New Metro video: how to slay Nextrip, sings Rusty Eye

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And here is the third of the new videos from Metro’s marketing team, this one featuring Hollywood-based Rusty Eye promoting Nextrip, which allows users to get real-time bus and train arrival information on GPS-enabled smart phones or computers.

The new videos are intended as a fun way to help folks learn to ride the Metro system and remind everyone that taking transit can be fun and/or interesting. Please feel free to share/comment/review on social media using the hashtag #metrorocks. Metro is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The first video featured Galactic Flo promoting Metro’s and Google’s trip planner. The second video had the folk duo Steps of Doe explaining how to reload your TAP card at ticket machines.

One other note: the musicians who appear in the videos (and the firm that made them, Conceptive, Inc.) are entirely local. If you’re a musician and would like to share your song about local transit, you can email us here.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Oct. 23

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.  

Going off the rails on Metro’s rail cars (L.A. Times) 

Photo: Juan Ocampo/Metro

One of the new rail cars after delivery to Metro. Photo: Juan Ocampo/Metro

This editorial says there still could be a glimmer of hope that rail-car manufacturer Kinkisharyo — contracted by Metro to build new vehicles — will build a permanent light rail car manufacturing facility in Palmdale. The firm has said it will take the facility out of state because of a union-backed lawsuit challenging the factory on environmental grounds.

The union wants to organize workers at the new facility. Kinkisharyo wants a formal vote on unionization, which would allow the firm to make its case to workers that a union is not necessary. The Times’ editorial board says that a compromise is still possible:

Both the company and the unions are wrong, and their intransigence could cost L.A. County good jobs. Political leaders, including Metro board members Mayor Eric Garcetti, who chairs the Metro board, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has close ties to labor, should be working overtime with their colleagues to broker a deal to keep the jobs here.

The Times would like to see Kinkisharyo fully flesh out the environmental impacts of a new facility. The newspaper also suggests that some local union leaders are working on behalf of another rail car manufacturer.

Related: here’s a post with more pics of the first new light rail car delivered to Metro.

The fundamental rule of traffic: building more roads just makes people drive more (Vox)

A new study reaches an old conclusion that has now been long-debated in transportation and activist circles. Not surprisingly perhaps, the photo accompanying this blog post features our very own 405 freeway all gummed up with traffic. Excerpt:

Turner and Duranton have also found that public transportation doesn’t really help alleviate congestion either — even if it takes some people out of cars and puts them on buses or trains, the empty road space will be quickly filled up by new vehicle-miles. Other researchers have found exceptions to this rule (say, when a transit route parallels heavy commuting corridors) but it doesn’t seem to be a large-scale traffic solution, at least given the way US cities are currently built. (Note that transit can have other beneficial effects, like making a city more affordable. But it doesn’t seem to have much effect on congestion.)

So why does traffic increase when new road capacity is added? Turner and Duranton attribute about half of the effect to people’s driving decisions. “Think of it as if you made a bunch of hamburgers and then gave them all away,” Turner says. “If you make hamburgers free, people will eat more of them.”

Again, not exactly a shocking conclusion. Those who attended last month’s Zocalo Public Square forum on can-we-fix-traffic heard UCLA’s Brian Taylor explain:

Can traffic be fixed or seriously improved? The short answer: probably not much can be done unless the region embraces drastic and politically unpopular measures such as heavier tolling across all lanes on freeways to reduce peak hour traffic, passing laws to greatly restrict driving, building many billions of dollars of new freeways (which includes the challenge of finding places to put them) or going the Detroit route by shedding jobs, residents and the local economy.

If you would like to listen to the forum, please click here.

Does that mean all road projects are pointless? Well, no. There are places where roads can be made safer, bottlenecks can be fixed and capacity added via HOV lanes. Roads can be made more complete by adding pedestrian and cycling improvements.

More headlines are after the jump!

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Metro Board awards contract for Business Solution Center for Crenshaw/LAX Line

Here is the Metro staff report and below is the news release from Metro:

In another unprecedented step today the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors awarded a two-year contract for $646,462 to Del Richardson & Associates, Inc. (DRA) to operate Metro’s pilot Business Solution Center (BSC) to help small businesses impacted by Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project construction. The contract includes two one-year options for $349,682 for total of $996,144.

“We’re finally making desperately needed investments to our public transportation system in South Los Angeles, but construction simply cannot come at the expense of our businesses,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “This Business Solution Center will ensure that businesses along the Crenshaw Line will be able to thrive despite any temporary inconveniences to customers and employees.”

“Rail construction is always challenging and it’s particularly difficult for nearby businesses, that’s why we are committed to standing with these merchants during the whole construction process,” said Metro Board 1st Vice Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This Business Solution Center – while not solving all problems – is an important first step toward helping the local business community survive and thrive during the difficult days. We are happy that we could make this happen.”

