Bikes and walking + transit = lower greenhouse gas emissions

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I thought that posting the above chart would be a nice way to begin Bike Week. As the chart neatly shows, taking transit can be an effective way to reduce greenhouse gases — especially those who bike or walk to and from light rail stations. It makes sense: no fossil fuels are needed to power your legs.

The chart is from Metro’s  First Mile/Last Mile Strategic Plan that was adopted by the Metro Board of Directors in April.

Greenhouse gases, of course, are the primary agents for climate change. As the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases from the burning of fossil fuels increases in our atmosphere, the planet is growing warmer. Here’s a good explanation of the basics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The reduction of important topic given how much climate change has been in the news lately. The White House released a report last week on the ongoing impacts in the United States from climate change, including warmer temperatures, increased rains and flooding in some areas, drought in others and more intense wildfires and tree die-offs due to insects. The report followed one by the United Nations released in March that found the same phenomenon on a global level.

The state of California, too, agrees there are impacts and we’re already seeing them:

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There are some important caveats when it comes to figuring out greenhouse gas emissions from transit. One involves how a project is built. It helps to have a green construction policy to help curtail pollution from trucks and other heavy equipment (and Metro does have such a policy). Even more important: the number of people riding a train or bus. The more people riding, the more efficient buses and trains are. (See this Duke University study comparing passenger per mile emissions from a bus getting 2.33 mpg versus a car that gets 25 mpg).

Metro’s numbers are based on a study looking at the Gold Line and Orange Line published in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters in 2013 by researchers from UCLA, Arizona State University and UC Berkeley. The Federal Transit Administration in 2010 also published a useful guide to comparing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and public transit. The FTA’s work shows that heavy rail transit (typically subways such as Metro’s Red/Purple Line that use bigger, heavier trains) are even more efficient than buses and light rail, due in part to heavier ridership.

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Long-term closure of Mountain Avenue at Duarte Road in Duarte begins Monday for Gold Line work

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Here is the construction notice from the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency building the 11.5-mile addition to the Gold Line between Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border. The project is largely funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008:

WHO:  Residents / Commuters / Business Owners in the Cities of Monrovia and Duarte.

WHAT: Crews will be constructing grade crossing and intersection improvements on Mountain Avenue in phases north and south of Duarte Road, as part of the 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail project. The first phase of work, beginning next Monday, May 12, will require a full closure of Mountain Ave. from the center of Duarte Road north (see map) for five months.

To prepare the street for the long-term closure, the intersection of Mountain Ave. and Duarte Road will be closed to thru-traffic in all directions this weekend, beginning tomorrow night, Friday, May 9 at 9 p.m., thru Sunday, May 11 at 5 p.m. After the prep work, Duarte Road will re-open to one lane of traffic in each direction; while Mountain Ave. from the center of Duarte Road north will remain closed for five months. Following completion of the northern improvements, the southern portion of the intersection will be closed for approximately three months.

WHEN: Mountain Avenue will be closed in phases as described below:

Friday, May 9, 2014 at 9:00 p.m. to Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.*: The intersection of Mountain Ave. and Duarte Road will be fully closed to thru-traffic in all directions and motorists will be detoured around the closure. At 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 11, Duarte Road will re-open to one lane in each direction. Mountain Ave. will remain closed from the center of Duarte Road north through the railroad crossing for approximately five months (see next bullet).

•(Next Monday) Phase 1 – May 12, 2014 through October 2014*: Mountain Ave. will be closed to thru-traffic from the center of Duarte Road north through the railroad crossing. Duarte Road will remain open, one lane in each direction for eastbound / westbound thru-traffic.

•Phase 2 – October 2014 through Early 2015*: Mountain Ave. will be closed to thru-traffic from the center of Duarte Road south through the intersection. Duarte Road will remain open, one lane in each direction for eastbound / westbound thru-traffic.

The phased closures will be in place 24-hours per day, 7 days per week. Standard construction work hours are 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Note: Occasional longer hours, work on weekends, and/or night work may be performed to complete this work. (*Construction schedules are subject to change).

WHERE: Mountain Ave. – north and south of Duarte Road.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

•Detour routes will be in place during the closures and signage will be posted to direct motorists (see map).

•Pedestrian access will be available through a temporary pedestrian crossing adjacent to the work zone.

•Occasional full closures of the intersection will be implemented to set-up traffic control devices at the beginning and end of each construction phase.

