Zocalo Public Square tackles the can-we-fix-traffic question at last night’s event

From left, UCLA's Brian Taylor, FAST's Hilary Norton, Metro CEO Art Leahy and KCRW's Kajon Cermac. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

From left, UCLA’s Brian Taylor, FAST’s Hilary Norton, Metro CEO Art Leahy and KCRW’s Kajon Cermac. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Zocalo Public Square and Metro held a panel discussion Monday night at the Petersen Automotive Museum with an appropriate topic for the venue: what, if anything, can be done to speed up traffic in our region?

A podcast of the discussion is above. KCRW traffic reporter Kajon Cermac served as the moderator with the panel including Metro CEO Art Leahy, UCLA Director of Transportation Studies’ Brian Taylor and Hilary Norton, executive director of Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic.

Can traffic be fixed or seriously improved? The short answer: probably not much can be done unless the region embraces drastic and politically unpopular measures such as heavier tolling across all lanes on freeways to reduce peak hour traffic, passing laws to greatly restrict driving, building many billions of dollars of new freeways (which includes the challenge of finding places to put them) or going the Detroit route by shedding jobs, residents and the local economy.

In other words, as UCLA’s Taylor put it, the status quo of traffic congestion is the least bad option for the politicians who frequently ask him how to fix traffic.

Which is not to say that things can’t be done to improve mobility and even some traffic.

Taylor praised the congestion pricing projects on freeways in our region (which Metro’s ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110) and said they are improving capacity and speeds in the toll lanes, as well as Metro’s Rapid Buses and the Orange Line. Norton pointed to the increasing number of people taking transit to big events.

And Leahy noted that thanks to Measure R, Metro is currently in the midst of the largest transit building boom in the nation (one that will include a subway station next door to both the Petersen and LACMA on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile). He said the goal is to keep expanding the transit network and making it work better so that people can use it travel far and wide and get out of their cars.

The conversation covered a lot of ground and I’m interested in feedback and comments from those who listened or attended the event.

My three cents: I felt like it was a good, albeit brief, adult conversation about traffic and urban planning — and the fact that traffic is not something easily “fixed” without serious consequences. I also thought UCLA’s Brian Taylor did a good job pointing to the fact that a lot of the traffic stereotypes about our region are total bunk and that concentrating density around transit and high activity centers may not fix traffic — but often makes places nicer, happier places to live and visit.

 

 

Ground is broken for Regional Connector project to link Blue, Expo and Gold Lines

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The official groundbreaking for the $1.42-billion Regional Connector project is being held this morning in Little Tokyo. The 1.9-mile underground light rail line will link the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines, allowing for faster and more frequent service on Metro’s light rail lines to and through downtown Los Angeles.

The project will also eliminate the need to transfer for many light rail riders. Riders on the Expo and Blue Line will be able to continue north on light rail from 7th/Metro Center to other downtown neighborhoods such as the Financial District, Civic Center and Little Tokyo. Likewise, Gold Line riders will no longer have to transfer to the Red/Purple Line subway at Union Station to reach the heart of downtown.

The project is currently forecast to be completed in 2020. When done, Metro plans to run trains between Long Beach and Azusa on a north-south light rail line and east-west between Santa Monica and East Los Angeles. Metro continues to work on potential naming and color schemes for its light rail lines to be used in the future.

Three other Metro Rail projects are already under construction: the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line, the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line to downtown Santa Monica and the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension to the Azusa/Glendora border. The 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway is in pre-construction with utility relocations underway.

The Regional Connector, like those other projects, is receiving funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in November 2008.

Below are a pair of the station renderings. We’ll add more pics to The Source from today’s media event later and will be posting photos to our Twitter and Instagram streams during the event. Media, bloggers, anyone: feel free to use/share any photos or renderings that we post.

And here is video from this morning’s event:

Below is the news release from Metro:

Federal, State & Local Elected Officials Join in Groundbreaking Ceremony

Metro Breaks Ground on New Regional Connector Light Rail Project in Downtown Los Angeles

Metro joined U.S Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx along with state and local elected officials today to officially break ground on the $1.420 billion Regional Connector Light Rail Project in downtown Los Angeles that will better connect the Metro Blue, Gold and Expo lines with the rest of the region.

