Wires up on the Expo Line Phase 2!

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Photo courtesy Ron Miller

Nice view of the new overhead wires that will deliver power to trains along Expo Line Phase 2. The photo was taken on the stretch of track between the 10 freeway and Overland Avenue.

The six-mile rail project will extend the Expo Line from Culver City to downtown Santa Monica with seven new stations. The project is forecast to open in early 2016 and is funded primarily by the Measure R half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

 

 

Transit agency funding threatened as Congress continues to bicker over Highway Trust Fund

Below is the latest from Metro’s government relations staff on the ongoing tussle between the House of Representatives and the Senate on keeping the federal Highway Trust Fund funded for the new few months. The news is not good:

U.S. House of Representatives Sends Highway Trust Fund Extension Bill Back to the U.S. Senate

Moments ago, the United States House of Representatives voted (272-150) to reject the U.S. Senate amended bill to fund the Highway Trust Fund and extend authorization and appropriations for highway and transit programs. On July 15, 2014, the House passed H.R. 5021 that extended funding and programs until May 31, 2015. This past Tuesday, the Senate amended the House bill by shortening the extension until December 19, 2014 forcing Congress to deal with a long term surface transportation reauthorization bill and funding this year. With the House rejecting the Senate amended bill and members leaving Washington tonight for a five week recess, the Senate must now decide to pass the House version of H.R. 5021 by tomorrow. If the Senate does not act, the Department of Transportation will implement cash management procedures to distribute less than full transportation funding payments to states. Metro’s Government Relations staff will continue to provide updates on the status of Congress’ actions regarding transportation programs and funding.

Why does this matter? Here’s a staff reporting explaining how Metro could suffer if funds from the Highway Trust Fund to Metro would eventually slow down or be halted. It’s not good: potential long-range impacts — emphasis on ‘long-range’ — could result in service cuts, delays to maintenance projects and delaying capital projects.

The Highway Trust Fund gets its money from the federal gas tax, which is currently 18.3 cents and hasn’t been raised since 1993. Congress has been reluctant over the years to raise the tax or index it to inflation and there’s no majority view of other alternatives to keep the Highway Trust Fund in the black now that vehicles are more fuel efficient and tax revenues are down.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 31

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! 

Shouldn’t Metro know how many people are riding for free? (L.A. Times) 

The editorial follows the LAT news story earlier this week about fare evasion — rail ridership estimates had 115 million boardings last year while the number of ‘taps’ recorded was 70 million. The difference is made up of people who didn’t pay fares or who had passes on TAP cards but didn’t tap them as required. Excerpt that sums up the issue well:

The amount of money Metro loses to fare evasion is most likely small compared with its operating budget — fares cover only about 26% of the cost of the rides. Officials want to raise ticket prices in the coming years to bring that number up to about 33% of the cost. But the widespread perception of fare evasion undermines public confidence in the agency and makes it harder for Metro to convince riders and taxpayers that it needs more money.

Sharrows: a primer (Orange20Bikes) 

As the headlines suggests, this is a good primer on those lane markings that show cyclists where to ride and inform motorists that bikes are to be expected in a lane. Long-time readers know that I’m not really fond of them as I think they’re mostly a good way to make it look like you’re doing something when you’re doing nothing. This blog post sort of agrees, pointing out that cities like them for that very reason (and they’re cheap) while also pointing out some research shows that sharrows tend to prompt motorists to give cyclists a bit more room and they attract a few more cyclists on roads where they’re present. That hasn’t been my experience when cycling on Lake Avenue in Pasadena, although the sharrows are pretty faded — last time I bothered to notice them.

Speaking of bikes…

LAPD: No public record found that bike lanes delay emergency response times (Streetsblog L.A.)

In response to a public records request, the LAPD found no documents or studies showing that bike lanes slow down police or emergency vehicles. The request stemmed from an ongoing dispute in Northeast L.A. about a city plan to put bike lanes on North Figueroa Street. As it turns out, response times in that part of the city are already slower than elsewhere — but there’s no actual proof that the bike lanes would slow things down any further.

