How do they do that? Make roads smarter

Photo by Carl Greenlund/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.

How do they do that? Make roads smarter

In their future form, smart roads could be the automated highways of tomorrow — the roadways we cruise, possibly in self-driving cars, hooked to a group of other cars headed in the same direction. By traveling together cars can move faster and distances between them can be decreased, since the group accelerates and brakes simultaneously. This maximizes road capacity while it minimizes the chance of accidents, which slow down traffic.

Obviously we’re not there yet. But there are a variety of smart road technologies being used in Los Angeles County and Metro is participating — primarily by helping to fund them — in programs to squeeze more capacity out of streets and freeways. They may not be smart roads of the future, but they are promising advances.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s going on:

•Caltrans and Metro are in talks to mirror a program already running in Orange County on the northbound I-5 freeway. By offering real-time travel comparisons between the freeway and Metrolink, electronic message signs let commuters know when it would be faster to take Metrolink than to stay on the freeway. Comparative travel times would work the same way in L.A. County comparing, say, commute times on the 210 Freeway with the Gold Line speed to Pasadena. The intent is to encourage drivers to consider transit as an option.

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Exhibition on Exposition: New Artwork for the Metro Expo Line

Expo/Crenshaw Station: Willie Robert Middlebrook Jr., Wanderers

Expo/Crenshaw Station: Willie Robert Middlebrook Jr., Wanderers

Exploring Expo? Then welcome to L.A.’s newest art gallery. A permanent exhibition at the new stations of the Expo Line is debuting this weekend.

Here’s the press release, and you can link to The Source reports from here on each installation.

Stations on the Metro Expo Line include 176 new artworks that enrich the transit environment and contribute to the artistic vibrancy of the neighborhoods served by Metro.

Ten artists were commissioned to create original artwork for each of the ten new stations. Art panels featuring designs by the artists are displayed above the entry archways and seating areas.

There are between 8 and 24 individual art panels per station, depending on station configuration. The panels display a body of work by a single artist and add a continuous visual narrative that defines the rail line as it travels through various neighborhoods.

“The station artwork creates stunning new neighborhood landmarks,” said Jorge Pardo, Director of Art & Design for Metro Creative Services. “We’ve presented the artwork like an outdoor gallery display, with art scrolling horizontally along the entire length of the platform to maximize visibility. The art panels are double-sided so whether you’re a Metro customer on a station platform or a pedestrian, cyclist, neighborhood resident, or motorist in proximity to the station, you’ll be able to enjoy the art.”

Durable materials ensure the artwork is resistant to graffiti and color fading, and is easy to maintain. Fabrication materials include glass mosaic, ceramic mosaic, photographic porcelain tile and porcelain enamel steel.

Artworks and artists after the jump:

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The Expo Line's earlier days — recalled by men who worked it

Freight trains on the old Expo Line right-of-way in the early 1950s. Photo by Alan Weeks, via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

The Expo Line may be brand new, but passenger rail service to the Westside is nothing Los Angeles hasn’t seen before – it’s just been a long time as in half a century ago. The path taken by Phase I of the Expo Line to Culver City and Phase II to Santa Monica was traveled by Pacific Electric’s Santa Monica Air Line, a passenger and freight rail service that ran on the same right-of-way. Passenger rail service carried passengers down to Santa Monica until 1953 and freight trains also used the tracks until the late 1980s.

The Air Line was a coveted track to work because it was an easy local run from downtown Los Angeles to the ocean. Only the highest seniority Pacific Electric rail men got the chance to work the Air Line – just ask Larry Fredeen, a former P.E. conductor.

“I was lucky to work the line at all,” said Fredeen, who worked the Air Line as a brakeman in the late 1970s. “I was so sad when I heard it was abandoned due to lack of business. I had a lot of good experiences working that track. I’m glad it’s returning, although in a different form.”

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In case you missed it: recapping our Expo Line coverage

An Expo train at La Cienega/Jefferson station with the downtown L.A. skyline in the distance. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

First, a plug: If you’re planning to attend this weekend’s Expo Line festivities, go ahead and subscribe to Metro on Twitter at @MetroLosAngeles, so you can follow our coverage in real time and share with us all your Expo thoughts and photos.

