One of the key questions facing the Metro Board of Directors at its meeting Thursday: should Metro continue to plan projects that are scheduled to be built in the second and third decades of Measure R?
These include transit projects such as an extension of the Gold Line from East Los Angeles, a Green Line extension from Redondo Beach, the Airport Metro Connector and the West Santa Ana Branch Corridor project.
Some quick background. Measure R is the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. Measure R expires in mid-2039. The schedule to build transit projects that Measure R will help fund are staggered over the 30 years for a simple reason: the sales tax funds needed to pay for the projects flows into county coffers over time, not all at once.
Even though several projects are not scheduled to completed until the 2020s or 2030s, Metro has been working on the required environmental studies for them. Why? Because the Metro Board has pursued strategies to secure funding to accelerate those projects (such as America Fast Forward). And history has shown time and again that transit projects that are clearly defined with solid plans are more competitive when it comes to winning often scarce money.
There is one important caveat to consider: once finished, environmental studies have a shelf life of about three years. If work doesn’t begin on a project within three years of the completion of the environmental documents, the studies for that project would likely need to be updated, which can be pricey and time-consuming.
Below is the Metro staff report (pdf here). It is scheduled to be considered at the Metro Board of Directors meeting Thursday at 9:00 a.m. at Metro headquarters adjacent to Los Angeles Union Station.
Measure R second and third decade project staff report by
The Gold Line adjacent to Los Angeles State Historic Park on a recent afternoon. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
Gold Line trains currently run every 12 minutes during the day on weekends so this is a big-time improvement. Here’s the news release from Metro:
Beginning Sunday, January 27, Metro will operate more frequent service along the Metro Gold Line, improving train service from every 12 minutes to every 6 minutes on Saturday and Sundays from approximately 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Patrons using the Metro Gold Line, operating between East Los Angeles and Pasadena via downtown Los Angeles, can now enjoy more frequent service on the weekends with less waiting time between Gold Line trains.
The enhanced Gold Line service will encourage patrons to enjoy Old Town Pasadena, Chinatown, Little Tokyo and East LA over the weekend, making better and faster connections.
New timetables are now available on board trains. Plan your weekend on the Metro Gold Line by using Metro’s Trip Planner.
This isn’t hugely surprising, given the surge in ridership on the Gold Line in the past two years — which was helped by increasing the frequency of trains during weekday peak hours in June 2011.
Local officials break ground on the new McBean Parkway Transit Center expansion today in Santa Clarita. Photo by Juan Ocampo/Metro.
The McBean Regional Transfer Station will soon be expanding with a new McBean Park-and-Ride. The project will include 282 new parking spaces that are much needed as other park and ride lots in the Santa Clarita area and at nearby Metrolink stations are at full capacity.
“With $2.97 million MTA Call for Projects funding, the new McBean Park and Ride will be another vital link in our county-wide transportation system,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, Chairman of the Metro Board. “Santa Clarita Valley commuters will be able to carpool or vanpool from here, as well as connect with local Santa Clarita transit buses, Metrolink and express buses into the Los Angeles region.”
Currently, the McBean Regional Transit Center connects Santa Clarita’s local and express buses to major destinations throughout Santa Clarita, the San Fernando Valley, Westwood, Century City, Union Station, and downtown Los Angeles. The new park and ride will also add two more passenger loading areas for express bus boarding, along with lighting and bike lockers.
Metro provided 50 percent of the McBean Park-and-Ride project cost, programming $2.97 million through the 2007 Call for Projects.
Metro CEO Art Leahy talking at the groundbreaking today. Photo by Juan Ocampo/Metro.
Metro took another step forward toward construction of the Regional Connector Project by issuing a Request for Proposals, or RFP, last week for the 1.9-mile underground light rail line through downtown Los Angeles.
The $1.367-billion project is partially funded with $160 million in Measure R money, and is considered one of the region’s most important transit projects. It will connect the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines in downtown and will create major north-south and east-west transit lines across Los Angeles County. Early utility relocation work officially began in December.
Contractors likely to bid on the project have already been pre-qualified by Metro during an earlier process completed in 2012. Most are joint venture groups consisting of several construction-related firms. Click here to see a list.
As with the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project and the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Regional Connector will be built using a “design-build” delivery method. This method is also being using to build the first 3.9-mile segment of the Westside Subway Extension from Wilshire/Western to La Cienega.
Major advantages of design-build are a shortened project schedule and overall reduced project costs. The builder is able to start construction while the design is still being completed.
