Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 8

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! 

New contract guarantees a series of raises for some Metro workers (L.A. Times) 

Metro and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 127 have approved a new contract that will provide three percent annual raises for about 2,300 maintenance workers for the next four years. The new contract will cost Metro roughly $36 million with agency officials saying that it’s important to retain and fairly pay the skilled workers who keep buses and trains moving each day. Union officials say the contract is fair but that workers are still paid less than their counterparts in New York and Chicago.

Sexual harassment makes nearly 20 percent of riders feel unsafe (L.A. Times) 

The story concerns a question asked in Metro’s annual Customer Survey that was released this week. Excerpt:

The sexual harassment question was prompted, in part, by a national discussion about safety on public transit that followed a fatal gang rape on a New Delhi bus in 2012, Boberg said. A study by London’s transit agency the following year found that 15% of women riding transit there had experienced “unwanted sexual behavior,” but 90% of them had not reported it, according to the Guardian

Metro staff members who read stories online about such data realized they had very little comparable information, Boberg said, and decided to add the question to the most recent passenger survey. He added that Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his transportation staff also indicated they were interested.

One of the biggest surprises in the data was that men reported feeling unsafe because of sexual behavior nearly as often as women, Boberg said About 18% of women felt unsafe, as opposed to 16% of men.

Obviously, Metro takes this issue seriously and, as a Metro spokesman notes in the article, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has increased patrols on Metro buses in addition to deputies that patrol Metro Rail trains and stations. Metro asked the question on the survey to better discern the number of actual incidents versus perception of the problem.

Here are some key statistics. According to the LASD, there were 103 sex crimes including one rape on Metro buses and trains that was reported in 2013. Metro Customer Relations has received seven sexual harassment complaints in the past three years. Metro had 478.1 million boardings on its buses and trains in 2013.

Agency officials stressed this to me today: Metro takes seriously the perception that people feel unsafe for any reason. Sexual harassment is obviously a societal issue that also exists beyond the bounds of transit and Metro wants to stay ahead of the curve. The agency encourages anyone to let the bus operator, LASD deputies or any Metro personnel know if they feel harassed or threatened. On trains, passengers can use emergency intercoms located on rail cars and in rail stations. All bus and rail passengers can report problems via the TransitWatchLA app for smart phones or contact Metro Customer Relations by calling 323.GO.METRO (323.466.3876), emailing customerrelations@metro.net or filling out the online form.

As we noted, harassment is certainly an issue beyond transit in Los Angeles County. For some helpful context, sexual harassment on transit received some attention a few years ago in New York when a survey by the then Manhattan borough president at the time suggested that harassment on the New York subway system was extremely widespread. Here’s a New York Times article about a New York City Council meeting on the issue in 2009 with some statistics and anecdotal quotes.

Breathing uneasy: living along the 710 freeway corridor (KCET)

The article looks at a project being studied by Caltrans and Metro to improve traffic along the southern stretch of the 710 freeway between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the 60 freeway (where much of the freight traffic begins to head east). As noted in this news release, alternatives include widening the 710 freeway up to 10 lanes (five in each direction), modernizing and reconfiguring the I-405, SR-91 and a portion of the I-5 interchanges with the I-710; modernizing and reconfiguring most local arterial interchanges along the I-710 and looking at a provision of a separate four-lane freight corridor to be used by conventional or zero-emission trucks. Some nearby community members want to see more traffic diverted from the freeway, better transit and bike paths along the 710 corridor and the zero emission corridor come to fruition. Click here to visit the study’s home page.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the train (The Poston Report)

Writing on his personal blog, L.A. Times reporter Ben Poston reports on the evolution of his commute over the past couple of years. He used to bike to work in DTLA, but got tired of being hit by cars. He then went back to driving — and wrote about it — but took a lot of heat from readers who said he should either stick with biking or try something else.

And the something else? Excerpt:

Since I started riding the Metro two months ago, I haven’t looked back. It’s now my preferred mode of travel and I only drive when my job requires it.

With gas prices typically at more than $4 a gallon, I know that I’m saving serious cash every month, not to mention the wear and tear on my car.

Though I have to leave earlier than before, I’m enjoying the slower pace of transit commuting. During my 20-minute morning walk from my apartment to the Red Line stop I usually stream National Public Radio or listen to music on my smart phone.

I read magazines and newspapers on the train, which is relaxing. It’s also nice to walk among my fellow Angelenos instead of being isolated in my car bubble. The best part is the ride home: I don’t have to sit in traffic or deal with it at all, which is much less stressful.

So that’s it. My LA commuting sage is over. I’m taking the train as often as possible and enjoying it. I’d encourage anyone else to give it a try.

