On Transportation column, May 23: Alan Thomas, Westside Subway Extension, Go Metro to the Stanley Cup Finals (really!)

ALAN THOMAS: The slaying of Metro bus operator Alan Thomas on Sunday was — like so many crimes — beyond senseless. Alan was driving a bus in West Hollywood detoured by a bike race when a lone passenger, for reasons we may never really know, fatally shot him.

Public transportation is like so many other public spaces. It relies on public trust to work. To see that trust violated is enormously dispiriting.

It’s perfectly natural in the wake of such a crime to try to put it in a larger context.

Many bus operators have spoken to the media about the inherent dangers of their jobs. Their concerns cannot be taken lightly. It’s also important for the public to know, however, that Metro does take steps to ensure operators are well trained and have the tools needed to quickly summon help.

As for the public conversation, it’s hard to know where to start in the wake of a crime that was apparently random and happened on a quiet Sunday morning in West Hollywood — not exactly a place known as being dangerous.

That said, I think Alan’s death is a reminder that the prevalence of mental illness and the sheer number of deadly weapons in our society are a combination that have already led to too many similarly sad outcomes in too many schools and workplaces.

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Assembly approves bill that would allow Metro to seek Measure R extension

The bill, AB 1446 (by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles), still needs to be approved by the State Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. And a majority of the Metro Board of Directors also need to approve sending the issue to Los Angeles County voters.

The Metro Board is scheduled to discuss the issue at their meeting on Thursday morning. The Board may take a vote as early as next month. Here’s a recent post on a Metro staff report about how such an extension may work to accelerate transit and highway projects. Measure R is due to expire in mid-2039; an extension could allow Metro to bond against future revenues to build projects quicker.

Below is the news release from Assemblyman Feuer:

ASSEMBLY APPROVES FEUER LEGISLATION TO EXPEDITE L.A. COUNTY TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS

AB 1446 Authorizes L.A. County Metro to Seek Voter Approval for Extension
Of Existing Measure R Sales Tax for Infrastructure Projects

May 21, 2012 (Sacramento) – The California State Assembly has approved AB 1446 by Assembly Member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) on a bipartisan vote.  The measure would, with voter approval, fund Los Angeles County rail, highway, bus and local transportation improvement projects more quickly, jumpstarting those projects and getting Angelenos back to work.

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Metro report offers initial look at impacts of bus service changes

Metro’s Board of Directors previously asked staff to prepare a report on the cumulative impact of bus service changes made by the agency between 2007 and 2011. A preliminary report by staff is now available and concludes:

Based on the data collected to date, overall there was a negligible cumulative impact on boardings as a result of the service changes since June 2007, with weekday boardings increasing 1%, Saturday decreasing 1%, and Sunday remaining neutral. Minimizing impacts is largely due to listening to and incorporating public concerns during the planning process, and ensuring there are viable alternatives for existing riders.

A more complete assessment will be presented to the Board in June. I encourage you to read the report – there are a lot of good statistics in there, showing how bus service overall has grown in the county over the past 25 years — in particular service offered by cities and other agencies in L.A. County.

Here is a pdf version for download or you can read the report below.

Service changes report

Measure R extension discussion on Foothill Extension project

This Metro staff proposal to seek voter approval for an extension of the Measure half-cent sales tax past its 2039 sunset was briefly discussed by the Board of Directors’ Executive Management committee on Thursday morning, including some interesting morsels on the Gold Line Foothill Extension project.

Supervisor and Board Vice Chair Mike Antonovich asked for clarification if the extension, as proposed by staff, would fund the Foothill Extension all the way to Claremont. Measure R is currently providing $735 million to fund the first phase of the Foothill Extension from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border.

Metro CEO Art Leahy responded by saying that the language in the existing Measure R ordinance and funding plan is somewhat ambiguous — on one hand defining the Foothill Extension as a project to Claremont but on the other hand only funding it as far as Azusa.

Ultimately, Leahy said, it would be up to the Board of Directors whether to include the second phase to Claremont as part of a Measure R extension. As proposed by staff, a Measure R extension would be used to expand the agency’s ability to sell bonds to accelerate the building of the transit projects funded by the original Measure R.

The Board is likely to vote on whether to take the issue to voters at their June meeting. Here’s a pdf of the most recent staff report, which is also posted below using Scribd.

Measure R extension report

Metro responds to Beverly Hills Courier story alleging large payment to developer

The Beverly Hills Courier on Friday published a story alleging that Metro is preparing to pay $38.7 million to JMB Realty for land to use as part of the Westside Subway Extension project. The Courier said the information came from a Metro report.

The Courier also alleged that the large payment is much more than the assessed value of the land and implied that the $38.7 million was a payment to a politically-connected developer.

Metro’s response: The story is completely erroneous. 

Metro documents and studies do not in any way detail a $38.7-million payment to JMB, nor is the agency planning a $38.7 million payment to JMB.

In fact, with the Century City station at the proposed Constellation and Avenue of the Stars location, the entire subway project with the station entrance and construction area using JMB property would cost $38.7 million less than another alternative not using JMB property.

Where does the $38.7 million number come from? It appears the Courier made an incorrect assumption and a math error.

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Yes, train tunnels exist under schools and school properties

Metro staff have recommended that the Westside Subway Extension tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School. An assertion repeatedly made by Beverly Hills officials in recent months is that there are no schools or school buildings with train tunnels under them (here are a pair of examples, one from the media, one from an elected official in the comments section).

This is not true but the assertion keeps getting made in various forms. It is a topic worth revisiting, given the Metro Board of Directors’ hearing requested by Beverly Hills that is scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Metro headquarters. The hearing’s topic: the possibility of Metro tunneling parts of the Beverly Hills High School campus.

The following are four engineering schematics from Metro’s response to the latest report by Exponent, an engineering consultant hired by the city of Beverly Hills. As the schematics show, tunnels for electrically-powered trains go under or near school buildings and property — and they do so in Los Angeles.

 

Esperanza Public Elementary School and Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in the Westlake district of Los Angeles are above the Red/Purple Line subway.

West Portal Elementary School in San Francisco is over tracks for the San Francisco Muni L line.

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Update on effort to provide cell service in subway

We frequently hear from readers and riders who want to know if Metro will be providing cell phone service and/or wi-fi in the Red and Purple Line subway.

Answer: the agency is working on it and has recently received proposals from several firms. The hope is to choose a winning firm in late summer.

The Metro staff report to the Board of Directors is below (pdf here):

Cell service in subway report