Tuesday, September 28, 2010 6:30 – 8pm
Japanese American National Museum
369 E. 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Monday, October 4, 2010 11:30am – 1pm
Los Angeles Police Department
100 W. 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
This is a chance to learn more about the study and to also submit an official comment on the DEIS/R. Metro staff has recommended that the connector use a fully underground route between Little Tokyo and 7th/Metro Center. Staff also said that eliminating the station at 5th and Flower — two blocks from 7th/Metro Center — be considered as a cost-cutting move. Metro’s Board of Directors are scheduled to vote on a route and the station issue at their Oct. 28 meeting.
The L.A. Weekly on Wednesday published a story headlined “$9 Billion Subway-to-Sea Rip-off.” The story suggests that the Westside Subway Extension project is a ripoff because it won’t fix traffic congestion in the region.
I’d like to offer readers some corrections and clarifications, and also provide information omitted from the article:
•The article stated the subway project would cost $9 billion because of cost overruns. In fact, there are no known overruns because construction hasn’t yet begun. Although Metro studied five alignments for the Westside Subway Extension, it has the funds to build two of them — a Wilshire line to the vicinity of Wilshire and Westwood boulevards or the same alignment just a bit further with an additional station at the VA Hospital. Metro estimates the cost of those alternatives at $4 billion and $4.4 billion, respectively, in 2009 dollars.
•If the project can be built in the next decade under the 30/10 Initiative, that would add a billion dollars to each of those alternatives because of inflation, not overruns. If it takes until 2036 to get the subway to Westwood, the cost is estimated at $6 billion and $6.4 billion, respectively. The fifth alternative studied by Metro — a line all the way to Santa Monica and a line between Beverly Hills and Hollywood though West Hollywood — is estimated to cost $8.75 billion in 2009 dollars. But Metro doesn’t have the money to build it at this time, as has been clearly stated at many public meetings and in many documents. Here’s a recently released fact sheet that explains it.
•Perhaps to support the Weekly’s view that the subway is a waste because it doesn’t fix traffic, the article doesn’t mention some benefits the Westside Subway Extension may offer. So I’ll list a few:
–Although the subway draft environmental impact statement/report projects that the subway will not seriously dent traffic congestion in the region in the year 2035 (see chapter three), it does suggest that the subway will slightly decrease congestion. Another way to look at it: even with population growth expected in the next quarter century, the subway could help congestion from getting worse AND it might provide a nice alternative to traffic for some riders. On a per rider basis, subways generally produce fewer greenhouse gases than those driving alone, according to the Federal Transit Administration.
–The article fails to note that extensive transit systems in places such as New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Paris and Rome have also failed to fix traffic congestion. But they make getting around easier.
–The subway will considerably improve transit times to the Westside. The 25-minute trip from Union Station to Westwood is half the time the journey takes for the speediest of Metro buses — and I use the term speediest loosely. The subway will also allow travel times of about 35 minutes from North Hollywood to Westwood — a trip that currently takes about 65 to 70 minutes by train and bus. The subway connects to the region’s transit system at several locales, most prominently Union Station and downtown’s 7th/Metro Center stop — where all four Metro light rail lines will one day converge when the Regional Connector is built. Continue reading →
UPDATE, FRIDAY, 5 P.M.– I added information after the jump about two other issues not included in the original version of this post.
In addition to the bus service changes and cuts I posted about earlier, here are some other items of interest the Board of Directors of Metro discussed on Thursday (links to staff reports are available on the agenda):
•The Board approved a contract with NextBus for a real-time bus information system. (Item 19)
•The Board approved a contract up to $7.16 million to a private firm to study traffic “hot spots” on the 605 freeway that could potentially be improved under a Measure R project. (Item 32)
•The Board of Directors approved a proposal to hire up to 21 people to help plan Measure R transit and road projects and an amendment by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to also hire an Executive Director of Government Relations. A proposal to increase the salary of the agency’s highway chief to $240,000 was continued to next month. (Item 8)
•The Board approved a motion by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa calling for a plan to be developed to install racks that hold three bikes on buses (funding still must be secured) and to also increase funding for Metro’s call for bike projects. (Item 9) Continue reading →
The Board of Directors voted this morning on service changes and cuts that would reduce Metro’s bus service by about 3.7 percent. The cuts include the elimination of five Rapid bus lines — the 711, 714, 715, 753 and 920 — although local service will be enhanced. Here’s the staff report with the full list but note a last minute change will retain 60 minute frequency service on Line 620. The line’s productivity will be re-evaluated in six months.
