Other actions taken today by Metro Board of Directors; First/Last Mile Strategic Plan adopted

Here are a few of the more noteworthy items tackled by the Metro Board of Directors at their monthly meeting earlier today:

•Item 7; The Board adopted the First/Last Mile Strategic Plan and stations to serve as pilot program areas. The Board also approved a companion motion by Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky asks Metro to include two stations along the Red Line (Universal City and NoHo) to the other pilot stations — Bundy and 17th on the Expo Line Phase 2 and Arcadia and Duarte on the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Strategic Plan is attached to the Metro staff report; it’s a technical document intended to help Metro and city planners best consider different options for getting people to and from transit stations.

•Item 62; The Board approved a living wage program for contract landscape and irrigation maintenance workers under contract to the Board. The policy proposes to increase the hourly rate to $15.67 per hour.

•Item 17; The Board approved 

">a motion by Board Member Paul Krekorian asking Metro staff to report on whether increased revenues may come from digital billboards on Metro properties and more ads on buses and at other facilities.

•Item 41; The Board approved a motion by Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky asking Metro to continue studies for an express bus line between Westwood and the San Fernando Valley that would use the 405 HOV lanes.

 

•Item 69; The Board approved a motion by Board Member Don Knabe asking Metro staff to reconsider Measure R funding forecasts as well as study future revenues from station gating and the ExpressLanes.

•Item 42; The Board voted to extend the contract for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to police the Metro system for an additional three months — which is through the end of September — for $22.2 million. The staff report says that Metro needs additional time to analyze three other letters of interest about the contract before considering a longer contract for policing the Metro system.

 

ExpressLanes on 10 and 110 freeways to be continued beyond next January

The Metro Board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday to continue the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways beyond January of 2015. The Board also voted to charge a $1 monthly maintenance fee on all ExpressLanes accounts to help cover costs of operating the lanes but chose to exempt those with equity accounts.

In order for the ExpressLanes to continue beyond January, a second step is required: a state bill that is pending in Sacramento (SB 1298) must also be approved.

The vote followed the release of a federal preliminary analysis this week that found that the ExpressLanes met many of their goals since initially launching on the 110 freeway in Nov. 2012 followed by the opening of the lanes on the 10 freeway in Feb. 2013. In particular, Metro officials noted that commuters who shifted from the general lanes on both freeways to the toll lanes enjoyed a speedier commute; users saw an average peak period travel time savings of 17.11 and 13.86 minutes on the 10 freeway and 12.80 and 7.81 minutes on the 110 for the morning and afternoon peak periods, respectively.

Ridership in the Silver Line — which uses the ExpressLanes on both the 10 and 110 — also increased 27 percent.

One item that generated discussion was the maintenance fee. When the ExpressLanes began, there was a $3 account maintenance fee for those who used the lanes three or fewer times each month. After complaints from customers that the fee served as deterrent to sign up for an account, the Metro Board decided to waive that fee last spring.

Still, Metro must pay its concessionaire $3 for each transponder issued. Metro Board Member Gloria Molina authored the motion calling for the $1 fee for all users as a way to regain $2.3 million of that cost, saying she wants to see as much of the money generated by tolls (about $18 to $20 million during the pilot period, twice what was expected) to be reinvested into transportation improvements in the 10 and 110 corridors.

Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky said he was against the $1 fee but said it was an improvement on the $3 fee.

Metro officials say that they anticipate improving marketing, outreach, education and enforcement efforts along the ExpressLanes. Most of those who testified publicly asked the Board to extend the ExpressLanes program. Several Board Member also said that they are interested in expanding the toll lanes to other freeways in the future, although the only plans on the table are for eight miles of toll lanes in the Santa Clarita Valley on the 5 freeway.

In order to use the ExpressLanes, all users must have a transponder. To learn more about opening an account, please visit the ExpressLanes homepage.

The news release from Metro is after the jump.

