Connecting Metro Rail to Los Angeles International Airport: here is a look at issues currently on the table

With the Crenshaw/LAX Line getting closer to construction in 2014, I wanted to address a specific issue involving the project: how the Metro Rail system will eventually connect to the terminals at Los Angeles International Airport.

I also wanted to address a related notion floating around in the buzz-o-sphere that the Crenshaw/LAX Line should be delayed and redesigned to travel closer to the airport.

I’ve broken up the post into three sections to make it digestible because, quite frankly, some of it is unavoidably wonky and bureaucratic. I know there are many people interested in the question of running trains all the way to the airport terminals; please see the last section of this post.

THE BASICS

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The Crenshaw/LAX Line is a light rail project that will run for 8.5 miles between the Expo Line and the Green Line, as the map shows. The project includes an elevated station at the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards, about 1.3 miles east of Terminal 1 at LAX. The new station is a bit closer to terminals than the Green Line’s Aviation station (at Imperial Highway), which is two miles from Terminal 1.

The Airport Metro Connector is in the planning stages and will connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Green Line to the airport terminals via either a light rail line or an automated people mover (APM) — or a combination of those. Funding will likely come from both Metro and Los Angeles World Airports, the city of L.A. agency that runs LAX. Here are the six alternatives under study (larger versions of each are at the end of this post):

130901 Alternatives Large Maps

Click above to see larger.

The main issue that everyone needs to understand: The Crenshaw/LAX Line has a station on the western side of Aviation at Century. It is environmentally cleared and set to be built.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles World Airports has recommended building a people mover station on the east side of the intersection of Aviation and 98th. An elevated block-long walkway would connect the light rail station and the people mover, requiring a trip up and down stairs or an elevator trip for those transferring (rendering below).

staff recommendation for spas.

Source: Los Angeles World Airports.

Source: Los Angeles World Airports.

Los Angeles World Airports has also proposed two other locations where light rail stations could be built for a more direct transfer to the people mover (see below). One is on 98th Street between Sepulveda and Aviation boulevards at the airport’s proposed Intermodal Transportation Facility (known as the ‘ITF’), a hub the airport says that would include buses, light rail and the people mover and include remote check-in and a commercial component. The other possible station location is underground near the entrance to horseshoe road that serves the airport’s terminals.

Metro Map

Source: Los Angeles World Airports.

All three potential light rail station locations have something in common: people using light rail to reach the airport would still have to transfer to a people mover to get to the terminals. Airport officials say that the people mover may include secure vehicles to carry those who have already checked in at the ITF and non-secure vehicles for those who still must check-in at the existing terminal areas.

Continue reading

Measure R committee OKs recommendation to advance TIFIA loan financing for Regional Connector Project

Measure R Oversight CommitteeThe Measure R Independent Oversight Committee this morning approved Metro’s financing plan aimed at securing $160 million in federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (TIFIA) loans for the Regional Connector project.

The committee, which is charged with reviewing the cost-effectiveness of financing Measure R projects, determined this type of federal loan by leveraging Measure R funds would provide a very low interest rate and flexible repayment terms. The TIFIA loan would help supplement needed funding to build the approximately two-mile, $1.399 billion underground light rail project that would connect the Metro Blue, Gold and Expo Lines and streamline rail travel through downtown Los Angeles.

Metro’s treasurer reported that the agency seeks to lock in a low interest rate under the current market environment. Actual loan draws may be deferred for up to five years after the loan is executed, with interest accruing only as proceeds are used and with no change in the original interest rate.

A similar TIFIA loan financing recommendation for the Purple Line Extension project is expected to come before the committee next spring.

The America Fast Forward provision in the most recent multi-year federal transportation bill enhanced the TIFIA program last year, making it possible for Metro to take advantage of low-cost financing with greater flexibility than is available in the public credit markets. Metro plans to seek up to $3.5 billion in these type of loans to build road and transit projects. Read earlier Source post on the TIFIA prgram here.

The committee’s finding will now be considered by the full Metro Board at its Oct. 24 meeting. See committee item here.

Updates to screen prompts on TAP vending machines are in the works

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Steven White, who runs the “Accidental Urbanist” blog, has a good breakdown of the revisions in the works to help Metro customers more easily buy and replenish TAP cards at Metro ticket vending machines.

