A closer look at job centers and transit in Los Angeles County, including Century City

Many job centers are served by local or commuter rail. Source: U.S. Census Bureau Local Employment Dynamics, 2008.

This week, I decided to revisit the Census Bureau’s Local Employment Dynamics database to get a sense of which job centers are served by local or commuter rail in Los Angeles County.

Many big job centers (illustrated by the darker shades of blue in the map above) are served by transit. These job centers include Warner Center in Woodland Hills (Orange Line BRT); Pasadena (Gold Line); Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster (Metrolink); Long Beach (Blue Line); and downtown Los Angeles.

Others are not at the moment. For example, the northwest San Fernando Valley is a darker shade of blue. It will soon have the Orange Line busway extension, scheduled to open in 2012 and a project funded by the Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008.

The Crenshaw/LAX Line will travel along Aviation Boulevard through the job-rich area surrounding LAX. The South Bay area is also a darker shade of blue; an extension of the Green Line to Torrance is currently under study. And the Foothill Extension of the Gold Line coincides with the darker blue area along the 210 freeway in the San Gabriel Valley.

Several areas of the Westside – Westwood, Century City, and Beverly Hills – are as jobs-rich as downtown Los Angeles. The Draft EIS/EIR for the Westside Subway Extension notes the jobs in those three areas are comparable to the number of jobs in the central business districts of cities such as Seattle, Denver and Atlanta.

A closer look at the geographic distribution of jobs reveals that many centers not currently served by rail will receive rail service under Measure R, such as the Wilshire Corridor, Century City, and the South Bay. Source: U.S. Census Bureau Local Employment Dynamics, 2008.

The second map, however, vividly shows what is rather obvious: these three big job centers are not currently served by local or commuter rail. Under Measure R, that area is slated to be accessible by the Westside Subway Extension and the second phase of the Expo Line.

Continue reading

Board of Directors give initial approval to Wilshire bus lane project without Condo Canyon segment

The final environmental impact report for rush hour bus lanes on parts of Wilshire Boulevard was initially approved by the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday, with a roughly one-mile stretch in the Condo Canyon area of Westwood removed from the project. Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas abstained from the vote.

Metro staff now have to conduct additional environmental analysis of the project without the Condo Canyon stretch. So the Board will have to vote on an updated environmental study in April. Construction is expected to begin in early 2012, with the lanes opening in 2013.

A motion by Board of Director Zev Yaroslavsky asked to remove the segment of the bus lanes between Selby and Comstock avenues in Westwood. His motion also asked Metro staff to “assess travel time delay and traffic impacts in the mixed flow lanes along the project corridor. This analysis should serve to help determine what additional mitigation would be necessary to address time delays along the corridor and in the region.”

Many public speakers — including more than a dozen from the Bus Riders Union — testified in favor of keeping the Selby-to-Comstock segment, saying the bus lanes would be a lesser project without it and that the bus lanes shouldn’t be further fragmented.

But Yaroslavsky, who represents Westwood as part of his supervisorial  district, said that other areas along Wilshire had also been exempted from having the bus lanes, including Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and the area around MacArthur Park.

The bottom line, Yaroslavsky said, is that the Condo Canyon area is already heavily residential and one of the few parts of Wilshire where traffic moves decently at  rush hour. He said the project would not do enough to improve bus times — 30 to 60 seconds at most — but could cause other travel times for other traffic to deteriorate by as much as 26 percent. Continue reading

Westside Subway Project soil and seismic testing to begin

The exploratory drilliWorker demonstrates soil test drilling at news conference held in Westwood on Aug. 20, 2009. ngs are a key part of the planning and environmental process for the proposed Westside Subway Extension, a regionally beneficial Measure R transportation project. Photo by Gary Leonard.

Worker demonstrates soil test drilling at news conference held in Westwood on Aug. 20, 2009. The exploratory drillings are a key part of the planning and environmental process for the proposed Westside Subway Extension, a regionally beneficial Measure R transportation project. Photo by Gary Leonard

The next step for planning and engineering the Westside Subway Extension — including deciding the exact route the project will ultimately take through Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood — begins next week when Metro contractors begin conducting soil, seismic, noise and vibration tests as part of final environmental review and preliminary engineering for the project.

In October, the Metro Board of Directors approved two Century City station locations for final review, resulting in two alignment options between that location and Beverly Hills.

One route option has raised the ire of some in Beverly Hills because it would travel underneath historic Beverly Hills High School to reach a station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars. The other route option would stay largely under city streets to reach a station at Santa Monica Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. That route is not without its concerns as well – it would follow a known earthquake fault. For a summary of these and other options, read a previous Source post.

