How We Roll, Tuesday, September 15

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Art of Transit:

Newsflash!: A bill that would allow Metro to put a sales tax measure, SB 767, before voters in a future election was approved by the Assembly on Friday. The bill must be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to become law. Metro is in the midst of considering an update to its long-range transportation plan and a potential ballot measure to raise money for transportation projects. A decision on the long-range plan and potential ballot measure are scheduled to be made in the first half of 2016.

For your reading consideration: Agendas have been posted for Metro Board of Director committee meetings that take place Wednesday and Thursday at Metro HQ. Here they are: Finance, Planning, Construction, System Safety and Executive Management. There are links to Metro staff reports and other materials within each agenda.

Summer Games 2024, anyone? New video below from the committee in charge of Los Angeles’ Olympic bid. And, yes, transit L.A.-style gets a cameo.

Dept. of Twitter: 

Metro exploring new options for West Santa Ana branch (Urbanize LA)

There’s a new Metro staff report out about the Measure R transit project being studied for southeastern Los Angeles County. The report — a technical study — looks at different issues and challenges involving rail routes that were looked at in an earlier, more preliminary analysis. This study looks at several routes with Union Station or Little Tokyo serving as the northern terminus and Artesia in the south.


A closer look at different options in DTLA.

A closer look at different options in DTLA.

The Urbanize post does a nice job summing up the many routes studied and some of the key issues and stats — the study, for example, finds that the option that runs east of the L.A. River and the one that would terminate at Little Tokyo should not go forward due to issues involving cost, ridership or feasibility.

Here’s the thing: I need to stress that it’s very early in the process for this project. And there’s this: the rail options in this study have an estimated cost range of $3.8 billion to $4.6 billion. The project is due to receive $240 million from Measure R, meaning there’s a considerable funding gap that would have to be filled before anything rail-wise is built.

Still, it’s certainly an interesting project. The project would serve an area that may not be as sexy as the Westside, but has considerable industry, jobs and residents. Ridership projections are, of course, part of the always difficult exercise of predicting the future. Still, the estimates in the report are considerable. More technical studies are to come. Stay tuned.

Why futurism has a cultural blindspot (Nautilus) 

Speaking of predicting the future, from this interesting post by Tom Vanderbilt:

This over- and under-predicting is embedded into how we conceive of the future. “Futurology is almost always wrong,” the historian Judith Flanders suggested to me, “because it rarely takes into account behavioral changes.” And, she says, we look at the wrong things: “Transport to work, rather than the shape of work; technology itself, rather than how our behavior is changed by the very changes that technology brings.” It turns out that predicting who we will be is harder than predicting what we will be able to do.

As Vanderbilt notes, we mostly get around today in the same ways that we did decades ago. And perhaps for decades more — the projects we discuss in HWR mostly involve exactly what we already use: buses, trains, cars, bikes and feet.

Metro celebrates new El Monte bike hub, first of several (Streetsblog LA)

Pics and info about the grand opening yesterday of Metro’s first bike hub, which offers a secure place to lock your bike and a shop where cyclists can repair bikes and purchase any parts needed. As the post notes, “securing a bike there requires pre-registration and costs $60 for a whole year, $12 for 30 days, or $5 for a week.” Bike racks that are free to use will remain in place in front of the station.

Washington Metro riders form union to address concerns (Washington Post) 

Service reductions, deadly accidents, long commutes and crowding have led some riders of the Washington Metro subway system (trains also run above ground) to form a group whose goal is to secure a seat on the agency’s Board of Directors. Interesting.

Big transit agencies serve the interests of riders in different ways. Los Angeles Metro, for example, has Service Councils to help connect rider concerns with appropriate staff — and give riders a chance to weigh in on proposals such as scheduling and bus routing. Our 13-member Board is comprised of elected officials or their appointees.

Denver, meanwhile, takes a very different approach: members of the RTD Board are directly elected by area voters. In other words, RTD Board Members don’t need to first win election to another office. The Washington Metro Board is a different animal: with a mix of elected officials and other government officials from across the Washington metro area.

What structure is best? Feel free to debate. My hunch is there is no perfect formula — more important, I think, is that rider concerns are consistently forwarded to whoever is in charge. That’s one reason I like our social media streams (in particular Twitter): anyone can see what Metro riders and customers are talking about.