New LADOT G.M. enthusiastically accepts management challenge (The Planning Report) 

Good interview with Seleta Reynolds, the new chief of the city of Los Angeles’ transportation department, which oversees DASH buses, bike lane construction and traffic signals. She worked previously in San Francisco. I thought what she had to say about walking was interesting. Excerpt:

One of the most telling things that I’ve taken away from projects I’ve done was during a study in Spokane Washington. We asked people why they wanted to live in a walkable neighborhood. “Well, I like walking.” You ask them, “Why is that? What is it about walking that’s important?” They would give you answers like, “I might run into my neighbor along the way”; “You don’t know what you’ll see”; “Something unexpected or interesting might happen”; “I don’t experience the city in the same way when I’m in my car”; “It also offers an opportunity to unplug and interact with people in my household.”

Social interactions that strengthen neighborhoods and even can strengthen the resiliency of a community to recover after a disaster are improved if you offer people the opportunity to walk or bike to get around. Making those modes a real option for trips that are less than a mile for walking or one-to-three miles for biking is important for a huge variety of reasons. That’s what I’m interested in from an active transportation perspective. That’s where the opportunities are.

Well put. Everyone I know loves to talk about some city they visited where you could walk everywhere or there were lovely places to walk. Yet, there isn’t as much clamoring for that on the home front. It will be interesting to see what Reynolds can do, especially given that zoning is controlled by the city’s planning department and the City Council has last say on everything — and often exercises that right.

Is Reynolds the antidote to L.A.’s defeatist attitude on transportation? (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Speaking of the new LADOT chief, Damien Newton writes that hiring someone from outside L.A. to run the city’s transportation department was probably a wise move. Damien also says arguments otherwise — that L.A. is too unique and thus needs one of its own — amount to big pile of bunk. Excerpt:

For some reason, people that live and drive in Los Angeles have sat through so many traffic jams that they have come to believe that idling in endless traffic is a natural phenomenon.  They also believe a harmful corollary: that things that have worked in other areas to make people’s commutes better will not work in Los Angeles. Because “this is Los Angeles.”

It’s the reverse of exceptionalism.

Because over the last six and a half years, we’ve heard that Los Angeles, and Angelenos are so enamored with our vehicles that we will never be able to walk, much less ride a bike or ride transit, even though wild dogs can learn to ride transit. Following the passage of Measure R, many are starting to accept that transit is a viable option in Los Angeles, although the anti-transit theory it still pops up in some cities on the Westside.

Nowadays, we hear some mix of theories from “smart growth won’t work in Southern California,” to “road diets won’t work in Southern California” to “people won’t bicycle in Southern California.” These sort of self-defeating prophecies sap the energy out of transportation reformers, jade community activists, and generally have a corrosive impact on those seeking to make our streets safe for everyone.

Concur. The only thing unique about L.A. is that we have better Mexican food and an arguably better climate that some of other sprawling metropolises around the planet.

Motorized roller skates: from fiction to reality (BBC)

Speeds up to 12 miles per hour! They run on electricity and look easy to step in and out of. Tilt foot forward, they go. Tilt foot back, they stop. So says the manufacturer.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 30

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: Very nice photo of the under-photographed Green Line, which runs mostly down the middle of the 105 freeway. Photo by Matthew Grant Anson, via his Flickr stream.

ART OF TRANSIT: Very nice photo of the under-photographed Green Line, which runs mostly down the middle of the 105 freeway. Photo by Matthew Grant Anson, via his Flickr stream.

Metro fare increase postponed, will take effect September 15th (Streetsblog LA)

The fare increases and changes approved by the Metro Board in May will begin on Sept. 15, a couple weeks behind the originally targeted date, reports Joe Linton. At that time, the regular fare will increase from $1.50 to $1.75 and also include two hours of free transfers. The cost of regular daily, weekly and monthly passes also increases — meaning that riders really need to consider whether it’s a better deal to pay per trip or still purchase a pass. Students who pay the discounted cash fare — which will not increase — don’t get the free transfer, according to a Metro staff report.