Metro tweets trash Ducks: is this the start of a new hockey tradition? (L.A. Register) 

The new L.A. Register asks whether it’s appropriate for government agencies to support the home team and tweet about sports, using Metro’s tweets (read: my tweets) about the Kings and the Stanley Cup Playoffs as an example. One attorney interviewed says that a pre-Game 7 tweet I wrote about the Sharks that included a chart on the Heimlich Maneuver may not have been appropriate. I obviously disagree. The Sharks’ lousy playoff record speaks for itself and the Kings, in fact, overcame a three games to zero deficit to win the series. As for the bigger question about why tweet about sports? Well, the Kings have had a Destinations Discount deal with Metro in the past, many Kings fans take Metro to games at Staples Center (using Pico Station shared by the Blue and Expo lines) and who says that everything government says has to be boring?

Mileage tax for California drivers proposed in State Senate (Mercury News) 

The article — picked up from the Los Angeles Newspaper Group — looks at SB 1077 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) that would allow a pilot program for a device to be used to track mileage in cars and then tax the motorist based on miles driven. Motorists are currently taxed in California by paying 5.9 cents per gallon for fuel. Proponents of a by-the-mile tax say it would more accurately tax motorists for the true cost of driving by taxing those who use road space the most. 

 

 

 

Bridge work to close Wilshire Boulevard near 405

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor is planning to conduct overnight closure of Wilshire Boulevard from Sepulveda Boulevard to Bonsall Avenue Thursday, May 8 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday, May 9 and Friday night from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Saturday May 10. The closure will facilitate girder painting at the southbound off-ramp to eastbound Wilshire Boulevard

This operation requires the following closures:

  • Thursday, May 8th- Westbound Wilshire Boulevard fully closed from Sepulveda Boulevard to Bonsall Avenue from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Friday, May 9th- Eastbound Wilshire Boulevard fully closed from Sepulveda Boulevard to Bonsall Avenue from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

For a listing of daily closures and latest updates visit our website at www.metro.net/405 or follow us on twitter: www.twitter.com/I_405 and Facebook at www.facebook.com/405project.


Northbound 405 Full Freeway Closure Between Moraga Drive and Greenleaf Street Planned Tonight through Sunday

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor is planning to conduct overnight closure of the northbound I-405 freeway between Moraga Drive and Greenleaf Street in the overnight hours tonight, May 7 through Sunday May 11. The closure will facilitate permanent striping of general purpose lanes and electrical, drainage, concrete barrier and k-rail removal work.

 

Schedule:

  • Night of Wednesday, May 7, midnight to 5 a.m., Thursday, May 8
  • Night of Thursday, May 8, midnight to 5 a.m., Friday, May 9
  • Night of Friday, May 9, 1 a.m. to 6 a.m., Saturday, May 10
  • Night of Saturday, May 10, 2 a.m. to 7 a.m., Sunday, May 11
  • Night of Sunday, May 11, midnight to 5 a.m., Monday, May 1

Ramps begin closing as early as 7 p.m. on the nights of each operation and lanes begin closing at 10 p.m. on the night of each operation.

 

Ramp Closures:

  • Northbound on-ramp from eastbound Wilshire Boulevard
  • Northbound on-ramp from westbound Wilshire Boulevard
  • Northbound Sunset Boulevard to on-ramp
  • Northbound Moraga Drive on-ramp
  • Northbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp
  • Northbound Skirball Center Drive on-ramp
  • Northbound I-405 to the north US 101 connector

Detour:

Take the northbound Moraga Drive off-ramp, head north on Sepulveda Bl to the northbound I-405 on-ramp at Greenleaf St.

 


Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 7

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! 

Just a reminder, there’s a reason they haven’t begun digging the 710 tunnel (Streetsblog L.A.) 

The foremost reasons are that the environmental review process is still far from complete and the more expensive alternatives under study for the SR-710 project — in particular a tunnel or light rail line — are not fully funded. But Streetsblog editor Damien Newton says the real reason is lack of any kind of broad-based support for such a project. He also takes another shot at tonight’s Zocalo Public Square forum on the 710, intimating that it will be a Metro-sponsored rally for 710 expansion although conceding that “it’s possible that tonight’s discussion will take a different turn.” One correction: The event at MOCA in downtown L.A. is free and is near the Red/Purple Line’s Civic Center station and numerous Metro bus lines. It’s only $9 for those who choose to drive and to park at Disney Hall.

MTA may have tough time getting federal rail money past House GOP (L.A. Times) 

Republicans in the U.S. House are proposing spending cuts to the federal New Starts program that helps local agencies pay for large transit projects. That could impact $200 million in next year’s federal budget for Metro’s Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension projects. Excerpt:

Raffi Hamparian, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority director of federal affairs, said county officials would work to increase the amount when the House committee acts on the bill in coming weeks or to win approval for a higher amount from the Senate, where Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sits on the Appropriations Committee.