There’s an awful lot of parking near this Bakersfield high-speed rail station (CityLab) 

A new video by the California High-Speed Rail Authority shows a big parking lot near the proposed Bakersfield station. Many of the same issues raised by CityLab were also discussed by our readers in this Source post last week about future development adjacent and near the NoHo Red Line and Orange Line stations.


Things to read while sitting/standing/stuck on transit: Gregg Easterbrook’s always entertaining Tuesday Morning Quarterback column has moved to the New York Times’ Upshot blog this season. It’s shorter than in years past and there’s a noticeable absence of non-football items that made the column, I think, such an interesting read. Nonetheless, his football observations are fun and he does a great job of poking holes in conventional coaching wisdom. It’s quite amazing how often NFL coaches get it wrong, especially when it comes to doing the right thing on third and fourth down. Thus far, HWR’s unofficial favorite team this season, the Buffalo Bills, escapes the wrath of TMQ.

I’m also on Twitter, Instagram and have a photo blog where I share my non-transportationy stuff. Don’t want to comment but want to reach me? Email me!

21 replies

  1. Interesting piece about building another southbound line within a couple of miles of the Blue Line and exploring new taxes to fund it. All the while those living on the westside must deal with grid lock almost 24/7. Perhaps we should change the way the MTA board is made up and directly elect its board members. Gee, we could put it on the same ballot as the proposed tax increase.

    • I agree! Anyone got the guts to start a petition?
      It’s about time that the METRO Board become more friendly to those of us who actually ride. I, for one, am tired of politions telling me what they think I want. We need more say in how our tax dollars are spent. Please don’t get me wrong, the concels are great, but what good do they do if METRO is continually overiding their recomandations?

      • “I, for one, am tired of politions telling me what they think I want. We need more say in how our tax dollars are spent.”

        Then stop voting for Democrats. You can’t blame anyone if you keep voting for the same party over and over again and what you want isn’t getting through. How has Democrats changed your life? Nothing. And certainly the GOP is no friend to mass transit either as they’re more friendly to oil industries and the status quo.

        If everyone woke up that voting either Dems or GOP is voting the lesser of two evils, you all can stand to start voting third party, such as the Libertarian Party.

    • Hi Krista;

      Not advocating but studying the issue and asking cities and advocates across L.A. County for their opinions on what projects they would like in a long-range plan update and to possibly be funded by a sales tax measure. Staff will ultimately put forth a plan and then the Metro Board of Directors will decide whether to update the plan and take a sales tax measure to voters. That could take a variety of forms; the state bill gives Metro the authority to seek up to a half-cent sales tax increase. To emphasize: a sales tax measure could be in a variety of forms and also may not happen at all. Please stay tuned.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. “What structure is best?”

    IMO, the current make up of Metro Board members is a too statist and subject to the whims of special interest groups such union lobbyists rather than the transit riders themselves.

    Considering that Metro is heavily dependent on taxpayers to keep them running, LA County taxpayers are like “majority shareholders” of Metro. If so, shareholders (taxpayers) should be able to directly vote whom to represent them on the Metro Board.

    Ideally the Metro Board districts should be divided into six regions of LA County, without gerrymandering or re-redistricting along political lines, and elected to 4 year terms with a 2 term limit.

    If I can go further, is that in the best interest of taxpayers who do not wish to see Metro under government control forever and under taxpayer burden for a long time, Metro should also be allowed to gradually and partially privatize through a span of 20 years to the point where government/private stake becomes 60/40, in which investors who believe in mass transit can directly buy and invest in Metro stocks. One seat shall be reserved for election by investors, gradually gaining a seat to 4 seats when Metro control is 60/40 with government/private investors.

  3. Im so happy to see the East Santa Ana plan. I’ve gone through the area in Huntington Park, and it seems prime, especially at Long Beach blvd. This would be a very cool a worthwhile project!.

    • I agree. The ridership is definitely there and expanding the rail system would make for an easier more convenient way to move from one side of the county to the other.

  4. They need to use those West Santa Ana Branch funds to connect the Green Line to Metrolink/Amtrak/High Speed Rail in Norwalk instead. Much greater regional need and would have a considerable impact on ridership on the Green Line and Metrolink/Amtrak.

    It is just not viable to go from the South Bay to OC/San Diego via rail, but this would open up that possibility. It also enables the rail connection to LAX from OC/San Diego. I don’t understand why this isn’t more obvious. Apparently NIMBYs are the problem in Norwalk.

  5. “The bill must be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to become law.”

    Incorrect. The governor of California has no pocket veto, so the bill can become law even if Gov. Brown doesn’t sign it within 12 days.


    “Interesting piece about building another southbound line within a couple of miles of the Blue Line and exploring new taxes to fund it. ”

    You are free of course, under a democracy, to voice your opinion to Gov. Brown to ask him to veto SB 767 if you are against the idea of Metro asking for tax increases to help fund transit in one area while not looking at another, while there are many ways Metro can raise capital on their own which they have not tried yet (cutting labor and overhead expenses, investment in Metro owned real estate properties, fare reform, etc.).

    E-mail link to Gov. Brown:

  6. A friend of mine that works for SCAG was saying that they are partially funding this line. He told me they were studying the project, is this still true? (santa ana corridor)

    • Hi Mannyo;

      SCAG did the alternatives analysis for the project — the study that came before this technical report. I don’t believe that SCAG is actually funding the project — typically funding for projects comes from the county transit agency where the project is built.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  7. East LA is well served today with the Blue Line, Green Line, and the Gold Lines. What’s needed is a mass transit service along the north-south route on the Westside, notably serving the 405 corridor and perhaps the Crenshaw Line extension all the way up to Hollywood.

    Hasn’t Metro received Uber and Lyft customer data yet from the CPUC, or better yet, are there no Uber or Lyft drivers/riders working at Metro? They will tell you that the heaviest Uber and Lyft users are concentrated on Victory Blvd. near the 405/101 interchange, Santa Monica/West LA, West Hollywood, DTLA, and towards those regions to/from LAX. Maybe, you’d like to concentrate your efforts in providing transit service to areas with high Uber and Lyft demands so as they don’t steal your customers?

  8. “This is LA”

    The video conveniently disregards this dark reality of LA residents: A place where 60% of their residents are renters and more than half their income disappears into paying rent do to an artificially low supply of the housing market thanks to arcane zoning laws and selfish NIMBYism against higher density, pushing more and more people into poverty and homelessness.

  9. I’m surprised that the two Blue Line alternatives propose separate, elevated tracks on the Blue Line right of way rather than using the Blue Line tracks. Presumably the Slauson station will be shared (it’s elevated already), and the current tracks from Slauson to Washington are on a dedicated ROW so are not subject to street running restrictions as the tracks north of Washington. I believe I read somewhere that dedicated ROW tracks can support 3-minute headways, so there should be space to run the two lines on the same tracks. I’m guessing that’s what will happen if this alignment is chosen, because of cost.

    The Pacific alignment has the advantage of serving a new population in Vernon, but this is limited to just one new station, Pacific/Vernon (about a mile east of the current Blue Line Vernon station); the rest of the alignment along Pacific and Santa Fe will get the trains but no stations, which is not that helpful to the community. The Blue Line alignment would serve more stations, and also create some much needed redundancy in the system, allowing to reroute Blue Line and WSAB trains along each other’s tracks in Downtown in case of construction, accidents, electric failures etc. I’m surprised that this wasn’t mentioned in the staff report (unless they’re using a different term — I searched for “redundancy” and couldn’t find it). Redundancy is probably the key reason why I’d favor one of the Blue Line alignments.

    • Hi Ron;

      I think the issue may involve how many trains can be accommodated by Blue Line tracks. If there are more Blue Line trains running in the future, that would make it difficult to have trains from another line also use those same tracks. Even now the Blue Line is very busy, especially during the peak hours.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Soure

      • Blue and Expo share a pair of tracks on Flower. Assuming the capacity on Long Beach Ave (dedicated ROW) is at least as much as that of Flower (street running), then WSAB should be fine as long as its frequency is no greater than that of Expo (or whatever that line is called after the regional connector is built).

  10. I thought Metro was presently doing a coordination study on putting a Red/Purple line station(s) about 3 blocks from all of those proposed Arts District LRT sites…

    • Hi sigaba;

      That is something that Metro is also looking into — independent of this project. That one is far easier because it costs far less and, of course, the tracks are already there in the subway vehicle maintenance yard.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. “rider concerns are consistently forwarded to whoever is in charge”

    Or as Ben Franklin would say, “Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.”

    That being said, if it falls on deaf ears and the public deems that it’s taking too long to get anything done, then it’s time to start changing the system.