Notes from today’s Metro Board of Director’s meeting; Director Diane DuBois calls for staff report on fare restructuring

A few notes from today’s mostly uneventful meeting of the Metro Board:

•Board Member Vice Chair Diane DuBois offered a motion — approved by the Board — that Metro staff produce a report for the April meetings that looks at fare restructuring. She asked that the report include a variety of possible scenarios, including time-based fares, low cash fares, premium fares for premium services and other ideas that would fully utilitze the capabilities of TAP cards.

DuBois wants the report as part of the item to be heard next month on issuing a public notice to change the Measure R expenditure plan to accommodate a future project acceleration plan. “As we move forward with acceleration plans we have to make sure we are financial stable,” she said. “I know this is a very sensitive subject, but I also know we have to pay for what we do.”

As regular Source readers know, this is a subject debated frequently by readers on our comment board. I want to emphasize that the motion calls only for a report by staff next month; no action will be taken to actually restructure fares.

•Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas complained about lack of diversity on the workforce performing utility relocation work for the Crenshaw/LAX Line. “The public comment this morning is not without basis,” he said, referring to speakers who complained about lack of opportunities to find work.

Metro staff said the contractor handling utility work has not fully complied with federal diversity law and that staff is meeting with the contractor to fix that. Metro is also trying to comply with federal rules that place limits on local hiring. In following public comment, longtime civil rights leader Pastor James M. Lawson, Jr., offered a strong rebuke of the Board and urged them to do more to create jobs for the black community.

•Glendale Ara Najarian announced that he was successfully re-appointed to the Metro Board of Directors. He said that he and fellow Board Member John Fasana have spoken and pledged to work together on the many issues they share and agree on.

•The Board voted to authorize Metro to enter into an exclusive negotiation agreement with the nonprofit A Community of Friends to develop 53 units of affordable housing — including some supportive housing — on vacant Metro property at 1st and Lorena in Boyle Heights. Supportive housing is providing apartments for people who have been homeless or others who need help living independently; there will be services staff to help provide for tenants.

Board Member and Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar complained there was not adequate public outreach for the project and that the development had substantially changed with a reduction in retail space. Board Member and Supervisors Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas both said that the developer has done good work in their districts.

A Huizar motion to deny the project and begin with a new RFP failed.

Here’s the staff report on the project.

New study of five metro areas finds home values hold steady when near transit

New Realestate Mantra

Interesting but not shocking report: in five metro areas studied, home prices fared better when the homes were near transit. The five metro areas are Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix and San Francisco.

The study is above. It was done by the American Public Transportation Assn., a transit industry trade group, and the National Assn. of Realtors. My hunch is that living near a major transit line in Los Angeles also helps home values. Agree? Comment please.

Metro Board to consider change to Measure R expenditure plan as part of latest project acceleration effort

UPDATE: The item will be considered at April’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors.

In 2010, the Metro Board of Directors approved the 30/10 plan, the idea being to build 30 years worth of Measure R projects in the next decade. Although it hasn’t yet worked out, that policy is still very much on the books — and Metro staff are still trying to advance Measure R road and transit projects.

The first part of a new acceleration strategy will come before the Metro Board at its monthly meeting on Thursday. In particular, Metro staff are recommending that the Board approve a public notice of a planned change to the Measure R expenditure plan that would allow second- and third-decade Measure R projects to begin receiving funds this decade.

If approved, the proposal would then be vetted by a three-judge panel that provides oversight for Measure R. After the judges release their findings, the plan is for the Metro Board to vote on the new dates for the expenditure plan and a new acceleration plan at the Board’s May meeting.

And what will the acceleration strategy be this time around? I don’t know the details beyond what’s in the staff report issued last week (the report is below). The report shows that Metro is looking at assembling funds from a variety of sources — Measure R, America Fast Forward loans and bonds (30/10 was renamed America Fast Forward in 2011) and possibly revenues from Prop A and C, the half-cent sales tax increases approved by L.A. County voters in 1980 and 1990, respectively.

So stay tuned. As always there’s a lot of balls in the air, particularly at the federal level, where Metro is trying to lock down New Starts money for the Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector while also getting getting Congress to fully adopt and fund the America Fast Forward plan.

Mixed news on transportation funding from Congress — not exactly a shocker, people

For masochistic readers following the tortuous path of transportation funding in Congress, here are a dynamic duo of legislative updates from Metro’s government relations staff.

