Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 24

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! 

L.A. County Sheriff’s Department not meeting Metro’s policing goals (L.A. Times)

More coverage of the recent — and critical — audit of Metro and the LASD, which is under contract by Metro to patrol buses, trains, stations and other facilities. In response, both Metro and LASD said that improvements in policing have been made this year. Metro officials have noted that serious crimes are below four incidents per million boardings.

MTA approves study to convert Orange Line to light rail (Daily News)

Metro plan would link light rail systems in San Fernando, San Gabriel valleys (CBS)

Metro Board expected to discuss Orange Line improvements (Post Periodical)

Metro Board to decide light rail plan (San Fernando Valley Business Journal) 

The headlines are a little misleading. The Metro Board today did direct Metro staff to do a preliminary study of potential Orange Line upgrades, including conversion to rail and an extension to the Gold Line in Pasadena. At this point, neither a conversion of the Orange Line to rail or an extension are in Metro’s long-range plan. Nor is such a project funded.

Here’s the big plan to make Union Station finally accessible to walkers and bikers (Curbed LA) 

Coverage of the US Connect plan to build a series of esplanades and other sidewalks and bike lanes that would connect Union Station and the Regional Connector’s 1st/Central Station to neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, Chinatown, the Civic Center, Little Tokyo and the Arts District.

Gatto and Englander stump state legislation for hit-and-run alert system (Streetsblog L.A.)

Assemblyman Mike Gatto and L.A. Councilman Mitch Englander support a bill written by Gatto that would use electronic sign boards on freeways and other roads to quickly alert motorists when a hit-and-run has occurred, the idea being that it may lead to earlier arrest of suspects. Excerpt:

Assemblymember Mike Gatto enumerated the gruesome hit-and-run statistics: 20,000 hit-and-run collisions take place in L.A. County each year; 4,000 of these result in death or serious bodily injury; only 20 percent of fatal hit-and-run perpetrators are arrested. Gatto relayed the story of a similar alert system in Colorado which resulted in the city of Denver increasing their apprehension rate from 20 percent to 75 percent.

Hard to argue with that. Here’s the bill. It passed the Assembly and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. A companion bill by Gatto would suspend the license of hit-and-run perpetrators.

The forgotten history of L.A.’s failed freeway revolt (CityLab)

Nice reminder that many Boyle Heights residents weren’t exactly standing and cheering as a variety of freeways sliced and diced across their community in the 1950s and ’60s.

 

Other actions taken by the Board of Directors today, including motion on Orange Line upgrades

Other actions taken by the Metro Board at their meeting today:

•The Board approved a motion by Board Members Paul Krekorian, Eric Garcetti, Michael Antonovich, Zev Yaroslavsky, John Fasana and Ara Najarian directing Metro staff to study potential upgrades to the Orange Line, including adding more articulated buses, grade-separated crossings, improved traffic signal priority and rail conversion. The motion also calls for the study of extending the Orange Line to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, where it would connect or offer a transfer to the Gold Line.

As I’ve noted before, this is an unfunded project and that converting the Orange Line to rail is not in Metro’s short- or long-range plans at this time.Metro Board Member Paul Krekorian noted that only two of Metro’s 80 rail stations are in the San Fernando Valley, where nearly 20 percent of county residents live. He said that the Orange Line’s ridership demonstrates that Valley residents are willing to take transit. Metro staff said they will return to the Board this fall with more details on how they plan to proceed with the Orange Line study. Motion

An amendment to the motion by Board Members Pam O’Connor and Don Knabe directs Metro staff to develop protocols for adding unfunded projects to the long-range plan — a need brought in part by Metro studying future ballot measure that could potentially fund new projects. As the amendment notes, some Measure R road and transit projects remain underfunded or are facing higher expenses to build, adding to the difficulty of building projects that are not set to receive Measure R funds. Amendment

•A separate motion by Board Members Michael Antonovich, Ara Najarian, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Ara Najarian directs Metro to continue the planning process for expanding bus rapid transit to eligible corridors, including Vermont Avenue and a line connecting the Orange Line to the Gold Line. The motion asks for a report from Metro staff this fall with a staffing, funding and implementation plan on expanding BRT. Motion

In an amendment to that motion by Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti, Metro was directed to make such BRT projects the first priority when Metro pursues federal Small Starts or Very Small Starts funding. The amendment also asked for a center-running alternative where feasible in the study of the Vermont and Burbank-Pasadena BRT.

