Potential future ballot measure discussed at Move LA conference today

I spent the morning at Move LA’s annual conference, held this year at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The activist group led by Denny Zane, the former Santa Monica mayor, this year focused on Measure R 2, an interesting choice given that the Metro Board has yet to decide whether to put an extension of the existing Measure R or a new sales tax on any ballot.

That said, some Board members have certainly voiced support and Metro is in the process of collecting transportation wish lists from cities across Los Angeles County for a potential ballot measure that likely wouldn’t happen until November 2016.

Four Metro Board Members spoke at the conference:

•Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he wants to pursue more regional transportation solutions and that he wants to lead a more humble city of Los Angeles that can work with other cities, both following their advice and taking the lead when appropriate (perhaps in that spirit he indicated his support earlier this week for extending the Gold Line to Claremont). He indicated he was open to a ballot measure but didn’t dwell on it.

Garcetti also said he wants to get a rail connection in our lifetimes to Los Angeles International Airport and that he supports the LAX Connect proposal by the airport to bring Metro Rail into a facility where passengers could check their bags and then transfer to a people mover that would run every two minutes and stop at each terminal. 

•Metro Board Chair and Lakewood Councilmember Diane DuBois said any new ballot measure would be on the 2016 ballot in order to give time to build a consensus across the country. She said she wanted a process that was transparent, inclusive and followed a bottoms-up approach focusing on the needs of neighborhoods. Any potential measure, she said, must include subregional mobility projects.

Chairwoman DuBois also urged a note of caution, saying it’s appropriate to consider the impact of higher sales taxes and how they might impact retail sales and where businesses decide to locate. “Please don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I’m not opposed to asking if the voters of L.A. County to decide. However, I do believe that we should fully consider the impacts of increased taxation.”

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City of Malibu broke ground on two Measure R funded traffic safety improvement projects

Photos: Ben Jong/Metro

The City of Malibu broke ground this week on two new new traffic improvement projects along the Pacific Coast Highway. One project will replace traffic signals at Big Rock Drive to include a left-turn phase and improve the bus stop and pedestrian access. The other project will realign, extend and widen the truck arrester bed–the gravel lane that helps stop runaway vehicles–and improve signage in the area at Kanan Dume Road and PCH.

Both projects are funded by Measure R. Big Rock Drive received approximately $300,000, and Kanan Dume received $900,000. These are the first Measure R funded roadway improvement projects to begin in the City of Malibu.

Tentative agreement on new contract reached between Metro and union leaders representing maintenance workers

Here is the statement from Metro:

Tentative agreement on a new labor contract has been reached between Metro and the leadership of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1277, which represents Metro’s maintenance employees.

Details will not be released pending an ATU membership vote. That should take place over the next month.

ATU Local 1277 represents 2,291 Metro employees ranging from service attendants who fuel and clean buses to bus mechanics and rail maintenance specialists. In addition, ATU represents 1,101 retirees. Their last labor contract expired July 1, 2013. ATU has since honored terms of the old agreement. If approved, the new multi-year pact would be retroactive to last July 1.

Other actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors today

It was a very quiet and relatively quick meeting today of the Metro Board of Directors owing to a light agenda. Don’t fret: I suspect the April and May meetings will be far busier — the May 22 meeting, in particular, is when the Board is scheduled to consider fare changes.

As for today, a couple of items of potential interest:

•The Board approved amending Metro’s Customer Code of Conduct to explicitly prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in Metro buses, trains and other facilities. The Code already prohibited smoking, so this is basically a clarification of that rule.

•The Board approved the motion by Board Members Eric Garcetti and Don Knabe seeking Metro to implement a number of technology upgrades, including potentially internet access on buses and trains. Here’s the motion and an earlier post.

•The Board voted to receive and file a staff report on Metro’s executive reorganization plan.

Yaroslavsky motion pushes for creation of San Fernando Valley-Westwood Express bus

We posted last month about proposed route changes for buses in the San Fernando Valley. One of the proposals is for the creation of a new 588 bus that would operate at peak hours that would run between Westwood and Nordhoff Street in North Hills, mostly along the 405 freeway and Van Nuys Boulevard. This new line still requires funding.

Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky submitted a motion to the Metro Board today about the 588 bus; the motion was approved unanimously by the Board today and asks that staff continue the studies needed for the line and to report back to the Board in May. Here’s the text of the motion:

Motion by Director Yaroslavsky

Valley-Westside Express Bus

The San Fernando Valley and Westside are two of Los Angeles’ largest economic engines—places where millions live, shop, work and play. However, there is currently no express transit connection between the regions, which are separated by the Santa Monica Mountains.

This summer, the 405 Project is expected to complete construction and open High Occupancy Vehicle lanes that will create a new avenue for express bus service through the Sepulveda Pass.

Earlier this month, the San Fernando Valley and Westside/Central Local Service Councils held public hearings and made recommendations on proposed changes to bus service in their respective regions. Among the recommendations was the creation of Line 588, an express bus offering nonstop service through the Sepulveda Pass via the I-405 HOV lanes. The line would connect Westwood to the Orange Line and extend north along Van Nuys Boulevard to North Hills. When Phase 2 of Expo Line opens, it would extend south to meet it, providing a connection to Santa Monica, USC and downtown L.A. The proposed line received strong support from the public.

