Transportation headlines, Tuesday, December 3

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

ART OF TRANSIT: Canada’s holiday train.

Metro North train sped at 82 mph ahead of curve in fatal crash (New York Times) 

The speed limit on the turn in the Bronx where the commuter train crashed is 30 miles per hour. Trains aren’t allowed to go faster than 70 miles per hour anywhere on the Hudson Valley Line. Yet, for some reason, the Metro North engineer didn’t hit the brakes until six seconds before the crash that killed four passengers and injured many others. The train’s brakes appear to have been in working order.

 A subsequent Times story says that the engineer’s cell phone doesn’t seem to indicate he was using it before the crash but that investigators are also looking to see if perhaps another device was being used.

Shifting gears: commuting aboard the L.A. bike trains (NPR)

Nice segment on All Things Considered about cycling groups that get together to help newbies navigate rides to and from work. The group is the “train” and the group leader is the “conductor.”

The meaning of #BlackFridayParking (Strong Towns) 

Blogger Charles Marohn asked his Twitter followers to send photos of empty parking lots last Friday. The followers didn’t have any problems finding unoccupied asphalt and concrete. Excerpt:

We literally can’t afford all of this unproductive space. When you look at the Big K and Jimmy’s Pizza we featured in last week’s post, the major difference in the financial productivity of the properties is the amount of land devoted to parking. Storing cars is very expensive. The only thing more expensive is building parking spaces to store cars and then have them never be used. What a waste!

Can you imagine Wal-Mart building an entire row of their store and then leaving the shelves empty? It would be ridiculous. Why then do we simply accept that large swaths of their land would be built upon for a use (parking) that literally never happens? We accept it because that is the price of entry, the cost of complying with local regulations.

This is an ultra-intelligent post that you should read. The big point here is that parking requirements favor big retailers who can afford the land needed for that kind of parking. Big costs also mean a higher barrier to entry for competitors while big parking lots guarantee that these kind of stores will be built, in many places, in the darkness on the edge of town that is away from city centers.

Go for a drive through small town America and see for yourself.

High-speed rail gets yellow light (San Francisco Chronicle)

A pair of court rulings in November will likely make it more difficult for the state’s bullet train project to get off the ground. As a result, columnist Dan Walters — who has long been skeptical of the project — calls on Gov. Jerry Brown to either kill the project or go back to voters with a more realistic plan.

The original bond measure that went to state voters in 2008 included a variety of requirements for the bullet train (in particular involving speed of travel) that have proven to be extremely expensive.

This Friday the 13th: Dr. Pinch and the Pinchtones bring swing music to Union Station

A blast to the past at Union Station: WWII-era swing music. Photo courtesy of Dr. Pinch and the Pinchtones.

A blast to the past at Union Station: WWII-era swing music. Photo courtesy of Dr. Pinch and the Pinchtones.

Grab your dancing shoes and all your friends for a night of WWII-era swing music by Independent Shakespeare Co.’s Dr. Pinch and the Pinchtones at historic Union Station on Friday, Dec. 13. The group will appear as part of Metro Presents‘ program of arts and entertainment at the iconic station. The performance will take place inside the former Fred Harvey Restaurant, a dramatic space that is usually closed to the public.

The performance is free to the public and open to all. No reservations are necessary.

Event Details:

Friday, December 13, 2013
Two 45-minute sets beginning at 6:00 and 7:00 p.m.
Union Station Fred Harvey Room
800 North Alameda St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Union Station is accessible via Metro Rail, Metro Bus and several municipal bus lines. Use the Trip Planner for routes and connections. Car and bicycle parking are also available on site.

Here’s a sample of Dr. Pinch and the Pinchtones in action:


“12 Days of Metro” Instagram scavenger hunt contest starts this Thursday

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Participate in the “12 Days of Metro” for a chance to win great prizes from some of Metro’s Destination Discounts partners!

The scavenger hunt begins on Thursday, Dec. 5, and will run each weekday through Friday, Dec. 12. Here’s how it works: each weekday at 8 a.m. Metro will post a clue on its Instagram account.