“This project will mean people can take a one-seat ride through Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, the Eastside and points in-between,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “Bringing our rail lines together and making transfers simpler will make it easier for people to use rail and will help take more cars off the road.”

The Regional Connector Project completes a 1.9-mile segment between the Metro Blue and Expo Lines and the Metro Gold Line by providing a direct connection with three new stations planned for 1st Street/Central Avenue, 2nd Street/Broadway and 2nd Place/Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Regional Connector will dramatically improve passengers’ daily commutes,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina.”It will provide them with better connections to the rest of the Metro Rail system without requiring them to transfer from one line to another. The Regional Connector is a major step forward in transforming Los Angeles County’s mass transit network into a truly world-class system.”

The Regional Connector Project is an important rail connection project overwhelmingly approved by the voters and funded by the Measure R half-cent sales tax ordinance for LA County transportation improvements. In addition to Measure R funding, a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the federal government secures $670 million for the project. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted Metro a loan of $160 million for the Regional Connector project from a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan (TIFIA) to complete the project.

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Metrolink’s Angels Express will run for playoff games beginning Thursday

Photo by Ray Smith, via Flickr creative commons.

Photo by Ray Smith, via Flickr creative commons.

This much we know: the American League West champion Angels open the division series at home on Thursday against Oakland or Kansas City. The exact time of game is still to be determined although it is likely to be an early evening first pitch.

Metrolink’s Angels Express will be running for the post-season with train service between Los Angeles Union Station and the ballpark in Anaheim with stops at Norwalk, Buena Park and Fullerton. The train station is in the parking lot for the stadium (beyond left field) and is a short walk from the ballpark.

We’ll post the Angels Express schedule as soon as the game time is finalized. Round-trip is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors/disabled and $4 for those aged six to 18. Kids five and under are free with a limit of three free sprouts per paying adult.

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, September 29

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! 

No, Carmageddon is not inevitable (Zocalo Public Square)

In advance of tonight’s panel discussion at the Petersen Automotive Museum on “How to Speed Up Traffic in L.A.?”, Zocalo Public Square asks several experts for their advice. Congestion pricing (i.e. tolling freeways and roads at peak hours to spread out demand), concentrating more housing and jobs near transit, charging non-residents more for parking than residents (encouraging more residents to shop locally perhaps) and making the ‘burbs more friendly to pedestrians, cyclists and transit are among the suggestions. In other words, a lot of ideas that have been widely discussed for many years — but never really fully implemented either because of local opposition, lack of political will, lack of money or a combination of all the above.

BTW, sounds like there are still a few spots open for anyone interested in attending tonight’s forum — Metro CEO Art Leahy is one of the panelists. Click here for more info. Metro’s 720 Rapid Bus and 20 Local Bus on Wilshire Boulevard stop at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax next to the museum. For those coming via Fairfax Avenue, the 780 Rapid Bus and the 217 Local Bus also stop at Wilshire/Fairfax.

No! Wrong way! U.S. carbon emissions rising again (KCET)

Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States rose about 2.7 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the same time period in 2013. Experts blame the rise on last winter’s polar vortex that prompted many a Midwesterner and East Coaster to try to keep their homes warm — in those parts of the country, a significant portion of electricity is created by burning coal. One of the nice things about California is that our milder weather means less heating in the winter and the state is less dependent on coal than other regions. Of course, we find other ways to make up for it (in a bad way) — such as sprawling into the desert and sitting alone in idling cars in traffic. One easy solution there: try taking transit every so often, walking or biking or some combination of all three.

Guest post: planning to sprawl (The Last Word on Nothing)

Nice post by Erica Schoenberger on how to explain to students that while individual choices matter when it comes to things that impact the environment (such as traffic), it’s equally important to explain the collective decisions that influence the way individuals act.