Continue reading

Cafe Crepe coming to Union Station

The Metro Board earlier today approved a lease agreement with Cafe Crepe to take over the former Union Bagel space in Union Station (the Metro staff report is above). This is the space directly across from Traxx that has been vacant for quite some time.

photo (1)

This is not a small space. There will be interior seating and this should be a very nice spot for bus and train travelers to stop and grab a meal at pretty agreeable prices.

Check out Cafe Crepe’s menu here — they already have locations in Santa Monica, Vancouver (B.C.) and Toronto and the plan is to be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Union Station location. The word ‘crepe’ may be in the name, but there’s a variety of things on the menu including burgers, salads, other sandwiches and desserts.

When will it open? The short answer: it’s going to be a while. The space has to be completely renovated and equipped — and all the necessary permits must be obtained from the city of Los Angeles. We’ll provide updates as the work proceeds!

Metro Board approves $1.6-billion contract to construct first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway

project_map

After a long discussion, the Metro Board of Directors voted 9 to 3 to approve a $1.6-billion contract with Skanska, Traylor and Shea, a Joint Venture (STS), on Thursday morning to construct the 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway. The first phase — with a total budget of $2.7 billion — is currently forecast to open in 2023.

No votes were from Metro Board Members Michael Antonovich, Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Board Member Gloria Molina was absent for the vote.

The contract approval was a key step forward for one of the cornerstone projects to be funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. A $1.25-billion federal New Starts grant is also paying for the project.

The extension will push the subway from its current terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Three new stations will be constructed at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.

The procurement process began in June 2013; details are in the above Metro staff report. Three firms bid on the contract. Proposals were evaluated based on project management, technical approach and price. There was considerable discussion by the Metro Board on the issue of how the bids were evaluated and the weight that should — or should not — be given to price.

The two firms that did not win the contract have filed protests with Metro. The Board is allowed to award the contract pending the timely resolution of the protests.

Metro staff noted that while the Skanska, Traylor and Shea bid was the most expensive bid by almost $193 million, Metro staff also believes “this team offers best opportunity to deliver the project on time and on budget” — a promise reiterated by the winning bidder’s future project manager. The companies involved have also worked on the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the city of Los Angeles’ North East Interceptor Sewer tunnel.

Metro Board Member Don Knabe said that $192.5 million was too much “to leave on the table” without getting more information on the bids and the protests. Other Board Members indicated that they had faith in the agency’s technical evaluations and/or they did not want to potentially delay the project by taking too long to approve a construction contract.

Utility relocations for the Purple Line Extension’s have been underway since last year. The most recent construction timeline is below. The timeline assumes that the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills grant Metro the work hours that it needs.

227897785-Purple-Line-Extension-May-2014-presentation

Metro continues to explore ways to accelerate the second phase to Century City and third phase to Westwood via America Fast Forward, which would increase federal funding for transit if Congress were to embrace the entire concept and fully fund it. Metro is also exploring a possible ballot measure in 2016 that could potentially accelerate Measure R projects.

Metro already has an unprecedented four rail projects under construction: the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica, the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border, the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line between the Expo Line and Green Line and the 1.9-mile Regional Connector that will connect the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines in downtown Los Angeles. All four projects are receiving funding from Measure R.

 

Service alert: potential delays to bus and rail riders due to President Obama’s visit

President Barack Obama’s visit to Los Angeles continues today. There will likely be delays for Metro bus and train riders.

As per usual and due to security concerns, we can only release limited information about potential delays. According to this LAPD notice, there will likely be street closures on the Westside, Beverly Hills and the southern part of downtown Los Angeles on Thursday.

•On Thursday, bus routes that could be impacted include the 2, 302, 40, 81, 35 and the Silver Line.

•Beginning mid-morning Thursday — after the morning rush hour — expect intermittent delays to the Blue and Expo Lines in downtown Los Angeles. Here are the latest tweets:

 

Everything on the this list is subject to change. For the latest updates, please check the metro.net homepage, our general Twitter account or our service alert Twitter account.

In remarks, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti outlines his goals as Metro Board Chair

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti delivering his remarks on Thursday morning. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti delivering his remarks on Thursday morning. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

As noted earlier, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is the Chair of the Metro Board of Directors for the next year. At the start of today’s Board meeting, Garcetti briefly outlined his goals as Board Chair. Here are some highlights from his comments.

•”When you’re talking about transportation, the top priority has to be reducing traffic.   Traffic, especially in Los Angeles, defines our lives. It keeps us from being with our loved ones and enjoying life’s daily moments. But it’s equally important that we provide good service for our customers and build for the future.

