Metro Board to consider extending ExpressLanes on 10 and 110 freeways beyond January 2015

One key issue that the Metro Board of Directors are scheduled to consider at their meeting on Thursday: whether to continue tolling as part of the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways beyond January 15 of next year.

Some quick background: Metro received a $210.6-million federal grant in 2008 to use on transportation improvements in the 10 and 110 corridors. That included trying theExpressLanes for a year-long pilot period to determine if there might be a better way to manage traffic on both freeways. The lanes have proven to be popular with more than 253,000 transponders issued — far more than Metro originally anticipated. (Here is the ExpressLanes home page, including information on how to get a transponder).

The Metro staff report on the issue is above (pdf here). The report also includes a technical memo from the Federal Highway Administration that offers a preliminary analysis of the ExpressLanes, as well as some statistics. Excerpt:

Although preliminary, the results described in this report suggest that the LACRD projects are accomplishing many of their goals and objectives. Consistent with other new HOV/HOT conversion projects,the congestion data analysis shows degradation in travel times and travel speeds performance during the initial deployment period on some portions of the I-10 and I-110.

However, consistent with other sites,the same facilities are showing an upward trend in travel time reductions and increases in speed in the later portions of the pilot period. The tolling analysis findings indicate that the number of trips on the ExpressLanes (by all groups) continued to increase over the course of the demonstration period, partially demonstrated by the increase in gross revenue from toll-paying vehicles.

The many incentive programs proved to be successful with almost $13,000 in toll credits issued to Transit Rewards Program account holders and over $100,000 in toll transponder credits issued to over 4,000 LA County households enrolled in the Equity Plan. In addition, the ExpressLanes program surpassed several of its goals including enrolling over 100 new Metro-registered vanpools and issuing over 253,000 transponders by the end of the demonstration period.

Transit analysis findings indicate that Silver Line ridership increased largely due to CRD-funded service. The entire line (bothI-110and 1-10) showed a 27 percent increase in monthly hoardings after the new service was added with an additional 15 percent increase post-tolling. Whens surveyed, a third of new riders said they drove alone prior to the increased services and 48 percent of riders agreed that tolling has improves their travel. Additionally,the surveys showed an overall good level of customer satisfaction with transit services.

 

One other point worth considering from the Metro staff report: a more thorough analysis of the ExpressLanes is also being done and Metro intends to use the information to make any improvements necessary to make the ExpressLanes work better.

As a related item, the Metro Board is also scheduled to consider a motion by Metro Board Member Gloria Molina that would permanently waive the $3 account maintenance fee for infrequent users and instead substitute a $1 monthly fee on all accounts.

 

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

Don Knabe and state leaders launch new anti-child sex trafficking awareness Metro and billboard campaign

Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Don Knabe joined California State Senators Ted Lieu and Bob Huff on Friday to reiterate their collective efforts to crack down on the demand-side of the illicit child sex trafficking industry and announce the launch of a new county-wide Metro and billboard awareness campaign.

You may remember a previous campaign by Metro, also led by Supervisor Knabe, to combat the heinous crime of child sex trafficking. The new campaign began as a public service campaign originating as ProtectOaklandKids, a collaborative effort of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, MISSSEY, Clear Channel Outdoor and the original design team of Suzanne Boutilier, Genice Jacobs and Jed Davis. It will appear at Metro train stations and bus stops, rail cars and buses in English and Spanish. The information will also appear on Metro’s website.

“Metro is proud to support Supervisor Don Knabe in the campaign to fight child sex trafficking, and we encourage our many riders to be vigilant of suspicious activity on our buses, trains and in our stations,” Metro CEO Art Leahy said. “If you ‘See Something, Say Something’ to Sheriff’s deputies or Metro employees–if could save the life of a young victim.”

Thanks to a generous donation by Clear Channel Outdoor, digital displays and traditional billboards will broadcast the message across Los Angeles County.

“This campaign is a critical step in raising awareness of child sex trafficking and changing the public’s mentality that prostitution is a life choice,” Supervisor Knabe said. “No child grows up wanting to be bought and sold for sex in the streets of their community–they are victims–often forced into this life by brutal violence and threats. The true criminals are the scumbags that buy and sell young boys and girls for money and get off with a slap on the wrist.”

The campaign comes on the heels of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voting unanimously to support a state-sponsored “War on Child Sex Trafficking” legislative package that will add sex trafficking to the list of gang activity felonies and allow wiretapping in suspected trafficking cases.

© 2014 Alameda County District Attorney’s Office

Court rules for Metro in state lawsuits brought by Beverly Hills over subway extension

A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Metro on Wednesday in state lawsuits brought by the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city of Beverly Hills alleging that the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension project were flawed and needed to be redone.

