Report condemns proposed cuts to federal transit funding

Click above to see a larger image.

Attentive Source readers will recall that very un-lovely proposal made earlier this year by Republicans in the House of Representatives to sharply reduce federal funding of new transit projects.

The plan would pretty much devastate the federal New Starts program, which helps local areas construct large and costly transit projects. Such as, for example, the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector, two Measure R sales tax projects that need federal dollars to get built soon.

But, hey, what do I know? I’m just a wee transit blogger. But here’s a new report by Bloomberg that in no uncertain terms spells out how cutting New Starts would also be a giant gut punch to the national economy, with many private construction firms and their employees taking the hit.

As I wrote month, the Republican proposal faces an uphill battle, with a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate and a Democrat in the White House (here’s the less-than-enthusiastic response from some members of the L.A. County Congressional delegation). But it bears watching because these are strange times we’re living in, especially when it comes to any kind of government budget.

Metro announces more frequent Silver Line buses, Gold Line trains as part of Dump the Pump Day

Well it worked: To get some media attention for Dump the Pump day, Metro put CEO Art Leahy behind the wheel of a bus — he’s a former bus operator — and had him drive through a banner this morning. (UPDATE: here’s video).

Here’s the news release about Dump the Pump Day from Metro — including some good news. Silver Line and Gold Line will soon begin operating more frequently than they already do.

•Beginning June 27, the Silver Line will run every 10 minutes during rush hour and every 15 minutes mid-day between the Artesia Transit Center and downtown L.A. It had been running at 30-minute intervals during mid-day.

•The Gold Line will run trains every six minutes during rush hour, down from every 7.5 minutes. That means less time waiting at stations for a train to arrive.

•Orange Line mid-day service will soon be modified to improve connections with the Red Line at North Hollywood.

•In addition, the cost of an unlimited ride day pass will be lowered from $6 to $5 beginning August 1.

Here’s the full news release from Metro:

Metro CEO Drives Bus Through Giant Dump the Gas Pump Banner

Go Metro and Save Nearly $11,000 Per Year

To help underscore the importance of not falling victim to constantly changing gas prices, Metro CEO Art Leahy today drove a Metro bus through a giant Dump the Gas Pump banner. The demonstration was to bring attention to National Dump the Pump Day, the annual event to remind commuters that they do have options to wildly inflated and volatile gas pump prices.

Continue reading

Metro ridership shows slight uptick in May

Before I get to the latest ridership numbers, I wanted to include my daily nag to take our latest survey above — if you haven’t already. I suspect results from this poll, which I’ll discuss at a later date, may have something to do with the ridership numbers below.

As for the latest Metro ridership numbers from this past May, there was a slight increase over May 2010 (39,423,063 compared to 39,258,435). Most of the gains were on the bus side of Metro operations, but Metro Rail saw an increase, too.

Overall, Metro and many other agencies are still trying to reach ridership highs of 2008. On a national level, ridership was slightly up in the first quarter of 2011, according to stats compiled [pdf] by the American Public Transportation Assn.

The prevailing view among many agencies across the country is that the recession, unemployment, fluctuating gas prices, dips in funding for transit and accompanying service cuts have all impacted ridership in the past three years.

Continue reading

Westside Mobility Plan kicks off round of community meetings

Community members peruse displays highlighting local mobility issues.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation held the first of a series of spring community meetings last night in Venice. The goal of these meetings is to introduce the community to the Westside Mobility Plan, which will examine mobility challenges and needs in the notoriously congested Westside.

The impetus for this plan comes from the Los Angeles City Council, who — like perhaps all Angelenos — had seen mobility deteriorating on the Westside and so “requested a comprehensive study to develop potential short-, mid- and long-term multi-modal solutions,” according to the plan’s website.

While the study’s primary focus is the city of Los Angeles, LADOT and its consultants are coordinating their project with neighboring cities, L.A. County and Metro. Continue reading

Please tell us how long you have been riding transit!

Please indulge me and participate in our most recent poll. I’d like to see more numbers because this is an issue that interests me: it says something about transit’s ability to attract new riders these days.

Thus far, the numbers collected in our poll are strikingly different than national numbers from the American Public Transit Assn.

Source poll: How long have you been taking transit?

Why ask the above question? Because the American Public Transit Assn. recently burped out the pie chart below about ridership on a national level and I was curious how our local numbers might compare.

Here’s one take on the pie chart from the California Transit Assn., which raises some points about how the data was collected from agencies across the country.

I’ll be honest: I’m not entirely sure how to interpret the chart. My two small thoughts are: 1) The chart suggests that riding transit for a majority of riders is an ingrained habit and/or transit riders don’t have a choice, and; 2) There seems to be a healthy influx of new riders — with 30 percent riding continuously for a year or less.

Metro, in fact, posed this question in its 2010 rider survey: “How many years have you been riding Metro?” The answers:

Less than one (13%)
1-2 years (16%)
3-4 years (17%)
5+ years (54%)

I tend to think that these numbers could change greatly once more Measure R transit projects come online and we have more of a regional transit network in place to attract new riders. To name just three, I think projects such as the Westside Subway Extension, the Regional Connector and the Expo Line phase 1 and 2 have the potential to be game-changers in terms of getting people to try transit.

