Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Sept. 16

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. Pick your social media poison! 

Metro riders take fare hikes mostly in stride (L.A. Times)

The bright side: most passengers seemed aware that fares were going up. The down side: not as many knew about the new two-hour free transfer policy. There was also this:

Perhaps the largest hiccup happened at the 7th Street / Metro Center rail station, where some ticket scanning machines didn’t honor the new free-transfer policy and charged passengers twice. The software glitch was fixed and those customers will receive automatic refunds within 48 hours, Sotero said.

 

I spent much of the day camped on Metro’s Twitter account and it seemed to me that reaction to the fare hikes was mixed. Some positive, some negative and a lot of questions. Several riders were pleased that Metro was finally offering free transfers, as many other large transit agencies already do.

For those who haven’t seen it before, here is the link to transportation planner Jarrett Walker’s 2009 post on why transferring is good for you and your city.

California’s 3-foot buffer for cyclists takes effect today (L.A. Times)

The Golden State becomes the 24th state to enact a three-foot passing law. Motorists who don’t obey the law can be fined $35 or $220 if they collide with a cyclist. Over at StreetsblogLA, there are some suggestions about how to improve the law. All in all, I thikn the law is a good thing — but it really depends on how vigilant local police are about enforcing it. Police can sit at an intersection and, for example, enforce red light laws — but interactions between cyclists and motorists happen everywhere and often not in any kind of concentration that makes it easy for police to witness. The best hope is that when they see a bad interaction, the motorist (or cyclist if they violate a traffic law) gets pulled over.

Almost every way of getting to work is better than driving (Fast Company)

Is there a link between the overall well-being of a person and the way they commute? British researchers think so. I think there are undoubtedly some great benefits to walking, biking or taking transit to work but studies (or the accompanying media coverage) like these always leave me suspicious of their sweeping generalizations. A few years back, there were a lot of studies linking living in the ‘burbs to obesity. The thinking on that has started to change, with some people saying bad diets and lack of exercise can be found in a lot of different neighborhoods.

A field guide to the future former birds of L.A. (LAObserved) 

Good follow to the recent Audubon study that found that half the birds in the U.S. could be squeezed out of their habitat by climate change. Among the species seen in the L.A. metro area that could be in trouble are Allen hummingbirds, mountain bluebirds, golden eagles, eared grebes, western gulls, red-breasted sapsucker and purple finch. If global warming concerns you, taking transit is one way to reduce your carbon footprint — transit is generally more efficient than driving alone.

Transportation headlines, Monday, September 15

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. Pick your social media poison! 

MTA bus and train fares to rise on Monday (L.A. Times)

Transportation reporter Laura Nelson does a good job of breaking down the new fare structure that went into effect earlier today — with the regular fares rising to $1.75 (with two hours of free transfers) and weekly passes now $25 and monthly passes now $100. Please click here for charts showing the new fares as well as a useful Frequently Asked Questions on the fares.

The article also offers useful context about the finances and politics that drove the fare hike. Two key graphs:

Metro staff members estimate that ridership will drop by 3% to 4% during the first six months of the increase, but that fare revenue will grow by $21 million this fiscal year and $28 million in subsequent years.

That will not be enough to correct the agency’s long-term financial problems. Metro analysts have pushed for a series of three fare increases over eight years, saying more income is needed to offset an expected cumulative deficit of $225 million over the next decade. Agency directors approved the fare hike that begins Monday but postponed two subsequent increases proposed for 2017 and 2020, saying they needed more information about the agency’s financial outlook.

The Metro Board earlier this year asked staff to report back on other sources of revenue — so that’s something to keep an eye on. The other question looming over the issue of fares is a possible ballot measure in 2016 and what it may or may not include (no decision has yet been made on the ballot measure or its contents). Measure R did include a temporary fare freeze.

As for the basics on the fare increase, the $1.50 regular fare went up to $1.75 today but now includes two hours of free transfers.

Poll: 68 percent want more transit spending (The Hill)

Speaking of transportation funding, the Mineta Transportation Institute’s poll for the American Public Transportation Assn. shows slightly more Americans want more spent on public transit. Putting aside the not-so-small issue that both groups benefit from more dollars spent on transit, I’m guessing there is significant support in most metropolitan areas in the U.S. for transit. In Los Angeles County, 68 percent is a key number as 66.6 percent of voters are needed to approve transportation ballot measures. Measure R in 2008 was approved with 67.9 percent of the vote and Measure J in 2012 failed with 66.1 percent approval.