The cuts and changes will take effect in December. Metro staff recommended the changes and cuts to eliminate redundant service and to make Metro’s bus system more efficient. Several local lines were also canceled because they didn’t serve enough riders — typically 20 passengers or less per hour. The average Metro bus carries 51 passengers per hour and some of the busiest routes — including the Wilshire Boulevard corridor — have more than 100 passengers per hour.
One proposed cut to line 168 in the San Fernando Valley was not included in the changes approved today. Discussion of the elimination of that route was held over to next month’s meeting.
Of the 10 members of the Board of Directors at today’s meeting, none opposed the cuts and changes. County Supervisor Gloria Molina expressed concern that Directors were cutting about $15 million in service from the current budget while also being asked to approve new staff for Metro in item 8 of the meeting’s agenda. About $30 million is expected to be saved in next year’s budget.
“You’re asking us on the one hand to please cut out these service lines because we need to save money but on the other hand we need to hire all these people,” Molina said during discussion of the item. “I just think it’s a pretty ruthless approach.”
Over two dozen members of the public testified before the Board of Directors. Many were from the Bus Riders Union and opposed the changes and cuts, saying they would have to contend with longer walks to bus stops and more crowded buses. Others said the changes and cuts made sense because the routes were under-used.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, and, to his left, Supervisors Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas, join officials – including Metro CEO Art Leahy, State Assemblyman Mike Eng, Duarte City Councilman John Fasana, El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero, Arcadia City Councilman Roger Chandler, FTA Team Leader Ray Tellis and Caltrans District 7 Deputy Director Frank Quon – at groundbreaking for ExpressLanes project. (Photo by Luis Inzunza)
Folks: we should have posted this yesterday:
Metro Breaks Ground on New State-of-the-Art Transit Facility at the El Monte Station: Upgrade and Expansion of El Monte Station Part of ExpressLanes Project
Metro joined local elected officials today [Wednesday] for a groundbreaking ceremony to officially mark the beginning of construction on a new state-of-the-art transit facility that will revamp and expand the current El Monte Station.
The upgrade to the current facility, which first opened in 1973, is part of the Congestion Reduction Demonstration Program known as ExpressLanes and is funded by a $210 million federal grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Metro and Caltrans District 7, along with Foothill Transit, Gardena Transit, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, MetroLink and Torrance Transit are partnering in a one-year demonstration project during which existing carpool lanes on the I-10 El Monte Busway (between Alameda Street and I-605) and the I-110 Harbor Transitway (between Adams Boulevard and the Artesia Transit Center) will be converted to High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes called ExpressLanes.
The upgrading of the El Monte Bus Station is an essential part of the success of the ExpressLane project in an effort to provide commuters, regardless of income level, with new and better travel options along two of LA County’s most congested corridors. ExpressLanes are scheduled to open in 2012.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era in the San Gabriel Valley as we expand the busiest transit center west of Chicago into a modern, state-of-the-art facility that will increase passenger capacity and increase the number of buses the station can accommodate that will enhance transit services for thousands of daily commuters,” said Metro Board Chair and LA County Supervisor Don Knabe. Continue reading →
The agency’s 13-member Board of Directors meets on Thursday morning to discuss and vote on a variety of issues. They’re the ultimate deciders for Metro, so here’s a roundup of some of the bigger items on the table/agenda:
•Bus service changes and cuts (item 24) — The cuts amount to about 3.6 percent of Metro’s bus service, including the elimination of five Rapid lines. I posted about this yesterday; here’s the full staff report with the details.
•Contract for NextBus real-time arrival information (item 19) — The $1.6-million contract with the firm NextBus is to develop a system that would allow web users to see what time the next bus is showing up, something which is becoming more common in other cities. Here’s the staff report and here’s a recent post about it.