“The only way we can do that well is by working together as a region. We all know that traffic doesn’t care about borders. And none of us can serve our constituents well if we only care about what happens inside our city limits.”

•”How we do that? Innovation and technology. That’s not only the obvious things — like having cell service in our stations or creating an app where riders can load their tap cards on their phones so they don’t have to wait in line at the ticket machine.”

•”We must always be looking at where there is new demand and build projects in our most heavily traveled corridors. We must complete projects like the Exposition line all the way to Santa Monica. We must plan to build the Gold Line extension to Claremont. We must improve service between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. We must make sure the Blue Line is fixed, and our highest [ridership] rail line runs like it once did. And we must find a way to open the train to the planes by the time the Crenshaw Line starts running.”

•”I’m committed to keeping the momentum going on our construction projects — and making sure they’re done on time and on budget. We cannot repeat the cost overruns and sinkholes of the 1990s.

“When I became Mayor, I was told the new lane on the 405 project wouldn’t be open until the fall. So I called an old friend, Nick Patsaouras, and asked him to volunteer his time and talents to get it done sooner. He came through big for us. As Chair, I am calling on him to now lend his expertise and provide construction oversight of the Crenshaw Line.”

•”Over the last year, we were successful in securing over three billion dollars from the federal government. I’m confident that success will continue if we work together across the region to get our fair share from Washington and Sacramento. But we also need to think creatively about public-private partnerships and innovative financing. People are impatient, people can’t wait.”

Metro Board of Directors July meeting about to begin

Good morning, readers and riders! The gavel will shortly drop on the July meeting of the Metro Board of Directors. This will be the first full Board meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti serving as the Board Chair; he assumed the role on July 1 and will be the Chair through next June. The Chairmanship is filled on a rotating basis among the 13 Board Members.

The agenda for today’s meeting is above. Among the items scheduled to be discussed are a $1.6-billion contract to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, motions to study upgrading the Orange Line and installing ExpressLanes on part of the 105 freeway and Metro’s short-range transportation plan, among others.

You can listen to the meeting live stream here. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. You can also listen over the phone by dialing 213-922-6045 although capacity is limited.

As per usual I’ll update the blog and Metro’s general Twitter account with any interestingness as it occurs.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 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. Pick your social media poison! 

Metro opens command center for Century Crunch (KPCC) 

The $1.2-million command center — which resembles a big RV painted black — will be parked near the intersection of Aviation and Century this weekend while the old railroad bridge is demolished. The idea is that it allows Metro and other law enforcement officials to push the latest traffic information out ASAP. More info on the Century Crunch closures is here.

Seven innovations to make L.A.’s Metro better (Neon Tommy)

Suggestions include a comprehensible intercom system, maps that show riders where the trains are located at present time, the ability to use a credit card or cell phone as a TAP card, better sealing off train tracks to prevent suicides, underground cell phone and wi-fi service (the cell phone service is on its way but no firm date when it will be completed) and more secure turnstiles.

LA’s new Olympic bid team, many rivers to cross (3 Wire Sports) 

Looks like businessman Casey Wasserman, 40, is heading up the Los Angeles bid attempt at the 2024 Summer Olympics. As the article notes, there are challenges. The first is that the U.S. Olympic Committee hasn’t decided yet to bid on the 2024 Games — they’re waiting to see how some Olympic reform attempts play out.

The other challenge is that Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. may be competing with L.A. for the right to be the American representative in the international competition. Los Angeles, of course, has already twice hosted the Games while the others would be rookies. I don’t see D.C. as being realistic — fair or not, the city is too intertwined with American politics to be appealing. But I can see Beantown and San Francisco being strong competitors. Boston has pretty good infrastructure and sports facilities at the many colleges in the region while San Francisco is, well, San Francisco. One knock on them: the nicest arena in the area is in San Jose, whereas L.A. has Staples Center, the Honda Center and other smaller areans that could easily host events (Galen Center, Pauley Pavilion, Sports Arena).

I mention all this because infrastructure always is discussed as part of bid efforts. On that front, Los Angeles is at the center of a Metro Rail and Metrolink system that did not exist in 1984 and will be growing considerably between now and 2024, with the second phase of the Expo Line and Gold Line Foothill Extension scheduled to open in 2016, the Crenshaw/LAX Line in 2019, the Regional Connector in 2020 and the first phase of the Purple Line Extension in 2023.

