Expo Phase II kickoff meetings draw numerous, engaged participants

The meeting kicked off with an overview of the Expo Light Rail project.

On Monday and Wednesday this week, the Expo Construction Authority held open house-style community meetings to introduce Westside residents to the Expo Phase II construction process and the contracting team, Skanska/Rados. The second phase of the Expo Line will connect Culver City and downtown Santa Monica.

As a Source writer, Westside resident and eager awaiter of Expo’s completion, I decided to check out yesterday’s event in Cheviot Hills. I wasn’t alone. My rough headcount found upwards of 150 others — on top of the 200-plus who attended Monday’s meeting in Santa Monica.

Continue reading

Metro Comments on Beverly Hills Unified School District Complaint

This week several online news sources have reported that the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) has filed a “Writ of Mandate” petition in Los Angeles Superior Court that seeks to require Metro to release documents on the Westside Subway Extension Project, as well as station location alternatives in the Century City area.

The reason for the petition, according to the news release from BHUSD, is that Metro is not responding fast enough to the school district’s written requests for information.

Metro reports that it has received numerous requests on an ongoing basis from BHUSD during the development of the Final Environmental Impact Study/Report [FEIS/FEIR] for the subway that is now underway. The agency provided all publicly available documents and will continue to fulfill BHUSD’s requests as additional documents are finalized and released to the public. Continue reading

Former NYC traffic commissioner lauds America Fast Forward

Over at the Engineering News Record, former New York City traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz took to his transportation blog to extol the benefits of America Fast Forward. A lot of the issues he touches on will be familiar to Source readers. Here’s an excerpt from the piece in which Schwartz discusses how AFF could forge a new — and perhaps more sustainable — relationship between the federal government and cities:

Essentially the idea is the same as the 30/10 method: the Fed would lend sizable sums upfront to local entities with dedicated revenue streams such as sales tax proceeds. The carrot for the taxpayers is the promise that transportation projects are completed in a timely manner, in some cases that could be years, rather than decades.

There’s a carrot for Congress too: according to America Fast Forward supporters, passing legislation to enact the program can put 920,000 Americans per year building our national infrastructure without contributing to the national debt.

Continue reading

Motion on Crenshaw/LAX Line moved to full Board of Directors

The Board of Directors’ Measure R Delivery Committee voted 2 to 1 on Thursday for a motion by Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas that seeks to add a Leimart Park station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line and also underground a portion of the line from 48th to 59th streets.

The committee vote moves the item to the full Board of Directors, who meet next Thursday. The motion proposes two key changes to the Crenshaw/LAX Line and I’m sure it will prompt an interesting discussion — especially because there is community support behind the changes.

The big issue, I expect, is the cost of making those changes at a time when Metro is facing possible declines in funding from both the state and federal governments. Under the current planning process, the tracks between 48th and 59th would run at street level.

Ridley-Thomas and Board member Mike Antonovich voted for the motion. Board member Diane DuBois voted against, saying the issue needed to be decided by the full Board.

America Fast Forward: Charlotte Lynx

Mecklenburg County's 2030 transit system plan.

This is the third story in our series examining how L.A. County’s 30/10 financing model — and its national counterpart America Fast Forward — could help other cities around the country.

In 1998, change was afoot in North Carolina. In Mecklenburg County — home to Charlotte, the state’s largest city — voters approved a comprehensive expansion of transit service to be paid for with a half-cent sales tax increase.

Right away, the sales tax enabled the local transit agency to bolster its bus system and begin planning a network of commuter and light rail lines. By 2007, the agency had some accomplishments under its belt but also faced challenges. Although a group of residents had successfully placed a measure on a local ballot to repeal the dedicated transit sales tax, the effort was resoundingly defeated by a 70-30 margin by the residents of Mecklenburg County.

