Senate passes transportation bill by wide margin

This just in from Metro’s government relations staff — it’s a nice step forward for the America Fast Forward program:

Moments ago, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly (74 to 22) to adopt its surface transportation bill (S. 1813), also known as MAP-21. The bill, championed by U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK), represents an unusual triumph of bipartisan legislating in the current Congress. The bill will fund surface transportation projects through 2013 at a cost of $109 billion. The bill includes an innovative finance section, entitled America Fast Forward (title II of Division A of the bill) that was the product of our agency’s Board-approved plan to accelerate our Measure R funded highway and transit program. As recently as last week, Senator Boxer praised her strong working relationship with Los Angeles County transportation leaders in crafting her bill, namely the America Fast Forward title of S. 1813.

As we shared in a Legislative Alert yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives is in recess this week. The House leadership expects to work on their surface transportation bill (HR 7) in a yet-to-be determined form when they come back to Washington next week. Metro’s federal team is actively engaging with our Los Angeles County House Delegation to ensure that they and their aides have all the information they need on our Board-approved legislative program should the House bring HR 7 to a vote next week. The current surface transportation bill extension expires on March 31, 2012.

Update on federal transportation bill

Metro’s government relations provided the agency with the following update late Tuesday. The multi-year bill provides considerable funding for transit agencies across the nation:

Today, the U.S. Senate continued debate on amendments related to S. 1813, also known as MAP-21. It is expected that the Senate will vote on final passage of the bill tomorrow. The bill will fund surface transportation projects through 2013 at a cost of $109 billion. Due to an agreement in the Senate, the bill will not be sent over to the House for consideration, ensuring a conference committee between the two chambers. The U.S. House of Representatives is in recess this week. The House leadership expects to work on their surface transportation bill (HR 7) in a yet-to-be determined form when they come back to Washington next week. Metro’s federal team is actively engaging with our congressional delegation, especially as the current surface transportation extension expires on March 31, 2012.

Video: the greening of L.A.

This video comes from the office of Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa. With Los Angeles the largest city in L.A. County, the video also features Los Angeles’ expanding bike lane program and some of the ongoing efforts by Metro to expand and go green.

The Gold Line’s Mission Station in South Pasadena is also shown in the video. If you haven’t been out that way, it’s worth the 15-minute ride from downtown — and there’s a very good farmer’s market next to the station on Thursday afternoon and evenings.

10.4 billion trips taken on U.S. public transportation in 2011

Cleveland's RTA trains were among those that saw a nice bump in ridership in 2011. Photo by Matt Johnson, via Flickr creative commons.

Here is the news release from the American Public Transportation Assn:

10.4 Billion Trips Taken On U.S. Public Transportation In 2011

 Second Highest Annual Ridership Since 1957 

According to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation in 2011, the second highest annual ridership since 1957.  Only ridership in 2008, when gas rose to more than $4 a gallon, surpassed last year’s ridership.  With an increase of 2.3 percent over the 2010 ridership, this was the sixth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide.  During 2011, vehicle miles of travel (VMTs) declined by 1.2 percent.

“U.S. public transportation ridership in 2011 is now the second highest ridership since 1957,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “What is exciting is that the uptick in ridership occurred in large, medium and small communities, showing the broad support that public transportation has nationwide.  In fact, the largest rate of growth was in rural communities with populations under 100,000 where public transit use increased by 5.4 percent.”

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Report to Board of Directors on gate locking process

The Metro staff report posted below explains the process that Metro will take in locking the gates at Metro Rail stations. The report is to the Board of Directors on a receive-and-file basis; no action is required. The Board voted in February to begin the gate-locking process this year.

The biggest change which could happen the soonest: the conversion of paper tickets to paper TAP cards this spring. As for the gate locking, the plan is to begin at the Normandie station on the Metro Purple Line subway and then lock the gates at the remaining Red and Purple Line stations over the rest of 2012.

Here’s the report — it’s only two pages.

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Downtown Los Angeles Streetcar Alternatives Analysis to be reviewed by Metro Board

Click above to see a larger image.

The Alternatives Analysis for the downtown Los Angeles streetcar project was released back in January, with the above route chosen as the “locally preferred alternative (LPA).” The study is going to the Metro Board as a “receive-and-file” item this month — meaning that no action is required — and I thought this would be a good time to post it here.

Metro is preparing the environmental studies for the streetcar on behalf of the city of Los Angeles. The above route — one of seven finalists considered — carries an estimated cost of about $106.7 million. The studies are a necessary precursor to getting funding. Among the likely sources will be a variety of federal funds and, in all likelihood, some private money.

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On Transportation: March 7 column

An amazingly bad photo I took of an Expo Line test train heading south at the junction while a Blue Line train in the background heads north. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

EXPO LINE JUNCTION: I spent some of last Thursday evening watching some Expo Line test trains run through the junction of the Expo and Blue line tracks at Washington and Flower in downtown L.A. This is an extremely important junction because the two lines merge there and then share two tracks to the current end of both lines at the 7th/Metro Center station.

The junction has to be able to handle trains running in both directions at very close intervals; the Blue Line already is running every six minutes during peak hours. Needless to say, that junction needs to work flawlessly for reasons of both efficiency and safety.

I know a lot of people are asking when the Expo Line will open. The short answer: No date has been set yet as testing of the line and the Automatic Train Protection system at the junction continues. To repeat: It can’t just work great. It has to work flawlessly.

EXPO LINE BIKE PATH: Speaking of the Expo Line, it’s nice to see some progress being made on the bike path running on the north side of the tracks in Culver City. The path should offer an easy way for areas residents and workers to reach both the Venice/Robertson and La Cienega stations.

It will also be interesting to see how cycling commuters get to the job rich Hayden Tract, which is south of National Boulevard and the train tracks. The challenge is that the bike path is on the north side of the tracks, which effectively seal the path off from the Hayden Tract.

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