Geotechnical work will be conducted along the entire planned alignment from Western Avenue to the Westwood/VA Hospital but will begin in the Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood areas to help resolve this outstanding issue. Next week’s testing is scheduled for Westwood, where work permits have been secured. Continue reading

Roundup of Board of Directors meeting so far this morning

Among the actions taken so far today by the Metro Board of Directors at their meeting:

•(Item 6) The Board approved a $28-million increase to the budget for the first phase of the Expo Line from downtown L.A. to Culver City, bringing it to $928 million. Staff report

•(Item 3) The Board approved exercising an option with Hyundai Rotem to purchase 20 more rail cars for Metrolink with crash absorption technology for $18 million — money that’s coming from Measure R. The option locks in a lower price for the cars. Staff report

•(Item 4) The Board approved a motion by Director Richard Katz to develop a green building program — i.e. to try to reduce the amount of air pollution and greenhouse gases produced by construction of Metro transportation projects. Motion

•(Item 10) As part of their consent agenda, the Board approved a motion by Director Antonio Villaraigosa to allow students from public and private schools in Los Angeles County to ride Metro for free to and from school-sanctioned field trips and activities during non-rush hour periods. The goal of the program is to encourage more school field trips during a time of stretched education budgets. Motion. The press release is after the jump.

•(Item 5) The Board delayed voting on a motion by Director Ara Najarian calling for Metro to perform a new cost estimate of the 710 gap closure project and for the Metro Board to then vote on whether the project should go forward or not based on this new cost analysis. Najarian, the mayor of Glendale, opposes a tunnel for the 710 to close the gap between Alhambra and Pasadena — although at this stage of planning, Metro is still a long ways from deciding what a gap closure project may be.
Instead, the Board asked Metro CEO Art Leahy to assess the impact of applying such an analysis to all Measure R projects, as proposed by Board Member John Fasana and seconded by Board Member Gloria Molina. Board members wanted to know, in particular, how much of a delay that may cause for different projects. That report by Metro staff will come back to the Board in February.

Five things I'm thinking about transportation

This is a new feature for The Source in which I express actual opinions while working for government. Members of the media: please take any of these ideas and run with them — we could use the coverage!

1. I’m still a little surprised that of all the media stories written about the Westside Subway Extension’s route, almost no attention was paid to the issue that there will be little or no parking provided by Metro at the stations. There will certainly be a lot of connecting bus service, bike racks and drop-off zones for subway riders, as well as some private lots for cars that are near the route. But this is still auto-centric Southern California and parking is almost always an issue when it comes to development. Readers of this blog don’t seem to think it’s much of an issue, judging from our own poll. And I personally don’t believe it’s a big deal — the current subway doesn’t have much parking from Metro. Still, I think it’s interesting that the media didn’t show much interest.

2. I think that something routinely overlooked in the debate over high-speed rail and whether it should be built at great cost in California is this: there are still large swaths of the state with little or no passenger rail service. In the year 2010, it’s not possible to take a train from Los Angeles to Bakersfield — Amtrak only offers bus service. Or from Bakersfield to Sacramento. Both of those trips require the Amtrak bus to complete them. And there are still considerable stretches of single-track in the state — meaning that service between Los Angeles and San Diego is slower than it should be, for example (it takes about 2 hours, 45 minutes each way). Don’t get me wrong. I think bullet trains would ultimately be great for California. But we’re building rail from the ground up. Continue reading

Board of Directors to consider increasing budget for phase one of Expo Line

At their meeting on Thursday, the Metro Board of Directors will be asked to increase the budget of the first phase of Expo Line by $28 million to settle claims made by the design-build contractor.

If the increase is approved, the total cost of the Expo Line project would rise to about $927 million.

Here is the full report to the Board.

Metro Board of Directors agenda now online

The Board of Directors have their final meeting of the year on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at Metro headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Here’s the agenda.

A few items of interest that the Board will tackle:

•(Item 15) The Board is scheduled to vote to approve the final environmental impact report for the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project — i.e. the rush-hour bus lanes for Wilshire between Centinela Avenue and just west of downtown L.A. Here’s a post looking at the project. Keep in mind that the final environmental study also needs to be approved by the city of L.A. and L.A. County.

Another decision before the Board is whether to remove the planned bus lane from about a one-mile stretch of Wilshire in the Condo Canyon area of Wilshire. Residents there have argued that putting the bus lane in one of the general traffic lanes will hinder traffic in the area as well as exits and entrances to residential buildings. Here’s a recent post about the federal funding issues involved. The Brentwood Neighborhood Council has asked that no bus lanes be built west of the 405. Here’s L.A. Streetsblog’s coverage.