Line 588 promises an immediate solution for Metro patrons while plans for a more extensive future project through the Sepulveda Pass are being evaluated. Because funding has not yet been identified for the bus line, staff is not currently conducting the tests, studies and analyses that are needed to operate it. While efforts to fund the line continue, staff should make these preparations to ensure that Line 588 can begin serving the public as soon as possible.

I, THEREFORE, MOVE that the Board direct staff to:

1.    Prepare studies, tests and analysis for launching Line 588, an express bus connecting the San Fernando Valley and the Westside via the I-405 HOV lanes; and

2.    Report back on the status and progress of the preparations at the May, 2014 full Board meeting.

Metro Board meeting is underway; here’s the agenda

Gavel and wood have met, in nonviolent fashion, meaning the March meeting of the Metro Board of Directors is underway. The agenda is above; view it as html with links here.

If you want to listen to the meeting from afar, please dial 213-922-6045.

As per usual, I will post any interestingness from the meeting later today on the blog.

A look at what some riders and readers are saying about Metro’s fare change proposal

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Option2

As I dearly hope that you’ve heard by now, Metro is proposing a fare increase and changes in order to keep pace with rising costs. A public hearing will be held this Saturday, March 29, at 9:30 a.m. in the Board room at Metro headquarters adjacent to Union Station.

The two options proposed by Metro staff are above for those who have not yet seen them. The Metro Board is scheduled to vote on the fare changes at its meeting on May 22; the Metro Board may ask for changes to the fare proposals before voting on them. There is also more information about the changes on metro.net.

The following are comments from riders gleamed from various websites, including this blog. I think this is a good chance to see what people are saying while highlighting the agency’s response, as well as my own thoughts. Here goes:

ON OPTION 2 — OFF-PEAK VERSUS PEAK HOUR FARES

Sheriff Bart at Curbed LA: “Charging more for “rush hour” commuting is one way to help keep people in their cars….what a stupid idea. Eliminating transfer fees within a 90-min window is an idea way past due.”

The idea behind the second option was too look at a fare system that would encourage customers with more flexible schedules to ride outside of the rush hour, when seats are in the most demand and often completely filled on many buses and trains.

I’m certainly aware the second option has been criticized by others who also say the increases are too steep. Again, please keep in mind that the Metro Board of Directors has the discretion to choose either option and to make changes to those options before voting to approve one of the two options.

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Motion asks Metro to implement a number of several tech initiatives

In July of last year, Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti and Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont Walker authored a motion asking Metro staff to report back on several technology matters, including ticketing-by-smart phone, wi-fi access at Metro facilities and the possibility of creating an internet-based customer help desk.

Metro staff responded with the following report, which includes the original motion that shows some of the tech efforts underway — including the ability to add to a TAP card by smart phone — and others that are on the radar but need more work and/or funding [pdf here]:

In response, Garcetti and Supervisor and Metro Board Member Don Knabe have submitted a new motion asking staff to go :

One note: To see a list of some third-party apps that have been developed using Metro scheduling data, please click here and then click on the “third party apps” tab. Metro also has some mobile tools available, detailed at the same link.

As for wi-fi on the Gold Line, that was an effort originally pursued several years ago by the Community Redevelopment Agency. After the CRA was legislated out of existence, the project never moved forward.

U.S. Highway Trust Fund headed into the red within months

HTF-Cash-Flow-Summary-Through-2-28-14-Monthly-Ending-Balances-Chart

Below is the latest from Metro’s government relations staff on efforts to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund from going into the red; the fund supports road projects and mass transit across the United States. This has been a problem for many years but no solution seems imminent, particularly in an election year.

USDOT Report – Federal Highway Trust Fund Faces Imminent Shortfall

Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released their latest projection on the solvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund. According to the USDOT, the federal Highway Trust Fund will encounter a shortfall before the end of Fiscal Year 2014.

The main reason the fund has not encountered a shortfall thus far is because MAP-21, the surface transportation bill adopted by Congress in 2012, authorized the transfer of $9.7 billion from the general fund to the federal Highway Trust Fund.

Congress is currently considering a number of options to address the looming shortfall.

Earlier this year, our Board adopted a support position for H.R. 3636 (Blumenauer) that would keep the federal Highway Trust Fund solvent by increasing the federal gas tax by 15 cents over three years and thereafter indexing the gas tax for inflation. For a link to the USDOT report on the federal Highway Trust Fund’s finances, please click here.

Video and new staff report on combating fare evasion on the Orange Line

Above is a brief and concise reminder from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to remember to tap your TAP card at the validator at Metro Rail and Orange Line stations. Even if a valid fare is loaded. If you don’t and you’re caught, you’ll likely receive a citation, usually for $75

Hey, let’s do the math on this!!!

Citation = $75

Fare = $1.50

$75 minus $1.50 = $73.50

Paying $73.50 more than you need to ride the bus…perhaps not the wisest investment you could make :)

UPDATE: A reader wisely suggested we include some information on why Metro requires riders to TAP. The reason: it prevents abuse of TAP cards, namely from people who load cash or passes on their cars but never actually use the cards — meaning they’re riding for free.

Below is the latest Metro staff report on the issue of increasing fare enforcement along the Orange Line, where two audits on two days this past December found fare evasion rates of 22 percent and 16 percent, respectively. A number of options are listed, including installation of gates, creating ‘virtual’ gates with arrays of TAP validators, more signage and even video surveillance.