• In addition to the improvements at the railroad crossing, and the realignment of the Mountain Ave./Duarte Road intersection, construction will also include new storm drains, traffic signals, sidewalks and crosswalks.

•Access to all local businesses on Mountain Avenue and Duarte Road will remain open at all times during the street construction.

•Bus stops in this vicinity may be temporarily relocated. For information about:

•MTA bus services call (323) GO-METRO (323-466-3876) or www.metro.net.

•Foothill Transit bus services call (800) RIDE-INFO (800-743-3463) or www.foothilltransit.org.

•Duarte Transit local services call (626) 358-9627 or www.accessduarte.com.

•Monrovia Transit local services call (626) 358-3538 or www.cityofmonrovia.org/planning/page/monrovia-transit

FOR MORE INFORMATION

•Visit www.foothillextension.org

# # #

About the Construction Authority: The Construction Authority is an independent transportation planning and construction agency created in 1998 by the California State Legislature. Its purpose is to extend the Metro Gold Line light rail line from Union Station to Montclair, along the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. The Construction Authority built the initial segment from Union Station to Pasadena and is underway on the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Foothill Extension is a nearly $2 billion extension that will connect Pasadena to Montclair in two construction segments – Pasadena to Azusa and Azusa to Montclair. The 11.5-mile Pasadena to Azusa segment is fully funded by Measure R and will be completed in September 2015, when it will be turned over to Metro for testing and pre-revenue service. Metro will determine when the line will open for passenger service. Three design-build contracts, totaling more than $550 million, are being overseen by the Construction Authority to complete the Pasadena to Azusa segment. The Azusa to Montclair segment is environmentally cleared and is proceeding to advanced conceptual engineering in 2014.

LADWP to implement 24-hour lane closure on southbound Crenshaw Boulevard this weekend

Here’s the announcement from the Crenshaw/LAX Line project team:

In order to continue advanced utility relocation for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will implement a 24-hour southbound lane closure on Crenshaw Boulevard between Exposition Boulevard and Rodeo Road to relocate an existing water line.  

The work is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, and continue to 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 11. 

•There will be only one southbound lane open on Crenshaw Boulevard starting at 10 p.m. Saturday night for a 24-hour period.

•Crenshaw Boulevard is scheduled to reopen by 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 11. 

•Northbound Crenshaw Boulevard will not be impacted by the water line relocation.

•Emergency access will be maintained throughout this operation.

The 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Project is a light rail line that will run between the Expo Line and Green Line. The $2.058 billion Measure R transit project will serve the Crenshaw Corridor, Inglewood, Westchester and the LAX area with eight new stations, a maintenance facility and park and ride lots.

For more information on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project visit metro.net/crenshaw or by emailing crenshawcorridor@metro.net, by phone at (213) 922.2736 or on social media at facebook.com/crenshawrail or twitter.com/crenshawrail.

About Metro

Metro is a multimodal transportation agency that operates 2,000 buses and six rail lines in Los Angeles and also serves as the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County. Overseeing one of the largest public works programs in America, Metro is also overseeing construction of dozens of transit, highway and other mobility projects largely funded by the half-cent Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008.  Stay informed by following Metro on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.net, facebook.com/losangelesmetrotwitter.com/metrolosangeles and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.

Video and podcast from Zocalo Public Square’s forum last night on the 710 freeway

Above is both video and a podcast from Zocalo Public Square’s forum at MOCA on Wednesday evening that was titled “What does Southern California need from the 710 freeway?”

The forum — which was sponsored by Metro — focused on the 4.5-mile gap in the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena and the ongoing study by Caltrans and Metro that seeks to improve traffic congestion in the area.

The project’s draft environmental document is scheduled for release next February and is considering five alternatives: a freeway tunnel to close the gap, a light rail line between East Los Angeles and Pasadena, bus rapid transit between East L.A. and Pasadena, traffic signal and intersection improvements in the 710 area and the legally-required no-build option. The project is scheduled to receive $780 million in Measure R funding, although additional money would be needed to build some of the more expensive alternatives — if, in fact, the Metro Board of Directors ultimately decides to build anything.

NBC-4’s n moderated the panel that included Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben, former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency Linda S. Adams, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) executive director Hasan Ikhrata and UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies director Brian Taylor. I thought Nolan framed the 710 issue well, calling it a “Gordian knot” and that “I’ve never seen a transportation issue as convolutedly complicated as this one.” 