  1. Follow @metrolosangeles on Instagram
  2. Solve the daily riddle, which will involve a location accessible by Metro
  3. Take a photo of your TAP card at that location
  4. Post it to your Instagram (make sure your profile is public!)
  5. Tag @metrolosangeles and #tapandsave

Submissions showing the correct location and tags will be entered to win the daily prize! The contest will close at 6 p.m. each business day; submissions posted after 6 p.m. will not be included.

The daily winner will be chosen at random and will be announced on Metro’s Instagram the following day. Prizes include theatre tickets, restaurant gift cards and more! Click here for the official contest rules, terms and conditions.

Long-term full closure on South Firestone Boulevard begins Dec. 9

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Here’s the press release from Caltrans:

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will fully close South Firestone Boulevard in both directions from Rosecrans Avenue to just south of Silverbow Avenue  beginning on Monday, December 9 at 6 a.m. and continuing through April 2014.
The work involves  demolishing the existing roadway and reconstructing S. Firestone Boulevard and realigning the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue and Rosecrans Avenue.

Detours will be posted and digital portable message signs are in place to notify the motorists. Residents and emergency responders will have access at all times during the closure.  Noise will be experienced from back-up alarms, work crews and other related equipment and water trucks will be on-site and used to minimize dust during working hours.
Wednesday, December 4 – to prepare for the long-term closure on Dec. 9, crews will move cranes and equipment into the work zone during overnight hours.   The following streets and ramps will be fully closed overnight on Wed. Dec. 4:
Local Streets:
8 p.m. to 6 a.m. –  So. Firestone Blvd., from Bloomfield Ave. to Carmenita Rd.
-  Shoemaker Ave. from South Firestone Blvd.  to Excelsior Dr.
10 p.m. to 6 a.m. –  Eastbound Rosecrans Ave. from Bloomfield Ave. to No. Firestone Blvd.
Freeway Ramps:        
9 p.m. to 6 a.m.  -  Southbound I-5 on-and off-ramp at Rosecrans Ave.
-  Northbound I-5 off-ramp at Rosecrans Ave.
The work is part of the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) South Corridor Improvement Projects extending nearly seven miles in both directions from the Los Angeles/Orange County line to I-605 to widen the freeway, bridges and overcrossings and add one High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane and one general purpose lane.

The public is encouraged to sign-up to receive email notifications on freeway lane and ramp closures and local city street closures by calling the I-5 South Corridor Improvement Projects Toll-Free Hotline (855) 454-6335 or by visiting www.I-5info.com

Traffic Information:  For timely, accurate and accessible real-time traffic information:
Caltrans Quick Map http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/  Caltrans Quick Map
Caltrans Lane Closure System:  www.lcswebreports.dot.ca.gov

Transportation headlines, Monday, December 2

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

Ridership discrepancy calls Metro’s estimation method into question (L.A. Times)

The article ponders the difference between Metro’s traditional way of estimating ridership and new data generated by the latched turnstiles at entrances to Red and Purple Line stations. The traditional ridership estimates have been running significantly higher than the turnstile counts since gates begun to be latched in June.

Metro officials say that the turnstile data is preliminary and not yet complete enough to serve as a substitute for ridership data. As for ridership, officials say the traditional estimates seem to be capturing trends on the subway and that the methodology behind those estimates is approved by the Federal Transit Administration.

Speed is cited as possible cause of deadly train crash in the Bronx (New York Times) 

No official word yet on the cause of the Metro North commuter train derailment just north of Manhattan on Sunday morning that killed four passengers and critically injured 11.

The speed limit along the curved stretch of track next to the Hudson River is 30 miles per hour and officials suggested Monday that the train was going faster; no one knows why. The NYT quotes an anonymous source saying the engineer told emergency workers he had to quickly apply the brakes.

Metro North’s Hudson Valley Line remains closed. It has been a difficult year for Metro North; two of its trains on the New Haven Line collided in May, injuring 70, and a railroad worker was struck and killed by a train in late spring.

More states raise taxes to pay for transportation (Kansas City Star) 

With Congress log-jammed, states and local governments are increasingly willing to raise taxes to pay for transportation improvements. Conservative groups are grumbling and may challenge some of the tax hikes, but politicians from both parties are finding that improving infrastructure is popular with voters.

