City of Santa Clarita holds ribbon cutting ceremony for Old Town Newhall Roundabout

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Vintage cars pass through the brand new roundabout. Photo: Metro

The City of Santa Clarita held a ribbon cutting ceremony earlier today for the Old Town Newhall Roundabout project. The project, located at the intersection of Main, 5th Street and Newhall Avenue, includes installation of a roundabout with landscaping, crosswalks, induction energy saving street lighting and street lane modification to improve traffic flow.

The project cost $2,536,717, of which $702,563 was funded by Metro through Call for Projects. Check out the video below of an aerial view of the roundabout.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, January 23

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Record numbers riding easy on Expo Line (ZevWeb)

The Expo Line has already surpassed Metro’s ridership estimates (which tend to be on the low side) but there often remains plenty of room on trains. That may not last long — the second phase, when complete, is expected to substantially increase the number of people on board and trains may struggle to keep up. Riders interviewed said they like the convenience of the line and having the spare time to do something besides staring at the tail lights stopped in traffic ahead of them.

Airlines likely to balk at transit link (Daily Breeze) 

When LAX chief Gina Marie Lindsey said that airlines weren’t thrilled about a people mover, reporter Brian Summers decided to ask for himself. And guess what: the carriers referred him to their trade group. Excerpt:

Still, Katie Connell, a spokeswoman for Airlines 4 America, a trade group representing eight of the nation’s largest carriers — including United, American, Delta and Southwest — confirmed that airlines generally do not support large-scale ground transportation hubs.

“In order to continue providing our customers with affordable air travel, airlines must evaluate the best use of their financial resources,” Connell said in an email. “Transit links are capital intensive and divert revenues away from necessary airport projects.”

For his part, Garcetti says he wants to move forward with plans for improved mass transportation across Los Angeles, including LAX.

“I’m committed to building a transit network across our city and I strongly support rail for LAX,” he said in a statement. “In October, I met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Washington, D.C., to discuss this important project and seek funding for it, and am continuing to work to make it happen.”

Call me dumb, but I’m not sure I understand why the airlines have any say in this — nor do I understand why we care when the airlines have shown little evidence they can run their own business. Yes, the airlines are the airport’s clients, but the airport also has another important set of clients: you, the passenger, taxpayer and voter.

Don’t scrap the bullet train for the hyperloop — yet (L.A. Times)

Op-ed writer Kerry Cavanaugh says a possible state ballot measure that would block funding for the state’s high-speed rail project in favor of Elon Musk’s hyperloop proposal is misguided. Excerpt:

Look, California’s bullet train project has its problems. The cost has doubled since voters approved spending nearly $10 billion on the project in 2008, and it’s likely to take at least a decade longer to build. If it gets built. The High-Speed Rail Authority has yet to spell out how it intends to fund the first phase of the line from Merced to the San Fernando Valley.

But stopping one ambitious project for a new, more ambitious project doesn’t make sense, particularly when the new idea is half-baked. As neat as Hyperloop and ET3’s idea may be, they are just concepts. We don’t know the cost, safety or time needed to build these projects. They may not even be possible.

 

The ballot measure is being pursued by Rep. Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo)

The U.S. keeps predicting that we’re driving more than we actually do (Washington Post) 

Smart piece showing that government projections have been consistently wrong since the late 1990s. Why does it matter? Such predictions may drive (pun intended) policy decisions about how to spend money on transportation.

Light rail linking Twin Cities goes green in June (Star Tribune)

The line will run between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. The 11-mile line with 18 stations cost $957 million with federal funds covering half the cost. If you’ve never visited the Twin Cities, here’s a route animation:


Transportation headlines, Wednesday, January 22

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This is a long one today, folks — lots of news since last week to catch up on. And away we go…

Metro breaks ground on $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Line (L.A. Times and Daily Breeze

Crenshaw evolving: a look at Santa Barbara Plaza (Another Perfect Day) 

The news stories in the Times and the Breeze focus on yesterday’s groundbreaking event and both also note there were some protestors there — some arguing against the train running at street level through Park Mesa Heights, others saying the job should generate more local construction jobs.

