ExpressLanes on 10 and 110 freeways to be continued beyond next January

The Metro Board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday to continue the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways beyond January of 2015. The Board also voted to charge a $1 monthly maintenance fee on all ExpressLanes accounts to help cover costs of operating the lanes but chose to exempt those with equity accounts.

In order for the ExpressLanes to continue beyond January, a second step is required: a state bill that is pending in Sacramento (SB 1298) must also be approved.

The vote followed the release of a federal preliminary analysis this week that found that the ExpressLanes met many of their goals since initially launching on the 110 freeway in Nov. 2012 followed by the opening of the lanes on the 10 freeway in Feb. 2013. In particular, Metro officials noted that commuters who shifted from the general lanes on both freeways to the toll lanes enjoyed a speedier commute; users saw an average peak period travel time savings of 17.11 and 13.86 minutes on the 10 freeway and 12.80 and 7.81 minutes on the 110 for the morning and afternoon peak periods, respectively.

Ridership in the Silver Line — which uses the ExpressLanes on both the 10 and 110 — also increased 27 percent.

One item that generated discussion was the maintenance fee. When the ExpressLanes began, there was a $3 account maintenance fee for those who used the lanes three or fewer times each month. After complaints from customers that the fee served as deterrent to sign up for an account, the Metro Board decided to waive that fee last spring.

Still, Metro must pay its concessionaire $3 for each transponder issued. Metro Board Member Gloria Molina authored the motion calling for the $1 fee for all users as a way to regain $2.3 million of that cost, saying she wants to see as much of the money generated by tolls (about $18 to $20 million during the pilot period, twice what was expected) to be reinvested into transportation improvements in the 10 and 110 corridors.

Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky said he was against the $1 fee but said it was an improvement on the $3 fee.

Metro officials say that they anticipate improving marketing, outreach, education and enforcement efforts along the ExpressLanes. Most of those who testified publicly asked the Board to extend the ExpressLanes program. Several Board Member also said that they are interested in expanding the toll lanes to other freeways in the future, although the only plans on the table are for eight miles of toll lanes in the Santa Clarita Valley on the 5 freeway.

In order to use the ExpressLanes, all users must have a transponder. To learn more about opening an account, please visit the ExpressLanes homepage.

The news release from Metro is after the jump.

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Metro Board of Directors’ April meeting is underway

The gavel just dropped, thereby starting the monthly meeting of the full Metro Board of Directors.

Here’s the agenda. And here’s a Source post from yesterday looking at some of the key issues that are scheduled to be considered today.

The Board also voted to approve items on the consent calendar. Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois also announced that Karen Gorman has been offered — and accepted — the job of Inspector General for the agency.

Board Chair DuBois also reported on her recent trip to Osaka, Japan, to meet with officials of Kinkisharyo, the firm hired by Metro to build new rail cards. She said that the meeting was encouraged and that she is confident in Kinkisharyo’s ability to deliver the new rail cars on time. The rail cars are needed for the existing rail lines as well as the Expo Line Phase 2 and Gold Line Foothill Extension, both of which are forecast to open in early 2016.

If you want to listen by phone, please call 213-922-6045.

Preview of tomorrow’s Metro Board of Directors meeting; a look at some interesting items

The Metro Board of Directors meets on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at Metro headquarters for their regular monthly meeting. The agenda is posted above and below is some of the more interesting items on the docket:

•Item 17,

">a motion by Board Member Paul Krekorian asking Metro staff to report on whether increased revenues may come from digital billboards on Metro properties and more ads on buses and at other facilities.

•Item 41, a motion by Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky asking Metro to continue studies for an express bus line between Westwood and the San Fernando Valley that would use the 405 HOV lanes.

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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-110 and 1-10) showed a 27 percent increase in monthly boardings after the new service was added with an additional 15 percent increase post-tolling. When surveyed, a third of new riders said they drove alone prior to the increased services and 48 percent of riders agreed that tolling has improved 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.

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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.