Senate tees up last-minute showdown on transpo funding (Streetsblog Network)

The Senate and the House continue to bicker over a short extension of the federal transportation funding bill. The House has a plan to keep it limping along until May, the Senate wants to shorten that time until December and get rid of some financial tricks — such as “pension smoothing” — that would keep the Highway Trust Fund from becoming an empty balloon.

Long story short: neither bill really tackles the main problem, which is that the federal gas tax — which hasn’t been raised since 1993 — doesn’t cover the nation’s transportation funding program anymore.

California high-speed rail project considering a tunnel under San Gabriel Mountains (Daily News) 

In its ongoing studies of the Palmdale-to-Burbank segment of the bullet train line, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will study a tunnel under the San Gabes in addition to a route that largely follows the 14 freeway. The tunnel would be a more direct shot but, presumably, would come at a higher cost. It currently takes Metrolink trains about two hours to travel between Union Station and Lancaster — that’s a two-hour train trip that never leaves Los Angeles County!

83-year-old good Samaritan scores rare victory in fight against City Hall (L.A. Times) 

Columnist Steve Lopez gets the bat squarely on the ball in a column that efficiently chronicles the difficulty in getting a curb painted red in a no parking zone and a certain major utility letting its sprinklers run all day in a drought before….just read it.

Op-Ed: is bicycling the new rude (Glendale News-Press)

Peter Rusch isn’t too thrilled with spandex-clad cycling groups that run stop signs, saying he doubts they would behave that way if behind the wheel of a car. No doubt there are some cyclists who flout the law. And that’s wrong. But pleeeeeeeease. There’s equally no doubt it would easy to write a column every day about motorists who blow through red lights, stop signs and who illegally nose their cars into crosswalks — and who far outnumber cyclists on the road.

MBTA adding wi-fi to commuter rail system (Metro)

Free wi-fi will be available on 14 commuter rail lines in the Greater Boston area, including some stations. A contractor is installing it for free — they hope to make money by getting people to pay $15 a month for premium wi-fi that would allow customers to stream video.

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, July 28

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! 

And 30 years ago today…

So how many people are paying to ride? (L.A. Times) 

This article about fare evasion, turnstiles and ridership estimates is generating a lot of discussion on our Twitter feed. The story looks at the sometimes wide discrepancy between Metro’s ridership estimates and data from the TAP system. The problem is that ridership is more than the TAP numbers, suggesting that the difference consists of people either not paying to ride and those who have paid but aren’t tapping. But pinpointing the number who are evading fares has proven difficult.

Excerpt:

Reducing fare jumping as much as possible has become increasingly important to Metro, which is under pressure to boost ticket revenue as its rail network rapidly expands. Income from fares covers just 26% of Metro’s bus and rail system operating expenses, one of the lowest rates of any major world city. That ratio must increase in the next few years or the agency risks losing crucial federal funding needed to continue building and operating the train network.

Metro has responded by raising fares, starting in September, with more hikes proposed for coming years.

In addition to fare hikes, some elected officials are asking the agency to examine other ways to bring in more revenue. And they are taking note of the disparities between Metro’s ridership estimates and the numbers of tickets being counted at rail stations.

“They owe it to you and to anybody else who’s interested to explain the difference,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a Metro board member, who says it’s still too easy to get on trains without paying.

 

Those four graphs frame the issue. It’s a considerably longer article accompanied by some interesting graphics. Please read if you’re interested in the issue.

As the article mentions, there is some evidence that increased fare enforcement and latching the turnstiles present in half of the Metro Rail stations might be having an effect. I also think it’s important to remind everyone that paying fares helps keep the system running and that it’s important for everyone to always tap when boarding a Metro bus or train. That will help riders avoid potentially costly citations and also help Metro because having better ridership data will also help the agency better plan future service and projects.

