Update on release of SR-710 North study environmental documents announced

Here is the statement from Metro:

Metro today announced that release of the draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS) for the State Route 710 North Study will be delayed. Metro is working with Caltrans on a revised schedule and will make an announcement as soon as it is confirmed.

Metro had hoped to release the draft environmental documents this spring but the work was delayed while the latest Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) regional travel demand computer model for analyzing the alternatives was calibrated and applied.

Metro was one of the first agencies to use the new 2012 model in a major project. Calibration and validation of the model was not completed until last year and the associated travel demand forecasting for all of the alternatives was not completed until February of this year. However, it has become apparent that additional time is required to complete the technical studies, which means that the release of the Draft EIR/EIS must be delayed in order to perserve the integrity of the environmental process.

Metro has been working with the community, technical consultants and Caltrans on various alternatives for addressing traffic and environmental impacts within east/northeast Los Angeles, the western San Gabriel Valley and the region generated by a 4 ½ mile gap in the original 710 Freeway design that exists between Alhambra and Pasadena.

The draft EIR/EIS will thoroughly analyze five alternatives – Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit, Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management, a freeway tunnel, and a No Build option.

Metro, Caltrans, local cities and private developers all are required to use the SCAG regional travel demand model as a basis for project planning. It predicts future (2035) traffic through a thorough analysis of projected travel patterns considering such factors as population and employment growth, goods movement, land use changes and other variables. Other critical analysis including air quality, a health risk assessment, noise and energy effects also depend on travel demand computer modeling.

Metro and Caltrans are fully committed to ensure that the public has a voice in the process. Detailed analysis for each alternative will be incorporated in the SR 710 North Study draft EIR/EIS. For updates on the revised schedule and project background, go to metro.net/sr710study or facebook.com/sr710study or follow on Twitter @sr710study.

Regional Connector design-build contractor recommended by Metro staff

Metro staff recommends a $927.2-million design/build contract with Regional Connector Constructors (a Joint Venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc., and Traylor Bros. Inc.) to build the Regional Connector project. The staff report is above.

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 project is partially funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The Board of Directors will consider the contract recommendation at their Construction Committee meeting on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. in the Board Room at Metro headquarters, adjacent to Union Station. The full Board is scheduled to consider the contract at its meeting on Thursday, April 24, at 9:30 a.m.

After the contract is awarded, 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.

map_corridor_reg_conn_eng

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 14

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Mayor Garcetti’s State of the City: six ‘Great Streets’ announced (Streetsblog L.A.)

Good breakdown and overview of the plans for beautifying and making six streets throughout the city more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. The six streets: Gaffey (San Pedro), Reseda and Van Nuys (San Fernando Valley), Westwood (Westside), Figueroa (downtown and South L.A.) and Crenshaw (South L.A.). As Joe Linton notes, light rail is coming to Crenshaw, the Expo Line will stop at the southern end of Westwood and the East San Fernando Valley Transit Project is planned for Van Nuys. Figueroa, of course, parallels the Expo Line.

Climate efforts falling short, U.N. panel says (New York Times) 

Officials say we can’t afford to lose another decade talking and not taking action. The top of the story:

BERLIN — Delivering the latest stark news about climate change on Sunday, a United Nations panel warned that governments are not doing enough to avert profound risks in coming decades. But the experts found a silver lining: Not only is there still time to head off the worst, but the political will to do so seems to be rising around the world.

In a report unveiled here, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that decades of foot-dragging by political leaders had propelled humanity into a critical situation, with greenhouse emissions rising faster than ever. Though it remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, only an intensive push over the next 15 years to bring those emissions under control can achieve the goal, the committee found.

Downtown L.A. goes from gritty to glitzy (Wall Street Journal) 

The story’s emphasis is on luxury real estate and, to a lesser degree, the revival of some downtown neighborhoods. Interestingly, the words “transit,” “bus” or “train” do not appear in the article.

A bike path in the L.A. River bed (KCET)

The headline should come with a question mark at the end as the issue is being explored by a cyclist and real estate developer tired of lack of access to the river in downtown L.A.

Will Angels Flight ever roll again? (Downtown News) 

A dispute between the foundation that runs the short funicular and state regulators means it could be some time before a reopening. Trains are running but without passengers, says the foundation.

Transportation headlines, Friday, April 11

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Garcetti offers back to the basics in first State of the City speech (L.A. Times) 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the new carpool lane on the northbound 405 over the Sepulveda Pass would open next month (Metro said there’s no date set yet), reiterated a pledge to build a rail connection to LAX (the project is still in the study phase) and offered more details on the city’s Great Streets Initiative, saying Reseda Boulevard, Gaffey Street and Crenshaw Boulevard would be among those on the list. Of course, work just started earlier this year on the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will run both along and under parts of Crenshaw between Exposition Boulevard and 67th Street.