Also rightly getting a mention is the ‘LAX’ part of the project’s name. Both articles note that a separate project is working to figure out how to connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the airport. The Breeze article states that Metro officials are reluctant to build rail tunnels directly under the central terminal area and that’s correct — however, it should also be known that Los Angeles World Airports owns the land and officials have made it clear they don’t want rail tunnels under the terminal area due to the complexity of the work involved.

The Another Perfect Day blog post looks at redevelopment in the area along Crenshaw Boulevard and ponders whether the new rail line could help spark things. I liked this excerpt:

Back in 2008, I started working in the community and people who would see me with a camera knew that I was part of some type of redevelopment effort. Many conversations were had, but the universal message I got was that people were seeking the same kind of amenities that any community would want. Most of us take for granted the pleasant little communes we call shopping malls, but many would travel to such places as Fox Hills, Westside Pavilion or the South Bay Galleria to have an experience that was safer and more upscale.

Ultimately, they wanted to all this in their own backyard and who can blame them? We’re all Angelinos who hate traffic.

 

There was a lot of talk at yesterday’s event about the new rail line bringing economic development to the Crenshaw Corridor. That, of course, would be great and I personally believe the Crenshaw/LAX Line could help.

But…I also think rail lines alone don’t revive local economies. As we’ve discussed here before, you can certainly look at the Metro Rail map and find places such as NoHo, Hollywood, K-Town and DTLA (to name a few) that have seen a revival since the arrival of Metro Rail. You can also find many places near rail stations that haven’t changed much (much of the Blue Line corridor, for example).

So what does it take to revive a community? Mobility is certainly one factor, but other things that come into play are public safety, schools, a diverse stock of real estate and the willingness these days of businesses — including the national chains — to invest in neighborhoods they’ve overlooked or plain ignored.

As for the Crenshaw/LAX Line part of the equation, I disagree that the street level portion will be bad for Park Mesa Heights — in fact, I think having the train visible to the neighborhood and vice versa are a good thing. I also think it’s important to note that the current project isn’t happening in a silo. As noted, the Airport Metro Connector is working on the LAX part of the equation.

The South Bay Green Line Extension (a project partially funded by Measure R) will push the Green Line deeper into the South Bay, allowing trains to run from the South Bay to the Expo Line via the new Crenshaw/LAX tracks. An extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line remains in Metro’s long-range plan, albeit in the unfunded section. That would presumably push the tracks to the north toward the Purple Line subway. It may seem a long way off, but building that kind of transit network would benefit everyone, Crenshaw Corridor included.

L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin: airlines may not want it but LAX must be connected to rail (L.A. Airspace)

The story is in reaction to LAX chief Gina Marie Lindsey telling the airport’s board last week that airlines aren’t interested in a people mover or rail going to the airport because they don’t want to pay for it and it doesn’t really benefit them. She also opined that perhaps it’s best to keep costs low for a people mover or “Intermodal Transportation Facility” that would serve as a junction between light rail and a people mover.

Bonin represents the Westside and the airport on the L.A. City Council and he repeats what he has said before: to paraphrase, he doesn’t give a hoot what the airlines say:

“It’s hardly a revelation that the airlines have little interest in growing transportation,” Bonin said. “All they care about is that you are at the airport. They don’t care if it took you three or four hours to get there. Our commitment as owners and operators of the airport requires us to be competitive for the customer experience. Traditionally, it’s an area where LAX has fallen down.”

Bonin and Mayor Eric Garcetti have said that connecting transit to the airport is among their top transit priorities. I think both this new article and the one last week require some reading between the lines and my reading tells me that when it comes to the airport and City Hall, it may be worth remembering who exactly works for who. :)

Metro seeks to raise fares and allow free transfers on bus, rail (L.A. Times) 

News coverage by Laura Nelson of the fare proposals released by Metro late Friday. Excerpt:

“We looked at our whole fare structure and said, is this really fair to our riders?” Metro spokesman Marc Littman told The Times. “We actually penalize our passengers for trying to use the system more efficiently.”