•(Item 4) The Board is scheduled to vote on a motion by Board member Richard Katz, asking Metro to develop a green building strategy. The idea is to find a way to build big transit projects with equipment that pollutes less. Continue reading

Metrolink debuts new rail cars as part of Whistlestop tour

Metrolink Board Chairman Keith Millhouse showers the new safety-enhanced rail car with confetti as transit officials launch the first of Metrolink’s new Guardian fleet, which will eventually total 137 rail cars equipped with state-of-the-art safety technology. Also on board for the launch is, background from left, Metro’s CEO Art Leahy, Director Richard Katz, Republic of Korea Consul General Jae Soo Kim, Hyundai Rotem Co. President Minho Lee, MTA Chairman and L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe and Metrolink CEO John Fenton. Photo by Gary Leonard.

Metrolink publicly debuted its first Hyundai Rotem railcars at Union Station this morning. The cars are equipped with crash absorption technology. The agency has ordered 137 of the cars to be part of its “Guardian” fleet.

Among the cars’ safety features, according to Metrolink:

* Crush zones that absorb impact at each end of the car

* Enhanced bumpers to absorb, balance and dissipate force if an impact were to occur

* Couplers that absorb energy and help to keep cars in line and upright

* Work tables designed to dissipate the force of a collision

* Reconfigured seat placement in each car

* Comfortable seats with higher seat backs, provide more neck and back support

* Illuminated and marked pathways and exits

* An elevated train operator compartment

* Preinstalled inward and outward facing video cameras

* Sleek, stainless steel exterior

In addition, and as a response to the deadly Metrolink crash of Sept. 2008, the agency recently awarded a contract to implement a positive train control system that uses GPS technology to monitor of trains across the five-county Metrolink system and to keep them at safe distances from one another.

Metrolink is taking its new rail cars on a “whistle stop” tour this week. After the jump are the dates and times you can see them at cities around the region. Metro is one of the five county transit agencies in Southern California that helps fund the commuter rail agency. Continue reading

Planning for Eastside Access project kicks off

Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar, at left, and Metro CEO Art Leahy at today's press event in Boyle Heights.

Los Angeles City Councilman and Metro Board Member Jose Huizar held a press event this morning to discuss the Eastside Access project, which aims to make streetscape improvements in Boyle Heights and the Eastside near the Gold Line and help a burgeoning arts district in the area.

Like many parts of L.A. County, this is an area that could use better sidewalks and street lighting, to name just a couple of fixes on the way.

Serious planning for the project — which is funded by Measure R — is now getting underway and a Community Advisory Committee was recently formed to help advise Metro and the city of Los Angeles on the improvements. Construction is expected to begin in a year.

Details are in the following press release from Councilman Huizar’s office:

First Measure R Eastside Project Kicks-Off

Boyle Heights Arts District enhancements key to Mariachi Plaza section of $30 million Eastside Access Project — streetscape improvements to increase pedestrian/bicycle access in communities surrounding the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension

LOS ANGELES (Dec. 3, 2010)—Metro CEO Art Leahy and Councilmember José Huizar were joined Friday by First Street merchants and artists to announce the kick-off of a $12 million section of the voter-approved Eastside Access Project, a Measure R plan that will bring sidewalk, lighting and streetscape improvements along First Street in Boyle Heights.

Part of the larger $30 million Eastside Access Project, which will focus on multi-modal transit-related improvements at or near the Metro Eastside Gold Line Extension route, the Boyle Heights component will improve access along Boyle Heights’ four stations (Indiana, Soto, Mariachi Plaza and Pico Aliso) and is expected to enhance the burgeoning Boyle Heights Arts District along First Street, which features galleries, theaters and a local bookstore. Continue reading

Project update: 710 south corridor improvements

I wanted to provide a quick update on one of the many road projects involving Metro: improvements proposed for the 710 corridor between Long Beach and the 60 freeway.

In 2008, Metro launched an environmental study on how to improve this part of I-710. As many battle-tested motorists already know, that segment of the freeway is often very congested.

The main problem is that the freeway is just three lanes wide between Long Beach and the 405 freeway and four lanes wide between the 405 and 60. In addition, the freeway is often clogged with both commuters and truck traffic that is traveling to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Among the alternatives being studied for the project is widening the freeway to 10 lanes (five lanes in each direction); adding four elevated truck-only lanes adjacent to the 710 (two lanes in each direction); restricting the truck-only lanes to be used by trucks with zero tailpipe emissions; and possibly tolling the truck-only lanes.

That’s obviously quite a road widening and one of the few still possible in the region, where freeways are often hemmed in by development. In the case of the 710 south, such a project is possible because of the utility corridor that exists between the 710 and the Los Angeles River.

This is not just a project about improving traffic, Metro officials say. Neighborhoods near the ports and the 710 freeway have long pointed to studies that show very bad local air pollution in the corridor from vehicles, trains and ships. The air is so bad that it likely leads to premature deaths in the region.

Here’s a link to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency web page on air pollution from diesel emissions in the freight corridor north of the ports. Continue reading