Excerpt:

If you’ve ever stood at a TAP Vending Machine, wondering where to start, how to continue, or when the transaction is finished, you may be pleased to hear this news: The TVM screens and software are getting a refresh.

Give credit to Metro, they understand that the current TVMs are confusing and have put together some new teams of people to address the problem. I was invited, along with some other bloggers and journalists, to view a preview of the new screens. At this point, it wasn’t a working beta on an actual machine, but the visual and experience design for what the process would be. The great thing about this meeting is that it was not a media presentation showcasing the finished new system, but rather a sneak peek at the in-progress ideas. Metro is stressing that these designs are not final, and that they want feedback on them as they continue to change and revise them before rolling anything out.

Please see Steve’s blog post for more details and his comments on the changes. He has also posted many more slides; please keep in mind that these are still in-the-works and not finalized yet.

I’ve loaded fares on my TAP cards at ticket machines so many times that I know the drill and it’s not a difficult task. That said, almost every time I wander near the machines with my Metro ID card around my neck, I find myself answering questions from customers.

And we certainly see many tweets such as this:

Helped confused newbie @metrolosangeles riders buy TAP card 2 ride Expo Line 2 get 2 Dodger Stadium. Metro must simplify ticket machines!

California sues federal government to protect pension reform and recover transit funds

Two developments in Sacramento on Friday, as detailed in this news release from the office of Governor Jerry Brown:

SACRAMENTO – Moving to defend Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s landmark package of pension reforms, the state of California today sued the U.S. Department of Labor for improperly denying federal grants to California public transit providers after it erroneously concluded that the pension reforms constrain workers’ collective bargaining rights.

“Bringing this lawsuit is just another step to ensure that our pension system is viable long into the future,” said Governor Brown.

The court filing can be found here.

Governor Brown proposed legislation in September to ensure that $1.6 billion in federal grants continue to flow to transit districts after the U.S. Department of Labor denied grant money to the Sacramento Regional Transit District. The Sacramento transit provider is a co-litigant in the case, which the state filed through Caltrans, whose own federal transit grant was denied last month.

Today, the Governor signed the bill (AB 1222), authored by Assemblymembers Richard H. Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento). The legislation temporarily exempts local transit agencies’ workers from the California Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2013 to allow the state to pursue its case in court and creates a state loan program to assist transit operators that have lost federal transit grants.

Earlier this year, Governor Brown sent a letter to acting U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Seth Harris on this issue.

The Department of Labor ruling jeopardized more than three billion dollars in federal grants for Metro, including money needed to help build the Regional Connector and the first phase of the Purple Line Extension. The signing of AB 1222 allows those funds to once again flow (when or if the government shutdown ends); the lawsuit is intended to resolve the issue for good in court.


Metro Live call-in show set for Thursday, Oct. 17 on TV and streaming on the web

Here’s an opportunity to offer your opinions and ask questions of Metro officials. Metro will host a one-hour call-in TV show on Thursday, Oct. 17 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Called Metro Live, the show also will stream on the web at citytv.org.

Discuss Metro’s on-going and future street and highway projects with new Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois — Councilmember for the city of Lakewood — and Doug Failing, Metro Executive Director of Highway Projects.

The show will focus on Metro’s multi-pronged approach to battling traffic congestion — specifically as it pertains to major street and highway projects it is funding in partnership with Caltrans (the California Department of Transportation).

Metro Live will be accepting advance questions from the web but they must include a name and city location. Send questions to livechat@metro.net.

Metro oversees one of the largest bus and rail networks in the nation. But it also oversees three half cent sales taxes that provide funding for streets and highways. With this funding, the highway program is tackling some of the region’s thorniest traffic problems.

Viewers are invited to call in questions about on-going construction, like the I-405 and the I-5 widening, gridlock, potholes and efforts to better manage traffic flow between major streets and freeways.

Find out what projects are quickly headed for completion. (And which aren’t.) Learn why the modernization of goods movement from the ports is essential to our health and our pocketbooks as it creates millions of jobs locally and elsewhere. Ask questions about the ExpressLanes project on the I-110 and I-10 freeways and find out why tollways could be part of future highway construction and funding plans … and which highways might make sense.