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Metro Board approves $927-million contract for construction of Regional Connector project

map_corridor_reg_conn_eng (1)

A $927.2-million contract to build the Regional Connector light rail project was awarded to Connector Constructors (a Joint Venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc., and Traylor Bros. Inc.) by the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday.

The 1.9-mile underground rail line, forecast to be complete in 2020, will connect the Gold Line to the Blue and Expo lines and allow trains to travel directly from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica. This should speed trips through downtown and reduce the number of transfers for most riders.

The Board also approved a motion by Board Member Don Knabe authorizing Metro CEO Art Leahy to add an upper level and pedestrian bridge at the Connector’s 2nd/Hope Street Station to better connect the station to Grand Avenue (2nd/Hope is down hill from Grand) and to secure funding for it, including an elevator and/or escalator. The motion asks for the upper level and bridge be incorporated into scope and project budget. Here is an earlier Source post with more renderings of what a second level and bridge may look like.

Reg3

This is the 2nd/Hope Station as originally planned.

Reg81

This is a Metro rendering of a possible upper level and pedestrian bridge to the new Broad Museum that the Metro Board wants added to the project. The idea is to bring the station up to the level of Grand Avenue.

The $1.42-billion project is partially funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The Regional Connector is also being funded by a $670-million federal New Starts grant and $160-million federally-backed TIFIA loan.

The Board also approved Item 77C in closed session today involving a property acquisition from the Los Angeles Times at Broadway and Spring. Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois said terms of the agreement will be released after the deal is finalized.

The Regional Connector will be the fourth rail project now under construction, joining the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Purple Line Extension contract is expected to be awarded this summer and it will be the fifth rail project in Los Angeles under construction because of Measure R. In addition, Metro has begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles.

Here is the Metro staff report on the contract:

The news release from Metro is after the jump:

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Metro Board approves contract for Union Station regional rail improvements

The project will extend tracks south from Union Station. Under the current setup, all trains must enter and exit the station from the north. Photo: Google Maps.

The project will extend tracks south from Union Station. Under the current setup, all trains must enter and exit the station from the north. Photo: Google Maps.

As part of the consent calendar, the Metro Board of Directors unanimously approved Item 21, a $31-million contract for engineering work to extend regional rail tracks south from Union Station — so that trains don’t all have to enter and exit the station from the north.

Here’s the news release from Metro:

To prepare Los Angeles Union Station for expected growth in Amtrak and Metrolink passenger rail service, and to accommodate the future California High-Speed Rail system, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors awarded a contract today to HDR Engineering, Inc. for environmental work and engineering of the Southern California Regional Interconnector Project (SCRIP).

SCRIP will change the configuration of some of Union Station’s “stub end” tracks to “run through” the station, allowing operational flexibility.  Currently, all commuter and intercity regional rail trains enter and exit through the five track throat at the north end of Union Station. SCRIP will extend several of the tracks to exit the south end of the station, cross over the 101 freeway and join the railroad right-of-way along the west bank of the Los Angeles River. The preliminary cost estimate for the project is $350 million.

“SCRIP will allow Union Station to increase track capacity 40 to 50 percent and provide greater flexibility in scheduling as well as an increase in passenger loading with longer trains,” said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. “The “run through” tracks will allow one-seat rides between the various destinations in the Metrolink service area and greatly improve operations.”

The current “stub end” configuration requires an average turn-around time of 15 minutes per train, resulting in more than 40 cumulative hours of train idling at Union Station each day. SCRIP can potentially shorten dwell time for more than 50 percent of the passenger trains using the station to 2 minutes for passenger loading and unloading, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions of idling locomotives by an estimated 44 percent. 

“This project is needed for the longer term rail needs of our region,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy. “Metrolink and Amtrak operations will be growing in the coming years and SCRIP is part of a statewide integrated passenger rail system designed to meet that growth,” Leahy said. 

The California High Speed Rail Authority, which is a partner with Metro on the project, plans to connect high-speed train service directly to Union Station, thereby providing additional ridership for other rail providers and increasing the need for additional capacity.