To put it in plain English: Judge John A. Torribio upheld the studies and denied the requests that they be redone, a task which could have potentially cost Metro millions of dollars and delayed construction of the project. The judge found that Metro’s decision to place a station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars in Century City was based on “substantial evidence” and that the station location meets the project’s goals of increasing mobility in the region.

Metro issued this statement about the ruling:

“Metro is pleased that our in-depth, multi-year environmental review process was found valid by the Superior Court.  We look forward to working with all the communities along the alignment, including Beverly Hills, to fulfill our commitment to deliver this regionally significant and beneficial project for the taxpayers of L.A. County.”

The dispute involves Metro’s plans to tunnel under the Beverly Hills High School campus in order to reach the approved Century City station at the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Avenue. The station location was selected by Metro for three reasons: to locate a station closer to the heart of Century City, generate higher ridership for the new line and to avoid an active earthquake fault  zone that runalong Santa Monica Boulevard as determined by seismic and geotechnical studies by Metro and its contractors.

The Constellation route meant that the subway would have to tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. School District and city officials complained that could damage the school and/or prevent them from building an underground parking garage, among other issues. After a final Metro Board hearing on the matter in May 2012, Metro determined that it was safe to tunnel beneath the campus, the tunnels would not prohibit any new development, noise and vibration levels would be within federal limits, old oil wells in the area do not present an unmitigable risk to tunneling and the project would not prevent the campus from being used as an emergency evacuation center.

Both the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District have also filed lawsuits against the Federal Transit Administration, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act. The FTA is helping fund the Purple Line Extension and approved the environmental studies for it. Those lawsuits are still in court.

Local funding for the 8.5-mile Purple Line Extension was approved as part of the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase that was supported by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The project is being built in three phases: phase one is from Wilshire & Western to Wilshire & La Cienega, phase two extends the project to Century City and the third phase extends tracks to two stations in Westwood — one at Wislhire and Westwood and the final one near the Westwood/VA Hospital, just west of the 405 freeway.

Advanced utility relocation for the first phase of the project is underway and the FTA is expected to soon announce a funding agreement for that part of the project. The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to select a contractor to build the project this summer with construction starting in late 2014. The first phase is currently forecast to open in 2023.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 2

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! 

A tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass? It might be yours for 25 cents a day (L.A. Times) 

Kerry Cavanaugh looks at the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project through the prism of a possible transportation sales tax increase that Metro is exploring for 2016. Measure R dedicates about a billion dollars for the project, but some of the early options for the project — including both a road/toll tunnel and rail tunnel — would require a public-private partnership, cost billions more and probably require some public money. Excerpt:

Yet the possibility of easing the most congested corridor in the nation is so tantalizing that Los Angeles voters might just be willing to tax themselves again to build it, right? That’s what transportation advocacy group Move LA is certainly hoping. Last week during a conference focused on developing a new half-cent sales tax increase proposal, Move LA organizers made the Sepulveda Pass tunnel a key focus of the discussion.

Move LA is pitching the sales tax measure for the November 2016 ballot, with a eye toward raising $90 billion over 45 years. The group estimates that it would cost the average county resident about 25 to 30 cents a day. This would be on on top of the existing Measure R half-cent tax increase for transportation.

After the loss of Measure J (a 30-year extension of the Measure R tax, which voters narrowly rejected) in 2012, Move LA and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are approaching the ballot measure cautiously. They’re trying to build more county-wide consensus on needed transportation projects, with the incoming Metro board president, Mayor Eric Garcetti, promising a more “humble Los Angeles city” as he courts the San Gabriel Valley and South Bay cities that rejected Measure J.

As Kerry writes, the prospect of a good transit project across the Sepulveda Pass has always seemed to be a “distant dream.” So true. If there is a ballot measure in a couple of years, it will be very interesting to see what, if any, role this project plays in it. On a related note, here’s a study from 2012 that shows some of the different concepts initially explored for the Sepulveda Pass project.

L.A. could clash with L.A. County on transit tax measures (L.A. Times) 

Reporters Laura Nelson and David Zahniser ask a good question: if the city of Los Angeles pursues a sales tax increase this November to pay for street repair, how will city voters respond if Metro (a county agency) pursues the aforementioned ballot measure in 2016? It’s especially tricky considering the city of of L.A. is, of course, by far the largest city in the county and no county measure would likely pass without major support from city voters. The few people willing to talk on the record say that pursuing sales tax increases in both 2014 and ’16 is a poor idea but elected officials from the city of L.A. declined comment.