What do you think?

Wilshire bus lane project goes to L.A. City Council for approval

Attentive readers know that The Metro Board of Directors voted last month to approve the final environmental report for the Wilshire peak-hour bus lane project, endorsing 7.7 miles of lanes along Wilshire in the city of L.A.

As is often the case in local government, one big vote merely begets another big vote. In this instance, the project also requires two other sets of approvals: one from the city of L.A. and the other from Los Angeles County — as the project will run across city and county land.

The challenge here is to get Metro, the city and the county to all agree to the same 7.7 miles of bus lanes. Do not assume this is necessarily an easy thing to accomplish.

The county seems likely to go along with Metro, as the five County Supervisors also serve on the Metro Board, which voted 11 to 0 for the 7.7-mile option.

The city’s approval process resumes tomorrow afternoon at 2:15 p.m. when the City Council’s transportation committee is set to discuss the issue at City Hall and perhaps vote for a recommendation to the full City Council. The full Council can do whatever it wants with a recommendation — happily accept it or completely chunk it.

Continue reading

Five mayors say the time is now to build high-speed rail in California

It’s not everyday that the mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento and San Jose co-write opinion articles in support of anything. Today, however, that quintet co-authored a piece in the Sacramento Bee supporting the state’s bullet train project which would ultimately link San Diego, Sacramento and the Bay Area.

Excerpt:

Finally, there is the matter of where to start building. Many Southern Californians have said we should give priority to their part of the state; same in the Bay Area. We know that this system will never be a success until it connects these two population centers and does so in a way that is sensitive to local concerns. But the question of where to start does not require complicated analysis. The place to start is the place where we’re ready to start, and that’s the Central Valley.

No one thinks we should build the line through the Central Valley and then stop. And we won’t. There is a parallel to the building of the Interstate Highway System more than 50 years ago. When we started building the Interstate Highway System, the first segments to be completed were not in New York or Los Angeles. The interstate was born in the middle of the country, America’s heartland, with the very first sections laid in Kansas and Missouri and then connected to the rest of the nation.

It’s an interesting read, with the mayors taking on many of the criticisms leveled at the project by the California Legislative Analyst’s office last month.

Of course, at the end of the day the biggest obstacle for the project is money. The estimated cost of the first part of the project — linking Anaheim and San Francisco — is $43 billion, the majority of which has yet to be secured.

America Fast Forward: Keeping Houston's light rail solution on track

The rail component of the Metro Solutions plan. The first light rail line in downtown Houston opened in 2004.

This is the fifth story in our series examining how L.A. County’s 30/10 financing model — and its national counterpart America Fast Forward — could help other cities around the country.

A light rail car on Main Street in Houston. Photo by accent on eclectic, via Flickr.

Los Angeles’ image as the nation’s capital of cars and sprawl persists, despite its having among the highest number of transit riders in the country and dozens of dense, urban neighborhoods. There are almost certainly many other regions as dependent on private vehicles as L.A. and one of them is Harris County, Texas.

After all, it’s the home of Houston, a city that’s both the petroleum energy capital of America and less than half as densely populated as Los Angeles. It’s also a region that’s considering a third outer-belt highway bypass into undeveloped prairie lands, one that Infrastructurist skewered as a “highway to nowhere.”

But there’s a competing vision on the table for the future of Houston, the nation’s fourth most populous city. And this transit alternative vision was embraced by Houston-area residents in November 2003, when they approved a long-range transit plan to be implemented by Metro, the regional transit agency for Harris County. Light Rail Now described the measure’s passage accordingly:

Voters approved by 52% the Metro Solutions plan – including an immediate $640 million revenue bond measure for Metro, the transit agency, to undertake construction of 22 miles of rail transit, with both light rail (LRT) and regional “commuter”-type rail. The vote also authorizes 44 new bus routes, doubles HOV lanes, and extends Houston Metro’s participation in local road projects…The bonding program is part of a $7.5 billion regional transit plan which will build eventually 73 miles of rail transit. Metro will now seek federal matching funds for the new rail projects.

Continue reading

Metro officials talk planning at TOD conference

A 30-10 map on display at a Metro information table.

A 30-10 map (ca. 2010) on display at a Metro information table.

The Los Angeles Chapter of the Urban Land Institute held a conference in Pasadena on Thursday to discuss transit-oriented development in the greater-L.A. area.

The aim of the conference was to figure out a way to put more development around transit hubs. It’s a strategy embraced in many places to promote alternatives to driving and provide housing closer to jobs.

There is also evidence it’s already taking hold here in Los Angeles County. Thousands of units of new housing near transit have sprouted in North Hollywood, Hollywood, Koreatown, Long Beach, downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena in recent years. That said, there are many places along the Metro Rail system where there has been little or no development.

Metro played a big role at the conference because it’s involved in building transit-oriented developments on land it owns near rail and bus stops.

One panel’s topic was: “Where is the ‘T’ in TOD? What is the status of major projects in Los Angeles County.”

Continue reading