LAWA’s Gina Marie Lindsey: investments in LAX continue (The Planning Report) 

The general manager of Los Angeles World Airports — a city of Los Angeles agency — talks about the challenges and difficulties of installing remote baggage check-in at LAX and the automated people mover that will take passengers from the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the airport terminals. While the people mover’s route is pretty much settled outside the terminal horseshoe, Lindsey says the important matter of deciding its route and station locations should be decided within the next few months. Earlier this year, LAX was looking at configurations that included two stations or four stations.

Perris Valley Line taking shape (Press-Enterprise)

Nice to see some progress on the 24-mile extension of the Metrolink line from Riverside into the Perris Valley. Officials say the line is forecast to open near the end of 2015. It’s the first major Metrolink expansion in more than a decade, reports the Press-Enterprise.

Meet Seleta Reynolds, the safe streets advocate running LADOT (Streetsblog LA)

Damien Newton interviews the new general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which manages traffic signals and the city’s DASH and Commuter Express buses, among other things. A lot of the conversation focuses on bike policy and Reynolds is mindful to (correctly) remind everyone that the City Council has pretty much the final say in everything.

Guest editorial: urban change in L.A., too little too slow (Streetsblog LA)

Thoughtful article by architect and urban designer Gerhard Mayer. His main point: while L.A. is certainly changing, it’s changing a lot more slowly than other cities and far too much of the city is devoted to roads and/or parking lots. The key paragraph:

L.A.’s land use imbalance is acute. In a “normal” city, only approx. one-fifth of the city’s land is dedicated to transportation. Four-fifths of that city is used for buildings that generate revenue – or for open space. Not in LA; here, as much as 60 percent of our land – three-fifths – is used to accommodate our automobiles. Only two-fifths of LA has buildings that generates revenue to maintain, renew and expand our public services.

Of course, it’s hard to come up with averages like that on such a sprawling city but the statistics sound about right for some parts of the city. I just drove to Oregon and back and L.A. is hardly alone. Driving through Klamath Falls I was struck with a downtown that appeared to be on life support while outside of town, the usual shopping malls with the usual big box stores were surrounded by vast parking lots and a lot of traffic.

Coming to the rescue of riders who drop treasures on the tracks (New York Times) 

Interesting article about the transit workers in the New York subway who use a variety of tools to scoop up belongings that riders have dropped on tracks below the platforms. This includes a bag of blood, a variety of artificial limbs, engagement rings and stuffed animals. Of course, we implore all riders to NEVER try to retrieve such items themselves on our transit system or any other. If you drop something valuable, please contact our Customer Relations department.

Regulator slow to respond to deadly vehicle defects (New York Times) 

A long and deeply reported article that is extremely critical of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The nut graphs:

An investigation by The New York Times into the agency’s handling of major safety defects over the past decade found that it frequently has been slow to identify problems, tentative to act and reluctant to employ its full legal powers against companies.

The Times analyzed agency correspondence, regulatory documents and public databases and interviewed congressional and executive branch investigators, former agency employees and auto safety experts. It found that in many of the major vehicle safety issues of recent years — including unintended acceleration in Toyotas, fires in Jeep fuel tanks and air bag ruptures in Hondas, as well as the G.M. ignition defect — the agency did not take a leading role until well after the problems had reached a crisis level, safety advocates had sounded alarms and motorists were injured or died.

Not only does the agency spend about as much money rating new cars — a favorite marketing tool for automakers — as it does investigating potentially deadly manufacturing defects, but it also has been so deferential to automakers that it made a key question it poses about fatal accidents optional — a policy it is only now changing after inquiries from The Times.

 

The article includes many anecdotes and examples. Perhaps the hardest thing to stomach: the agency declines to directly answer many of the Times’ questions, none of which seem unreasonable to ask.

Gastropub proposed for Fred Harvey Room at Los Angeles Union Station!

Some exciting news to pass along this morning: The Metro Board of Directors this month will be considering a lease for a new gastropub to be located in the Fred Harvey Room at Los Angeles Union Station. Here is the Metro staff report on the proposed lease.