•Report on 30/10 project schedule (item 31) — The report from Metro staff spells out projected opening dates for the 12 Measure R projects that the agency wants to accelerate using federal loans and financing. This report has the Westside Subway Extension opening to Westwood in fiscal year 2020 and the Regional Connector opening in 2019. Staff report.
•Bike motion by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (item 9) — The motion proposes that Metro study boosting funding for bike projects and whether it’s possible to install bike racks that hold three bikes on buses. Here’s the motion. Continue reading →
With public hearings underway on the Westside Subway Extension’s draft environmental impact statement/report (DEIS/R), there are a couple of new fact sheets recently posted to the project’s website that might be helpful.
The second fact sheet looks at issues involved in tunneling and constructing the subway. It’s relevant, of course, because of some neighborhood concerns that have been raised about tunneling under homes and other private properties.
Public hearings for the subway project continue tonight at 6 p.m. at Plummer Park in West Hollywood. The schedule for the remaining three hearings is after the jump — and here’s the webcast from Monday’s hearing at LACMA. We are also in the midst of the 45-day public comment period. Here’s a link to the online comment form for the project. Continue reading →
As many of you already know, the Board of Directors of Metro are scheduled to vote at their monthly meeting on Thursday on changes and cuts in the agency’s bus service.
The cuts amount to about four percent of Metro’s overall bus service. Among the cuts: five rapid lines (the 711, 714, 715, 750 and 753) would be discontinued entirely and replaced with enhanced local service.
Four percent is not a tiny number — but it is also far less dramatic than cuts made by other transit agencies around the U.S. during the ongoing economic downtown. Many of the cuts have been driven by a decline in ridership (and the revenues that go with that) and the loss of local and state funds support transit.
The service changes, if approved, would take effect in December. How were the cuts and changes made? Metro staff looked at current service and tried to cut down on bus service that was either redundant or being used by too few people.
Here is the staff report to the Board of Directors, which includes a discussion on the criteria used to judge which bus routes were cut or changed. The last four pages listing the cuts and changes in service are posted after the jump. For those wondering what is “tier 1″ bus service, it’s Metro’s most heavily used bus and rail routes, which carry more than 10,000 riders on the average weekday and consist of the core of Metro’s service.
Page 1 of APTA's quarterly ridership report. Click above for larger image.
The American Public Transportation Assn. issued the press release below. Ridership on light rail and the subway in Los Angeles County is among those that increased in the second quarter of 2010:
Public Transit Ridership Shows First Increase Since Late 2008
In the second quarter of 2010, more than 2.5 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation as ridership increased slightly by 0.1 percent over the second quarter of 2009, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This uptick in ridership is the first increase in six quarters.
Pointing out that nearly 60 percent of trips are taken on public transportation for commuting to and from work, APTA President William Millar said, “History shows that as the economy grows, public transit ridership tends to increase. This rise in ridership offers a glimmer of hope that we may be coming out of the economic recession and ridership will continue to move upward.”
Noting that the public transit funding bill at the federal level has not passed, and local and state funding has declined, Millar said, “To maintain our public transportation systems and expand them to meet growing demand as the economy recovers, we need to have government at all levels – federal, state, and local – adequately invest in public transportation. Regrettably, facing revenue shortfalls, many transit systems must still raise fares, reduce service, and/or lay off staff in order to balance their budgets.”
Previous to this quarter’s ridership increase, public transit use had declined in the past five quarters due to high unemployment, the economic recession, and lower state and local revenue for public transportation. Continue reading →
Here’s the link to watch the webcast at 6 p.m. of tonight’s public hearing for the Westside Subway Extension at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The hearing, of course, focuses on the draft environmental impact statement/report (DEIS/R) that was released earlier this month.
Details on all five hearings are after the jump. And here’s the link to our Sept. 3 post on the DEIS/R.
The hearings are a chance for the public to comment and express concerns (or compliments) on the project. The Board of Directors of Metro is scheduled to vote Oct. 28 on a route for the subway.