The preliminary schedule calls for the completion of environmental and engineering work in late 2016 with construction to be complete in late 2019.

SCRIP is consistent with the long-term vision for Union Station, which is to provide regional connections to local destinations through a variety of transit modes including bus, high speed rail, regional, intercity and commuter light rail expansions.  

Metro Board of Directors’ April meeting is underway

The gavel just dropped, thereby starting the monthly meeting of the full Metro Board of Directors.

Here’s the agenda. And here’s a Source post from yesterday looking at some of the key issues that are scheduled to be considered today.

The Board also voted to approve items on the consent calendar. Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois also announced that Karen Gorman has been offered — and accepted — the job of Inspector General for the agency.

Board Chair DuBois also reported on her recent trip to Osaka, Japan, to meet with officials of Kinkisharyo, the firm hired by Metro to build new rail cards. She said that the meeting was encouraged and that she is confident in Kinkisharyo’s ability to deliver the new rail cars on time. The rail cars are needed for the existing rail lines as well as the Expo Line Phase 2 and Gold Line Foothill Extension, both of which are forecast to open in early 2016.

If you want to listen by phone, please call 213-922-6045.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, April 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! 

The people mover at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Photo by David Wilson, via Flickr creative commons.

ART OF TRANSIT: The people mover at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Photo by David Wilson, via Flickr creative commons.

Freeway toll lanes seem to speed things along, somewhat (L.A. Times) 

Here’s the top of the story, which provides a good summary of the preliminary analysis of the ExpressLanes that was released this week:

The first comprehensive analysis of Los Angeles County’s experimental toll lanes indicates the pay-to-drive routes made some rush-hour commutes faster and less painful, both in the toll lanes and in the free lanes, but made little to no difference for many drivers battling morning traffic.

According to an independent report prepared for federal transportation officials, the toll lanes along the 110 and 10 freeways didn’t significantly change overall traffic speeds during peak periods for drivers using either the tollway or the general lanes.

But for individual drivers on the freeways at certain times, the experimental lanes may have made a significant difference: Drivers heading west on the 10 Freeway toll lanes at 7:30 a.m. may have driven up to 18 mph faster than they could have before the tollway opened, the report said. But on the northbound 110 Freeway at 8 a.m., commuters in the free lanes crept toward downtown Los Angeles at 21 mph, the same speed as before the lanes opened.

The Metro Board is scheduled to today to consider whether extending operation of the ExpressLanes beyond January 2015.

In related news, the Los Angeles Newspaper Group has an editorial saying it’s too soon to continue the ExpressLanes. Excerpt:

As it is now, the MTA has authority to run toll programs along the two freeways through January 2015. There’s a bill in the Legislature that would extend that authority and open the possibility of proposing more toll roads.

The legislation by California Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, could be a game changer for the MTA, which has previously floated the idea of a toll lane on the 405 Freeway.

It’s going before some key legislative committees next week, so there’s a push by MTA staffers to get the board to back an extension. An affirmative vote would bolster the bill, SB 1298, which has already gained the support of the board.

Also, RAND’s Martin Wachs (a senior researcher) and UCLA’s Brian Taylor (Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies) have an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Register arguing that the Metro Board should make the ExpressLanes permanent. Excerpt:

HOT lanes carry more people with less delay than other lanes, and can be added at lower cost and disruption than most alternatives. An independent consultant to the Federal Highway Administration issued a report last week showing that these lanes have improved transit service and given drivers more choices. Unlike other new highway lanes, they also raise needed revenues for transit improvements from drivers voluntarily paying tolls. Most importantly, HOT lanes increase the choices available to travelers, who can drive in regular lanes for free, pay for faster and more reliable driving during rush hours, opt for the improved express bus service financed by the tolls, or join new toll-subsidized van pools.