The lease is with Cedd Moses and Eric Needleman, who have been very successful with other downtown Los Angeles bars and eateries, including Seven Grand, the Golden Gopher, the Broadway Bar, Coles, Casey’s Irish Pub and several others that have helped fuel DTLA’s revitalization in recent times.

If the lease is approved by the full Metro Board at its Oct. 2 meeting, the new restaurant would be the first to occupy the Fred Harvey Room at Union Station since the original Harvey House restaurant closed in 1967. The space, which has been very well preserved (see the above photos), has since been used for special events and filming. Fiona Apple’s video for “Paper Bag” does a great job of showing off the Fred Harvey Room:

As for the timeline for a prospective restaurant opening, it will probably take several months to a year. Most notably, the kitchen area needs to be completely redone and the necessary permits secured from the city of Los Angeles. Metro staff say that all renovations and/or restorations will be done under the watchful eye of an architectural historian.

Metro purchased Union Station from a private firm in 2011 and has since been upgrading the station and planning for its future. The Metro Board on Oct. 2 will also consider approving the final version of the Union Station Master Plan, which seeks to preserve the station’s historic nature while expanding the station to handle the growing number of riders using the facility, as well as better connect it to surrounding neighborhoods. We’ll soon post more on the final version of the Master Plan.

The Metro Board earlier this summer also approved a lease for Cafe Crepe, which will occupy the space formerly used by Union Bagel and will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here’s the menu at their Santa Monica location. Of course, Traxx has been open at Union Station since 1997 and continues to be the fine dining venue at LAUS while also operating the Traxx lounge.

The Metro Board this month will also consider leases for two kiosks to be located in the East Portal. One will serve bento boxes and the other kiosk will offer coffee.

Two full street closures this weekend on Crenshaw Boulevard for construction of Crenshaw/LAX Line

Crenshaw map

Here’s the news release from Metro:

Walsh/Shea Corridor Contractors (WSCC) today postponed one of three street closures scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 12-13 on Crenshaw Boulevard for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project.

Traffic reconfiguration on the future underground Crenshaw/Vernon station between Stocker Street and Vernon Avenue has been postponed until further notice. Two other closures will take place:

Crenshaw/Expo Station:

One of the two closures that will take place this weekend is on Crenshaw Boulevard between Exposition Boulevard and Coliseum Street at 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12 until 6 a.m. Monday, Sept. 15. Also closures will continue the weekends of Sept. 19-22 and Oct. 24-27 with the same work-hours.

Work will consist of building south and north underground walls and install steel pile beams across the street at Crenshaw Boulevard and Rodeo Place and also on Crenshaw Boulevard and Exposition Boulevard.

Crenshaw/MLK Station:

Work on the future underground Crenshaw/MLK light rail station between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Stocker Street will be done by the Department of Water & Power to relocate water lines from 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12 to 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 13.

Metro CEO Art Leahy letter to stakeholders on SR 710 North study

The letter from Metro Art Leahy was sent to stakeholders on Friday morning:

Dear Stakeholder,

As we approach the fall season, I wanted to provide you with an update on the release of the draft environmental impact document for the State Route 710 North Study.

Using Measure R funds, Caltrans and Metro are studying mobility and traffic congestion relief in the area between east/northeast Los Angeles and the western San Gabriel Valley.

Five alternatives are being equally evaluated: bus rapid transit, freeway tunnel, light rail transit, no build, and local street and intersection improvements.

Altogether, approximately 26 detailed technical studies are included in the draft environmental document that will be released in February 2015. The studies analyze traffic, noise, air quality, cost-benefit, health risk assessments, and other variables.

To provide the public with correct information on the Study, Metro has posted two new documents, Frequently Asked Questions and Fact vs. Fiction on the Metro website.

Caltrans and Metro are fully committed to an open and transparent process. To date, Metro has conducted 92 community meetings, participated in six city-sponsored community forums, and held over 200 briefings with community stakeholders — and we are not done.

In the next several months, Metro will continue to go out into neighborhoods and communities to talk to residents and businesses about the need to address traffic congestion in the area and about the alternatives being considered.

You can help us spread the word and raise awareness by talking to your neighbors, co-workers and fellow students, and by discussing the Study at your club and association meetings. These conversations will help increase public participation in the process and ensure that more people have a voice in this regional issue.

Thank you for your continued partnership in our effort to address traffic congestion. For continuous updates go to metro.net/sr710study, facebook.com/sr710study, or follow us on Twitter @sr710study.

