Zocalo Public Square to host forum pondering the 710 gap and regional mobility

Photo: Zocalo Public Square

Photo: Zocalo Public Square

Here’s something different: Zocalo Public Square is holding a forum next Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at MOCA on the 710 freeway gap and regional mobility issues.

Of course, the ongoing SR-710 project is looking at the same issue with five alternatives under consideration: a freeway tunnel, light rail, bus rapid transit, traffic signal and intersection improvements and the legally-required no-build option. The project is funded with $780 million from the Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008 — a lot of money but not enough for some of the more expensive options.

Here is a description on the forum from the Zocalo website:

The 710 is one of the most important freeways in Southern California. It’s also shorter than originally planned: For nearly 50 years, legal and environmental challenges have stalled the freeway in Alhambra, 4.5 miles short of its intended destination, Pasadena. Over the decades, discussions about extending the freeway have cast its future as a local issue. But the 710 causes traffic, produces pollution, and affects commerce across Los Angeles and even beyond. How broad are these impacts, and what role might the stalled extension play in them? What would the five options now being debated for dealing with the Alhambra-to-Pasadena gap–implementing new surface traffic technology and strategies, new rapid bus transit, light rail transit, a freeway tunnel, or building nothing at all–mean for our region? UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies directorBrian Taylor, Clean Tech Advocates senior advisor and former California Environment Secretary Linda S. Adams, L.A. Chamber of Commerce president Gary Toebben, and Southern California Association of Governments executive director Hasan Ikhrata visit Zócalo to discuss what these proposals mean for all of us.

 

The forum is hosted by NBC-4 reporter Conan Nolan.

The forum is free. Click here to make a reservation. MOCA is located at 250 S. Grand Street and is a short walk (although uphill) from the Metro Red/Purple Line’s Civic Center station or via numerous Metro bus lines, including the Silver Line and Lines 70, 71, 76, 78, 79, 96 and 378. For those driving, there are numerous lots in the area and parking is $9 at Disney Hall.

Metro is expected to soon announce the release date of the draft environment study for the project. Click here to visit the project’s home page on the Metro website.

 

Public hearing set for May 14 to comment on Metro’s proposed $5.5-billion budget for FY 2015

Here is the news release from Metro and the proposed budget is above:

A public hearing is set for 1 p.m. on May 14, 2014 to hear comment on Metro’s proposed balanced $5.508 billion Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) budget, set to begin July 1, 2014. The proposed budget includes continued commitment to the largest highway and rail building program in America, bus headway improvements and $283.4 million in maintenance expenditures to keep the system in top form. 

The public hearing will take place during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Metro Board Finance Committee at the Metro Board Room, 1 Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles. The public can view copies of the balanced budget proposal at www.metro.net/fy15proposed or request a copy from the Metro Records Management Center at RMC@metro.net.

The draft FY15 budget enhances many services while keeping fares at low levels, however, a decision on a proposed fare increase to eliminate a projected $36.8 million operating budget deficit by Fiscal Year 2017 is pending the May 22 Metro Board meeting.  

As part of the $283.4 million targeted at maintenance, Metro will spend $192.7 million on bus service including the purchase of 550 new clean-burning CNG buses and about $50 million for rail improvements on the Blue Line and the Red Line subway in the next fiscal year. 

Safety is critical to Metro passengers and the FY15 budget contains $48.7 million to keep the system as safe as possible. Enhancements include improvements to cameras and video monitoring, security kiosks are various rail stations, signal system rehabilitation on the Metro Blue and Green lines and pedestrian safety improvements on the Metro Red Line with an underpass and overpass bridge planned for Universal City and North Hollywood stations. 

Metro continues construction on the most comprehensive public works program in America with Measure R and other funding sources. In FY15, Metro will have five major rail projects either under construction or prepared to begin including the Metro Gold Line extension to Azusa, the Metro Expo Line extension to Santa Monica, the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Regional Connector. The Metro Purple Line extension to Westwood has cleared major legal hurdles and is expected to receive a federal full funding grant agreement by mid-May. 

In terms of highway projects, the mammoth undertaking of modernizing and expanding capacity of the I-405 will be completed in FY15 and other projects are moving forward including I-5 widening from Orange County to the I-605, the I-710 South Corridor, the North SR-710 study and a variety of other improvements including continuation of countywide sound wall construction and the Freeway Beautification Pilot Project designed maintain landscape and remove graffiti and debris.

The Metro ExpressLanes Project continues to provide travel options on the I-10 and I-110 freeways with future expansion of ExpressLanes to be studied. The Kenneth Hahn Countywide Callbox System continues operation along with development of the Motorist Aid and Travel Information System (MATIS). 

Metro will continue to contribute both operations and capital funding to the Southern California Regional Rail Authority with FY15 capital projects including the Bob Hope Airport/Hollywood Way station, Van Nuys Second Platform, Vincent Grade/Acton and Lancaster Stations, Doran Street Crossing design, Raymer to Bernson Double Track and Southern California Regional Interconnectivity Program (SCRIP), which will increase Union Station Capacity. 

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.

TAP cards can now be used on Long Beach Transit

photo_regular-serviceThe TAP network continues to grow as Long Beach Transit today becomes the latest agency to join as a fully TAP-enabled bus fleet.

Long Beach Transit riders now have the choice to pay their fare with TAP cards instead of paper passes or cash. A rider simply taps the card against a TAP mobile validator while boarding, listens for the beep and watches for the green screen that shows that the card is valid.

Riders can purchase Long Beach regular, senior/disabled, student, stored value or EZ transit passes at taptogo.net, at the Transit & Visitor Information Center in downtown Long Beach and at select TAP pass sales outlets. Here is the announcement on Long Beach Transit’s website.

Stored value can be purchased at any Metro Rail station TAP vending machine. Fourteen addition transit agencies are set to join TAP this year including the city bus fleets in Glendale, Pasadena and Santa Monica.

Current TAP partners include Access Services, Antelope Valley, Culver City, Foothill, Gardena, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Metro, Montebello, Norwalk, Santa Clarita and Torrance. Metrolink has its own TAP enabled tickets.

With each addition to the TAP network, we get closer to the goal of a seamless, regional transportation network where passengers can transfer easily without digging into their pockets for change when boarding. 

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.