How do they do that? Change a flat on a steel train wheel

150 cutters "re-profile" a Red Line wheel/Metro photo

150 cutters “re-profile” a Red Line wheel/Metro photo

‘How do they do that?’ is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How do they change the steel wheels on the trains? And why? It’s not like they can get a flat. Or can they?

There are 2,884 wheels in the Metro Rail fleet: 2,052 on light rail and 832 on the subway.  At some point in their working lives, many of those wheels will need to be “re-profiled”  or replaced.

What would cause a steel wheel to wear out? Many of the same things that damage car tires: Sudden stops. Sweeping curves. Lots of miles. While many of us change our car tires every 50,000 miles or so, Metro rail wheels can travel as far as 700,000 miles before they need to be replaced. Good thing because changing the wheels on a single rail car can take more than a week, depending on the design of the car.

Re-profiling a steel wheel is the process of removing a thin layer of the wheel tread and flange with a large “wheel truing” machine (see photo). The truing machine restores the wheel’s roundness, tread taper and flange thickness to create good ride quality and steering.

And yes, steel wheels can get flats … although not the kind you’re thinking of. Flat spots are caused by the wheel locking up during an emergency stop, usually because it has come in contact with grease or oil that has dripped off automobiles crossing the tracks. This slippery spot can cause the metal wheel to slide on the metal rail and this can generate a flat spot on a wheel. The flat is removed by taking a layer of steel off the wheel, using a lathe or a milling machine. Metro’s “wheel truing” machines have 150 cutters on each side that can re-profile two wheels at the same time. When the steel tires are too small to “wheel true” any more, they are replaced.

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What do Universal Delights, kaleidoscope dreams and flying people have in common?

Artist Stephen Johnson's 58-foot long mural, titled Universal Delights, at Universal City Station.

Artist Stephen Johnson’s 58-foot long mural, titled Universal Delights, at Universal City Station. The mural celebrates the film and television industry through an juxtaposition of colors, shapes, and other familiar imagery associated with the movies.

Ever wonder about the exuberant murals at Universal City Station or the life-size figures soaring above the platform at Civic Center Station? And what about all of those film canisters at the Hollywood/Vine station?

For those adventurous types out there, Metro offers tours that provide insights into the artworks, the artists who created them and the processes it took to make them. Why not launch the new year with an exploration of the Metro system to learn a bit about all that curious art you’ve been passing by?

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A Metro Art tour guide discusses the artwork at North Hollywood Station. The ceramic mural by Anne Marie Karlsen, called Kaleidoscope Dreams, depicts the dreams and aspirations of generations of San Fernando Valley immigrants and celebrates the Valley’s spirit and history.

Upcoming tours:

Thursday, January 3 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, January 5 at 10 a.m.
Sunday, January 6 at 10 a.m.

For specific tour meeting locations and more details about Art Tours, visit metro.net/art and click on Art Tours.

While docent programs are commonly found at museums around the world, Metro is the first transit agency to benefit from such a program.

Free tours are offered the first Thursday, Saturday and Sunday of every month and focus on the artwork along the Red Line (special request tours of other lines can be arranged by calling 213.922.2738). The tours are roundtrip and last approximately two hours. Tours are led by trained Metro Art Docent Council volunteers. No reservations are required!

A Metro Art tour guide discusses the artwork at Universal City Station. The ceramic mural by Margaret Garcia, called Tree of Califas, marks the historic site of the Campo de Cahuenga, where in 1847 Mexico relinquished control of California to the United States.

A Metro Art tour guide discusses the artwork at Universal City Station. The ceramic mural by Margaret Garcia, called Tree of Califas, marks the historic site of the Campo de Cahuenga, where in 1847 Mexico relinquished control of California to the United States.

In a reflection of the universal motif of flight as spiritual journey, Jonathan Borofsky’s I Dreamed I Could Fly is an interpretation of the artist’s dreams of soaring above ground. The six fiberglass figures, all resembling the artist, hover and cast large shadows in the high bay area of Civic Center Station.

In a reflection of the universal motif of flight as spiritual journey, Jonathan Borofsky’s I Dreamed I Could Fly is an interpretation of the artist’s dreams of soaring above ground. The six fiberglass figures, all resembling the artist, hover and cast large shadows in the high bay area of Civic Center Station.

One of 52 individual glass mosaics comprising the artwork by Faith Ringgold titled People Portraits: in Creativity, Performing, Sports and Fashion. Spread across four mezzanine walls at Civic Center Station, images include models walking the catwalk, baseball players, surfers, artists and musicians.

One of 52 individual glass mosaics comprising the artwork by Faith Ringgold titled People Portraits: in Creativity, Performing, Sports and Fashion. Spread across four mezzanine walls at Civic Center Station, images include models walking the catwalk, baseball players, surfers, artists and musicians.