As the panelists pointed out several times, the 710 discussion goes back to the 1950s and original state plans to complete the 710 between Long Beach and Pasadena. Less than half of the state’s original freeway plans for our region was built — the reason, for example, that the 2 freeway ends at Glendale Boulevard and the Marina Freeway only exists west of the 405. As Brian Taylor noted, however, the 710 remains somewhat unique among the unfinished freeways because while there are uncompleted segments, there are very few areas where there is such a pronounced gap.

What to be done about it? Both Toebben and Ikhrata said that closing the gap made the most sense and would take traffic off surface streets in the western San Gabriel Valley, help improve air quality (the freeway would keep traffic moving instead of sitting and idling) and would likely also ease congestion on other freeways that motorists use to skirt the 710 gap, most notably the 110 and 5 freeways. “It’s more expensive to do nothing,” Ikhrata said, adding that billions of dollars were lost in travel delays.

When Toebben was asked if motorists would be willing to pay a toll to use the tunnel, his answer was a simple “yes.” He later noted that he lives near Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena and sees motorists each day use it as a way to close the 710 gap by using Orange Grove, the 110 freeway and the 5 freeway to get back to the 710. “Am I willing to pay three, four bucks — I don’t know what the cost will be — to avoid those other routes and get off those freeways so that others who need to travel those freeways, can? Yes, I’m willing to do that. I’d venture to say that every single person who lives anywhere close to this freeway, and I’m including myself, will see less traffic on their streets if a tunnel was built than they see right now.”

UCLA’s Taylor took the most nuanced and expansive view, first explaining the basic mechanics of freeway traffic congestion when commuters and those running errands compete for too little physical space on roadways (go to the 29 minute mark of the video). The result: throughput of the roads drops dramatically and a traffic jam ensues. He also pointed out that Measure R half-cent sales tax increase spreads the cost of mobility to everyone, whether they are using the mobility or not.

With that in mind, Taylor said that solving traffic congestion on a regional level could be done today if the area so choose with congestion pricing — i.e. tolling roadways so that motorists paid the true cost of driving (air pollution, freeway expansion, travel delays). That would drop demand for road space down to reasonable levels and allow traffic to free-flow instead of idle along. “Let’s argue about whether to close the gap or not, because we want to make sure that we never want to price people’s travel…if we did we would have a free flowing system,” Taylor said. “[But] that’s politically unacceptable.”

There was a brief Q&A session after the main discussion and it was pretty clear that some in the audience felt their view was missing: that closing the gap with a freeway tunnel would ultimately lead to more traffic and air pollution. And some of the questions revealed (yet again) the depth of the disagreements over this issue: when one audience member asked why building a rail line for freight from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was not being considered, SCAG’s Ikhrata replied that building a freight rail line to Pasadena made little sense as most freight from the ports moves east, not north.

Here’s an article on Zocalo Public Square’s website. And here’s the SR-710 Study home page.

 

U.S. House subcommittee proposes deep cuts to federal funding for transit projects

This is the latest chapter in what has been an annual debate on what the federal government should be spending on helping local areas build and maintain transportation infrastructure. It’s important to Metro because the federal government has been — and hopefully will continue to be — a funding partner on a variety of projects, including the Crenshaw/LAX Line (with a $545.9-million federally backed loan), the Regional Connector (a federal New Starts grant and loan) and the Purple Line Extension (a $1.25-billion New Starts grant for Phase One that is near to being finalized and an $856-million loan).

Here’s the latest update from Metro’s government relations staff:

Earlier today, the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development released the outlines of its Fiscal Year 2015 spending bill in advance of the subcommittee’s markup set for tomorrow.

While the outline of the bill does not list specific projects slated for funding, it does give spending levels for transportation programs which benefit our agency. The bill sets the spending level for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants (New Starts) program at $1.69 billion which is $252 million less than the funding provided last year.

Additionally, the House transportation bill cuts TIGER grant funding from $600 million this year to $100 million in Fiscal Year 2015. Further, the House bill would, if enacted into law, not allow TIGER grants to be used for mass transit and passenger rail projects.

Our Government Relations staff have been and will continue working with members of both the Senate and House Committee on Appropriations to ensure that the $100 million allocated in the President’s Budget for each of our New Starts projects (Downtown Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension) is fully funded when the House and Senate adopt their final transportation spending bill later this year. Our staff will also work to ensure that the TIGER grant program is fully funded and that mass transit and passenger rail projects continue to be eligible for grants under this program.