Koreatown to become next luxury market (GlobeSt.com)

The real estate site’s article is bullish on the prospects for K-town, saying there will be more multi-family housing and one of the big attractions for the area is its quick transit connections to downtown L.A. and Hollywood. The words “cosmopolitan” and “luxury” are tossed around in the article; the word “affordable” does not make an appearance.

L.A.’s interchanges are beautiful — if you’re not stuck in traffic (Southland-Gizmodo)

Nice photo spread on some of our bowl-of-spaghetti freeway interchanges, with a couple of sweet aerial shots of the four-level 110-10 junction in downtown.

Study ranks metro areas by sprawl (Governing) 

If there’s anything new here, it’s the assertion that more compact and connected metro areas offer more economic mobility. Makes sense. Not entirely sure why it required a study. About to send your child to graduate school? My three cents: perhaps a plant identification guide, map of the Pacific Crest Trail and a good lightweight backpack would be a better investment — if, that is, enlightenment is the goal.

America’s zippy new trains still lag behind those in Europe (Wired) 

A short and depressing reminder that train travel in the United States — the same country known for its big, wide open spaces — will mostly remain a 79 mile per hour or under affair with a few exceptions.

Reminder: Independent Citizens’ Advisory and Oversight Committee holds public hearing Friday

The Committee oversees the half-cent sales tax increases that Los Angeles County voters approved in 1980 (Prop A) and 1990 (Prop C), respectively. Here is the meeting notice and agenda:
INDEPENDENT CITIZENS’ ADVISORY AND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE MEETINGPUBLIC HEARING

Metro Headquarters

3rd Floor – Board Room

One Gateway Plaza

Los Angeles

Friday, April 4, 2014 – 11:00 A.M.

PROPOSITIONS A & C AUDIT – FY 2013

Emina Darakjy, Chair

Brian Russell, Vice Chair

1. Remarks by Hearing Officer, Emina Darakjy.

2. Statement by the Board Secretary’s Office

concerning publication of notices and

dissemination of public information.

3. Public Comment.

4. Motion to Close Hearing.

The Chair will determine order of appearance before the Board.

Speakers will be limited to three minutes. If available, a written

copy of testimony should be presented to Secretary.

Transportation headlines, Monday, March 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! 

Happy REAL opening day, baseball fans and Metro Riders. Above, the first game at Ebbetts Field.

Happy REAL opening day, baseball fans and Metro Riders. Above, the first game at Ebbets Field.

Transit riders assail proposed Metro fare hike at public meeting (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the four-hour hearing on Saturday over the proposed fare increase. As the story notes, most of the comments received were along the lines that the increases were too much. There was no support for the second option, which involves creating different fares for off-peak and peak hours. There was limited support for the first option, although some people said that transfers should be included for two hours, not 90 minutes as Metro proposes. Without an increase, Metro officials said they would have to cut one million hours of bus service and lay off 1,000 employees, according to the Times.

Transportation advocates back half-cent sales tax (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the Move L.A. conference on Friday in which the pro-transit group discussed a possible half-cent sales tax increase for the 2016 ballot that help fund more transportation projects in L.A. County. Excerpt:

Metro has not yet decided to put a measure on the ballot. But with as much as $27 billion in added tax money to spend on rail projects, advocates said, the agency could build a light-rail link to Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, convert the San Fernando Valley Orange Line busway to rail and extend the Green Line near LAX to sweep through South Bay cities and connect with the Blue Line in Long Beach.

“What we’re doing here is trying to figure out what wins,” Move L.A. Executive Director Denny Zane said.

[snip]

Guaranteeing projects across the county may be a political necessity, but it doesn’t always serve passengers the best, said Lisa Schweitzer, a USC professor who studies transit funding. She said transit-using communities with the potential for highest ridership, a common measure of success, tend to be clustered in the core of the county.

[snip]

“In order to get those areas interested in transit, you have to gold-plate it and sugarcoat it” with high-profile projects such as the Westside subway extension, which appeal to residents who typically drive their own cars, Schweitzer said. “But you can’t win without them.”

Two things worthy of your consideration here: 1) the current Measure R put about $13.8 billion toward a dozen transit projects over its 30-year lifespan, and; 2) some of those projects — such as the Airport Metro Connector and the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor — may need more funds to get built.

My point: a second sales tax, if Metro pursues it, is not a free pass to build every project on everybody’s wish list!!! :)

Tree removal along Crenshaw Boulevard has residents stumped (L.A. Times) 

Crenshaw Boulevard is expected to lose about 175 trees to accommodate construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, leaving some residents unhappy in the wake of the 71 that were taken down to accommodate moving the Endeavour between LAX and the California Science Center in 2012. Metro has said it will plant two trees for every tree lost, although there is skepticism that new trees will truly replace the mature pines that are in Crenshaw Boulevard’s median, particularly in Park Mesa Heights.