A view of one mezzanine wall at Civic Center Station picturing five of 52 individual glass mosaics comprising the artwork by Faith Ringgold titled People Portraits: in Creativity, Performing, Sports and Fashion.

A view of one mezzanine wall at Civic Center Station picturing five of 52 individual glass mosaics comprising the artwork by Faith Ringgold titled People Portraits: in Creativity, Performing, Sports and Fashion.

How do they do that? Hire and train rail operators

A train operator navigates the Expo Line through the Exposition Park area during testing in 2011. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A train operator navigates the Expo Line through the Exposition Park area during testing in 2011. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

There’s not much traffic to deal with on the Metro Red and Purple line subways but there are customers who do the craziest things. From pulling the red ball emergency handle to open the doors on a departing train to jumping down on to the tracks to retrieve a lost hat, there’s plenty for Metro Rail subway operators to handle from the cab of a train.

Above ground on L.A. streets, where the light-rail Gold, Blue and Expo trains run, there are unpredictable cars and pedestrians and bicyclists and running pets. One line passes a skateboard park and you never can tell what kids on skateboards are going to do so the train operators must be hyper vigilant when they approach the park.

A bus can swerve (although it would rather not need to) but a six-car train weighing 80,000 pounds per car — not including passengers — can take quite a while to come to a stop. And it can never ever swerve away from a problem, no matter what.

Those are a few of the reasons rail operators live by dozens of what-to-do-if rules and work closely with voices constantly streaming into the train cab from the Rail Operations Center (ROC), where men and women carefully monitor what’s going on at all times on all parts of the rail system, both above ground and below.

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January Service Council meetings

A new year brings a new slate of topics to be discussed at January Service Council meetings. All of the January meetings will be held at the regularly scheduled times, days, and locations. For a listing of all Council meeting dates, times and locations, click here. As always, the public is encouraged to attend and share their comments with the Service Councils on improving bus service throughout LA County.

For more information about each service council, click on the name of the service council listed below. All Council meetings include a report from Metro Service Council Director Jon Hillmer providing monthly and year to date (Fiscal Year 2013) statistics on ridership, performance and other measures of Metro service. Meeting topics for January Service Councils meetings include:

San Fernando Valley (6:30 pm, Wednesday, 1/2) – CSUN Transportation Team Presentation on San Fernando Valley Transit Needs, Presentation and Demonstration on the G-Tel System, Update on the Sepulveda Pass Corridor Systems Planning Study.

Westside/Central (5 pm, Wednesday, 1/9) – Presentation on FTA Civil Rights Guidance, Update on Metro’s Transit Court,  Presentation on the Proposed Renaming of Civic Center and Wilshire/Western Stations, Summary of the Westside/Central Corridor Workshop that focused on Santa Monica Lines 4 and 704, and 3rd Street Line 16. Note that this month, the Westside/Central Council returns to the La Cienega Tennis Center, their regular meeting location.

Gateway Cities (2 pm, Thursday, 1/10) – Update on Metro’s Transit Court,  Presentation on Division Handling of Complaints, Update on Florence Avenue Lines 111 and 311 Corridor Study Workshop, Update on the Artesia Blue Line Station projects.

South Bay (9:30 am, Friday, 1/11) – Presentation on the Division 5 100 Year Anniversary Celebration, Update on the Crenshaw Blvd. Lines 210 and 710 Corridor Study.

San Gabriel Valley (5 pm, Monday, 1/14) –. Update on the Metro ExpressLanes Project, Update on the El Monte Station and Silver Line / Silver Streak Fare Agreement. Note that the San Gabriel Valley Service Council recently relocated back to their original meeting location adjacent to the El Monte Station.

All service councils welcome and appreciate public participation at their meetings. If you would like to comment at any of the meetings, please fill out a speaker card when you arrive, noting the specific item you are there to address.  General comments on issues that aren’t on the agenda are taken as a part of the “public comment” section of the agenda.  If you would like to provide input to a Council but cannot attend a meeting, you can submit your comments in writing through the Service Council web page or send them to servicecouncils@metro.net. If your comments are for a specific council, please make sure to indicate which one you are addressing.

Metro celebrates 100th anniversary of Arthur Winston Division 5

Metro Board Directors and Metro executives gathered this week at Arthur Winston Division 5 to celebrate the bus maintenance facility’s 100th birthday. Division 5 opened on December 30, 1912 as a streetcar maintenance facility and has been providing the city of Los Angeles with continous transit service ever since. In fact, Metro Bus 207 out of Division 5 is the longest continuously operated bus line in Los Angeles. Incarnations of Line 207 have been running since 1923.