In other words, the closer the politicians live to the actual people and land they govern, the more responsive they are.

Why mass transit is doomed in America: politicians don’t know people who use it (Salon) 

Race, class, fear and shame: transit barriers (KCET)

Two good semi-related articles. At KCET, long-time transit rider D.J. Waldie looks at some recent studies and articles that suggest the so-called ‘car bias’ remains strong and is preventing people from trying transit — even when transit may save them time and money. The big problem, as Waldie writes, is that new policies are encouraging denser developments near transit which may end up housing people who still won’t take the bus or train. Hmmm. No, make that a double hmmm.

At Salon, writer Alex Pareene gets grumpy on the fact that politicians in New York — which should be the most transit-friendly state in the nation owing to the Big Apple — consistently find ways to steer money away from transit.

But it’s not just a New York problem, Pareene writes before delivering a big-time spanking to Minneapolis and Atlanta. And then he finishes up his article with this eternally glorious paragraph which made the Source smile and then smile again:

Just about the only place where there seems to be hope for mass transit in America is, bizarrely enough, Los Angeles, where the system is currently in the process of growing and improving. Why there, of all places? Maybe because while Los Angeles politicians are as unlikely to ride buses and trains as politicians anywhere else, they do have a personal stake in seeing other drivers get the hell off the road.

Nighttime directional freeway closures in West L.A. planned December 2, 3, and 4

UPDATE: The closure area and detour routes for Monday night and Tuesday night directional freeway closures has been updated.  The closure is now between Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards.  Please see changes below.

Here’s the news release:

Nighttime Directional Freeway Closures in West L.A. Planned December 2, 3, and 4, 2013

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor is scheduled to implement full directional closures of the I-405 in West L.A. the nights of December 2, 3, and 4, 2013. The closures will facilitate the realignment of lanes to accommodate work at the freeway median for roadway widening.

Below is a schedule of closures:

Monday Night, December 2: Southbound I-405 Full Nighttime Directional Closure

  • The southbound I-405 will be fully closed the night of Monday, December 2 from midnight to 5 a.m. on Tuesday, December 3 from Sunset Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard.
  • Lanes will begin to close at 10 p.m., and ramps will be closed as early as 7 p.m.
  • Detour: From the southbound I-405, exit at Sunset Boulevard, turn right onto northbound Church Lane, turn right onto southbound Sepulveda Boulevard, turn right onto westbound Santa Monica Boulevard and enter the southbound I-405 on-ramp on the left, at westbound Santa Monica Boulevard.

Tuesday Night, December 3: Southbound I-405 Full Nighttime Directional Closure

  • The southbound I-405 will be fully closed the night of Tuesday, December 3, from midnight to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, December 4, from Sunset Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard.
  • Lanes will begin to close at 10 p.m., and ramps will be closed as early as 7 p.m.
  • Detour: From the southbound I-405, exit at Sunset Boulevard, turn right onto northbound Church Lane, turn right onto southbound Sepulveda Boulevard, turn right onto westbound Santa Monica Boulevard and enter the southbound I-405 on-ramp on the left, at westbound Santa Monica Boulevard.

Wednesday Night, Dec. 4: Northbound I-405 Full Nighttime Directional Closure

  • The northbound I-405 will be fully closed the night of Wednesday, December 4, from midnight to 5 a.m. on Thursday, December 5, from Santa Monica Boulevard to Moraga Drive.
  • Lanes will begin to close at 10 p.m., and ramps will be closed as early as 7 p.m.
  • Detour: From the northbound I-405, exit at westbound Wilshire Boulevard, turn right to northbound Sepulveda Boulevard, turn left onto the Moraga Drive northbound I-405 on-ramp.

What to expect:

  • Work is dependent on favorable weather conditions.
  • Emergency access will be maintained at all times.
  • For a listing of daily closures and latest updates visit our website at www.metro.net/405 or follow us on twitter: twitter.com/I_405 and Facebook at facebook.com/405project.