Just in Olympic terms, think about what that means. The Crenshaw/LAX Line gets Metro Rail closer to LAX and will include a transfer to the airport people mover that LAX is going to build. The Expo Line connects downtown Los Angeles and the USC campus to downtown Santa Monica and the Westside (where there are many hotels), the Gold Line Foothill Extension will stop next to Azusa Pacific University and Citrus College and better connect the San Gabriel Valley to the Metro Rail system, the Regional Connector makes travel on the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines faster throughout the region without as many transfers and the Purple Line Extension brings the subway to the Miracle Mile, one of the cultural centers of our region.

The above is on the current Measure R schedule and doesn’t include the possibility of project acceleration if Metro pursues another ballot measure in 2016 (the agency is contemplating it).

Some bumps in the road on the way to a bike-friendly L.A. (L.A. Times) 

The editorial builds off the recent flap over bike lanes on Figueroa in northeast L.A. and Highland Park.

Excerpt:

Unless some demonstrable miscalculation was made in the bike plan, or unless there’s a real safety issue, individual City Council members should not be tinkering with the plan, which was designed carefully with the whole city in mind. Currently, Los Angeles has 337.62 miles of dedicated bike lanes. Cedillo is looking at alternatives to the Figueroa corridor, but the city planners chose these designated routes for specific reasons; nearby streets, they say, won’t work. The idea is to create a seamless network of bike lanes that allow cyclists to travel continuously from one point to another.

No one said it would be easy to make legions of drivers in car-obsessed Los Angeles relinquish a fraction of their lanes to bicycles. No driver wants to be slowed down by even 47 seconds. And it’s understandable that drivers are frustrated when they see congested roads and empty bike lanes.

But the more the city continues to implement its bike plan, the more extensive the network of bike lanes becomes. The hope is that over time, those lanes will begin to fill up — and maybe some drivers will get out of their cars and onto bikes.

That neatly distills what’s happening. I think you could say the same thing about the transit network. Networks are more powerful than individual lines. There are some other challenges when it comes to bikes but hopefully more people will use the lanes and the backlash will die down.

 

Bill could allow bike share users to pay with pre-tax dollars (New York Post)

A Congressman from Queens is introducing a bill that would allow bike share users to have the cost of bike sharing deducted from their paychecks on a pre-tax basis, just as is currently allowed for transit passes. The Post sounds a tad skeptical, but that is to be expected.

Connect US seeks to better link Union Station to neighborhoods via new esplanades and bike paths

As most of you likely know, Metro has been developing the Union Station Master Plan to preserve the historic train depot while also renovating it and redeveloping parts of the 40-acre campus as use of the station continues to grow.

A companion study has been looking at an equally important issue: better linking Union Station by foot and bike to surrounding neighborhoods. Union Station sits on the far northern end of downtown Los Angeles and, at present, it’s often not terribly pleasant to reach via sidewalk or bike.

The linkages study — called Connect US — seeks to remedy that by recommending 13 separate projects totaling $50 million to $60 million in costs that would create a series of corridors that walkers and cyclists could use between Union Station and the Regional Connector’s 1st/Central Station and surrounding neighborhoods. Among those communities: Chinatown, Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo, the Civic Center and the Arts District.

A PowerPoint of the study’s recommendations, presented by community members last Thursday at a City Hall event, is posted above. As you scroll through, there are a series of maps and renderings that provide an idea of the scope of the project.

Among the improvements: an esplanade between the entrance to Union Station that would reach across Alameda Street to El Pueblo de Los Angeles and Olvera Street; new esplanades with expanded sidewalks and protected bike lanes along Los Angeles Street, Alameda Street and North Broadway (which would sit on the bluff above Los Angeles State Historic Park), and; add bike lanes (some protected) and sidewalk and street improvements to other key streets such as 1st Street, 3rd Street and Santa Fe and Alpine.

Metro is helping to plan the improvements, which will largely be undertaken by the city of Los Angeles (the city oversees downtown streets). The project has been separated into a series of smaller projects, the idea being that each project can be done when funding becomes available, a nod to the realities of transportation funding.

The final speaker at last Thursday’s event was Gil Penalosa, the well-known former parks chief in Bogata, Colombia, and who now heads up 8-80 Cities, a nonprofit that advocates for parks, bike lanes, pedestrians and making cities more vibrant and sustainable — the kind of things people usually like in cities. As he made clear, the Connect US plan would not only help improve mobility in downtown but would make L.A. more like other well-known cities across the globe that are walk- and bike-friendly and that people love to visit.

Gil Penalosa speaking at last Thursday's event unveiling of the Connect US plan at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gil Penalosa speaking at last Thursday’s event unveiling of the Connect US plan at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.