The Business Solution Center is expected to open in November, 2014 and will be located at the Los Angeles Urban League, 3450 Mount Vernon Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90008.

The Metro pilot Business Solution Center (BSC) will provide hands-on case management services for small businesses along the Crenshaw corridor between 48th and 60th streets.
Services will include marketing help, business plan development, financial planning, small business operations advice and legal assistance counseling. In addition, BSC will help small businesses apply for capital via existing loan programs. It also will help them gain certification as small, disadvantaged, disabled, veteran-owned, minority-owned and/or woman-owned businesses.

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Metro Board of Directors meets Thursday — here’s the agenda

UPDATE: Good morning! The meeting began at 9:15 a.m. and the Metro Board just voted to approve the items on the consent calendar.

The Metro Board of Directors gathers Thursday at 9 a.m. for its regular monthly meeting. The agenda is above.

The meeting, as always, is open to the public and will be held on the third floor of Metro Headquarters adjacent to Union Station. You can also listen to the meeting online by clicking here.

Or, you can listen over the telephone by calling 213-922-6045.

New Metro video: TAP the target, sings Steps of Doe

And here is the second of the trio of new videos from Metro’s marketing team, this one featuring the L.A.-based folk duo Steps of Doe with instructions for reloading your TAP card at ticket machines.

The new videos are intended as a fun way to help folks learn to ride the Metro system and remind everyone that taking transit can be fun and/or interesting. Please feel free to share/comment/review on social media using the hashtag #metrorocks. Metro is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The first video, which debuted last week, featured Galactic Flo promoting Metro’s and Google’s trip planner.

One other note: the musicians who appear in the videos (and the firm that made them, Conceptive, Inc.) are entirely local. If you’re a musician and would like to share your song about local transit, you can email us here.

The Metro Trip Planner is on the metro.net homepage. If you prefer, Google Maps can also be used to plan transit trips.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Oct. 21: to park or not to park at Metro stations?

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.  

Lack of parking drives many away from mass transit (L.A. Times) 

Parking at the Expo Line's Culver City Station. Photo by Metro.

Parking at the Expo Line’s Culver City Station. Photo by Metro.

An updated look at a long-debated issue in transit circles: how much, if any, lack of parking at transit stations. Forty of Metro’s 80 stations have parking — and parking at some of the most popular stations is often gobbled up early on weekday mornings (Norwalk, NoHo, Universal City and Culver City are a few examples).

On the other hand, Metro has thousands of free spaces — as well as some paid ones — and I can definitely point to places where parking is relatively easy. This interactive map gives you an idea where the parking is located.

Excerpt from the Times article:

“Today I got lucky,” said Ashley Scott, 30, as she waited for her train to Hollywood on a recent Thursday morning. “I was this close to just getting on the 101.”

Scott’s daily dilemma illustrates an often overlooked but significant choke point in the ambitious growth of L.A.’s light-rail system. Metro’s six-line network, which has seen steady ridership gains over the last five years, now carries about 350,000 people on work days. Parking shortages could complicate Metro’s goal of shifting hundreds of thousands more drivers to public transit in coming decades.

Planners say it’s impractical, perhaps impossible, to build enough free parking. Train station lots have low turnover because most commuters leave their cars all day. To meet demand, Metro lots would have to sprawl far beyond the station—or, in dense urban areas, rise several stories.

It’s a tough issue as many planners believe that it’s far wiser in the long-term to build developments with more jobs and/or residences near transit. Their belief is that promoting density near transit will ultimately produce more riders than sprawling parking lots and also lead to building cities with a higher quality-of-life.

On the other hand, it’s undeniable that — at least for now — parking is the carrot that makes taking transit possible for some of our riders.

And then there’s the issue of expense and space. For example, there is no parking planned along the Purple Line Extension subway, which largely follows densely developed Wilshire Boulevard. On the other hand, the Gold Line Foothill Extension — in the more suburban San Gabriel Valley — will eventually have parking at each of its six new stations.

As it happens, I just got off the phone with Andrew Young, who recently co-authored a study with David Levinson at the University of Minnesota that ranked Metro areas according to their transit accessibility to jobs. The Los Angeles area ranked third, so I asked Andrew what he thought about the parking conundrum.

“You can build parking lots that makes transit useful to those who live some distance away from stations or you can build housing and destination adjacent to that station that will be used by those in future who will work and live there,” he said. “The question is: do you want to build for an existing constituency or do you want to build for a currently nonexistent constituency that one day will live next to the station. In many places, building for the future is hard for current politicians….people like the status quo and people in the status quo are the ones who vote and it’s always hard to change that.”

Well said.

Of course, there’s a related issue here, too — whether parking, where it exists, should be free? Streetsblog L.A. has written about that, criticizing Metro for offering free subsidies for auto users that it doesn’t necessarily offer for those who get to stations on foot, bikes or even transit.