The FHWA study found that during the short demonstration period, in addition to those already having them, nearly 260,000 new drivers were issued transponders. While average driving speeds changed only slightly in both the express lanes and general lanes during the peak hours, travel time reliability was a principal benefit for HOT lane users.

Bait bikes ready to nab S.F. bike thieves (SFist) 

Gotta love this:

The bike theft unit of the San Francisco police department took to Craigslist on Tuesday with a post titled, “We Have Our Bait Bikes Out.” Complete with a snazzy decal of a creepy cycling skeleton, the ad warns of GPS-laden bikes that the cops will track. And if you sell a stolen bike, the po-po threaten to toss you in jail and plaster your face “all over social media.” 

The SFPD isn’t saying how many bikes actually have GPS devices installed in them. Nor does it say if clever thieves can de-activate or destroy the GPS. The idea is to instill a kernel of doubt in those who steal.

Off the bus, but pressing on (USDOT Fast Lane blog) 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says that President Obama will soon release a detailed proposal for a multiyear federal transportation spending bill. The current bill expires this year and Congress hasn’t yet agreed on the next one. Metro is certainly watching this one closely, hoping the bill includes both a loan and bond program that are key to the America Fast Forward program to expand federal funding for transportation projects.

Security cameras help transit agencies fight crime (Transit Wire) 

A short and unskeptical article but with some interesting info about efforts to use cameras to deter crime or enforce rules in both Portland and Chicago.

 

Preview of tomorrow’s Metro Board of Directors meeting; a look at some interesting items

The Metro Board of Directors meets on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at Metro headquarters for their regular monthly meeting. The agenda is posted above and below is some of the more interesting items on the docket:

•Item 17,

">a motion by Board Member Paul Krekorian asking Metro staff to report on whether increased revenues may come from digital billboards on Metro properties and more ads on buses and at other facilities.

•Item 41, a motion by Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky asking Metro to continue studies for an express bus line between Westwood and the San Fernando Valley that would use the 405 HOV lanes.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 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! 

Transit-related note: Thanks to Kings fans for riding the Expo and Blue Lines to last night’s game. Lucky bounce, Sharks. Games four and six will be at Staples Center. 

Gold Line being challenged on possible terminus at Ontario Airport (Los Angeles Newspaper Group)

The San Bernardino Association of Governments is opposing a state bill that would give the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority permission to plan and study a third segment of the project between Claremont and Ontario Airport. SANBAG says it wants to first study other options for connecting transit to the airport, which in recent years has a seen a significant decline in air passenger travel. The airport segment lacks funding at this time. The Construction Authority is an independent agency that is building the Gold Line extension to Azusa with Measure R funds; Metro will operate the line when completed.

Pay lanes have better result on 10 freeway than 110 freeway, report says (Los Angeles Newspaper Group)

A look at the Metro staff report issued earlier this week that offered a preliminary analysis of the performance of the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways during their one-year pilot period. Excerpt:

For example, on the 11-mile stretch of the 110 Freeway between Adams Street and the 91 Freeway during the morning commute, it took on average 2 minutes longer to travel on the ExpressLanes than when the lanes were regular High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. The evening commute showed no change, the report stated.

On the 14-mile stretch of ExpressLanes installed in February 2013 on the 10 Freeway from the 605 Freeway to Alameda Street in Los Angeles, commuters got where they were going more than 2 minutes faster on average. Even the general-purpose lanes showed a near 2-minute decrease in travel time, compared to before the lanes were implemented.

The analysis, by the Federal Highway Administration, noted that the ExpressLanes have still met many of their goals — for example, ridership on the Silver Line has increased 27 percent and use of the ExpressLanes has increased since they began, resulting in increased revenues.

The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday will consider whether to keep the lanes beyond January 2015.

‘Rail to River’ project envisions greenway along rail tracks (KCET)

A look at the proposal being studied by Metro to use 8.3 miles of the Harbor Subdivision rail right-of-way for a pedestrian and bike path between the Los Angeles River and the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Here’s a recent Source post on Metro’s ongoing study. As noted in the KCET article, one big challenge is that parts of the old rail corridor are narrow and may not be able to accommodate both a future rail or BRT line (although nothing is imminent) and a walking and biking path.