Metro-174                                                                                                     # # #

Service Alert: Up to 20 minute delays on Blue and Expo Lines this evening

Final Update: Metro Blue and Expo Line track has been cleared of incident vehicle. At this time, trains are resuming regular evening service. As a heads up, Blue Line trains run every 30 minutes between Willowbrook and Downtown Long Beach tonight after 8:30 p.m. due to needed maintenance. For more information, visit Metro’s Service Advisories page.

Metro Blue and Expo Lines are currently experiencing delays of up to 20 minutes due to contact with a vehicle at the intersection of Flower and 18th Streets.

Preliminary reports suggest the incident car made an illegal left turn directly into a Culver City-bound Expo Line train. On-scene personnel have indicated this incident will take an extended period to clear.

Blue Line trains are sharing one track between San Pedro and Pico Station, while Expo Line trains share one track between 23rd Street and Pico Station. Due to rail congestion, some 7th/Metro-bound trains are turning back at Washington on the Blue Line and 23rd Street on the Expo Line. Please follow station announcements.

For up-to-the-minute status updates, follow Metro on Twitter @metrolosangeles or @metroLAalerts.

We thank you for your patience as we work to restore regular evening service as fast as possible.

Preliminary reports indicate the incident car made an illegal left turn into the Metro train

Preliminary reports suggest the incident car made an illegal left turn into the Metro train.

Metro personnel on scene at Flower/18th Streets.

Metro personnel on scene at Flower/18th Streets.


City of Santa Clarita held ribbon cutting for new McBean Park and Ride

McBean Park and Ride ribbon cutting. The event was attended by Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar, Councilmembers TimBen Boydston and Marsha McLean, along with representatives from other local elected officials. Photo: Michael Richmai/Metro

McBean Park and Ride ribbon cutting. The event was attended by Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar, Councilmembers TimBen Boydston and Marsha McLean, along with representatives from other local elected officials. Photo: Michael Richmai/Metro

Metro participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new City of Santa Clarita McBean Park and Ride yesterday morning.

The McBean Park and Ride facility, adjacent to the McBean Regional Transit Center, was funded with a $2.9 million federal grant through the Metro’s 2007 Call for Projects. The lot provides 282 transit parking spaces, including 7 handicapped spaces, bike lockers, a passenger drop off area, new passenger platforms with seating, signage, landscaping and irrigation, handicap access ramps, information kiosks, and solar powered station canopies.

The McBean Park and Ride will connect with Santa Clarita Transit buses that link Santa Clarita Valley to distant destinations in Los Angeles County and the Antelope Valley. 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, November 27

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

ART OF TRANSIT: Again, from our Instagram feed

Tracking holiday travel misery (FlightAware)

MiseryMap

That’s a screen grab from 8:55 a.m. Looks like a good day to avoid Atlanta. Then again, it’s always a good day to avoid Atlanta, right? :)

LAX and Metro call for minor changes to future light rail station (Daily Breeze)

Forgot to post this one earlier in the week. Airport and Metro officials are working to make some minor changes to the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Aviation/Century station that would make it easier in the future to connect the platform to future airport facilities at Manchester Square and to extend 98th Street across Aviation Boulevard. The Metro Board will consider an MOU with the airport at its meeting on Dec. 5.

Denver’s East Corridor rail line to leave Crenshaw to near LAX project in its prairie dust (L.A. Streetsblog)

A look at the 22-mile commuter rail line under construction that will link downtown Denver to Denver International Airport. The writer Roger Rudick compares the new line to the Crenshaw/LAX Line, pointing out that Denver is building a one-seat ride to its airport from downtown, whereas the trip from downtown L.A. to LAX will require more time and more transfers. He would have rather seen a project built from downtown to LAX using the old Harbor Subdivision rail right-of-way.

One quick note: Denver’s FasTraks program, funded by a sales tax increase in 2004, is a great transit program — but it has suffered cost over-runs and delays. And one quick thought: the Crenshaw/LAX Line will probably also serve a lot of people not going to the airport.

And one addendum: Denver’s airport line is using a public-private partnership to help fund part of the project. I’ve read various things about it — both good and bad — but something must be working because the project is aiming for completion in 2016.