Excerpt:

Here’s what I’m trying to help the kids understand.  We’ve been making messes for a very long while and we have known pretty much all along that we were doing so.  The histories of our mess-making really matter.  Getting at the details lets you see how a trajectory was constructed piece by piece, opening up some possibilities and forclosing others.  Further: We may have very good intentions as individuals, but the options we have available to choose among are structured by larger, impersonal forces.  Huge collective investments have supported and promoted all those unfortunate individual decisions and have made it hard for people to make good choices.  To me, this suggests that huge collective investments in support of good decisions are needed.  If a capitalist system must grow to survive, let’s grow toward, not away from, the world we want.   

This is why I hope everyone watches closely as plans evolve for various Metro projects and a potential ballot measure in 2016. These kind of big projects and/or plans will influence the decisions that people make transportation-wise for many decades to come, not to mention the scarce public funds that will be used on them. If you don’t like the choices facing you as an individual, please pay attention to these group decisions — one very much has to do with the other, as Erica writes.

Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct: king of the boondoggles (Streetsblog Network)

A less than optimistic view of the project that involves tearing down an elevated highway and putting it in a tunnel underground. Rising construction costs, a tunnel boring machine (named Bertha) that got stuck and falling toll projections are among the problems thus encountered. That said, the tunnel machine’s Twitter feed is entertaining/informative as these things go although Bertha’s taste in football teams is questionable at best.

Transportation headlines, Friday, September 25

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: Panelists speak at the Social Media Week forum hosted by Metro earlier this week on the agency's use of social media and other rider issues. Click above to listen to the panel!

ART OF TRANSIT: Panelists speak at the Social Media Week forum hosted by Metro earlier this week on the agency’s use of social media and other rider issues. Click above to listen to the panel!

The Valley deserves to be part of L.A.’s transit revolution (L.A. Times) 

In this opinion piece, Matthew Fleischer says that it makes sense to upgrade the Orange Line to rail — as an increasing number of people say is necessary. But it would be expensive, he notes, and that it may make more sense to simply run express buses similar to the express subway trains in New York (and elsewhere).

Excerpt:

Buses, unlike trains, have the maneuverability to pass one another easily. To hop on at Chatsworth and take the bus all the way to North Hollywood means making 16 time-consuming stops. An express route could potentially save huge amounts of time for riders at the tail end of every route. An express bus from North Hollywood, for instance, could potentially skip right to Reseda, while another local bus leaving at the same time could service the stations it passed over. If the express bus catches a local bus in front of it, it can simply pass by and continue on its direct route — unlike a train.

Los Angeles is in the midst of a public transportation revolution. Rail projects like the Expo Line and the “subway to the sea” may one day reinvent the way Angelenos interact with their city. The San Fernando Valley absolutely deserves to be part of this revolution.

The Metro Board this summer approved a motion asking Metro staff to explore a number of improvements, including a potential rail conversion. Metro staff responded with this preliminary report outlining some short- and long-term fixes that should be studied further. Not on the list: express buses.

The short-term fixes, not surprisingly, largely involve trying to get more green lights for the Orange Line, which often finds itself having to stop at station platforms and most cross north-south cross streets. If you’re interested in this issue, see the staff report at the above link. Pretty interesting discussion and it will be intriguing to see if the issue of express buses is raised by others.

Sepulveda Pass and LAX transit (Let’s Go LA)

Intriguing post about a potential transit tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass and the many possible future transit and/or light rail lines that it may serve. A lot of what is shown on the map are project that aren’t in Metro’s long-range plan — meaning there’s no funding or planning in the works — but it’s still fun to contemplate. The blog post certainly hits the nail on the head by saying that a Sepulveda Pass transit tunnel would only get chance to get it right, meaning it really needs to be able to accommodate whatever the future holds, transit wise.

As many of you know, the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor is a project set to receive about $1 billion from Measure R. But it’s also a project not scheduled to be completed until the late 2030s and vastly more funding would be needed to build a tunnel, if that option is pursued. Metro has done some preliminary studies of possible concepts and is looking at a public-private partnership to fund the project, although nothing is for certain at this point.