Now, business: We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve published a whole bunch of posts about the Expo Line lately — about how Expo will work, its history, who was instrumental in making it a reality. So much so that a couple of great stories got pushed off the front page before many folks probably had a chance to read them.

So, without further ado here’s a recap of our Expo Line stories from the past month or so:

Resources

Beyond phase one: making connections to the Expo Line

More info on parking, biking and bus connections to the Expo Line

Expo Line timetable is here!

Riding safely on new Expo Line bike lanes

Expo Line map, destinations guide and art guide

Go Expo this weekend

Free rides on new Expo light-rail line during opening weekend celebration, April 28-29

Expo opening day celebrations

Go Expo to Everychild Playground Play Day

History

Photos of the Expo Line through history

The Expo Line’s earlier days: recalled by the men who worked it

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Photos of the Expo Line through history

Santa Monica Railway Station, Los Angeles & Independence Railroad, 1880. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

Today’s Expo Line has its origins in a railroad between Los Angeles and Santa Monica that went into service in 1875. The Los Angeles & Independence Railroad later became the Air Line, the direct ancestor of the Expo Line.

The Los Angeles & Independence was sold in 1877 to the Southern Pacific, which built a half-mile wharf north of Santa Monica Canyon to provide ships with a place to unload their freight. At this point the Los Angeles & Independence Railroad became an important freight and passenger rail line.

The following photos show the rail line in its many incarnations over the decades.

Los Angeles & Independence Railroad Terminal at Fifth Street and San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, 1895. Photo courtesy of University of Southern California, on behalf of the USC Special Collections.

 

Santa Monica Long Wharf, Los Angeles & Independence Railroad, late 19th Century. Once a breakwater was built in San Pedro, freight ports in Redondo Beach and the Long Wharf were pretty much doomed. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

 

Map from 1912 of the Pacific Electric Railway. The Air Line, the forerunner to Expo, is highlighted in blue. In 1908, Southern Pacific leased the railroad line and the wharf to Los Angeles Pacific, which electrified the portion between Sentous -- east of Culver City -- and the Long Wharf. The remainder of the line was electrified three years later. Photo: Special Collections, UCLA's Young Research Library.

 

Santa Monica Air Line, 1940. Photo via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Jim Stubchaer took this photo looking over the motorman's shoulder while riding the Air Line in the late 1940s. Photo courtesy Jim Stubchaer; click on the photo to visit his website.

 

 

 

This was a fan trip taken along the Santa Monica Air Line in 1950. Photo by Alan Weeks, via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

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How do they do that? Assist stranded motorists on L.A. County freeways?

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 (and why) does Metro assist stranded motorists on L.A. County freeways?

Whether it’s a flat tire, an empty gas tank or an overheated radiator, chances are that at one point or another most of us will need help on the freeway. All we have to do is dial #399 on our cells or smart phones and the Metro Freeway Service Patrol will arrive to help us resolve our problem.

Those without cell phones can use a freeway call box by dialing the # sign. Operators are on duty to answer calls in English and Spanish and there’s translation into other languages possible. The service also is equipped to serve the deaf and hearing and speech impaired. And it’s free.

The Freeway Service Patrol is constantly cruising. During peak commuting hours, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., 152 roaming tow and service trucks crisscross L.A. freeways, looking for disabled cars and waiting for calls. Drivers patrol a designated section of freeway called a “beat” and often come upon a disabled vehicle before the motorist can call for assistance. At midday and on weekends, service is reduced to 41 trucks. But the mission is the same: to assist stranded motorists and keep the freeways safe and flowing. A car stuck in traffic for 5 minutes can quickly cause a 20-minute or more backup during rush hour, just when we most need mobility.

Service Patrol trucks assist more than 25,000 vehicles a month for all manner of problems. The most common is changing a flat tire but they also jump start dead batteries, refill radiators, repair leaking hoses and provide enough gas to get stranded motorists off the freeway. They also help motorists contact their personal auto clubs and help remove road hazards (think ladders and couches) from the freeways. They will not, however, tow vehicles home or to a personal mechanic because the Service Patrol trucks need to quickly return to the freeway to help out other stranded motorists.