Campus tracks cycling with first digital bike counter at a university (UCLA) 

The digital bike counter — working from sensors embedded in the roadway — allows everyone to see how many bikes are using the Strathmore Place bike lane. Very cool. The counter is apparently the first of its kind in Southern California. Might be fun to put one of these on one of the region’s new bike lanes to see how they’re doing! :)

Brisbane rail tunnel all show and no substance, says rail expert (Brisbane Times) 

Transportation officials want to build a massive tunnel under the Brisbane River that includes a rail line and roadway for buses. This article finds a skeptic to rail extensively against that plan. On our side of the Pacific, it’s interesting because one of the early options that has been explored for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project is a tunnel that would have both a rail line and tolled lanes. That project is still in its initial planning stages with public-private financing being looked at to supplement seed money from Measure R.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, November 26: Metro responds to NBC-4 ExpressLanes violation notice story

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

ART OF TRANSIT: The Green Line’s Hawthorne station, from our Instagram stream. 

Thousands of incorrect violations sent to drivers (KNBC)

The video segment reports that some motorists in Southern California have received citations for failing to pay tolls in the ExpressLanes — even though they have never driven in the ExpressLanes. It appears that in some cases, cameras are misreading license plates and, therefore, the citations are sent to the wrong owner of a vehicle.

Metro is aware of 1,700 such errors among the 1.6 million violation notices that have been mailed to vehicle owners although KNBC says there were “thousands” without citing any basis for that number. There has been about 18.5 million trips on the ExpressLanes thus far, meaning the error rate appears to be about .1 percent. Metro has and will continue to work to refine software used in order to reduce erroneous violations. 

Obviously, those kind of stats may not satisfy those who get violations, especially if more than once. “In all cases as soon as we learn of the error, we dismiss the violation,” says Metro.  The public can always contact ExpressLanes directly through many outlets including www.metroexpresslanes.net, the ExpressLanes’ Facebook page, or at www.twitter.com/expresslanes

Other ways to reach the ExpressLanes:

By phone, call call 511 and say “ExpressLanes.” If you live outside of Los Angeles, Orange or Ventura counties, please call (877) 224-6511. ExpressLanes walk-in centers:

Harbor Gateway FasTrak Walk In Center500 West 190th Street, Gardena, CA 90248

El Monte FasTrak Walk In Center 3501 Santa Anita Avenue, El Monte, CA 91731

Sacramento judge delivers setback to high-speed rail project (Sacramento Bee) 

A Superior Court judge ruled Monday that a new funding plan is needed for the state bullet train project while, in a second case, ruling that the California High-Speed Rail Authority can spend $3.4 billion in federal funding it has received for the project.

What does this mean for the ambitious project to eventually connect San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco? Hard to say and a variety of officials offer a variety of opinions (surprise!).

At this point, it appears that the first ruling will make it more difficult for the state to sell bonds it will need to build the project beyond an initial 29-mile segment between Fresno and Madera. It should be noted that this was a ruling by a Superior Court judge — and those type of rulings are frequently appealed.

The L.A. Times also has an article about the rulings that takes a more pessimistic view on the impact to the project.

Frank Gehry’s grand vision to go before project committee (L.A. Times)

Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne takes a look at Gehry’s redesign of the long-planned Grand Avenue project across the street from Disney Hall. It sounds like Hawthorne likes most of what he sees and says the development should breathe new life (or any life!) into the intersections of 1st/Grand and 2nd/Grand.

The developer, Related Co., is now saying construction could begin in 2015 and be complete in 2019. The project, with new commercial and residential space, would be served by the existing Red/Purple Line Civic Center station and the future Regional Connector station at 2nd/Hope.

I really hope they pull it off this time — the northern end of DTLA is getting better but it’s still too often a ghost town after 6 p.m.

Crossrail: Britain’s biggest archeological dig will transform London (the Guardian) 

Photo: Crossrail.

Photo: Crossrail.

The first massive $14.8-billion pound project to build more than 100 kilometers of new rail line across London — including 42 kilometers underground — reached a milestone with the first segment of tunneling completed. Service is planned to run 24 hours-a-day with trains 200 meters long that can carry 1,500 people each; that’s twice as long as current trains in the London Tube. The project says it will increase the entire London Tube carrying capacity by 10 percent.