Only weeks later, the Blue Line, the first leg in the light rail system, opened to the public and quickly blew by Charlotte Area Transit Systems’ ridership projections — today, it averages around 20,000 weekday riders [pdf]. And from 2000 to 2010, Charlotte-area residents heartily embraced their growing transit system, as evidenced by a doubling of ridership from roughly 40,000 to 100,000 daily trips. From 2006 to 2008 Charlotte’s transit ridership grew by 47 percent, by far the largest rate of increase in the United States.

A new transit-oriented development along CATS' initial Blue Line.

A new transit-oriented development along CATS' initial Blue Line.

Charlotte has even reaped considerable dividends in the form of increased economic development. A recent study conducted by the Center for Transit-Oriented Development found that the Lynx Blue Line helped spur the construction of almost 10 million square feet of new commercial and residential development along the line. Compared to new transit corridors in Denver and Minneapolis, CTOD showed the Blue Line’s development performance to be the strongest of the three by a wide margin.

Indeed, by several measurements, the case is strong for further investments in Charlotte’s rapid transit system. But like many metro areas around the country, sales tax revenues have dropped considerably due to the recession. In 2010 Olaf Kinard, CATS Director of Marketing and Communications, described the situation to Yonah Freemark of Transport Politic (excerpt):

The issue that all transit systems and businesses are faced with is that the recession caused a significant drop in the revenues and thus a new base from which to grow from. CATS is currently pulling in sales tax revenue at a level equivalent to the 2004/2005 annual level. Projecting that new base out 10 years at a conservative rate of increase of approximately 3% creates a $350 million difference from the 2006 projects during the same time.”

A multi-modal CATS transit stop.

A multi-modal CATS transit stop.

In our conversations with CATS officials, they shared information about their transit program generally, but declined to discuss America Fast Forward in detail or endorse it.

At this time, it remains unclear whether AFF would benefit Charlotte. On the other hand, it’s safe to say this: AFF seems very unlikely to harm any existing transit agency. If Congress adopts AFF as law, federal loans and financing could be used to build transit now — rather than many years in the future.

And waiting to build transit until the distant future, after all, only seems to offer this: more years with fewer alternatives to driving, more traffic and higher construction prices.

Previously in this series: Denver’s efforts to rapidly add light rail, commuter rail and busways, and Salt Lake City’s effort to expand transit connections.

Study on better connecting LAX to Metro Rail to be considered by Metro Board

[mappress mapid="9"]

It’s one of those planning questions that’s only — and I say ‘only’ sarcastically — several decades old: how to improve mass transit to Los Angeles International Airport?

A study to answer that question may soon be underway. The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday is scheduled to vote on a contract of about $4.7 million to STV/PB-ConnectLAX Joint Venture to conduct environmental studies for a transit project to connect the Green Line and Crenshaw/LAX Line to the terminals at LAX.

As the Metro staff report states, some of the alternatives to be considered — but not limited to — include light rail, bus rapid transit and an automated people mover. The city of Los Angeles agency that runs LAX is already studying a people mover as part of its airport modernization plans.

The Crenshaw/LAX light rail line will stop at Aviation and Century boulevards, to the east of the airport grounds (see the above map). It’s closer to LAX than the current Green Line Aviation/LAX station, but still about 1.8 miles to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The Crenshaw/LAX Line will also allow westbound Green Line trains from Norwalk to turn north and continue to the Aviation/Century station on the new Crenshaw tracks.

Continue reading

Metro's highway program ramps up for big year

Expanding the network of HOV lanes in L.A. County is a big part of Metro's highway program.

Metro issued a long news release today about its highway program — specifically the many projects either underway or in the planning stage.

As the release states, Metro’s highway program is often overlooked because of the agency’s transit programs. But the highway program is important. The most recent Census Bureau numbers show that almost 84 percent of workers in Los Angeles County drive to work.

Future transit projects may reduce that statistic. In the meantime, however, it also appears likely that given the sprawling nature of the county, its jobs and the affordability of vehicles and gas, people aren’t going to stop driving any time soon.

Here’s the release:

While public attention remains fixed on the dozen bus and rail projects mandated by L.A. County voters with the passage of Measure R, the half cent sales tax for transportation, Metro is working feverishly on a parallel track to accelerate its highway program.

