestrians I have seen in LA. Pedestrians can’t even access the sidewalk from the current east-bound bus stop (Big Blue Bus) at the VA without crossing a freeway onramp. It’s a pedestrian nightmare around there.