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Dodger Stadium Express will run from Union Station and Harbor Gateway for the playoffs

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This much we know: after thumping and humiliating the Giants on Wednesday night, the Dodgers are National League West champions and owners one of the top two seeds in the NL. They’ll open the playoffs at home next Friday, Oct. 3, with game time and opponent to be determined by the way the final standings shake out this weekend.

With huge crowds expected for the playoffs, the Dodger Stadium Express will be running to the ballpark from two locations: Union Station and Harbor Gateway Transit Center (731 W. 182nd Street, Gardena, CA) along with stops at Rosecrans Station, Manchester Station and Slauson Station — all in the median of the 110 freeway (see above map). Those with tickets to the game ride for free. The new Harbor Gateway service is funded with revenues from the Metro ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway.

Please note that service from Harbor Gateway begins for the playoffs. For this weekend’s home games against the Colorado Rockies, Dodger Stadium Express service will only be from Union Station. 

Union Station is served by many Metro and municipal bus lines and Metro Rail’s Red, Purple and Gold lines, as well as Metrolink and Amtrak. Parking is available for $6.

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Harbor Gateway Transit Center is also served by several Metro bus lines, the Metro Silver Line and Torrance Transit. Free parking is available although may be limited if the lot fills.

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Dodger Stadium Express details for the playoffs:

From Union Station:

  • Board at Bus Bay 3 of the Patsaouras Bus Plaza.
  • Service leaves Union Station every 10 minutes, starting 90 minutes before game time through the 3rd inning for all home games.
  • You can exit inside Dodger Stadium at one of two stops – behind Center Field and at the Top Deck. Service will pick up at the same stops after the game.
  • Return service runs until 45 minutes after the final out.

From Harbor Gateway Transit Center:

  • Board at Bay 9.
  • Buses run every 15 minutes starting 2 hours before game time, with the last bus leaving at game time.
  • You’ll be dropped off behind Right Field. Service back to Harbor Gateway Transit Center will pick up at the same stop after the game.
  • Return service ends 45 minutes after the final out.

Game Day Tips:

  • Your Dodger ticket is good for the Dodger Stadium Express fare*; otherwise, regular Metro fares apply.
  • Arrive early; crowds are heaviest near game time.

 

Listen to Metro’s Social Media Week panel on how Metro uses social media to connect with riders

First, a big thank you to our panelists and everyone who attended yesterday’s “Metro Moves Forward: Engaging Customers of Public Transportation in L.A.” event at Union Station. The presentation and panel discussion were part of Social Media Week.

Above is the 49-minute panel discussion. I accidentally deleted a few seconds at the beginning (blame Garageband please!) in which my colleague Anna Chen introduces herself and explains how she landed her gig at Metro. The panelists are frequent Metro riders who also often write about transit and their experiences on Metro:

Alissa Walker is the Urbanism Editor at Gizmodo where she writes about cities, architecture, transportation, and technology and she blogs at awalkerinla.com. She is on the steering committee of Los Angeles Walks and relishes life in Los Angeles without a car. Follow her at @awalkerinLA. And you may want to read (or re-read) her great #lahaters series in which Alissa exposes the dumb stereotypes that media-types like to write, rinse and repeat about Los Angeles and the surrounding area.

Gann Matsuda covers the Los Angeles Kings and the National Hockey League at Frozenroyalty.net and uses the Expo Line to travel to and from Staples Center. He is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Follow him at @frozenroyalty. Check out his recent series on how Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi built a team that has won the Stanley Cup twice in the past three seasons (part one and part two). Short answer: draft young talent and develop them, something I think works at non-sports organizations, too.

Steven White is the Content and Media Manager for Bounce AEG. He manages digital media and social media projects for live events. A graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Steve lives in Downtown Los Angeles and regularly rides Metro for all of his transportation needs. Follow him at @stevenmwhite. Steve provided valuable input to Metro’s TAP team earlier this year when they were designing new screen prompts for the agency’s ticket machines (the prompts are due to debut later this year, btw).

Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro. If you need a Metro-related pic to use on the web, these are available for download at a variety of sizes at our Flickr page — along with a variety of other images.