Some thoughts on near roadway pollution and L.A.’s future (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Interesting post based on a forum held this week about pollution from roads that spills over into neighborhoods and cities. Streetsblog’s Joe Linton:

As I was listening to all this, I felt like there was too much emphasis on dealing with our car-centric system as a given. Car-choked freeways are just part of the way god made our cities. We, health professionals, are just doing our best to adjust to the system we find ourselves stuck in. The discussion was all about how to keep people out of the way of pollution, but not to look at reducing or eliminating that pollution at its source. It’s as if health professionals looking at the tobacco problem just assumed that smoking happens everywhere, and then spent a lot of effort studying gas-masks for non-smokers. Taking on tobacco is a great public health success – because health professionals were able to ban tobacco from many places, and to stigmatize tobacco based on its threat to health.

(I also think that an overly narrow focus on near-roadway-air-pollution makes us miss other huge health risks associated with cars. Every year, driving kills 30,000+ people in the U.S.1.5 million worldwide. There are greenhouse gases, water pollution, noise pollution, obesity, and plenty more issues.)

I was glad to hear Occidental College’s Mark Vallianatos, commenting from the floor microphone, suggest an important alternative. Instead of moving people away from roads, let’s change our roads to be safe for people. If we have schools, playgrounds, housing, etc. adjacent to a road, then, for the sake of health, let’s design and regulate that road to limit vehicle emissions to safe levels. Let’s traffic-calm and road diet our arterials, downgrade our freeways, hopefully get rid of, at least, some of them.

 

Good post, tough issue.

Have U.S. light rail lines been worth the investment? (The Atlantic Cities)

The reporter, Yonah Freemark, says the overall answer is ‘yes.’ But he also offers sobering news about five light rail systems built in the 1980s in five different cities, four of which are on the West Coast — San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Portland and Buffalo.

The bottom line: none of the systems increased transit use in their regions, although they have shifted more people from buses to trains. In addition, only San Jose saw a slight growth in its central city population. What to make of this?

Even this relatively positive outcome doesn’t compensate for the fact that regions that invested in light rail in the 1980s largely failed to increase the share of workers commuting by transit, or to increase the vitality of their center cities with respect to the surrounding regions. Does this mean we should cease investment in new light rail lines? Certainly not; in many cases, rail has provided the essential boost to reinvigorate communities, and in some cases it has also resulted in higher ridership than before: just look at Rosslyn-Ballston in the D.C. region or Kendall Square in the Boston region.

But spending on new lines is not enough. Increases in transit use are only possible when the low costs of driving and parking are addressed, and when government and private partners work together to develop more densely near transit stations. None of the cities that built new light rail lines in the 1980s understood this reality sufficiently. Each region also built free highways during the period (I-990 in Buffalo, I-205 in Portland, US 50 in Sacramento, CA 54 in San Diego, and CA 237 in San Jose), and each continued to sprawl (including Portland, despite its urban growth boundary). These conflicting policies had as much to do with light rail’s mediocre outcomes as the trains themselves — if not more.

Paid parking fees coming to Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink lots (Daily Bulletin) 

The city wants to impose a $4.50 daily fee or monthly charge of $25 to $30 to off-set maintenance costs for the two lots. The San Bernardino Association of Governments isn’t thrilled — it worries that the move may drive people away from transit — but approved the city’s request. Others are concerned that riders will instead drive to nearby Upland and park in the free lots there.

 

Traffic alert: weekend closure of San Gabriel Avenue in Azusa this weekend for Gold Line work

From the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority:

WHO:  Residents / Commuters / Business Owners in the City of Azusa.

WHAT: San Gabriel Ave at the railroad crossing (between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd) in Azusa will be fully closed to thru-traffic in both directions this weekend to allow crews to continue installing light rail track and signals. Following this closure, one more weekend closure will take place during the final weekend of April to allow for the completion of these grade crossing improvements, as part of the 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail project. Motorists and pedestrians will be detoured around the work area.

WHEN:

San Gabriel Ave at the railroad crossing (between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd): Two full weekend closures to complete the grade crossing improvements:

-        Friday, April 11 at 9:00 a.m. thru Monday, April 14, 2014 at 5:00 a.m.: San Gabriel Ave will be closed to thru-traffic in both directions between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd.

-        Friday, April 25 at 9:00 a.m. thru Monday, April 28, 2014 at 5:00 a.m.: San Gabriel Ave will be closed to thru-traffic in both directions between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd.

Note: Work hours will be 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. during these weekends. A full closure will not occur during the Easter holiday weekend.

WHERE: San Gabriel Ave at the railroad crossing between Ninth St and Foothill Blvd.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

-        The street and sidewalk will be closed to thru-traffic during this work. Detour signage and routes will be in place during the weekend closures to guide motorists and pedestrians around the work area.