Sincerely,

Arthur T. Leahy
Chief Executive Officer

Metro awarded $22 million in two federal TIGER grants to improve station access

 

Two projects to improve access to Metro Rail stations were awarded “TIGER grant” funding this week from the U.S. Department of Transportation:

•The Eastside Access Improvement Project will receive $11.8 million to help create a network of sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists to access the Regional Connector 1st/Central Station in Little Tokyo.

Proposed improvements include an enhanced network of crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists, improved pedestrian lighting, planting and street furniture along nearby streets. The above renderings show some of the possible improvements.

The Regional Connector is a 1.9-mile underground light rail line that will connect the Gold Line to the Blue and Expo Lines in downtown Los Angeles and is forecast to open in 2020. The Connector will allow Eastside Gold Line riders to take the train directly into the heart of downtown without first having to travel to Union Station and transfer to the subway.

•Metro also was awarded $10.25 million to fund a series of improvements for the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station that serves the Blue Line, Green Line, six Metro bus lines and other muni bus providers. The station sits under the 105 freeway, meaning it can be noisy, cavernous and dimly lit — all impacting the “passenger experience,” as Metro’s grant application noted.

Among the improvements to be funded by the grant money: increasing station capacity by lengthening the Blue Line platform and, according to Metro, “enhancing connections between rail, bus, bicycle and pedestrian facilities to create safer access to the station from the surrounding community.”

Metro continues to pursue a larger project that could include a new bus center, sheriff substation and pedestrian plaza. More funding will be needed for those improvements.

Please click here to see the news release from the U.S. Department of Transportation and here’s a nice USDOT map showing TIGER grants awarded around the country. Metro officials said they especially appreciated the support of Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein in securing the grants — the two largest awarded to agencies in the state of California.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Sept. 11

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. Pick your social media poison! 

Gov. Brown signs bills allowing three-bike racks on transit buses (StreetsblogLA) 

“This new law allows 40-foot-long buses to be equipped with folding bike racks that can carry up to three bikes,” reports Streetsblog, in a bit of good news for some Metro bus riders. A few agencies had previously been using the triple racks due either to loopholes or exemptions in the law.

Efforts to change the law, however, had run into various roadblocks in recent years — including resistance from unions representing bus operators. The bill was authored by Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) and pushed heavily by Metro.

About half of Metro’s bus fleet is comprised of 40-foot buses, so hopefully this will help accommodate cyclists using those buses. As the article explains, there are still hurdles to converting to triple racks on longer buses.

Santa Monica Council picks Worthe as developer for Bergamot Station (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

The City Council on a 5 to 1 vote on Tuesday night selected the developer to pursue adding 44,000-square-feet of “creative space” and possibly a boutique hotel to the Bergamot Station arts complex in Santa Monica. The vote followed four hours of public comment that made it clear there was still considerable opposition from gallery owners and residents to further developing the site, where an Expo Line station is under construction (the line is forecast to open in early 2016).

I caught some of the meeting on KCRW on Tuesday night and among the concerns I heard were lack of parking, traffic and rising rents that could eventually squeeze out the galleries. It’s certainly an interesting story, given that the arts complex will include an Expo Line station with relatively easy connections to downtown Santa Monica and points east. The current complex is a very nice public space, although I’ve never been crazy about the big parking lot in the middle of the complex that occupies about half the space.

Bill Boyarsky also offers commentary on the Council vote at LAObserved.

Metrolink goes for animal attraction (L.A. Register) 

Why four farm animals took a ride from Union Station to the Los Angeles County Fair. Hint: it was a promotion to boost ridership! As promotions go, I like it.

Major changes discusses to expand, renew Union Station (Chicago Sun Times)

Chicago's Union Station is a little more workmanlike than Union Station here in L.A. Photo by Jeramey Jannene, via Flickr creative commons.

Chicago’s Union Station is a little more workmanlike than Union Station here in L.A. Photo by Jeramey Jannene, via Flickr creative commons.

I didn’t realize the Sun Times was still around (I worked at the rival Trib many, many moons ago)! Chicago is looking at big changes to its primary downtown rail station — expanding platforms, public space, etc. Denver already updated its Union Station and, of course, Metro is putting the finishing touches on its Union Station Master Plan. I believe there are some other similar efforts underway around the country — nice to see train stations being revived and prepped for a hopefully busy future.