More than half of passengers make a transfer during their trips, Metro surveys indicate. Charging full fare at each transfer discourages passengers from using more than one bus or train, Littman said.

Riders who buy daily, weekly and monthly passes will see the biggest increase in price because most of them use the system most heavily, Littman said. The monthly unlimited pass, now $75, would be eliminated in 2018 and merged with a pass that allows unlimited rides on all Los Angeles County bus systems. The price would eventually rise to either $135 or $180.

Some of the comments are interesting and let’s just say they’re not all rave reviews of the proposals.

Here’s our Source post about the proposals, including the Metro staff report and charts showing the two options being proposed. On Thursday, the Metro Board of Directors are scheduled to consider whether to set a public hearing on the proposal on March 29.

LADOT announces Priority 2 list of planned bikeways (LADOT Bike Blog) 

The list includes the two dozen or so bike lane projects that the city of Los Angeles is pursuing in the next year. The mileage for most is on the small side but hopefully will help create more of a bike lane network than what currently exists.

Making Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard into a haven for pedestrians (L.A. Times) 

The city is pondering removing one lane in each direction and converting part of the street from parallel to diagonal parking in the Theater District (i.e. the area around the Vromans bookstore and the Laemmle theater). This would allow for wider sidewalks and parklets.

Traffic doesn’t exactly flow smoothly through the area now thanks to many cross streets and poor timing of traffic signals (my opinion, not the city’s — I live in Pasadena). So perhaps this makes it a better spot. Or perhaps this plan serves to completely constipate traffic on the main thoroughfare through town.

If the plan gets more development on Colorado, then I’m for it — although it will likely push traffic onto other nearby east-west streets, which will need better signal synchronization to handle it. I’ve been watching South Lake Avenue suffer a slow death for years now and I’d like to see the commercial corridors in town remain viable. And by viable I don’t mean 18 different types of banks, yogurt places and/or Subway sandwich shops.

Transportation headlines, Friday, January 17

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ART OF TRANSIT: The Angeles Crest Highway, at left, starts its journey into the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains above La Canada Flintridge. The view is a reminder of how wild and rugged our local mountains are. Click to see larger version. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Union Station eases policy on homeless seating in the waiting area (L.A. Times)

Metro officials told the Metro Board this week that they are working to restore seating in Union Station for Metro customers. In December, the seating area was set aside for Metrolink and Amtrak customers because of concerns about homeless people taking too many seats and causing other problems. It’s a tough issue for Metro as the agency purchased the station in 2011 for $75 million and obviously wants somewhere for its own customers to sit.

Orange Line’s dismal fare findings (ZevWeb) 

Coverage on Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website of the recent fare checks on the Orange Line that found on one occasion that 22 percent of riders hadn’t paid a fare and another nine percent had valid TAP cards but weren’t tapping. The Sheriff’s Deputies have responded with more fare patrols along the line, say Metro officials. Of course, that raises the obvious question: where were they before? Here’s the Metro staff report on the issue.

Who birthed ‘Jamzilla’ on the Sepulveda Pass? (KPCC)

The segment posted the question: who comes up with names for traffic jams? Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky gets the credit for “Carmageddon” and this time around, “Jamzilla” was coined by a colleague of mine on the Metro P.R. staff. Which I love. I also saw a couple of good suggestions on Twitter the other day, among them “The Slow and the Furious” and “Carchella.” Listen here

BTW, if you haven’t heard…avoid the 405 on Presidents’ Day Weekend, Feb. 14-18, when northbound lanes will either be entirely closed overnight or mostly closed during the day for repaving. More details here.

California Congressional delegation is split on high-speed rail (KPCC)

Well, that’s hardly news. But the article makes one observation worth noting: legislators from other states — Republicans and Democrats — are surprised and perhaps delighted that California may spurn federal dollars for the state bullet train project. Most states, it seems, are attracted to federal money like lint is attracted to belly buttons. Or something like that (it’s Friday).