-        Access to all local residences and businesses on San Gabriel Ave will remain open at all times.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

-        Visit www.foothillextension.org

# # #

About the Construction Authority: The Construction Authority is an independent transportation planning and construction agency created in 1998 by the California State Legislature. Its purpose is to extend the Metro Gold Line light rail line from Union Station to Montclair, along the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. The Construction Authority built the initial segment from Union Station to Pasadena and is underway on the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Foothill Extension is a nearly $2 billion extension that will connect Pasadena to Montclair in two construction segments – Pasadena to Azusa and Azusa to Montclair. The 11.5-mile Pasadena to Azusa segment is fully funded by Measure R and will be completed in September 2015, when it will be turned over to Metro for testing and pre-revenue service. Metro will determine when the line will open for passenger service. Three design-build contracts, totaling more than $550 million, are being overseen by the Construction Authority to complete the Pasadena to Azusa segment. The Azusa to Montclair segment is environmentally cleared and is proceeding to advanced conceptual engineering in 2014.

Metro working to improve Dodger Stadium Express after tough traffic Tuesday

As the above tweets show, the Dodger Stadium Express had a rough outing for Tuesday night’s game. A few trips before the game exceeded 75 minutes between Union Station and the ballpark.

The game, which featured a hoodie sweatshirt giveaway, drew a big crowd for a Tuesday evening with more than 53,000 in attendance according to Major League Baseball. Traffic was bad and there were two problems for the Dodger Stadium Express:

•Even with enforcement from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, many private vehicles used the bus-only lane on Sunset Boulevard — making it difficult for buses to reach the stadium in a timely manner. Even though a few citations were issued to those illegally using the lane, Metro will be working with the city of Los Angeles to improve signage and keep cars out of the bus lane. One possible solution may be to use pylons to mark off the lane.

•The other problem occurred at the Patsaouras Transit Plaza at Union Station. Crowds arrived early to take the bus to the game and ultimately — and unfortunately — two separate lines ended up forming. It was confusing and some people rightly complained. To avoid similar problems, Metro staff will be at the transit plaza two hours before game time to ensure that there is one, well-organized line for those waiting to board buses.

Please keep in mind that he Dodgers are expected to keep pulling big crowds throughout the season. Metro appreciates everyone’s patronage and the agency will try to make the bus shuttle faster and easier to use, as it has frequently been in recent seasons.

For more information on taking the Dodger Stadium Express, please click here. The bus service is free to those holding a game ticket.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 9

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Game changing mixed use project planned for El Pueblo (Curbed LA)

A new residential and commercial development is planned on two surface parking lots near Olvera Street and Union Station. Good news: parking lots that sit empty much of the day aren’t helping the economy or streetscape of this part of downtown L.A.

Cuomo aide urges MTA to review ads on transit (New York Daily News) 

Why the review? The provocative ads are for breast augmentation surgery. And the governor of New York isn’t convinced they’re appropriate with tens of thousands of children riding transit each day. Fun tabloid story.

Downtown S.F. traffic may seem worse, but actually getting better (San Francisco Chronicle) 

The numbers seem to indicate that the number of cars entering the city is down while more people are walking, riding bikes and taking transit. Still, traffic is no picnic, especially with some big construction projects around town.

Police probe Smart Car tipping in San Francisco (Associated Press) 

Four got tipped Monday morning in the city. Police are investigating.

Twitter Tuesday: riders praise, vent and take some pretty good pics

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.

[View the story "@Metrolosangeles Twitter Tuesday, April 8 edition" on Storify]

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, April 8

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! 

Art of Transit: two different types of two-wheelers at the top of Stunt Road in the Santa Monica Mountains. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Art of Transit: two different types of two-wheelers at the top of Stunt Road in the Santa Monica Mountains. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Metro to repair cracks in Gold Line freeway overpass (L.A. Times) 

The agency found some cracks — which it calls cosmetic — in the supports for the bridge over the 101 just south of Union Station. Trains are being slowed to eight miles per hour (from the usual 15 mph) until repairs are made, which Metro says will happen very soon.

After troubling audit is leaked, Washington Metro defends reforms (WNYC) 

The FTA audit found “[Washington] Metro approved millions in no-bid contracts, broke federal contracting rules, played favorites with vendors, and overbilled the FTA for reimbursements after completing rebuilding projects.” The agency accepted the findings and executives said they have been working to reform the grant program for several years.

Afraid it was missing the boat, Arlington tries the bus (Texas Tribune) 

The famously transit averse city has started a commuter bus pilot program in hopes of providing mobility to the car weary and those who don’t have access to their own vehicles. Critics say transit would be a waste of money in a sprawling, low-density Dallas ‘burb and that most people don’t have any idea how expensive it is to run a transit system. Sounds like something Hank Hill would say.

Urban Instagram photographers you should follow (The Guardian) 

Cool stuff from around the world for shutterbug and city enthusiasts. Here’s one from S.F.: