U.S. Conference of Mayors backs America Fast Forward

The U.S. Conference of Mayors last week voted to back a resolution by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti that “urges Congress to create a new category of qualified tax credit bonds to fund $45 billion over 10 years for transportation to stimulate infrastructure investment.”

Not exactly earth-shaking news. But it’s good news nonetheless.

Let me explain. Metro has been pursuing the America Fast Forward (AFF) initiative for four-plus years. AFF includes two parts: an expanded federal loan program and a new bond program.

The loan program — called TIFIA — was expanded by Congress in 2012. TIFIA loans help provide local transit agencies such as Metro with low-interest loans that can be used to help pay for big, expensive projects — and, in fact, TIFIA loans are being used to help finance the building of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the first phase of the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector.

The bond program has been garnering support, but Congress still hasn’t made it part of a multi-year transportation funding bill. In a nutshell: 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.

america-fast-forward-bonds

Will Congress go for it? Hard to say as partisan politics have prevented Congress from approving of a truly long-term transportation funding bill since a four-year bill was signed into law by President Bush in 2005. That bill expired in 2009, was extended several times and then replaced by a two-year bill in 2012 that expires this year.

Earlier this year, President Obama released a bill proposal that embraced the AFF bond program as well as the TIFIA program. Congress hasn’t exactly embraced the President’s bill but there have been indications of support for the AFF bond program. In the meantime, mayors continue to push Congress to do something, as many cities are trying to expand transit systems and need help financing pricey projects.

As Mayor Garcetti wrote about the Conference, “As gridlock continues to paralyze our federal government, it’s America’s mayors who are increasingly leading the charge to improve quality of life across this country.”

New TAP-TO-GO allows loading of regular monthly passes by text message

TAP-TO-GO Card

This is something that riders may find convenient: it’s now possible to load a 30-day regular monthly Metro pass on a TAP card via text message. If buying a pass by text message, passes load immediately on cards without the one- to two-day delay when passes are bought on taptogo.net.

TAP-TO-GO is a six-month trial program that is beginning this week and will run through Dec. 1. There are two important caveats: at this time, only regular monthly passes are available and you need to use a new, special TAP card from the program to participate. There is no additional cost for the card.

The program is being run by Metro and its contractor mobileAxept. Reminder: Monthly passes are still available at TAP Vending Machines at all Metro Rail and Metro Orange Line stations, Metro Customer Centers and El Monte Station.

How to sign up 

1) Text TAPSIGNUP to 28950  or visit taptogo.net to sign up online.

2) If texting, mobileAxept will reply with a link to sign up.

3) Enter your name, mailing address and email address. Participants will be directed to the BlueFin-hosted secure payment site to submit credit/debit card information. Credit/debit cards will not be charged until you receive your card in the mail and load your first pass.

4) Once your information has been validated, mobileAxept will send a text confirming participant has successfully joined the TAP-TO-GO pilot program. 

5) Participants receive a special TAP card in the mail within seven to 10 business days, with instructions on how load your first Metro 30-DayPass. Again, you need to use this new card — it’s not possible to sign up using an existing TAP card.

How to reload

•Text TAP30DAY to 28950 to reload your Metro 30-Day Pass. You will receive a reply text message confirming your payment has been received and your card is loaded.

When it’s time to reload your Metro 30-Day Pass, you will receive a reminder text to reload three days prior to expiration, and if necessary, one day prior to its expiration.

•Avoid paying single ride fares — currently $1.50 rising to $1.75 as early as September — by purchasing your pass before your Metro 30-Day Pass expires.

An FAQ on the TAP-TO-GO program is after the jump.

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Metro to make bus service changes on selected routes effective Sunday, June 29

Here is the news release from Metro with all the details:

Starting Sunday, June 29, Metro will implement some minor bus service changes to improve the connectivity and usability of the bus system. For complete details, please see the revised timetables on metro.net or on buses during June. The following are the changes to be implemented.

28 Downtown LA – Century City via West Olympic Blvd.

Combined with Line 84 (Eagle Rock Plaza to Downtown LA via Eagle Rock Blvd.) in Downtown LA via Hill and Spring Streets providing a through line from Eagle Rock Plaza to Century City. Line 84 renumbered Line 28.

60/760 Downtown LA – Long Beach/Artesia Station via Long Beach Blvd.

Minor re-route northbound in Downtown LA via 7th St, Hope St, Wilshire Blvd. to Figueroa St. and regular route to Sunset Blvd. 

68 Downtown LA – Montebello via Cesar E. Chavez &1st St.

Route extended in Downtown LA south to 6th St. via Spring and Main Streets.

84 Downtown LA – Eagle Rock via Eagle Rock Blvd.

Combined with Line 28 in Downtown LA via Hill and Spring Streets providing a through line from Eagle Rock Plaza to Century City. Line 84 renumbered Line 28.

169  West Hills – Sunland via Saticoy St. & Sunland Blvd.

Route now ends at Burbank Airport. Service to Sunland Blvd. provided via extended Line 222. Combined with Line 645 in West Hills providing a through line from Burbank Airport to Warner Center. Line 645 renumbered Line 169.

222 Sun Valley – Hollywood via Hollywood Way – Cahuenga Blvd.

Extend northern terminus to Sunland Blvd. via route of Line 169 providing a through line from Hollywood to Sunland with service to Burbank Airport.

645 West Hills – Warner Center via Valley Circle — Mulholland Dr.

Combined with Line 169 in West Hills providing a through line from Burbank Airport to Warner Center. Line 645 renumbered Line 169.

In addition, minor frequency adjustments/changes have been made to other bus lines not listed above. Please check for revised timetables on metro.net, or on board buses.

About Metro

Metro is a multimodal transportation agency that is really three companies in one: a major operator that transports about 1.5 million boarding passengers on an average weekday on a fleet of 2,000 clean air buses and six rail lines, a major construction agency that oversees many bus, rail, highway and other mobility related building projects, and it is the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County. Overseeing one of the largest public works programs in America, Metro is, literally, changing the urban landscape of the Los Angeles region. Dozens of transit, highway and other mobility projects largely funded by Measure R are under construction or in the planning stages. These include five new rail lines, the I-5 widening and other major projects.

Stay informed by following Metro on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.net, facebook.com/losangelesmetro, twitter.com/metrolosangeles and twitter.com/metroLAalerts and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.

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Metro staff recommends new light rail station at Aviation/96th Street to connect to future LAX people mover

NewA2map

One of the ongoing projects that we’ve been following closely is the Airport Metro Connector, which seeks to connect the terminals at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with the growing Metro Rail network. This is obviously a project of great interest given that LAX is the third busiest airport in the United States and many other airports in the U.S. and abroad are connected to local rail systems. 

A new Metro staff report released today (above) recommends that one alternative for the project be studied more intensively: building a new rail station near Aviation Boulevard and 96th Street to serve trains along the Crenshaw/LAX and Green Lines. The station would also be the “gateway” transfer point to an Automated People Mover that would take people to the airport terminals. The people mover would be built by LAX. 

Metro will evaluate the light rail part of this alternative — i.e., the new rail station — in the project’s upcoming environmental clearance document. The planners at LAX would study the Automated People Mover. 

The new Metro Rail station would be about .4 miles north of the future Aviation/Century station that will also serve both the Crenshaw/LAX and Green Lines. The idea, according to the Metro staff report, is that the 96th Street Station would be the gateway for passengers headed to LAX while the Aviation/Century station would connect riders to the many businesses along the Century Boulevard corridor.

A new analysis by Metro staff also found that this alternative would deliver about the same number of riders to LAX as running a light rail line directly to the airport terminals. The analysis also found that the recommended alternative would get people to the terminals in about the same amount of time, cost far less to build and could be built sooner, with a completion date perhaps as early as 2022, depending on when LAWA builds the people mover.

The preferred alternative was developed in close cooperation with planners and officials at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the city of Los Angeles agency that oversees the airport.

Over the past several years, LAWA has been finalizing details on its current modernization plan, which includes the people mover, a new ground transportation hub (known as the Intermodal Transportation Facility or ITF) and a consolidated rental car facility. LAWA’s current plans are to build the people mover just north of 96th Street en route to the Crenshaw/LAX corridor. Here is the link to the latest LAWA presentation on their ground transportation program. 

The people mover would also include a station at the ITF to be built by LAWA on the northwest corner of 98th Street and Airport Boulevard. That facility would serve as a pick-up and drop-off point for airport passengers and, according to LAX, would allow passengers to check in for flights and check their baggage. LAX is studying whether to build two or four people mover stations to serve the airport terminals. 

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TAP validator test at entrance to Gold Line at Union Station

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Those entering or exiting the Gold Line at Union Station recently may notice something different: there are TAP validators now arranged across the bottom of the stairs. The validators, up until now, have been against both walls and next to the ticket machines.

What’s going on? Metro’s TAP team is trying a different arrangement of the validators to see what works best at the entrance to the stairs leading to the train platform. As you know, it’s an area that can get quite crowded at peak hours with people headed both up and down the stairs.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have a preference!

U.S. House adopts amendment to allow ‘local hire’ policies for transit agencies

The amendment was authored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles). It’s still not the law of the land, but is significant. The issue is that receiving federal funding for projects comes with strings attached in terms of restrictions on local hiring preferences.

Here is the news release from her office:

WASHINGTON–The U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation today authored by Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) that would allow local transit agencies like Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prioritize hiring local residents for highway and transit projects. The amendment was adopted as part of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.

Currently, federal regulations bar transit agencies that receive any federal assistance from implementing local hire policies for construction and operations projects. If signed into law, state and local transit agencies will also have the flexibility to focus their hiring in low-income and underemployed neighborhoods by applying geographically targeted preferences.

“Chambers of commerce, local government officials and economists all agree that allowing transit agencies to adopt local hire policies just makes sense,” said Rep. Bass. “Local taxpayers are funding the majority of transit projects, like the Crenshaw-LAX Lightrail Line. This policy will ensure that local tax dollars are creating local jobs in the communities that need them the most.”

“Metro is extremely appreciative of Representative Karen Bass for championing this amendment.  This amendment would allow transportation agencies, like Metro, to establish local hire programs to build transportation projects with significant non-federal funding, to help create jobs by incentivizing the development of non-federal projects by leveraging the federal investment,” said Arthur T. Leahy, Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “With Los Angeles County voters repeatedly voting to direct a portion of their local sales taxes to be used for transportation projects, Metro would welcome the ability to establish local hire programs on partial federally funded projects to build a better, stronger and more mobile Los Angeles. We also believe that passage of this amendment will incentivize other metropolitan areas in the country to follow Los Angeles County’s self-help transportation model, a model that is bringing mobility and tens of thousands of good-paying jobs to our region.”

Currently, federal regulations bar transit agencies that receive any federal assistance from implementing local hire policies for construction and operations projects. As the economy continues its recovery, transit agencies have the potential to spur job creation in their local communities. Limiting these transit agencies from being able to adopt local hiring policies when making hiring decisions hinders their ability to generate job growth, which is detrimental to local economies across the United States.

In his 2015 Budget, President Barack Obama proposed changing this policy to allow for local hiring practices by transit agencies.

To see Rep. Bass presenting her amendment on the House Floor, click here.

Metro announces break-through program to help small businesses compete for contracts

This is an important article for readers who wish to do business with Metro. As the monthly agenda for the Metro Board shows, the agency contracts out quite a bit of work — and the following is about an effort to give more businesses a chance to compete for that work. The article was written by folks in the Small Business Enterprise program:

In January of this year, the Metro Board approved an agency-wide Small Business Set-Aside Program as a breakthrough initiative to level the playing field for Small Business Enterprises (SBEs) so that they can compete as prime contractors, consultants and suppliers. 

The program covers competitively negotiated contracts, sealed bids and public works that range from $3,000 up to $5 million and meet certain criteria, depending on the type of procurement. Certain informal and formal procurements will now be set aside for competition among SBEs when there is a competitive pool of three or more SBE firms available to perform the work.  

The Set-Aside Program was developed in response to a recent mandate by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to improve competition by SBEs on FTA-funded procurements. Metro also expanded the program, which launched June 2, 2014, to include other procurements (i.e. they don’t have to be federally-funded projects) under its Small Business Enterprise Program.   

“Small business participation is essential to our procurement strategy as we sharpen our focus on increasing SBE competition,” said Stephanie Wiggins, Metro’s Executive Director, Vendor/Contract Management.  “Under Metro’s groundbreaking Small Business Set-Aside Program, SBEs will have improved access to learn about and respond to solicitations, competing only against other small businesses on applicable contracts.” 

To be eligible, small businesses must be certified by Metro as SBEs in the applicable North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes at the time of bid or proposal submission, and must perform a Commercially Useful Function (CUF) – meaning SBE primes must perform at least 30 percent of the total cost of contract value with their own workforce.  

Businesses interested in participating are encouraged to become certified as SBEs with Metro as soon as possible. Those firms that are already certified are encouraged to review their current data to ensure that their NAICS codes and contact information are up-to-date. 

“This unprecedented access to Metro’s contracting opportunities significantly boosts small business competition, leading to more contract awards, increased job creation and accelerated growth for the local economy,” Wiggins added.  

You can learn more about Metro’s Small Business Set-Aside Program at the Metro Diversity and Economic Opportunity Department web page.