Project proposers will have until May 21 of this year to submit their bids. Metro anticipates selecting a contractor in late fall or following word from the Federal Transit Administration on the status of Metro’s Full Funding Grant Agreement that asks for a federal match to build the project. That could happen by September
The project’s scheduled completion date is 2019.
New Bus Purchase staff report by
Metro buses rack up a lot of miles and need to be replaced at regular intervals. The above Metro staff report proposes the purchase of 550 40-foot buses powered by compressed natural gas from New Flyer, which is based in Winnipeg and has manufacturing facilities in Minnesota.
It’s a big contract, valued at $302 million — about $549,000 per bus. The buses will be replacing vehicles that have been in service for at least 12 years and have more than 500,000 miles on them.
Staff report on FasTrak maintenance fee by
In December, Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky submitted a motion to the Metro Board to eliminate the $3 account maintenance fee for ExpressLanes customers. The fee has yet to go into effect — it won’t until the ExpressLanes open on the 10 freeway — and will only apply to those who use the ExpressLanes three or fewer times each month.
Nonetheless, I know the fee has been controversial among some Source readers. For those interested in the issue, I encourage them to read the staff report, which includes an explanation of why the fee was created and the impact of getting rid of it, as well as a look at how other agencies handle similar fees.
The Metro Board approved the fee as part of their overall approval of the ExpressLanes project and the Board will make the decision on whether to get rid of it. I’m guessing that one factor that will be considered is how much of a deterrent the fee has been for those considering signing up for a FasTrak transponder to use the ExpressLanes.
I’m interested in reading comments from those out there who read the staff report.
El Monte TVM staff report by
The Metro Board of Directors will be holding its committee meetings today and Thursday. I’m going through the agendas and will post staff reports and proposals that I think will be of the most interest to readers.
This one certainly qualifies. It’s a proposal by staff to install four ticket vending machines at the new El Monte Station. This is something that several Source readers requested after the station opened last fall as the machines are a convenient way to purchase TAP cards or replenish them without having to go online or go out of your way.
The final decision on the machines will be made by the full Metro Board at their regular monthly meeting on Jan. 24.
The above chart is based on Metro’s 2012 Customer Satisfaction Survey and focuses on the issue of ridership by gender. The gist of it: more women than men overall ride Metro although there are notable exceptions: higher-income riders tend to be male, as are riders with a car available to them.
Recently, Transportation Nation reported the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey which revealed a gender gap in transit ridership: Although women make up 47 percent of the workforce, 50.5 percent of transit riders are women.
“Higher income riders tend to be choice riders who chose to ride Metro even though they have access to a car” said Jeff Boberg, of Metro’s Research Department. “We have also found out, through focus groups and other surveys, that women tend to factor personal security higher than men. We have also found that people who ride on Metro buses and trains feel safer on the transit system than those who don’t. This could at least partially explain the gender gap at higher incomes.”
A greater proportion of Metro riders are in the lower income brackets, which accounts for the overall female percentage of 52%, despite much lower percentages in the higher income ranges.
What do you think? What are the reasons that more choice riders tend to be men? Comment please!
Click above to see extremely large version of this chart on our Flickr page — might take a few seconds to load.
With Gov. Jerry Brown releasing his state budget proposal on Thursday, I thought it would be a good time to post this chart without any commentary.
Okay, some commentary….Holy Guacamole, that’s insane!
Metro government relations staff encouraged me to think of the boxes as individual buckets, some with hoses connecting them to other buckets. That kind of helps.
Enjoy perusing the chart and please forward this post to anyone considering a career as a transportation policy analyst.
It was a huge victory last year when Congress approved part of Metro’s America Fast Forward program in the latest federal transportation spending bill. The expansion of the federal loan program called TIFIA will supply transit agencies across the nation with low-interest loans backed by the federal government. Lower borrowing costs = lower project costs.
However, Congress didn’t include the other half of America Fast Forward — a bond program in which the federal government subsidizes most of the interest. That would be a big score for transportationagencies that are often saddled with long-term debt they incur to build big projects that provide big mobility benefits.
One of the big legislative goals of Metro this year is to persuade Congress to adopt such a program. While the bond program would modestly expand federal spending — controversial in some quarters — it would also help create jobs, spur infrastructure improvements and create tax credits for investors who purchase the bonds. It may also provide a more reliable funding stream for transportation projects than the current Highway Trust Fund – which is spiraling rapidly towards insolvency.
The above flier describes the bond program in greater depth. Metro is lobbying now as the current transportation bill expires in mid-2014 and now is time to start work on the next multi-year bill.