Reminder: why Election Day matters in Los Angeles if you care about transportation

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Click above to find your polling place.

As you may have heard, there’s a runoff Tuesday in Los Angeles to elect the next mayor of the second-largest city in the nation — a city with about 3.8 million inhabitants and some well-known transportation challenges.

I ran the following post on March 4, the day before the primary election in Los Angeles. I’m running it again today as a reminder to vote in tomorrow’s mayoral election between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel because whichever succeeds Antonio Villaraigosa will likely have a hand in many important transportation decisions, including project acceleration, the future of congestion pricing projects, the construction of five rail projects and possible changes in Metro’s fare structure in the future.

Look up your polling place here.

Metro is a county agency and is overseen by a 13 member Board of Directors who serve as the deciders on most significant issues. The Mayor of Los Angeles gets a seat on that board and gets to fill three other seats with his appointees.

A majority of the Metro Board — i.e. seven votes — is required to approve most items. Four of those seven votes are controlled by the Los Angeles mayor. That means that the mayor controls more than half the votes needed to approve items that have impacts across Los Angeles County and the region.

Here are some items that are likely to confront the Metro Board in the next four or so years, meaning they’re items likely to confront the lucky soul (if luck is the right word) who becomes the next mayor of the City of Angels and/or Parking Lots:

•There is the not-so-tiny issue of whether to accelerate the building of Measure R projects and, if so, how best to pay for it and which transit and road projects are included. The next mayor may also choose to use their bully pulpit to persuade Congress to adopt the full America Fast Forward program, which would greatly expand funding for transportation projects.

•Although Metro CEO Art Leahy has already said there will be no changes to Metro’s fares in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1, he also said it’s an issue that will likely have to be revisited sooner rather than later in order to help Metro keep up with its expenses.

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City of Agoura Hills breaks ground on Canwood Street Improvements Project

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From left to right: Greg Ramirez, City Manager; Lan Saadatnejadi, Metro Highway Program Executive Officer; Ben Jong, Metro Project Manager; Illece Buckley-Weber, Councilwoman; Bill Koehler, Mayor Pro Tem; Ramiro Adeva, Public Works Director.

Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro

This morning, the City of Agoura Hills and Metro broke ground on the Canwood Street Improvements Project. The project, scheduled to begin on April 29, will receive full funding of $1.1 million for construction from Measure R.

“We are deeply appreciative of Metro’s support for this much needed project,” said William Koehler, Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Agoura Hills. “Without Metro and the help of Metro staff, we would have had a difficult time moving the project forward.”

The improvements to Canwood Street will maintain continued mobility and operational safety, both pedestrian and vehicular, along this corridor. The Canwood Street Improvements Project is Phase I of a larger project, the Agoura Road Widening Project, which is anticipated to start construction in 2014. All phases of this project are funded in full by Measure R. Both Agoura Road and Canwood Street serve as emergency by-pass routes for the 101 Freeway and their operational safety and capacity are imperative for the freeway in emergency events.

To see the project area and get more information, check out the Canwood Street Improvements notice or visit the city’s news site.

Transportation headlines, special edition: LA Streetsblog’s post “You can’t fix traffic, you are the traffic” is a must read

Traffic on the 405. Photo by malingering, via Flickr creative commons.

Traffic on the 405. Photo by malingering, via Flickr creative commons.

If you have three minutes to spare, I highly recommend Damien Newton's post in response to an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times griping about Westside traffic.

In the Times, editorial writer Carla Hall complained that Los Angeles City Council candidates for the Westside seat (11th district) didn't say much about fixing traffic at a recent Streetsblog forum. She's a longtime Brentwood resident and motorist and doesn't think transit and cycling improvements will help improve her commute to downtown Los Angeles.

I thought the article was intended to be more provocative than informative — it's hard to blame Westside motorists for venting/blowing their stack. Damien apparently thought likewise.

I think the issue that we both had was the notion that traffic can be fixed solely by focusing on traffic. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of evidence from around the world that traffic gets “fixed” — chokepoints can be smoothed, roads can be managed differently (i.e. the ExpressLanes) but it's pretty hard to make traffic go poof and vanish without without wrecking the economy or making it literally illegal or too expensive to drive.

Take it away, Damien:

But to your specific problem, living in Brentwood and commuting via car Downtown there are really only three solutions: move, get a new job, or get over it. That commute is a result of decisions you made and are making. Thanks to a wife that makes quite a bit more than I do, we could live in Brentwood if we wanted to, but we live in Mar Vista. Why? Because the Expo Line and Bike Path are coming. Brentwood may have a legendary private school system and some of the nicest real estate in L.A., but Mar Vista will have much better bike and transit options.It’s all part of the decisions we make. It’s the governments job to make it possible for you to live where you want and can afford and work where you want and can get a job. It’s not their job to make it as easy and smooth as possible. Your commute is part of the price you pay to live in Brentwood and work Downtown.And if you think there are too many cars on the street, remember that you are in one of them. You’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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Small business and prime contractors meet up to team up for Metro contracting opportunities

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With major projects coming online such as the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor, the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension, plus some 25 highway projects in construction phases, prime contractors and small business owners lost no time in making preparations for contracting opportunities at a unique mixer Wednesday.

