Transportation headlines, Friday, February 27

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Today’s Zocalo Public Square profile of a Metro rider: My whole life used to be Chinatown, College Street to Waverly Drive

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ART OF TRANSIT: The cast of Star Trek, including Leonard Nimoy, in Palmdale in 1976 with the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Photo: NASA.

Metro trains ran 83 red lights in four years, study finds (L.A. Times) 

The data comes from Metro about trains that go past train signals that indicate a train should stop. A motion by Board Members Michael D. Antonovich and Hilda Solis was approved by the Metro Board on Thursday, requiring staff to hire an outside consultant to review the issue and make recommendations toward lowering the number to zero. “Metro trains are equipped with technology that automatically stops the train when the operator runs a red light. It isn’t clear whether that happened in the 83 cases analyzed,” reports the Times.

Excerpt:

“Metro welcomes the independent review and remains committed in our efforts to reduce violations of this type and look forward to implementing any and all elements to improve the safety of our system,” spokesman Rick Jager said in an email.

The one accident cited as a result of missing a red light was a 2012 accident in which a Blue Line train ran a red signal and struck a Metro bus in downtown Los Angeles, injuring 31 people.

Driver in Metrolink derailment leaves crash as probe continues (L.A. Times) 

The man driving the pickup truck towing a trailer that got stuck on railroad tracks was released from jail and no charges have been filed. He was apparently driving on Rice Street and intended to turn onto 5th Street but instead turned onto the railroad tracks and then got stuck. The tracks — with a gated crossing — are 55 feet before the road intersection.

As a previous Times article noted, Ventura County doesn’t have a dedicated transportation tax, thus meaning the county has to usually turn to the state or federal government for any type of major transit improvements. The County is served by Metrolink and Amtrak — mostly on a single railroad track that is mostly at street level.

A clear Blue vision: 25 years of the Blue Line (KCET)

A thorough look back at the history of the Blue Line, which will turn 25 in July. Key excerpt:

[Supervisor Kenny] Hahn dreamed of building the Blue Line along the old P.E. Red Car route from downtown L.A. to downtown Long Beach. Resurrecting the old P.E. Red Line, he told Angelenos, would be the fastest, most efficient, and least costly means to reestablish rail transit in Los Angeles County. Bolstering his argument was the fact that a route between Long Beach and L.A. would connect to the region’s two major employment centers and the two largest cities in the county. It didn’t hurt that the route served some of the region’s most powerful politicians, such as Congressman Glenn Anderson and Assemblyman Bruce Young. 12 It helped too, from a cost perspective that Hahn’s proposed route ran along a low-density industrial corridor east of the more trafficked and populated Vermont Avenue.

Yet, Prop A and Hahn’s dream of a resurrected P.E. encountered challenges. For example, Prop A had to wait two years to go into effect because of legal challenges to its validity under Prop 13. In other instances, politicians claimed that Hahn’s route bypassed more deserving corridors. Westside pols claimed that a Wilshire starter line or one to Santa Monica from downtown would serve more riders and that many of the Long Beach riders projected to use the light rail already rode the bus, meaning it would do little to diminish automobility. Moreover, commissioned studies found that the Long Beach line would cost approximately $194 million while a Santa Monica downtown light rail would run only $138 million even if it served slightly fewer residents. 13 Others objected to the location, such as the NAACP, which argued that a Vermont Avenue line would better serve ridership.

I think it’s important to keep in mind two key points: the Blue Line was built as a modernized version of the streetcars — meaning it was largely at street level with many road crossings — and that it was competing with the future Red/Purple Line for funding with only 1980’s Prop A to help pay for those projects (another sales tax measure was approved in 1990 after the Blue Line was completed).

Hindsight is never really fair. Many improvements have been made to the Blue Line since it opened to improve safety, but it’s hard get around the fact that the 22-mile rail line runs along or down the middle of some very busy streets.

What should downtown L.A. do to get ready for bikeshare? (Streetsblog L.A.) 

A review of some of the many bike upgrades in DTLA made in the past few years. As I’m sure many of you know, Metro is working on implementing a countywide bike share program, with bikeshare in DTLA scheduled to open next year if everything goes well.

BART board approves compromise plan for handrail placement on new rail cars (S.F. Examiner) 

The issue involved where to place tripod-shaped handrails, originally slated for the middle of cars. Wheelchair users complained that those handrails would block access to the cars. Things were rejiggered to also accommodate bike racks.

11 replies

    • There are still red signals whose purpose is to stop trains for whatever reason. If you ever look down the tracks from stations or can see through cab at front or rear of train, you’ll see them.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  1. Interesting to note that the traffic corridors mentioned from back in Kenneth Hahn’s day haven’t changed much. His quote, “You could build another space shuttle before you build the Wilshire subway,” is even more amusing in that one can now view that same space shuttle at the California Science Center not far from the Blue Line. Now we’ve got the Expo Line coming out here next year, and even though it’s nowhere near Wilshire until it gets to Santa Monica, it runs close enough to the heavily trafficked 10 freeway to get a potentially huge ridership.

    • Hi Pat and Mike;

      I think the overall issue boils down to this: is it best to build transit lines on old right-of-ways or is it best to build in the most ideal location? As you know, it often comes down to funding as the old rail ROWs have tended to be the easiest (although by no means easy) places to build.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. The article indicated the Blue Line should not have run near and cross major streets. That seems like a plus not a minus. The northern section of the Gold Line meanders thru Pasadena and suburbs in the San Gabriel Valley not really serving a major transit corridor. A hard working line serving a grid locked corridor from West Los Angeles to Downtown L. A. should be built along the old P. E. right of way along Santa Monica Bl. Jerry Brown canceled the planned freeway, a needed substitute should be built ASAP as the MTA highest priority.

  3. Now, if they’re BLOCK signals, protecting only two movements FOLLOWING each other, then they CAN be designated as “permissive” signals: either “come to a full stop, then proceed prepared to stop for an obstruction,” or “reduce speed without stopping, and proceed prepared to stop for an obstruction,” depending on the rules in effect for the block in question. Their closest highway equivalent would be brake lights.

    If they are INTERLOCKING signals (protecting switches, crossings, and so forth, where there is a risk of collision or derailment, or “headblock” signals protecting the entrance to single track from head-on collisions, then they are ABSOLUTE signals, and cannot be passed without sending out a flagman, and/or direct clearance from the dispatcher.

    Note that this is how things work on class I railroads; urban rail can be somewhat different.

    On Class I railroads, a single-headed signal, or a double-headed signal with the signal heads on the diagonal, or a single-headed semaphore signal with a pointed blade, usually indicates a permissive signal, whereas a double- or triple-headed signal with the heads aligned vertically, or a square-ended semaphore blade, or an “A” marker on the signal, always indicates an absolute signal.

    On Metro, in street-running segments, the signals typically look like ordinary traffic signals, except that instead of green, red, or yellow, they show a vertical (proceed), horizontal (stop) or diagonal (approach, prepared to stop at next signal, at least if it works like Class I railroads) white bar. If I remember right, the signals on the Green Line are quite small, and set into the pavement, between the rails.

    In San Francisco, there are a number of intersections where there are signals showing a red and a green “X”; these are interlocking signals for the cable cars.

  4. So I take it the 710 Gap project group missed is deadlines as February has come and gone without it releasing the EIR/EIS for the five studied alternatives, including tunnel and Gold Line light rail connector.

    • Hi Dan;

      I’ll try to find out expected release date today.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Hey Dan;

      The release date is still to be determined. We’ll have links to the report and the press release on the blog as soon as it’s out. So please stay tuned.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source