Southbound I-405 closure between 101 and Getty Center Dr. planned Saturday night

Here’s the press release from Metro:

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor will be conducting a full southbound I-405 closure from US 101 to the southbound Getty Center Dr on-ramp on the night of Saturday, January 18 through the morning of Sunday, January 19, 2014, from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. in order to shift outside southbound lanes for median work.

Additional Closures

  • Ramps begin closing at 7 p.m.
  • Lanes begin closing at 11 p.m.
  • The US 101 southbound connector to the southbound I-405
  • US 101 northbound connector to the southbound I-405
  • Southbound Burbank Boulevard on-ramp
  • Southbound Ventura Boulevard on- and off-ramps
  • Southbound Valley Vista Boulevard on- and off-ramps
  • Southbound Skirball Center Drive on- and off-ramps

Detour Routes

  • From I-405 south: exit Burbank Boulevard, travel east to Sepulveda Boulevard, and southbound on Sepulveda Boulevard to the southbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp.
  • From US 101 south: exit Van Nuys Boulevard, south on Van Nuys Boulevard, west on Ventura Boulevard, south on Sepulveda Boulevard to the southbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp.
  • From US 101 north: take I-405 northbound and exit Burbank Boulevard, east on Burbank Boulevard, south on Sepulveda Boulevard to the southbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp.

What to expect:

New freeway lane configuration to begin on I-710

I-710 Bypass

Here’s the press release from Caltrans:

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will change the lane configuration on the northbound and southbound Long Beach Freeway (I-710) from the southbound I-710/Pomona Freeway (SR-60) Connector to Humphries Street beginning on Thursday, January 23.
On southbound I-710, traffic will be switched to the median. One of the three lanes will be moved to the northbound I- 710 median and the other two lanes will be moved to the southbound I-710 median. Construction will take place on the existing lanes of southbound I- 710. (Please see attached illustration)
The new traffic configuration, which will be in place for several months, will allow project work to continue more quickly and efficiently. A 45 mile-per-hour speed limit will be imposed within the construction limits. It is expected that some delays might be experienced initially, however in similar bypass situations motorists have quickly adjusted to the new configuration.
The traffic switch is related to a pavement rehabilitation project on I-710 from Imperial Highway to Ramona Boulevard. This roadway rehabilitation will result in better ride quality and will reduce the need for maintenance. Existing median barriers will be upgraded to concrete barriers, therefore reducing the risk of vehicle crossovers. Construction of maintenance pullouts will also reduce exposure of maintenance personnel to traffic and enhance safety.
Shimmick/Myers and Sons is the contractor on the $120 million project which started in fall 2012 and will complete in 2015.

Oak Park Kanan Shuttle will remain free for 2014

The Oak Park Kanan Shuttle. Photo courtesy of Consortium Media.

The Oak Park Kanan Shuttle. Photo courtesy of Consortium Media.

Last summer, the County of Ventura debuted the Kanan Shuttle, a free shuttle service for the residents of Oak Park. Last week, the Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council recommended keeping the Kanan Shuttle free for another nine months.

Here’s the press release from the County of Ventura:

(OAK PARK, Calif.) — (Jan. 16, 2014) — The Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) held a special meeting on Jan. 9 to discuss keeping the Kanan Shuttle in Oak Park a free service. MAC members recognized the popularity of the service and recommended allocating $75,000 to subsidize the new Kanan Shuttle service for the next nine months while sustaining revenue sources are investigated.

“I’m very pleased that the MAC supports keeping the Kanan Shuttle a free service for residents,” said Supervisor Linda Parks. “This will continue to give people an alternate transportation option, and help alleviate heavy traffic during peak hours. It is estimated that more than 600 car trips along Kanan Road are eliminated by Kanan Shuttle use.”