Personal disclosure on this item: I often pay $2 to park at the Gold Line’s Del Mar station, where there is always plenty of parking to be had. I could ride my bike, walk or try to snare a ride from the Domestic Partner (when not working herself), but I’ve found driving to be quicker.

More headline funtivitity after the jump! 

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Transportation headlines, Monday, October 20

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.  

No winners in this MTA train wreck (L.A. Times)

In his opinion column, Jim Newton looks at the dispute between rail car manufacturer Kinkisharyo and a local union that resulted in Kinkisharyo announcing that it won’t build a permanent manufacturing facility in Palmdale. Excerpt:

That won’t be quite the end of it, of course. Kinkisharyo will still do assembly work in Palmdale as long as its MTA contract lasts and will still employ almost 200 people in its existing assembly plant, but the company says it’s finished with the idea of a long-term manufacturing plant in the area. Labor leaders maintain that the company has an obligation under its contract to create these jobs in Los Angeles County, but the MTA disagrees. Officials at the agency say that while Kinkisharyo had committed to doing the rail car assembly locally, the agency cannot, under federal law, force the company to build in the area. Lawsuits already are being filed, and courts will sift through the arguments for months, maybe years.

But that’s all squabbling over the wreckage. The undisputed fact is that a stubborn company and a stubborn union went to war, and because of it, the residents of Palmdale, who could have had a couple of hundred good new jobs, instead will be looking at a vacant lot. Who won that battle? No one. But there are plenty of losers, including California, Los Angeles County, Palmdale and the of men and women who would have built and staffed the manufacturing facility.

 

As Newton writes, the real story here is probably the difficulty of doing business in California. In the meantime, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich — also a member of the Metro Board of Directors — held a news conference this morning at the County Hall of Administration to discuss the situation.

Photo by Paul Gonzales/Metro.

Photo by Paul Gonzales/Metro.

Antonovich called again on Gov. Jerry Brown to ask the union, the IBEW Local 18, to drop its state lawsuit against Kinkisharyo. He also accused the union of supporting a different rail car manufacturer during the bidding process with Metro and that this is a back door attempt by that firm to gain business with Metro. The union is perhaps best known recently for its significant financial support for the losing candidate in last year’s election for mayor of Los Angeles.

Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said that he was devastated by the news and that it reinforces the notion that California is not business friendly. He reiterated that Palmdale is very open to working with local businesses to keep and create job and that he remains committed to building the new permanent facility for Kinkisharyo.

Officials celebrate Gold Line milestone in Azusa (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Coverage of the last piece of track work being completed in Saturday for the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension between Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border. Azusa officials say they are using a Metro grant to study the best ways to use and/or develop land around the two stations in Azusa — one is downtown and the other is adjacent to Citrus College, Azusa Pacific University and the Rosedale development.

Streetsblog L.A. also had a four-part series over the summer on the Gold Line Foothill Extension which includes a ton of photos. Part one, part two, part three and part four. Just to give you an idea how quickly the track work was done, here’s a pic I took back in February when the work was getting underway:

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Did diversity miss the train in Union Station’s architecture (Denver Post) 

A bar in the refurbished Union Station in Denver. Photo by Misty Facheux, via Flickr creative commons.

A bar in the refurbished Union Station in Denver. Photo by Misty Facheux, via Flickr creative commons.

Post architecture critic Ray Mark Rinaldi has been visiting the newly revamped Union Station in downtown Denver and by his own counts found the place to be filled with white faces. He finds that troubling, given that 47 percent of Denver’s population are minorities.

His take: the local transportation agency, the RTD, put too much emphasis on restoring the building to its older European roots and put too much emphasis on attracting businesses that catered to an exclusive, upscale and white clientele. Excerpt:

Still, something is missing. There’s no traditional Mexican restaurant, no soul-food restaurant, no sushi bar, as if no one noticed that the Mexican-American, African-American and Asian-American families that own and operate those places across the city are also our best food purveyors.

This country is full of union stations, old train depots, once the center of civic life, that fell out of use in the auto era. St. Louis fixed up its station by adding a mall. It’s not as successful, but it’s diversified. Kansas City filled its hall with a science center, and kids from across the city’s neighborhoods are regulars there.

Washington, D.C.’s train station now has swank shops, but also a food court. It has, notably, a B. Smith’s restaurant, part of a small, African-American-owned chain that is a touchstone in the black community.

Interesting article and worth a read. I haven’t been to the station in 20 years and have no idea what it’s like now — so it’s hard to form an opinion about the article. Obviously with our Union Station on deck for a major refurbishment and expansion, it’s worth considering such opinions.

The emptying of New York City (Salon)

Manhattan has gotten taller in the past century. But it has also gotten much less dense. The suspected reason: wealth, with fewer people taking up more space. Reminds me of a recent item here on a new Gotham skyscraper that will be the tallest in the city (1,396 feet) and will house only 104 residential units.

Again, something to chew on as development continues in downtown.