Metro debuts next generation bus today

Metro debuted the first of 550 New Flyer buses this morning. The New Flyer buses will be replacing the remaining high floor buses, thus making Metro a 100 percent low-floor fleet. Additionally, the buses will eventually replace all coaches built between 1999 and 2001, which will result in a much younger fleet that can continue to provide reliable service for Metro bus riders.

The Metro Board in January 2013 approved a $308-million contract for 550 new buses, which will be delivered over the next 18 months. One particular focus of Metro staff was making the buses as ADA-compliant and safe as possible and some of the new features of the new buses include the Q’Pod wheelchair securement system, which better accommodates passengers in wheelchairs. Each bus is also equipped with a new video monitoring system that can be downloaded wireless to law enforcement, if necessary.

The first buses will be put in service in areas of Los Angeles County served by Division 5 in South Los Angeles, Division 7 in West Hollywood and Division 18 in Carson. One of the new buses is also running today only along the 33 line that serves Venice Boulevard. 

Metro enforcement cuts Orange Line fare evasion

Fare evasion has fallen sharply on the Orange Line since December and beefed up enforcement is credited with a 45 percent increase in the number of riders who pay fares and tap their TAP cards at validators before boarding the bus, according to Metro officials.

Metro conducted three fare enforcement audits on the Orange Line in December and February.

The first — on December 3  at the North Hollywood, Sherman Way and Van Nuys stations — found that 22 percent of Orange Line riders evaded fares by not having a valid TAP card or insufficient cash balance on the card. In addition, nine percent of passengers with an activated TAP card and a valid pass did not tap before entering, which is considered misuse of TAP and not fare evasion. As a result, 445 citations were issued that day.

A second audit was held on Dec. 17 at the North Hollywood, Canoga and Reseda stations. On that day, 16 percent of riders evaded fares and six percent of riders misused their TAP cards and 421 citations written.

A third audit was held February 11 at the North Hollywood, Van Nuys and Canoga stations. On that day, there was a seven percent rate of fare evasion and five percent misuse rate, resulting in 310 citations being issued.

The audits found that some passengers are still unclear about where and when to tap their fare cards. As a result, Metro is developing new posters and signs along with audio and electronic announcements explaining how to use TAP cards. A 30-second, instructional public service announcement about TAP cards is also being made and will be played on Transit TV on Metro buses.

There are about 26,000 boardings on the Orange Line on an average weekday. The Orange Line runs for 18 miles between North Hollywood, Warner Center and the Chatsworth Metrolink station.

Caltrans launching statewide campaign urging Californians to conserve water

Though the last few days have been a little damp, California is still experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record. To spread awareness and help educate more people about the problem, Caltrans will be activating their highway message signs to urge drivers to conserve water. The press release from Caltrans is below. For information on Metro’s conservation and sustainability efforts, and for green tips, click here.

In response to the state’s severe drought, Caltrans is launching a statewide educational campaign on the state’s highways, urging all Californians to conserve water. Beginning today, California’s more than 700 electronic highway signs will display the following water conservation message:

SERIOUS DROUGHT

HELP SAVE WATER

“Caltrans has already taken action to sharply restrict water usage,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Using our highway message signs, we are asking California’s 24 million drivers to join us in this important effort.”

Caltrans will support the www.saveourh20.org campaign by using California’s electronic Changeable Message Signs along the highways to raise awareness of the severe drought and encourage Californians to conserve water. The signs will be activated when there are no critical emergency or traffic safety messages or Amber Alerts.

As a large department responsible for 30,000 acres of irrigated landscaping, Caltrans is making dramatic reductions in its irrigation activities. Effective this month, Caltrans will take the following actions:

  • Cut statewide irrigation activities by at least 50 percent.
  • Delay all new landscaping projects in severely impacted areas until the next rainy season to preserve the water supply. Postpone all non-essential highway planting.
  • Cease watering in areas of the state suffering from the most severe drought impacts.
  • Expand its use of smart irrigation technologies, which turn off automatically when it rains. Such systems can reduce water usage by as much as 50-60 percent. Continue reading

A look at proposed bus service changes that would better connect the San Fernando Valley and the Westside

As some of you already know, Metro’s Service Councils this month are holding public hearings on proposed bus service changes to take effect in June.

The above staff report details all the changes, including maps of proposed bus routes.

Perhaps the most interesting changes proposed involve bus routes in the San Fernando Valley, including:

•The creation of a new 588 bus that would operate at peak hours that would run between Westwood and Nordhoff Street, mostly along the 405 freeway and Van Nuys Boulevard. This new line still requires funding.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

•Extending the 734 Rapid Bus to Westwood via Sepulveda Boulevard, thereby creating a bus line that would run from Sylmar to Westwood.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

•Combining the 741 and 761 Rapid Bus lines to create a U-shaped Rapid Bus line in the Valley that would run between

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

Of course, better connecting the Valley and the Los Angeles basin has long been a challenge for mass transit in Los Angeles County, owing to the barrier that is the Santa Monica Mountains. The Red Line does run between North Hollywood and Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, but that doesn’t really help connect the Valley to the Westside.

Metrolink also offers two commuter rail lines between the Valley and downtown L.A., but that has two sets of challenges: 1) expense and frequency of service, and; 2) also no service to the Westside.

One of the projects designated for Measure R funding is the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, which aims to connect the Valley and Westside, with a study area that runs from Sylmar all the way to Los Angeles International Airport. A rail tunnel is among the options identified during early studies although that will need more than the $1 billion supplied by Measure R. Also being considered is a public-private partnership to supply more funding.

In the meantime, Metro is trying to find the best way to connect the Valley to the Westside via bus service. The 588 proposal is interesting because it would take advantage of the new northbound HOV lane that is being built on the 405 as part of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project that is scheduled for completion this summer. Metro’s current 761 Rapid Bus doesn’t use the freeway — it only runs along Sepulveda Boulevard.

The SFV Service Council held a public hearing to receive public comments on these proposed bus service modifications last Wednesday, as well as a hearing at the Metro Gateway Building on Saturday.

A total of 26 people provided comments. There will be three more public hearings held this week; tonight at the San Gabriel Valley Service Council in El Monte at 6 p.m., Westside/Central in Beverly Hills at 5 p.m. on Wednesday (Feb. 12) and Gateway Cities in Huntington Park at 6 p.m on Thursday (Feb. 13). More on meeting locations here.

Please check the metro.net for details on the location and public transit options. Interested persons can also provide their comments on these proposed changes thru Friday, February 14 via Metro Customer RelationsThe Metro Board of Directors are scheduled to consider the changes later this spring.

Watch construction work on Gold Line Foothill Extension and ‘Get Lucky’ at the same time!

Seven minutes of awesomeness from our friends at the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency building the 11.5-mile project between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border.

I’ll be touring the project next week — I’m looking forward to seeing all the work done. The project is about half complete and is forecast for an early 2016 opening at this point. The project also includes a large maintenance campus in Monrovia for light rail vehicles — it’s the large construction site just west of the Home Depot on the south side of the 210 freeway

Sign up for e-updates from the Construction Authority here.

Foothill_Ext_Map

RELATED POSTS:

Gold Line Foothill Extension project continues to take shape; check out the photos of the bridges and canopies

Another big bridge rising for Gold Line Foothill Extension

Gold Line bridge over eastbound 210 freeway is complete! Check out the slideshow

And it begins: Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project begins construction

The Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project this week began construction activities along the 8.5-mile alignment that includes old railroad track demolition, building demolition and tree removal and pruning.

The contractor Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructor (WSCC) began removing old railroad tracks at two locations: Florence Avenue between Crenshaw Boulevard and Manchester Avenue and Aviation Boulevard between Manchester Avenue and Imperial Highway.

The work will be done between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and will last for the next four months. No traffic impacts are expected since this will be done in Metro’s right-of-way.

The demolition of buildings at the northeast corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Rodeo Road will have the same work schedule but is expected to be completed in two weeks. At the same location trees will be removed beginning Thursday, Feb. 6. This is expected to take only two days and will have the same work schedule. This location will be used as a construction yard and will ultimately be the location of a future underground station.

In addition, tree pruning will take place at four locations along Crenshaw Boulevard: between Exposition Boulevard and Rodeo Road, between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Stocker Street both sides of Crenshaw Boulevard and both sides between 43rd Place and 43rd Street.

The last location will be the center island at Crenshaw and 48th Street.

For more information on construction activities please contact Metro Construction Relations at (213) 922-2736, visit the project webpage crenshawcorridor@metro.net or metro.net/Crenshaw and follow the project at Twitter at twitter.com/crenshawrail or Facebook.com/crenshawrail.

Here are the construction notice on these activities:

Federal Highway Trust Fund faces $172 billion shortfall over next decade, according to new report

The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon was last increased in 1993; it funds road and highway programs — and also provides funding for federal mass transit programs. To put it lightly, Metro relies on federal dollars in order to build new projects and ongoing maintenance, among other things.

Metro CEO Art Leahy issued this legislative update Tuesday about the need to raise the gas tax, a task that is ultimately up to Congress:

Congressional Budget Office Projects Massive Deficit For Federal Highway Trust Fund

Earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a baseline projection on the federal Highway Trust Fund that predicts a shortfall of $172 billion over the next decade. The CBO baseline projection is the latest evidence that the federal Highway Trust Fund is running out of money at a rapid pace. Last month, in an address before transportation experts in the nation’s capital, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx predicted that the U.S. Department of Transportation could start “bouncing checks” as early as this August 2014. Also last month, our Board adopted a support position for H.R. 3636, legislation authored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) that would increase the federal gas tax by 15-cents per gallon over the next three years and simultaneously index the gas tax for inflation. It is estimated that the Blumenauer bill, backed by our Board of Directors, could completely fill the $170 billion shortfall facing the federal Highway Trust Fund over the next decade. Please find here a copy of the baseline projection on the federal Highway Trust Fund that was issued by the CBO earlier today – http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/43884-2014-02-Highway_Trust_Fund.pdf