The Metro Freeway Service Patrol also operates the Big Rig Service Patrol on the 710 and 91 freeways — thoroughfares that are particularly filled with trucks. This service is specifically designed to help out heavy duty vehicles like semi trucks that cannot be assisted by a normal size tow truck.

What does freeway rescue have to do with trains and buses?

Metro is the transportation planner and coordinator, designer, builder and operator — in charge of promoting mobility in L.A. County. The FSP tow trucks reduce traffic congestion by getting disabled cars running again or by quickly removing them from freeway lanes. This reduces chances of further incidents caused by onlookers and impatient drivers. FSP also helps save fuel and reduce air polluting emissions by reducing stop-and-go traffic. The ultimate benefit is that motorists are kept safe and freeway efficiency is maximized. The FSP program is funded by a combination of state and local Proposition C funds. Prop C passed in 1990 to fund transportation improvements and help reduce traffic congestion.

So program #399 into your phone and next time you have a problem on the freeway, give them a call. But remember that #399 does not replace 911. Use 911 if you need a medical, fire department or law enforcement response.

No time for midlife crisis: Innovative rail maintenance shop keeps Blue Line rail cars in shape

Rail Fleet Services team oversee the rail car overhaul program at the Metro Blue Line maintenance facility. From left, Brian Rydell, Nick Madanat, Russell Homan. Photos by Gary Leonard.

Rail Fleet Services team oversee the rail car overhaul program at the Metro Blue Line maintenance facility. From left, Brian Rydell, Nick Madanat, Russell Homan. Photos by Gary Leonard.

The hefty Metro Blue Line rail cars make a hard day’s run between Long Beach and downtown Los Angeles, running the 22-mile stop-and-go course to the tune of 87,000 trips a year, 1.7 million service miles and 26 million boardings. Although the rail cars of the Blue Line’s original fleet are not slowing down — some have been running for two decades now – the cars are in the midst of a comprehensive overhaul of rail car components and systems that impact safety and reliability and appearance.

In the works for more than a year now, the $30-million rail car overhaul program will enhance and extend the revenue service life through the projected 30-year life span of the cars.

Fresh out of the paint shop, this rail car is refurbished inside and out.

Fresh out of the paint shop, this rail car is refurbished inside and out.

The work is being done in the cavernous vehicle maintenance buildings of the Blue Line rail yard in Long Beach. Scores of maintenance specialists are poring over rail cars that pull in and out of the rail yard pit stops. With only six years to accomplish the overhaul, the tasks are handled one set of components at a time — in a fashion that keeps the overhaul process moving while providing cars for service each day.

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How do they do that? Answer customer queries and complaints

Metro Red Line. Photo via Carl Greenlund/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.

How does Metro’s customer relations team answer queries and complaints?

In a very real sense, complaints are the reason for being for Metro’s customer relations team. All day, every day they work with confused or unhappy riders who look to them for relief. Their job is customer satisfaction and it can be a challenge.

And yet, customer relations reps report that most people — probably 75 percent — are courteous even when reporting a problem, which certainly speaks well for Metro patrons, as well as for the representatives who undergo extensive customer service training to help them learn how to help the public in a positive way.

The customer relations section was designed to be an easy access point for Metro patrons, the general public, elected officials and residents to present complaints, inquiries and concerns to Metro management. Reps also are responsible for making friends for Metro, even following a less than pleasant transit experience. They are there to provide customer education, when necessary. And they provide Metro management with timely reports that reflect the transit system as viewed by the customer.

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Metro offers workshops for artists Tuesday and Thursday

Metro is offering two informational workshops for artists interested in upcoming art opportunities throughout our fast-growing transit system, including Phase 2 of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica.

April 3, 2012
6:00 – 7:30 pm
Santa Monica Main Library
601 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Multipurpose Room—2nd Floor

Paid parking is available in the underground parking garage; enter from 7th Street. Visitors should enter the library and use the interior stairs or elevator to get to the Multipurpose Room.

April 5, 2012
6:00 – 7:30 pm
Palms-Rancho Park Library
2920 Overland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Free parking is available in the library lot.

Each workshop will cover the same material. Interested artists should plan to attend just one workshop.

For information about the Metro Art program, visit metro.net/art.