Metro Live will air on Santa Monica City TV 16 and L.A. County TV 36 and will stream live on the web at citytv.org. Metro Live is co-produced by Metro and Santa Monica CityTV.

‘Transit Oriented LA’ summit to be held Oct. 10 in downtown Los Angeles

Transit-oriented development remains a big deal here in Los Angeles. With the transit system expanding, there remains plentiful opportunities to put new development near existing or future transit stations.

Los Angeles County has certainly seen its share of TODs — in Hollywood, North Hollywood, Long Beach, Pasadena, downtown Los Angeles, to name a few — in recent years. But there remains challenges: the real estate market is very different in different parts of the county and zoning laws in some areas still prohibit or do not encourage the kind of development that goes well with transit.

Here is the news release from the Urban Land Institute:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will join ULI Los Angeles for Transit Oriented LA, an interactive panel event exploring how to dramatically improve the city’s transportation corridors. Transit Oriented LA – or ToLA – will expand the planning agenda from individual transit stations to transforming corridors to achieve a truly transit-oriented Los Angeles.

At ToLA, ULI-LA will present the results of two groundbreaking studies. The Corridor Project, funded by a ULI Foundation Urban Innovation Grant, focuses on linking stations and improving streetscapes. The Building Reuse Partnership, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, demonstrates how to revitalize neighborhoods by reusing older buildings.

“These two pioneering studies combine as a blueprint for uplifting entire communities,” said ULI Los Angeles Executive Director Gail Goldberg. “We know that vacant or obsolete buildings can be transformed into creative office space and other economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable uses. We also know that improving transportation corridors is key to enhancing livability around transit stations. Together, these studies re-envision today’s development and tomorrow’s mobility.”

The Corridor Project, funded by a ULI Foundation Urban Innovation Grant, will:

Expand the planning agenda from individual transit stations to corridors that strengthen and connect communities.

Shift the public dialog from single developments to broader urban design issues.

Focus on linking stations, improving access to transportation, and creating walkable and aesthetically pleasing streetscapes, so that individuals and communities can enjoy greater benefits from transit systems.

The Building Reuse Partnership, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will:

Provide a plan to increase adaptive reuse in the City of Los Angeles.

Demonstrate how to spur economic recovery, create jobs, reduce carbon emissions and foster sustainable development.

Focus on development opportunities for older vacant buildings along corridors.

SPEAKERS

Will Fleissig, President, Communitas Development Inc

Neal I. Payton, Principal, Torti Gallas and Partners, Inc.

Renata Simril, ‎Senior Vice President, External Affairs, Los Angeles Dodgers

John Given, Principal, CityBuildAdvisors

Melani V. Smith, Principal, Melendrez

Jonathan Curtis, Principal, California Golden Fund

James Lindberg, Planning Director, Preservation Green Lab, National Trust for Historic Preservation

REGISTRATION

Private: $90 (Non-Member $120)

Public/Nonprofit/Young Leaders: $80 (Non-Member $105)

Student: $70 (Non-Member $95)

Register Online

Sponsorship Opportunities
Increase your company’s visibility and branding and become a sponsor. For detailed information regarding sponsorship levels contact Jim Auld for additional information.

Sponsors

  Bernards
Parsons Brinckerhoff  One Santa Fe

Preview of October Service Council meetings

As we roll into fall (and isn’t it hard to believe it is already October), a new round of Service Council meetings are upon us. As usual, this month’s Council meetings begin in Van Nuys with the San Fernando Valley Service Council meeting on Wednesday, October 2. Please note that some of the presentations listed below are tentative at the time of this posting.

All October Service Council meetings will include a presentation on Metro’s Annual Customer Satisfaction On-Board Survey, and a report from Metro Service Council Director Jon Hillmer providing statistics on August ridership, performance and other measures of Metro service. Other agenda items at Council meetings include:

San Fernando Valley (6:30 pm, Wednesday, 10/2) – Report on Sepulveda Pass Bus Test Trip; Report on Proposed Minor December ’13 Service Changes (Lines 167 & 239).