This year that work will pay off as the agency launches an astonishing 18 new projects worth nearly $1.4 billion.

The goals are lofty but realistic, said Doug Failing, executive director of highway programs who joined Metro in 2009 following 30 years at Caltrans, most of the last decade as L.A./Ventura counties district director.

Continue reading

Next round of Westside Subway Extension meetings begin tonight, including live webcast

From the project’s web page at metro.net:

Metro is continuing work on the Final EIS/EIR for the Westside Subway Extension. Please join us for the second round of community update meetings for this last planning phase of the project.  At these meetings, Metro will provide feedback from the January community meetings, updates on the geotechnical investigations, status of the Station Area Advisory Groups, latest information about the project cost estimates and the status of the Century City station. Whether or not you have followed the project so far, you are encouraged to provide input on Metro’s progress with the Westside Subway Extension at any of these upcoming meetings!

Agenda (content at all meetings will be identical)
6:00 – 6:15PM
: Open House
6:15 – 7:00PM: Presentation
7:00 – 8:00PM: Public Comment

Monday, March 21
LACMA West – Terrace Room, 5th Floor
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Served by Metro Lines 20, 720, 217 & 780

Validated vehicle parking is available in the Museum’s 6th Street underground garage.  Enter from 6th and Ogden.

Spanish & Korean translation will be provided.

For added convenience, we will offer a live webcast of this meeting that you can view from any computer simply by going to metro.net/westside.

Continue reading

Second round of community meetings for Westside Subway Final EIR Planned in March

Metro will be holding its second round of community update meetings for the Westside Subway Extension Project Final EIR March 21 through 29.  Among the updates will be a report on current geotechnical work and the status of the Century City Station. Here’s the news release with meeting dates:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is holding community update meetings March 21 through 29 for the Westside Subway Extension Project currently going through its Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report (EIS/EIR) planning phase.

Metro will provide feedback from its January community meetings, updates on the project’s ongoing geotechnical investigations, status of Station Area Advisory Groups, as well as project cost estimates and the status of the Century City station.

All the meetings begin at 6 p.m. and will include a presentation followed by an opportunity for public input.  The content for all three meetings will be identical.  Members of the public are invited to participate in the meeting that is most convenient for them:

  • Monday, March 21, 6-8 p.m., LACMA West – Terrace Room, 5th Floor, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036.  Served by Metro Lines 20, 720, 217 & 780. Validated vehicle parking is available in the museum’s 6th Street underground garage.  Enter from 6th and Ogden.  Spanish & Korean translation will be provided.  For added convenience, Metro will offer a live webcast of this meeting that can be viewed from any computer by visiting metro.net/westside. Continue reading

Mayor Villaraigosa's testimony to federal transportation hearing

Below is the written testimony submitted to the Congressional transportation funding hearing this morning by Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Member Antonio Villaraigosa.

I think it’s worth noting that both Mayor Villaraigosa and Supervisor Don Knabe — here is his testimony — emphasized that changes in federal law sought by Metro could help many local transit agencies that have passed sales taxes or bonds that could be used to repay low-interest federal loans.

In Metro’s case, the idea is to use federal loans and other financing to quickly build Measure R projects and then repay the loans with Measure R revenues, which flow into local coffers over many years. It’s called the 30/10 Initiative, although that name is specific to L.A. — the effort underway is actually much broader and could help many regions get transportation projects built now, not later.

Joint Field Hearing before the House Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Written Testimony of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa
February 23, 2011

Thank you Chairman Boxer, Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Inhofe, Ranking Member
Rahall, and members of this joint committee for the opportunity to provide testimony at
the “Improving and Reforming our Nation’s Surface Transportation Programs to Support
Job Creation and the Economy” hearing.

America continues to suffer from high unemployment, and unemployment here in Los
Angeles is even higher. Simply put: Americans need jobs and cities and states across
the nation need a federal partnership to help us put people back to work, which can be
done through smart, innovative investments in our transportation infrastructure.
Continue reading