A look at L.A.’s second-year bike lane implementation list (Streetsblog L.A.)

A good look at some of the bike lane projects under consideration by the city of Los Angeles. As Joe Linton notes, some of the current lanes seem more opportunistic than strategic whereas some of the second-year lanes would connect between current bike lanes and help build a true biking network. Looks like several of the projects would intersect or be near future Metro Rail lines, which is important for first- and last-mile connections.

 

Twitter Tuesday: the good, the bad and the musings

You know the drill: To get our attention, tweet us at @MetroLosAngeles tag to your tweets and subscribe to our feed if you haven’t already. For specific complaints and customer service, please use the Customer Comment Form on metro.net.

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Transportation headlines, Day of Earth, April 22

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! 

Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Linking the Los Angeles airport (New York Times)

The NYT takes a look at Metro’s Airport Metro Connector project, which seeks to connect the LAX terminals to Metro Rail via a people mover or light rail. The featured photo shows the junction where a Green Line spur was supposed to turn north toward the airport — a spur, as you know, that was never built.

Excerpt:

But just how the connection is made is where the politics lie.

There are two options drawing the most consideration. One is an underground rail line that would offer more direct access to the airport, at a cost of about $2 billion more, but it would do little to ease airport congestion. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, board has placed the proposal on the back burner.

The other option, backed by Mayor Garcetti, is centered on what Mr. Bonin, the councilman, describes as building a new front door to the airport, about a mile and a half away. Ideally, it would be not only a transit hub, but also a place where cars could be parked and luggage checked before passengers took an automated people mover that circulated through the nine terminals.

“The people mover scenario makes the most sense,” said Juan Matute, the associate director of U.C.L.A.’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “There’s a lot of land available to build a world-class arrival center. Then from there, running a people mover will allow a higher capacity of people to enter the airport.”

The article concludes with a note of skepticism anything will happen. I’m not so sure — in my time here it seems there is currently more interest than ever in getting something done and certainly having the Crenshaw/LAX Line under construction is part of that. The big unanswered question, as with most projects, involves funding, namely will there be funds available to build some of the more expensive options.

Riding transit is the best way to celebrate Earth Day (Huffington Post)

The president of a transit workers union — in partnership with the Sierra Club, btw — offers a collection of statistics demonstrating that transit is more sustainable than driving alone. Obviously he has skin in the game, but federal and academic studies back him up. Here’s a page from a 2010 Federal Transit Administration report:

PublicTransportationsRoleInRespondingToClimateChange2010

Here’s how the media is getting the whole cities & millennials story wrong (Grist)  

Bed Adler writes that the New York Times and other similar media are over-stating the migration of millennials back to cities from the ‘burbs – and the media is under-stating the reason why young sprouts are coming back to cities. It’s not entirely for art and culture, says Grist. It’s for ease of transportation that cities provide.

Interesting issue and I tend to agree with Ben. I’m writing this today from Cincinnati, Ohio (family business), where gentrification of downtown’s Over the Rhine area is underway, including a new streetcar line that is under construction. I grew up here and the number of old buildings that have been rehabbed is very noticeable and it’s hard not to interpret the gentrification as a direct response to the relentless march of sprawl and suburbs to the north. Cincinnati and Dayton were once two distinct metro areas. No more as their ‘burbs have merged.

Of course, many of us equate the ‘burbs with driving and cities with other transportation choices. But it’s not quite that easy. Almost all of the rehabbed buildings of Over the Rhine included parking and those lots were filled with some pretty pricey vehicles, Range Rovers included. I suppose the counter-argument is that city life probably reduces the need for all vehicles — including the fuel hogs — to be used.

Gentrification in Cincinnati includes parking. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Gentrification in downtown Cincinnati includes parking. Photo by Steve Hymon.