The first is good news: the House of Representatives restored transportation funding in the budget for the second half of this fiscal year.

The second is not so good news: the House of Representatives is hacking away at transportation funding in a budget they’re preparing for the next fiscal year.

The updates:

House Adopts Six Month Stop Gap Spending Bill

This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senate-amended version of H.R. 933, a six month stop gap funding bill for the Federal Government for the balance of Federal Fiscal Year 2013.

The bill was adopted by a vote of 318 to 109. As was shared in yesterday’s Legislative Alert, the U.S. Senate passed this bill last night by a vote of 73 to 26. In a welcome development, the bill includes language that aligns the level of funding for federal transportation programs with the amounts authorized for those programs under the newly adopted surface transportation bill, MAP-21.

Under the previous stop gap funding bill that covered the first six months of Federal Fiscal Year 2013, Congress ignored MAP-21 funding levels and kept the funding for federal transportation programs at the lower level provided in Federal Fiscal Year 2012.

Initial estimates of this change in policy indicate that federal transportation programs will receive a boost of $385 million dollars of regular discretionary budget authority for the balance of Federal Fiscal Year 2013. This stop gap funding bill is subject to sequestration, which will cut funding across the board for a number of defense and domestic discretionary programs.

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Metrolink-to-Metro TAP test goes well

I happened upon the testing during the afternoon rush hour on Wednesday and everything appeared to go smoothly. With Metro preparing to latch gates at Red and Purple Line stations this summer, Metro and Metrolink are testing paper TAP-enabled tickets that will allow Metrolink passengers to get through the gates.

From Metro’s TAP staff:

On Wednesday, March 6, 2013, Metro and Metrolink collaborated on a successful test-latching of Metro’s fare gates in Union Station.

At approximately 9:00 a.m., two of the largest groups of Metrolink riders successfully transferred to Metro through latched gate arrays at the Alameda entrance to the station. For the first time ever, Metrolink customers were tapped through the gates by Metrolink staff using Metrolink TAP tickets. The successful testing continued through 5:30 p.m.

In addition, the new gate help phone installed near the gate array was tested. The gate help phones are designed to be accessible to those who may have trouble with their TAP cards, including customers with physical disabilities. Customers do not have to dial a number or push a button for assistance. An operator automatically responds when the customer comes into close proximity to the phone and can assist him or her by remotely opening the ADA accessible gate.

Standard operating procedures went smoothly and testing is expected to continue in future weeks. Metro and Metrolink are pleased that our collaboration has been successful so far and expect gate latching of Red and Purple Line stations to begin in June.

Metro and other agencies urge feds to release transit funding currently being withheld

Further proof that there’s always something getting in the way of transportation funding in the nation’s capital. From Metro’s government relations starting nine:

Metro along with the Orange County Transportation Authority, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and Sacramento Regional Transit, sent a letter to Acting United States Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris, urging the United States Department of Labor to release federal transit funding currently being withheld from public transit agencies in California. We will continue to keep you apprised as this issue continues to unfold.  Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Researchers identify eight things that drives customers from taking mass transit

In the latest news from the Ivory Tower, researchers at UC Berkeley have published a list of the eight things that are most likely to tick off transit riders to the point where they’ll give up on transit. The study was done by talking to riders and ex-riders on San Francisco’s Muni system.

The research paper is titled “Passengers perception of and behavioral adaption to unreliability in public transportation.” Forbes has published an article about it, too, emphasizing that customers can cope with extenuating circumstances. What drives customers bonkers are problems they believe are within control of a transit agency.

I’m not sure that any of the following is an earth-shaking revelation. That said, I do think it’s a nice reminder to transit agencies how their service is experienced by customers. Here are the top eight things that really tick off customers:

1. Delayed on board due to transit vehicles backed up or problems on the transit route downstream.

2. Experienced long wait at a transfer stop.

3. Missed departure due to wrong real-time information. 

4. Unable to board or denied boarding due to crowding.

5. Delayed on board due to emergency or mechanical failure.

6. Experienced long wait at origin stop.

7. Ran to stop but the bus or train pulled away.

8. Delayed on board due to traffic.

The Forbes article has more, including recommendations for transit agencies to keep their customers, well, their customers. Is this list missing anything, Source readers and transit riders? Go ahead–get it out of your system…

Foothill Extension Construction Authority approves route for Gold Line from Azusa to Montclair; project still needs funding

Click above to see larger version.