Metro picks Skanska venture to build first phase of subway extension (L.A. Times) 

A look at some of the issues in play in the Metro Board’s decision last Thursday to award a $1.6-billion construction contract to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega. Metro did not pick the low-bidder price-wise and instead selected a contractor — in this case, Skanksa, Traylor and Shea — based on a variety of criteria including price, project management and technical approach.

Metro July meeting recap: subway, SRTP, active transpo and more (Streetsblog LA)

A good recap and analysis of the many issues tackled by the Metro Board at their meeting last Thursday. Streetsblog has been keeping an eye on the short-range plan and funding for pedestrian and bike projects. As Joe Linton notes, the short-range plan approved by the Metro Board is being seen by some as a “casting call” for a potential 2016 ballot measure and thus the interest in particular projects.

Gold Line on schedule, on budget for Azusa extension (L.A. Register) 

A progress report on one of the Measure R-funded projects, the 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border with six new stations along the way — and considerable development opportunities near the tracks and stations. Construction continues to progress well and is on schedule to be completed by next September, when the process would begin of handing the line over to Metro and testing. Metro is currently forecasting opening the line in early 2016.

Mayor sets out to transform L.A. streets through ‘urban acupuncture’ (L.A. Times) 

A deeper look at Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s initiative to transform sections of 15 streets in the city — one per council district — into more walkable, bike-friendly and transit-friendly streets  to encourage residents to eat, shop and play locally instead of driving to distant points in the L.A. megalopolis.

As the article notes, there will be hurdles to cross and this type of effort has been tried in the past. Most notably, some residents say don’t necessarily want streets that will slow down their journey to the nearest freeway.

My hunch is that zoning regulations spelled out in local community plans will play a big role in this effort in terms of attracting the type of development — commercial and residential — that could help re-establish a Main Street type feel to some streets .

Century Crunch final update: Aviation/Century intersection on track to open 2 a.m. Monday

The intersection reopened at 1:30 a.m., four-and-a-half hours ahead of schedule.

The intersection reopened at 1:30 a.m., four-and-a-half hours ahead of schedule.

Work on the demolition of the old railroad bridge and the bridge abutments remains ahead of schedule. The intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards is on track to reopen at 2 a.m. Monday, four hours ahead of the original schedule. 

Traffic congestion on the roads around Los Angeles International Airport was either light or manageable for most of the weekend thanks to the public taking heed of warnings to avoid the area, use the appropriate detours and/or take FlyAway bus or transit.

“The successful completion of ‘Century Crunch’ shows that when we all plan and work together, we can avoid undue burdens as we build the transit and airport infrastructure necessary to reduce congestion in the long-term,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti.

Over the weekend, the old railroad bridge and its abutments on the north and south side of Century Boulevard were removed. Traffic lanes on Century Boulevard were also reconfigured on Sunday to allow for construction of the new aerial Aviation/Century Station that will be part of the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

The light rail line will run for 8.5 miles between the Green Line and Expo Line and include two rail stations near the airport — one serving Century Boulevard and the other, at 96th Street, that will allow passengers to connect to a people mover that will carry them to LAX terminals. The project is funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The demolition work on the bridge began early Saturday morning add was completed by early Sunday afternoon. Crews commenced to clean the streets and install new street signal posts at the Century/Aviation intersection — the old traffic signals were mounted on the bridge.

Below are a pair of time-lapse videos taken of the demolition work. The first one covers Friday night through Saturday morning and the second shows the work done Saturday to topple the bridge.

Century Crunch, update #6: new photos of bridge demolition work

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Photos by Jose Ubaldo/Metro.

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With many travelers returning to Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday afternoon — as is typical — there has been some traffic congestion on roads around LAX.

The intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards will remain closed the rest of Sunday with a reopening by 6 a.m. Monday. If headed to or from LAX Sunday evening, please avoid the area, take the FlyAway bus, use Sepulveda Boulevard if driving or take transit.

The above photos were taken Sunday afternoon and show the work thus far in demolishing the old railroad bridge over Century Boulevard to clear way for the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s new Aviation/Century Station. Again, a lot of helpful info in this earlier post about getting to and from LAX this weekend.

If headed to LAX, check for traffic updates on the airport’s main Twitter feed with the hashtag #centurycrunch. We’ll also continue updating the Source as necessary and update Metro’s general Twitter feed with the hashtag #centurycrunch.

For those who enjoy demolition videos, here are a pair of short timelapses from the weekend:

Friday night to Saturday morning — closing the intersection and demolition beginning

Saturday morning to Saturday afternoon — knocking the bridge span down

 

 

Century Crunch, update #5

Good morning!

Demolition work overnight went according to plan and traffic to and from the airport is flowing well. The intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards remains closed and is scheduled to reopen by 6 a.m. Monday.

Work today will include demolition of the bridge’s abutment walls, removal of the final rubble from the bridge demolition, picking up steel plates, installing K-rails and re-striping the roadway.

By all accounts, people heeded the warning about the closure on Saturday and traffic moved well for most of the day. Everyone would like to see a repeat of that today. Avoid driving in the area, use Sepulveda Boulevard if driving, take the LAX FlyAway bus or use transit. Again, a lot of helpful info in this earlier post about getting to and from LAX this weekend.

If headed to LAX, check for traffic updates on the airport’s main Twitter feed with the hashtag #centurycrunch. We’ll also be updating the Source over the weekend as well as Metro’s general Twitter feed.

 

 

Century Crunch, update #4

Work on demolishing and removing the old railroad bridge over Century Boulevard was slightly ahead of schedule through late Saturday afternoon with the road scheduled to reopen by 6 a.m. Monday. The above video was taken about 4:15 p.m. today.

The portion of the bridge spanning Century Boulevard has been taken down and about 1,000 tons of debris is being removed from the road and is being moved to a nearby staging site for further “processing.” The material will be removed at a later date in an effort not to clog up traffic in the LAX area.

That work will continue through Saturday night. Any time saved on bridge demolition will be used to get a head start on tearing down the bridge approaches to the north and south of Century Boulevard. That will help reduce long-term impacts to traffic on Century and Aviation boulevards over the next 16 months.

Los Angeles World Airports reports that planes are mostly full this weekend and traffic is flowing well in the LAX area. The airport said more buses, taxis and shuttles are also being used this weekend.

Please see this earlier post for traffic, detour and transit information for those going to or coming from Los Angeles International Airport this weekend. Long story short: avoid driving in the area, use Sepulveda Boulevard if driving, take the LAX FlyAway bus or use transit. Again, a lot of helpful info in the earlier post, which will remain at the top of the blog roll.

If headed to LAX over the weekend, check for traffic updates on the airport’s main Twitter feed with the hashtag #centurycrunch. We’ll also be updating the Source over the weekend as well as Metro’s general Twitter feed.

 

Century Crunch, update #3; bridge has safely been knocked down

All is going well. As the tweet from LAX shows, the old railroad bridge over Century Boulevard has safely been collapsed as work continues this morning. The video shows the the demolition work that began early Saturday.

The photos below are from this morning. You can also watch a video live stream of the work here.

 

Please see this earlier post for traffic, detour and transit information for those going to or coming from Los Angeles International Airport this weekend. Long story short: avoid driving in the area, use Sepulveda Boulevard if driving, take the LAX FlyAway bus or use transit. Again, a lot of helpful info in the earlier post, which will remain at the top of the blog roll.

If headed to LAX over the weekend, check for traffic updates on the airport’s main Twitter feed with the hashtag #centurycrunch. We’ll also be updating the Source over the weekend as well as Metro’s general Twitter feed.