Westside/Central (5 pm, Wednesday, 109) – Report on Proposed Minor December ’13 Service Changes (Lines 60, 83, 217, 256, 720, 760); Westside Region’s Corridor Study Update.

Gateway Cities (2 pm, Thursday, 10/10) – Swearing in of new Gateway Cities Service Councilmember Aja Brown, Mayor of Compton; Update on Gate Latching and ADA Access Issues; Report on Proposed Minor December ’13 Service Changes (Lines 60, 102, 105, 117, 120, 577, 760); Approval of Semiannual Evening Gateway Cities Service Council Meetings.

South Bay (9:30 am, Friday, 10/11) – Update on Gate Latching and ADA Access Issues; Report on ExpressLanes; Update on the Restoration of Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station Signage and Announcements.

San Gabriel Valley (5 pm, Monday, 10/14) – Update on Line 485 Regional Meeting (December); Presentation on Metro’s Service Change Process; Report on Proposed Minor December ’13 Service Changes (Lines 83, 256, 577); Approval to Reschedule or Cancel November 11, 2013 San Gabriel Valley Service Council meeting due to conflict with Veteran’s Day. The Director’s report will also include information on customer complaint types and a response to a request from last month’s meeting regarding Veteran’s fare programs.

For a detailed listing of all Council meeting dates, times and locations, click here. As always, the public is encouraged to attend and share their comments with the Service Councils on improving bus service throughout LA County. If you would like to provide input to a Council but cannot attend a meeting, you can submit your comments in writing through the Service Council web page or send them by email. If your comments are for a specific Council, please make sure to indicate which one you are addressing in your e-mail.

As the clock goes tick, tick and tock, another update on possible Federal Transit Administration shutdown

And the latest from Metro’s government relations team:

U.S. Department of Transportation – Plans For Lapse In Annual Appropriations

With less than 24 hours before a possible shutdown of the federal government, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has prepared a document detailing how the transportation agency will be operating in the event Congress and the White House are unable to reach a deal tonight.

As was shared last week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would face across the board furloughs in the event of a government shutdown. The FTA would continue with limited efforts related to Hurricane Sandy and other emergency operations. The Federal Highway Administration, which operates under contract authority authorized by MAP-21, will avoid the furlough of employees and will continue operations during a possible government shutdown.

We are concerned that a prolonged government shutdown and the furloughing of nearly 95% of the FTA’s staff would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to continue making strong progress towards the Full Funding Grant Agreements we expect to enter into for the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension in the coming months.

Please find here a copy of a document entitled, “Operations During a Lapse in Annual Appropriations: Plans by Operating Administration” prepared by the USDOT’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Budget and Program and CFO. We will continue to remain in close contact with the USDOT as part of our ongoing effort to gauge the impact of a potential government shutdown on our agency.


Federal government shutdown update

Here’s the update from Metro government relations staff from late Friday — doesn’t appear much has changed over the weekend:

While the U.S. Senate has moved to adopt a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating at a level consistent with sequestration levels ($986 billion), it remains unclear what the U.S. House of Representatives will do next to avoid a government shutdown. A memorandum released yesterday by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) noted that in the event of a shutdown next week roughly 95% of the agency’s staff would be furloughed. The Federal Highway Administration, which operates under contract authority authorized by MAP-21, may largely avoid the furlough of employees.

As of Friday afternoon, House leaders were considering their options, including the option of adopting a week-long continuing resolution which would give both the Senate and House more time to work out their differences and avert a government shutdown next Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. We will be in close contact with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) over the weekend as we continue to gauge the impact of a potential government shutdown on our agency.

As we’ve mentioned before, one likely impact of the FTA being largely shuttered is that processing of Metro grant applications — i.e. for the Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension — could be delayed.

Here’s the latest media story from the New York Times, which suggests that in D.C. the conversation has largely shifted from a possible deal to who is at fault. Shocker!

Letter from Federal Transit Administration on possible federal government shutdown next week

Potential FTA Shutdown Dear Colleague 09 26 13

The above letter was sent from Peter Rogoff, Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, to transit agencies across the United States. One obvious impact of a shutdown, as the letter states, is that the FTA won’t be able to process grants that are being negotiated with Metro — including the pending Full-Funding Grant Agreement for the Regional Connector and the Purple Line Extension.