The Endeavour moving north through Park Mesa Heights in 2012. The light rail line will run along the median at right, where the trees are located. Photo by Steve Hymon.

The Endeavour moving north through Park Mesa Heights in 2012. The light rail line will run along the median at right, where the trees are located. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Westside Subway neighbors worried about night-time construction noise (L.A. Times) 

Metro is proposing some night-work work. But important to remember: the work is NOT for the duration of the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, as the sub-headline suggests. Excerpt:

Subway construction won’t be accomplished without din, dust, vibration and street closures, Metro officials say, but 24-hour work will last for only a few weeks, said Dennis Mori, executive officer of project management. After an initial period of digging and pile installation, he said, tunneling itself will be less disruptive. Of course, there will be the nighttime rumble of trucks hauling away 1.1 million cubic yards of dirt.

“While we take community concerns very seriously, there is simply no such thing as ‘immaculate construction,’” Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said. “Some community groups appear to be sending a mixed message: ‘Yes, we support the subway, but don’t touch anything, and don’t inconvenience us in any way.’”

San Antonio police chief tells Lyft to quit operations (Government Technology) 

The city’s police chief says the problem is that Lyft’s drivers are not permitted as a taxi or limo drivers per municipal laws. Lyft says its drivers have insurance and go through background checks.

10 reasons why Beverly Hills homeowners are opposing bike lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard (Curbed LA)

A review of the controversy over widening Santa Monica Boulevard to accommodate bike lanes. The widening would cause some grass to be removed on the north side of the street. The post includes city diagrams to see what is being proposed. Lots of debate in the comments.

Watch a fun video explaining why the Riverside-Figueroa bridge should become a park (Curbed LA)

The old bridge is being replaced. The city of L.A. intends to tear it down while some activists say the old bridge should host a park. My three cents: the most important project in that area needs to be getting the L.A. River bike path into downtown L.A.

 

Hearing on fare changes adjourns after 165 or so public speakers

Click on a photo to see larger. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro

The hearing adjourned about 2:15 p.m. after more than four hours that included a brief staff presentation on the fares, about 165 public speakers and a brief disruption near the end of the meeting that resulted in two arrests for disturbing the peace. One of the people arrested may also face a charge of assaulting a peace officer. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TWO FARE CHANGE OPTIONS.

Order was quickly restored at the urging of both Metro Board Members and members of the public who wanted the chance to testify before the Board. A vote on the fare changes is scheduled for the Board’s May 22 meeting — and before the meeting ended many Board Members indicated they will have plenty of questions  between now and then about the fare proposal and Metro’s finances.

Metro staff explained the fare changes, which are designed to prevent Metro from facing future deficits and to prevent service cuts. As staff explained, the changes would raise the base Metro fare but include transfers for 90 minutes — presently passengers must pay a full fare to transfer, even for a short ride.

As for the public testimony, it’s hard to summarize the views of 165 different people. While the Bus Riders Union was certainly present at the meeting, others appeared to be everyday riders who had something to say about the fare change proposal.

A few things I heard from speakers more than once:

•Bus service in some parts of Los Angeles County is not frequent enough or good enough to warrant a fare increase. Trips involving multiple bus legs, a few speakers said, can take several hours.

•There was no support for the second fare option which would have different fares for peak and off-peak hours.

•Several people complained fares should not be raised until the agency clamps down on fare evasion; during their presentation, agency staff said that work on reducing fare evasion is already underway.

•The most common complaint: affordability — many people said they make too little money to spend any extra on transit. “Some of you are lucky enough to have gotten an education. Think about the people you representing,” said one woman.

RELATED POSTS:

Some audio and video from today’s fare proposal hearing

Pictorial part 2: the public speaks at today’s fare change hearing

Pictorial part 1: the public speaks at today’s fare change hearing

Public hearing on Metro’s proposed fare changes is underway

A look at what some riders and readers are saying about Metro’s fare proposals

 

Some audio and video from today’s public hearing on fare changes

The public hearing on fare changes saw many Metro riders and community leaders turn out to let the Metro Board know what they think.

Video featuring a few of today’s public speakers:

And here’s audio-only from some speakers earlier in the morning:


Reminder: public comments will be accepted through 5 p.m. today at PublicHearing@metro.net.

Pictorial, part 1: riders speak at public hearing over proposed Metro fare changes

Click on photo to see larger

Some of Metro’s riders who took the time to travel to Metro this morning to testify to the Metro Board of Directors at the public hearing over proposed fare changes. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

More photos and text later.

RELATED POSTS:

Public hearing is underway