A longer video featuring the employees of Division 5 can be found here. And for a peek at Division 5 back when it was still running streetcars, check out the movie I’ll Cry Tomorrow starring Susan Hayward (skip to 8:46 of the clip).

How do they do that? Make bus service changes

 

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How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

This Sunday, Dec. 16, Metro made changes to improve bus service efficiency and effectiveness. The same thing occurred in June of this year, as it does every June and every December.

How — and why — does Metro make bus service changes every six months?

The simple answer is so that the bus operators may change the routes they drive. But it is also to give the buses a fighting chance at maintaining schedules that are impacted by the whims of Los Angeles-area traffic, including accidents, special events, crazy drivers and yes, even occasional weather.

Among the great attributes of buses — the reason they are the work horses of transit in congested cities all over the world — is that they are flexible. Their routes can be adjusted to follow changing travel patterns in cities that themselves are constantly changing.

Metro’s 2,228 buses cover 1,433 square miles of service area. They pause at 15,967 bus stops. They carry more than one million boardings each weekday along 183 bus routes. Metro is constantly analyzing these bus routes and tweaks them twice a year.

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Artists of the Metro Orange Line exhibition closes December 13

One of the artworks included in the exhibition. Entitled Pond Landscape, by artist Phung Huynh, the artwork is an oil and collage on wooden panel.

Last chance!  Translations: Artists of the Metro Orange Line, is closing on December 13. The Metro exhibition, organized in collaboration with Los Angeles Valley College, features the works of 20 artists commissioned for the Metro Orange Line and demonstrates how artists enliven the public space of transit.

Artworks that reflect the artists’ studio practice in relation to their Metro commissions are on view, providing insight into the many ways artists translate their practices and material selections to create works of art for public transportation sites.

Featured artists: Lisa Adams, Sandow Birk, Caryl Davis, John Divola, Roy Dowell, Sam Erenberg, Jud Fine, Ken Gonzales-Day, Phung Huynh, Anne Marie Karlsen, Margaret Lazzari, Laura London, Daniel Marlos, Michele Martinez, John O’Brien, Renée Petropoulos, Roxene Rockwell, John Roloff, Pat Warner and Jody Zellen.

View images of all artists’ Orange Line artwork here.

Read LA Weekly review of exhibition.

Valley College Art Gallery is open Monday through Thursday, 11am-2pm and 6-9pm (5800 Fulton Ave. Valley Glen, CA 91401).

The gallery is located in the Art Building on the northwest corner of campus. Map. The exhibition ends December 13, 2012. Read the exhibition press release here.

Pay your Metro Rail fare using tokens

Hat tip to L.A. Streetsblog’s Dana Gabbard for a post asking a question we get occasionally: can tokens still be used to pay Metro fares at ticket machines?

The answer is yes, as the following plucked from the Metro website explains:

If you don’t have a TAP card:

  1. Push button A – “Purchase new TAP card + fare”
    (If you don’t see this choice, press “CANCEL” before beginning.)
  2. Push button F – “TAP ($1 fee) and Metro Pass”
  3. Push button C – “Metro Rail 1-Ride”
  4. Insert – $1 in cash and 1 token.
  5. Take & tap – Take card from tray below and tap when entering system.

If you have a TAP card:

  1. Touch – Touch your card to the TAP target.
  2. Push button F – “Add Metro Pass”
  3. Push button C – “Metro Rail 1-Ride”
  4. Insert – 1 token.
  5. Touch – Touch card to TAP target again to load fare.
  6. Tap – Tap when entering system.

How do they do that? ExpressLanes transponders

ExpressLanes transponder

How do the FasTrak® transponders determine who’s traveling in the ExpressLanes?

How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways, and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

Most of us know that changes are coming to the 110 Harbor Freeway. This Saturday — Nov. 10 — the HOV lanes will become High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes as part of a one-year demonstration project known as Metro ExpressLanes. The project will test whether ExpressLanes can help improve mobility in the traffic-choked 110 corridor. You may also know that Metro ExpressLanes will open early next year on the 10 San Bernardino Freeway. And that these changes will open the lanes to solo drivers who pay a toll.

Those who use the ExpressLanes must have a transponder in their vehicle. The transponders can determine:

– how much toll to collect from each vehicle because the amounts charged will vary depending on traffic congestion?

– what the real-time speed of traffic is in the ExpressLanes?

– who to bill for travel in the ExpressLanes?

– how to aid CHP with enforcement of the ExpressLanes?

How can a small piece of equipment know so much? In part the answer is that the transponder does not do all of those things but is the first step in making most of them happen.

Prior to about 1990 (and even now on older highways), tolls were collected by human attendants or electronic baskets at toll booths positioned along the highways. The toll booth system required that drivers come to a halt to hand over the toll. With modern ExpressLanes, like the one about to be tested inL.A.County, stopping is no longer necessary. There are no toll booths or attendants.

