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

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 — a link to the web stream will appear when the meeting begins.

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

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

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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.

Final ‘e-clip’ marks completion of track work for Gold Line Foothill Extension!

A big milestone for the Gold Line Foothill Extension project on Saturday: the final piece of track was installed on the 11.5-mile line that will extend the Gold Line from its terminus in eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border. The project includes six new stations in downtown Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, downtown Azusa and adjacent to Citrus College and the Rosedale development.

The Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, an independent agency, is building the project and will turn it over to Metro, which will operate it. Metro currently forecasts the project to open in early 2016. Here’s the news release from the Construction Authority:

FOOTHILL GOLD LINE CELEBRATES MAJOR PROJECT MILESTONE WITH TRACK COMPLETION CEREMONY

Hundreds of community members, project stakeholders and elected officials celebrate completion of the light rail track system for 11.5-mile Foothill Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa light rail project

AZUSA, CA – The Foothill Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa today held a Track Completion Ceremony which celebrated construction completion of the light rail track systems needed for the 11.5-mile Foothill Gold Line light rail project from Pasadena to Azusa. The event took place near the future Azusa Downtown Station in the City of Azusa with more than 300 community members, project stakeholders, and elected officials in attendance. The event culminated in the installation of the last of nearly 300,000 e-clips (e-clips permanently attach the steel rail to the concrete railroad ties), marking the permanent connection between the cities of Pasadena, Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa, via this new light rail line. A sidewalk marker was also unveiled during the ceremony, recognizing importance of the day to these corridor cities.

“Installing 28-miles of light rail track is an enormous milestone for our project,” stated Glendora City Council Member and Chairman of the Foothill Gold Line Board of Directors, Doug Tessitor. “It took many months and the hard work of many talented people to get to this point. It is a major achievement and I am glad we took the time to celebrate.”

Congress Members Grace Napolitano and Judy Chu joined Azusa Mayor Joseph Rocha; Glendora City Council Member and Foothill Gold Line Board Chairman Doug Tessitor; Claremont Councilman and Foothill Gold Line Board Vice Chair and Joint Powers Authority Chairman Sam Pedroza; City of Duarte, Metro and Foothill Gold Line Board Member John Fasana; Metro Board Member AraNajarian; State Senator Norma Torres; State Assembly Member Roger Hernandez; City of Azusa Council Member Uriel Macias; Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Michael Antonovich; among many others in the celebration.

“The community is realizing that the dream of having the Foothill Gold Line in their town is quickly becoming a reality,” added Tessitor. “A project that has been nearly four years in the making is now less than a year away from completion. The on time, on budget project will forever change the transportation and economic landscape of the San Gabriel Valley and Greater Los Angeles region.”

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About the Foothill Gold Line – The Foothill Gold Line is a nearly $2 billion, 12-station extension of the Metro Gold Line light rail system, being overseen by the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, an independent transportation planning and construction agency created in 1998 by the California State Legislature. The project is planned in two segments – Pasadena to Azusa and Azusa to Montclair. The Pasadena to Azusa segment is fully funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure R and is on budget and on schedule to be completed in late-September 2015 when it will be turned over to Metro for testing and pre-revenue service. Metro will determine when passenger service begins on the line. The Azusa to Montclair segment is currently undergoing advanced conceptual engineering, and will be shovel-ready in 2017. The Construction Authority is currently seeking $1 billion to construct the Azusa to Montclair segment.

Graphic: what it took to build track for the Foothill Extension

From our friends at the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency building the 11.5-mile line between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border:

Click above to see larger version.

Click above to see larger version.

Track work for the project will be completed on Saturday at a ceremony open to the public at 10 a.m. in Azusa. Click here for a recent Source post with great video on the track work and information about the event.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, October 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! 

Why the 405 isn’t any faster with more lanes (KPCC Take Two)

An economist says expanding a road — 405 over the Sepulveda Pass included — will probably mean an increase in the number of vehicles that use the road. His answer to quickening commutes: congestion pricing, a la the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeway that help discourage everyone from driving at the same peak hours.

Labor dispute kills Kinkisharyo’s AV plant (San Fernando Valley Business Journal)

The rail car manufacturer under contract by Metro to produce new light rail vehicles has decided not to build a $50 million, 400,000-square-foot facility in Palmdale. The firm had said it would build the new facility as part of its contract with Metro. But a labor-supported residents group — specifically the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 — tried to hold up a needed zoning change unless Kinkisharyo agreed to be a “card check” facility. “Card check is a process by which a workplace can unionize if 50 percent or more of workers sign cards stating they want to be represented for collective bargaining,” reports the Business Journal.

Excerpt:

Agency spokesman Marc Littman said he was disappointed by the company’s decision but added it would not affect the delivery of Metro’s cars.

“This is a real loss,” Littman said. “We wanted them here to help the local economy but we cannot require Kinkisharyo do (manufacturing) here.”

IBEW Local 11 was in the news in 2013 when it got heavily involved in the campaign for mayor of Los Angeles. It didn’t work. Eric Garcetti, now the chair of the Metro Board of Directors, easily won the election without the union’s support.

Metro moving forward with flawed ‘Complete Streets’ policy (Streetsblog L.A.)

Joe Linton takes a look at the Complete Streets policy being considered this month by the Metro Board of Directors. While parts of it are commendable, he opines, other parts are vague with no assurance that the policies will be enforced to encourage roads where walking and biking are safe and desirable. While street design is usually up to local cities (or the county in unincorporated areas), Metro may have the ability to influence street design in rail corridors or with projects that involve Metro funding.

California high-speed rail wins big round in state Supreme Court (Sacramento Bee)

The California Supreme Court turns away a lawsuit challenging the issuance of state bonds needed to help pay for construction of the first segment of the high-speed rail line that is eventually planned to run between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s good news for the project but there are other remaining legal challenges that assert the project doesn’t live up to what was promised voters in Prop 1A in 2008.

The self-driving Tesla may make us love urban sprawl again (Slate)

The key graph — and something I’ve pondered in this space before:

As driving becomes less onerous and computer-controlled systems reduce traffic, some experts worry that will eliminate a powerful incentive—commuting sucks—for living near cities, where urban density makes for more efficient sharing of resources. In other words, autonomous vehicles could lead to urban sprawl.

In other words, if you can sit in your own car and not have to drive or pay much attention to the road, would your commute seem less onerous? Yes, there still could be a lot of traffic with self-driving cars. But perhaps the door-to-door attractiveness of a car coupled with technology (i.e. playing PacMan, Asteroids or Missile Command) on your tablet will trump the yuckyness of traffic.