Twenty-five prime contractors and an estimated 700 small business representatives from approximately 400 firms filled the Metro board room, plaza level and third floor for the fifth annual “Meet the Primes” event held at Metro HQ.

Sponsored by the Metro Diversity & Economic Opportunity Department (DEOD) and the Transportation Business Advisory Council (TBAC), “Meet the Primes” is an opportunity for small businesses and prime contractors to build relationships and teams for Metro procurements. The strategy is for small businesses to have face time with primes, to pitch their service or product and ultimately become part of a prime’s team.

Metro CEO Art Leahy addressed the eager attendees in the board room while the contractors set up interview stations in the lobby and nearby meeting rooms.

This event is held in addition to Metro’s monthly “How To Do Business With Metro” workshops in support of Metro’s Small Business and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Programs.

Check it out on the DEOD webpages at metro.net. Click on the “Meetings” tab for time and date and to register to attend.

Explaining the other half of America Fast Forward: transportation bonds

America Fast Forward Bonds

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Metro last year scored a win when Congress adopted part of the America Fast Forward initiative, expanding a federal loan program called TIFIA that offers low-interest, government backed loans.

Metro is now pushing Congress to adopt the other half of AFF, a bond program designed to raise money to accelerate transportation projects and create jobs.

Which might sound familiar. Everyone in Congress is always talking about job creation, including President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Metro believes AFF is a good way of tackling that issue while also dealing with a few others — expanding transit, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring that our infrastructure remains in good working order.

The bond program is a bit complex: it’s taken me a while to get my brain wrapped around it. The above graphic explains it well. In one sentence: those who invest in transportation bonds receive federal tax credits instead of interest, a good way for investors to lower their tax burden and a good way for transportation agencies to save on interest costs.

Another way of thinking about it: the program doesn’t ask the federal government to spend directly on transportation projects. It does, however, ask the feds to forgo some tax revenues.

Metro is hoping to get the bond and loan program enshrined in the next multi-year federal transportation spending bill. The current bill expires in 2014, meaning a new bill will hopefully be approved by Congress within the next year.

First phase of Metro Red Line celebrates 20-year anniversary

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“This day is here…”

On January 29, 1993, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley stood among a swarm of public officials and transit agency staffers on the cramped Pershing Square subway platform. Standing shoulders above everyone else, including then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, Bradley proudly inaugurated the opening of the first modern subway in Los Angeles.

“Twenty years is a long time. That’s how long we have been pushing on this dream, this vision of what we should do in Los Angeles County,” Bradley said, referring to the subway’s quixotic path to reality in ‘93. “I made a promise when I ran for mayor in 1973 that in 18 months, we’d deliver by breaking ground for rapid transit. Well, I missed by only a few months…”

Today, Metro marks the 20th anniversary of the Metro Red Line’s first phase from Union Station to MacArthur Park, a nearly 4.5-mile construction milestone that began a brand new chapter in regional rail construction and placing L.A. among other major cities across the globe with high-speed, high-capacity subways.

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Metro Requests Proposals to Build Regional Connector Project

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Metro took another step forward toward construction of the Regional Connector Project by issuing a Request for Proposals, or RFP, last week for the 1.9-mile underground light rail line through downtown Los Angeles.

The $1.367-billion project is partially funded with $160 million in Measure R money, and is considered one of the region’s most important transit projects. It will connect the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines in downtown and will create major north-south and east-west transit lines across Los Angeles County. Early utility relocation work officially began in December.

Contractors likely to bid on the project have already been pre-qualified by Metro during an earlier process completed in 2012.  Most are joint venture groups consisting of several construction-related firms. Click here to see a list.

As with the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project and the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Regional Connector will be built using a “design-build” delivery method. This method is also being using to build the first 3.9-mile segment of the Westside Subway Extension from Wilshire/Western to La Cienega.

Major advantages of design-build are a shortened project schedule and overall reduced project costs. The builder is able to start construction while the design is still being completed.

Project proposers will have until May 21 of this year to submit their bids. Metro anticipates selecting a contractor in late fall or following word from the Federal Transit Administration on the status of Metro’s Full Funding Grant Agreement that asks for a federal match to build the project. That could happen by September

The project’s scheduled completion date is 2019.