Different cities have different systems. But for the year-long ExpressLanes demonstration, Los Angeles is using FasTrak®, which is the name of the electronic toll collection system. It includes a transponder that is mounted on the inside of a vehicle windshield. The transponder is a small battery-powered radio frequency identification unit that transmits radio signals. Stored in the transponder is basic account information, including an identification number.

When the transponder passes under the overhead L-shaped antennas along the ExpressLanes, it communicates the account ID to the antennas. The antennas respond by messaging that information to a computer that calculates the toll rate for the individual commuter.

The antennas track the vehicle and transmit its path to a computer that contains individual vehicle accounts. After a vehicle exits the ExpressLanes, the antennas tell the computer that the vehicle is gone, and the account is charged, if necessary. (Trips for eligible carpools, vanpools and motorcycles are free.)

Sensors measure congestion and transmit the speed of traffic flow in the ExpressLanes to a computer network. The computer network manages capacity in the lanes by using an algorithm to adjust the toll, based on traffic conditions. The tolls will range from 25 cents per mile to a maximum of $1.40 per mile. The more traffic in the ExpressLanes, the higher the toll assessed. The less traffic in the ExpressLanes, the lower the toll. However, the toll amount is locked in once the vehicle is in the ExpressLanes.

If speeds fall below 45 mph for more than 10 minutes, the ExpressLanes signs alert solo drivers to not enter the ExpressLanes until speeds climb back to 45 mph or faster. However, solo drivers already with a trip in progress in the ExpressLanes will be allowed to complete their trip. This helps ensure smoother flowing traffic in the ExpressLanes for all who use them.

If a sig-alert occurs and the toll payer is not able to travel at the minimum average speed of 45 mph, the customer’s FasTrak account will automatically be credited with the toll by the next business day. Net toll revenues will be reinvested into transit and other transportation improvements in the corridors where they are generated.

While the principle behind most HOT lane transponders is similar, L.A. County’s ExpressLanes transponders are unique. They have been upgraded with the addition of a switch that can be changed to indicate 1, 2 or 3+ occupants in the vehicle. In this way, eligible carpools, vanpools and motorcycles can travel in the ExpressLanes toll free. The transponders can’t confirm the passenger count. But enhanced California Highway Patrol enforcement can and will. When the transponder is detected in the ExpressLanes,  overhead enforcement beacon lights emit to correspond to the switch setting on the transponder. This light is visible to the CHP, which will use it as a guide for occupancy enforcement.

If you have an existing FasTrak, it will work on the 110 and 10 ExpressLanes to pay a toll. But if you want to travel toll free on the 110 or 10, you will need to use a switchable FasTrak. You are not required to maintain more than one account. In fact, it’s recommended that only one FasTrak account is maintained based on the toll facilities that the customer uses most. If switching to Metro ExpressLanes, customers should contact their currently issuing agency for infomation about closing their FasTrak account prior to opening the account with Metro.  

Here’s more information about FasTrak, including how to sign up for an account and get a transponder.

Photo art lightboxes on the move

Detail of Sparrow Lane by Holly Andres, on view at Vermont/Beverly Station.

Have you seen this art? Metro’s Art Lightboxes are getting around. In addition to the often large-scale work that Metro Art brings to stations throughout Los Angeles County, the program also presents mini photography exhibitions by artists in select Red and Purple Line stations.

Each lightbox series is comprised of seven photographic transparencies, each measuring three by four feet and sequentially arranged on internally illuminated boxes. Initiated in 2001, each photography series remains on view in a given station for several months at a time. See past photo lightboxes here.

 

Photo lightboxes on display in one of the Red Line stations. The series is intended to contribute something visually engaging for customers and enhance the overall experience of taking transit.

The most recent rotation happened last week and features the following artists at Red and Purple Line stations:

The Center for Land Use Interpretation, You Are / Are Not Here at Universal City Station
Michael Light, LA Day, LA Night at Hollywood/Highland Station
Holly Andres, Sparrow Lane at Vermont/Beverly Station
Todd Hido, A Road Divided at 7th Street/Metro Center Station
Chris Jordan, Intolerable Beauty at Wilshire/Normandie Station

See details of more photographs below.

And then perhaps plan yourself a little art tour, making your way south from Universal City, through Hollywood and downtown, then loop west to Wilshire/Normandie in Koreatown.

Detail of You Are / Are Not Here by The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), on view at Universal City Station.

Detail of LA Day, LA Night by Michael Light, on view at Hollywood/Highland Station.

Detail of Intolerable Beauty by Chris Jordan, on view at Wilshire/Normandie Station.