Click above to see larger version.

The Board of the Construction Authority on Wednesday approved the route, which covers 12.3 miles along an existing rail corridor from Glendora to Montclair with stations in Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair.

The Gold Line is currently being extended from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border — that part of the project is being paid for by the Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. This is the second phase of that project, which is in Metro’s long-range plan. As the news release notes, funding will need to be found in order to build this part of the project.

It’s an intriguing project. If completed, the Gold Line could eventually run all the way from Montclair to downtown Los Angeles and then to Long Beach via the Regional Connector project (not to mention the other leg of the Gold Line from Union Station to East L.A. and eventually either South El Monte or Whittier). The trip from Montclair to Old Town Pasadena is estimated to take about 40 minutes — it would be an alternative to the increasingly congested 210 freeway. The trip from Montclair to downtown Los Angeles about 64 to 70 minutes depending on the station in downtown.

Here’s the final environmental study for the project. And below is the news release from the Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the independent agency that is planning and will build the project:

MONROVIA, CA – At their meeting last night, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority (Construction Authority) board of directors approved the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail project from Azusa to Montclair. The 12.3-mile light rail extension includes future stations in the cities of Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair; as well as two new grade-separated crossings (at Lone Hill in Glendora and Towne Avenue in Pomona). The project would extend light rail service between Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, terminating the line at the multi-modal TransCenter in Montclair where multiple bus lines from throughout San Bernardino County and Metrolink already connect. The proposed extension is planned to run mostly at street level and parking is planned at each station.

“This is an important next step in our effort to connect Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire by light rail and a very exciting milestone,” said Doug Tessitor, Chairman of the Construction Authority board of directors. “The Construction Authority is steadfastly committed to completing our mission of building the Gold Line out to Montclair, and hopefully further to Ontario Airport. Our decision last night allows us to move forward with designing the project as we seek funding to build the line east of Azusa.”

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Upcoming meetings for Community Leadership Council for Regional Connector project

Metro’s Regional Connector project will connect Metro’s Blue, Expo, and Gold lines via a 1.9-mile extension of light rail tracks beneath downtown Los Angeles. Early pre-construction activities, such as utility relocations, are already underway and construction of the three new stations and track is expected to begin in late 2013/early 2014.

As part of the ongoing community engagement process, Metro has established the Regional Connector Community Leadership Council (RCCLC). The mission of the RCCLC is to foster, advance and promote community-based dialogue and information-sharing regarding the needs and preferences of stakeholders in the neighborhoods where the Regional Connector will be constructed and operated.

The RCCLC is comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders from along the alignment, with all meetings open to the public. In addition to monthly meetings of the full RCCLC, smaller Station and Area Committees meet on a regular basis to discuss issues specific to their geographical neighborhood.

To sign up to be notified of upcoming committee meetings and to receive the meeting agendas, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/rcclclist

The current upcoming RCCLC and Station/Area Committee Meetings are as follows:

Regional Connector Community Leadership Council: 
April 2 @ 1:30 p.m. (No March Meeting)
Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plz, Los Angeles

Station/Area Committees:

2nd Street/Hope Place: March 12 @ 1 p.m.
Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plz, Los Angeles

1st Street/Central Avenue: March 13 @ 4 p.m.
244 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles

Financial District: March 19 @ 9 a.m.
626 Wilshire Blvd Ste 200, Los Angeles

2nd Street/Broadway: April 10 @ 2 p.m.
To Be Determined

Please RSVP for the meetings you plan to attend as this assists the stakeholder-led committees in making logistical arrangements. These meetings do not typically consist of public presentations, but rather are working group-style committee meetings consisting mainly of stakeholder-led group discussions.

Census Bureau data tells the story: while room for improvement in many ways, L.A. County has typical commutes when compared to U.S.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

The U.S. Census Bureau released some new data sets yesterday, although some of the numbers have been around for a while or will be familiar to some readers.

I don’t think there’s anything shocking about the number of people driving into Los Angeles County to work — not exactly surprising to anyone who has been on an area freeway at 8 a.m. But it’s certainly very interesting to see that our region was ranked fifth in terms of long-distance commuters. The Bay Area ranked first followed by three other areas: New York, Washington D.C. and Trenton. The top four all have robust transit networks.