The Kanan Shuttle is a collaboration between the Ventura County Public Works Agency’s Department of Transportation, the City of Agoura Hills and First Transit.  The MAC’s recommendation will be heard at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 10:30 a.m. The Shuttle schedule will also be updated in February to reflect more accurate departure and arrival times observed during the Kanan Shuttle’s ongoing pilot phase.

For more information about the Kanan Shuttle and schedules, visit www.kananshuttle.com.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, January 16

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Light rail should not be built under terminal area, officials say  (L.A. Times)

Metro and Los Angeles World Airport officials narrow the options for connecting LAX to the Crenshaw/LAX and/or the Green Line and recommend not building light rail directly to the terminal area. The story does a very good job of explaining what’s on the table and what’s off. If it helps, here are maps of the alternatives that Metro and LAWA want to study further along with a staff report and handout.

Spending bill likely to give L.A. $130 million for two key rail projects (L.A. Times)

Congress is on the verge of approving a spending bill for fiscal year 2014 that includes $130 million in federal New Starts money for the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector. The projects together are expected to receive about $1.9 billion from the New Starts program, which helps local transit agencies pay for big, expensive projects. Earlier Source post here.

California to owe feds $180 million for high-speed rail (Bakersfield Now)

The $180 million is part of matching funds that the state needs to pony up in order to federal grants for the project. Recent court rulings have prevented the state from selling bonds it needs to help pay for the project, which aims to eventually connect San Francisco and Los Angeles via a $68 billion, 200 mile per hour rail line.

Why this man is photographing every American Apparel billboard in L.A. (The Atlantic Cities) 

Thomas Alleman likes to seek out the city’s “underside” and “wrinkles” to keep him sane in an urban landscape that can be less than appealing. The juxtaposition of the billboards — with their sometimes sexy poses — and the neighborhoods they appear in are interesting and sometimes jarring. Great article, great pics.

Full directional I-405 closures in the Sepulveda Pass planned tomorrow night to pour Skirball Bridge deck

Here’s the press release from Metro:

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor will be conducting a full closure of both directions of the I-405 in the Sepulveda Pass at different times the night of Thursday, January 16 in order to pour the concrete deck for the Skirball Bridge.

The schedule for each directional freeway and bridge closure is as follows:

  • Southbound I-405: Full closure from Valley Vista Boulevard to the southbound Skirball Center Drive on-ramp on the night of Thursday, January 16 from midnight to 2 a.m. Friday.
  • Northbound I- 405: Full closure from Getty Center Drive to the northbound Skirball Center Drive on-ramp on the night of Thursday, January 16 from 2:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. Friday.
  • Skirball Bridge: Full closure from northbound Skirball Center Drive off-ramp to Sepulveda Boulevard on the night of Thursday, January 16 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday.

One direction of the freeway will be maintained at all times.

Ramps within the project area will be closed beginning at 7 p.m. Lane closures will begin at 10 p.m.

Additional Closures

  • US 101 northbound connector to I-405 south
  • US 101 southbound connector to I-405 south
  • Southbound Burbank Boulevard on-ramp
  • Southbound Ventura Boulevard on- and off-ramps
  • Southbound Valley Vista Boulevard on- and off-ramps
  • Southbound Skirball Center Drive on- and off-ramps
  • Northbound Sunset Boulevard on-ramp,
  • Northbound Moraga Drive on-ramp
  • Northbound Getty Center on-ramp
  • Northbound Skirball Center Drive on and off-ramps

Detour Routes

From I-405 south: exit Burbank Boulevard, travel east to Sepulveda Boulevard, and southbound on Sepulveda Boulevard to the southbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp.

From I-405 north: exit Getty Center Dr off-ramp and travel north on Sepulveda Boulevard to the northbound I-405 on-ramp at Greenleaf Street.

From Skirball Bridge: going south: south on Sepulveda Boulevard to the I-405 southbound Getty on-ramp; going north: north on Sepulveda Boulevard to the northbound I-405 on-ramp at Greenleaf Street.

What to expect: