UPDATE TUESDAY, 12:55 p.m.: I added a few items concerning Metro’s bike program that are worth putting on the record! :)
Above is the very nice rainbow seen Thursday afternoon over East Los Angeles and County-USC Medical Center. Will there be a rainbow over Metro in 2014? Stay tuned for that, folks.
As for 2013, here are some of the highlights:
•Metro debuted a new “under construction” map in June, which proceeded to skip happily across the internet. Metro currently has 87 miles of rail lines and that number will pass 100 once the projects shown on the map are completed.
•In February, the ExpressLanes projected opened on the 10 freeway between downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway, joining the lanes that had opened on the 110 in Nov. 2012.
Perhaps the big news on the ExpressLanes front was the Metro Board of Director’s decision last spring to suspend account maintenance fees. Although the fees applied to relatively few existing customers at the time, there seemed to be a positive reaction from the public — by late summer more than 200,000 transponders had been issued, twice the number expected before the lanes opened on the 10 and 110.
Next year will be a big one for the ExpressLanes as the Metro Board is scheduled to decide whether to continue the pilot program or not.
•In a pronounced nod to transit etiquette, Metro introduced platform decals in February in an effort to get passengers boarding trains to stand aside in order to allow passengers to disembark from the train.
The reaction by many Metro customers: that’s nice but what about decals to show people to stand on the right on escalators?
•It was a big year for one of those Metro Rail projects, with the Metro Board of Directors approving a $1.27-billion contract in June to for the final design and construction of the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line light rail line. Earlier in the year, the Board — in a deal brokered by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — had decided to add two optional stations to the project — one serving Leimert Park and the other at Hindry Avenue to serve nearby Westchester.
•Meanwhile, utility relocation and other exploratory work continued in advanced of construction on the Regional Connector and the Purple Line Extension subway.
•Early in the year, the Board approved a contract to provide cell phone service in underground stations. The contract was recently signed and work will soon begin; complete installation is expected to take 24 months.
•Metro released draft alternatives for the Los Angeles Union Station master plan in May. In October, the Metro Board approved going forward with a concept that would construct a greatly expanded east-west passenger concourse while relocating the bus plaza to a north-south configuration closer to Alameda Street that would also consolidate many of the bus stops around Union Station. The final master plan is scheduled to be considered by the board in the latter half of 2014.
•Zipcars finally landed at Union Station in March.
•Gate latching finally got underway in June, beginning with the Red/Purple Line. By year’s end, five Gold Line and five Blue Line stations were also latched. Gates on the Green Line will be latched in early 2014.
•More frequent late night service was added to the Expo, Gold and Orange lines in June.
•Los Angeles got a new mayor on July 1, meaning the Metro Board also got a new member — Mayor Eric Garcetti. He subsequently announced his three appointees to the Board: Councilman Mike Bonin, Councilman Paul Krekorian, and Jackie Dupont-Walker.
•The 2014 Metro Call for Projects (CFP) grant cycle awarded approximately $199 million to highway, transit, and active transportation projects across Los Angeles County. A record 43 applications were submitted for bike projects and about $27 million was awarded to 17 of them in L.A. County and the following cities: Los Angeles, Redondo Beach, Burbank, Pico Rivera, Culver City, Calabasas, Whittier, Long Beach, Rosemead, La Verne, Arcadia, Lawndale, Temple City, Santa Monica and El Monte.
•In October, in an introductory video for the annual Mobility 21 conference, Mayor Garcetti said that another transportation ballot measure is possible in Los Angeles County and that connecting Los Angeles International Airport to Metro Rail is among his highest priorities.
•In July, Metro released its review of a Beverly Hills Unified School District consultant memo that challenged the agency’s rationale for choosing the Constellation site for the Purple Line Extension ’s Century City station. The gist of it: Metro defended its prior work that determined that Santa Monica Boulevard was an inappropriate location for a subway station due to the location of active earthquake faults.
In the meantime, lawsuits by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District against Metro and the Federal Transit Administration challenging the project’s environmental studies continue to proceed through the courts.
•Rail cars with a new exterior design debuted in August on the Blue and Expo lines.
•Metro held a media event in September in hopes of stopping a rash of suicides along the Blue Line over the past couple of years. Signs were also installed along the Metro Rail system with information on where people could get suicide crisis help.
•In October, the Board approved 40 percent of the funds generated from the ExpressLanes project to be invested in active transportation projects within three-miles of the project area. The projected $16 to $19 million will help to improve transportation options, air quality, congestion reduction, and improved access for all users.
•Metro staff this fall issued a report that refined the alternatives for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. They are: peak hour bus lanes along the curb of Van Nuys Boulevard, a bus lane in the center of Van Nuys Boulevard, a low-floor light rail line in the middle of Van Nuys Boulevard and a light rail line that would require passenger platforms in the middle of Van Nuys Boulevard. The draft environmental study for the project is expected to be complete in 2014.
•In September, the Metro Board approved spending $2 million annually for events similar to CicLAvia throughout Los Angeles County. The funds will be available beginning next year on a competitive basis.
•The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project managed to open several components of the project this year, including a 1.7-mile segment of the new northbound carpool lane, the new Wilshire flyover ramps and the new northbound off-ramp to Sunset Boulevard – just this past week — the new Mulholland Bridge, the direct descendent of Carmageddon I and II.
•In November, a Metro Board committee discussed the need for fare restructuring, which is expected to be formally proposed and considered in the first half of 2014. Among options that agency staff discussed are unlimited rides on a single fare for a certain time period (for example, an hour or 90 minutes), different fares for peak and off-peak hours and a simplified zone structure and/or offering flat fares for zoned buses.
•In December, a connection was built linking the newly renovated El Monte Station and the popular Rio Hondo Bicycle Path, making it far more easier for walkers and cyclists to reach one of Metro’s primary transit hubs.
And that’s pretty much the highlights as the sun sets on 2013 — please leave a comment if I left anything significant out.
A profound thank you to everyone for reading, riding and writing us with your questions, concerns and comments this past year. After our usual holiday breather, we’re looking forward to explaining what YOUR government is doing in 2014.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year,