The Bay Area, in particular, certainly has its share of transit — buses, streetcars, light rail, subway (BART) and commuter rail (Caltrain). But it’s also sprawled relentlessly due in part to an expensive housing market and many people are driving into San Francisco, the East Bay and San Jose from distant suburbs in the San Joaquin Valley. I feel like the city/county of San Francisco has parallels to our Westside: lots of jobs, not nearly enough housing.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

As for the numbers for our region, I think they argue for better transit connections between Orange County and Los Angeles County. I’m not sure the numbers on long-distance commuting are anything San Bernardino or Riverside counties should be proud of — they’ve basically created one-dimensional bedroom communities without the more of quality jobs people need.

Perhaps something to think about before rubber stamping the next distant subdivision, Inland Empire? Those homes impact roads many miles away, of course — something I doubt gets much consideration.

Here is how our numbers on percent driving alone and commuting time compare to other counties or parts of cities:

Manhattan (New York City): 6.6 percent drive alone to work, 30.4 minute average commute.

Washington D.C.: 33.1 percent drive alone, 30.1 minute average.

San Francisco: 37.6 percent drive alone, 29.6 minutes

Philadelphia: 50 percent drive alone, 26.2 minutes

Cook County (Chicago): 62.2 percent drive alone, 31.9 minutes

King County (Seattle): 67 percent, 26.5 minutes

Denver County: 70.4 percent, 24.1 minutes

Fulton County (Atlanta): 73.4 percent, 26.2 minutes

Harris County (Houston): 80 percent, 26.8 minutes

Below is the Census Bureau release on L.A. County and here’s a link to many other Census Bureau news releases on commuting and data:

Los Angeles County, Calif., has among the highest number of commuters coming from another county in the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today in new estimates released from the American Community Survey. Nationally, 27.4 percent of workers commute outside the county where they live.

Among workers in Los Angeles County, 471,345 live outside the county, according to 2006-2010 estimates from the American Community Survey. For example, 178,681 workers commute in from Orange County, 126,642 from San Bernardino County and 66,832 from Ventura County.

Meanwhile, 335,676 residents of Los Angeles County leave the county for work, with 181,744 going to Orange County (which was not significantly different from the number of workers coming in from the county), 57,390 to San Bernardino County and 36,602 to Ventura County.

“It is well known that Los Angeles County draws a lot of commuters to work. The detailed information in the American Community Survey tells us where Los Angeles County workers are coming from, where its residents work, and how its commuting patterns compare to those of other large counties,” said Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau statistician who studies commuting. “This information shapes our understanding of the boundaries of local and regional economies, as people and goods move across the nation’s transportation networks.”

The American Community Survey also provides annual estimates about how commuters in Los Angeles County travel to work and how long it takes them to get there.

Means of Transportation

  • In 2011, 72.3 percent of workers in Los Angeles County drove to work alone, compared with 76.4 percent nationally.
  • Meanwhile, 10.5 percent of Los Angeles County workers carpooled in 2011, while 9.7 percent in the nation carpooled to work.
  • In 2011, 7.3 percent of all workers in Los Angeles County used public transportation — excluding taxicab — to get to their job, compared with 5.0 percent in the nation as a whole.
  • About 0.8 percent of all workers in the county biked to work in 2011, compared with 0.6 percent nationally.

Travel Time to Work

  • In 2011, the average one-way commute to work for people living in Los Angeles County was 29.4 minutes. The average commute nationally was 25.5 minutes.
  • About 11.9 percent of all workers had a commute of 60 minutes or more in 2011, compared with 8.1 percent in the nation as a whole.

View more commuting statistics for Los Angeles County online:

http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/11_1YR/S0801/0500000US06037

The American Community Survey provides a wide range of important statistics about people and housing for every community across the nation. The results are used by everyone from town and city planners to retailers and homebuilders. The survey is the only source of local estimates for most of the 40 topics it covers, such as education, occupation, language, ancestry and housing costs for even the smallest communities. Ever since Thomas Jefferson directed the first census in 1790, the census has collected detailed characteristics about our nation’s people. Questions about jobs and the economy were added 20 years later under James Madison, who said such information would allow Congress to “adapt the public measures to the particular circumstances of the community,” and over the decades, allow America “an opportunity of marking the progress of the society.”