“It may be that the Senate is going to come in with a solid number that fully funds the program, and we don’t have a problem,” Hamparian said. “But the bottom line is, a low number adds uncertainty, and we don’t like uncertainty.” [snip]

“We’re determined to get these projects built, on time and on budget,” Hamparian said. “Los Angeles County voters have repeatedly stepped up to fund these projects, and we look forward to Congress meeting us halfway to get these great American infrastructure projects built.”

L.A.’s plan to make Figueroa a ‘complete street’ makes sense (L.A. Times)

The editorial backs the city of Los Angeles’ plans to put four miles of Figueroa on a road diet between downtown L.A. and Exposition Park, meaning that two traffic lanes could be lost and replaced, in part, with protected bike lanes and other improvements to help pedestrians and bus riders. Businesses, including USC, have pushed back. The Times says that’s a bad idea and that transferring some of the improvements over to Flower Street (which runs parallel to Figueroa) would be a bad idea.

How tolls could prevent a U.S. transportation crisis (The Atlantic Cities) 

With the federal Highway Trust Fund in perpetual crisis mode, Eric Jaffe writes that it’s encouraging that President Obama is proposing to allow states set tolls on their portion of the interstate system to pay for maintenance. The proposal would also allow some toll money to be used for public transit. My three cents: the interstates have been toll-free for so long that it’s going to be a mighty tough sell to get this past Congress and to get states to go for it, even if they have the permission to set tolls.

Show us how you dump the pump with the 2014 Transit Pix Contest

From May 1 to May 15, dump the pump and snap some photos that show what you love about riding buses and trains in Los Angeles County–then enter in the 2014 Transit Pix Contest for the chance to win some fantastic prizes!

How to enter:

  • Follow us @metrolosangeles on Instagram.
  • Take a pic(s) illustrating how transit helps you, and why others should try it.
  • Post pic(s) to your Instagram (make sure your profile is public!).
  • Tag pic(s) #LATRANSITPIX14

New Instagram photos and submitted between May 1 and May 15, 2014 with the correct hashtag will be collected and then posted on the Metro Los Angeles Facebook page for anyone to review and Like their favorites. Winners will be selected based on the number of Likes per photo received only on the Metro Facebook page. Photos with the most Likes will have a chance to win great prizes!

Winners will be announced on June 19, Dump the Pump Day.

See contest page for official rules. And what are the prizes, you ask? Keep reading after the jump to find out!

Continue reading


Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 6

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! 

Here are two plans for an airport people mover (Curbed LA)

The Curbed post is based on tweets from L.A. Times transportation reporter Laura Nelson, who attended the Los Angeles World Airports Board meeting (if you’re not following Laura on Twitter, you should be). As Laura’s tweets show, it appears that LAWA is looking at two alternatives for getting an automated people mover into the terminal area and neither would be a loop.

As many of you know, Metro’s Airport Metro Connector study is also underway and Metro is working with LAX to identify the best way to connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line with the airport’s people mover and the location for a possible connection between light rail and a people mover. There are several possibilities, including a connection at the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Aviation/Century station or the new transportation hub proposed by the airport that is west of the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Metro staff are expected to give their latest report to the Metro Board of Directors in June.

The L.A. Airspace blog by Brian Sumers that is published by the Los Angeles News Group also has an item on the LAWA Board discussion, as well as the full LAWA report with visuals on everything that is on the table including the people mover, future roadway changes and a consolidated rental car facility.

WeHo to consider efforts to lure a Metro line stop (WEHOville) 

The city of West Hollywood is considering hiring a lobbyist to help secure a Metro Rail line that would stop in West Hollywood. As CurbedLA notes, the timing is obvious as Metro considers pursuing a possible ballot measure in 2016 to raise money to accelerate the construction of transportation projects or perhaps secure funding for projects beyond the Measure R expenditure list.

The Purple Line Extension project did study a subway segment running from Hollywood through WeHo to Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. With funding limited, the Metro Board decided to pursue a subway alignment mostly under Wilshire Boulevard to Westwood that performed better in terms of expected ridership. A northward extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line is in Metro’s long-range plan as an unfunded project and some activists have proposed that line run all the way to WeHo, Hollywood or both. Metro has not yet drawn up any firm plans for such a project.

Meanwhile, two Los Angeles City Council members — Joe Buscaino and Tom LaBonge — are urging that a light rail line be built that that connects Wilmington and San Pedro to the Blue Line, perhaps via the Harbor Subdivision right-of-way that is owned by Metro, according to Build Los Angeles. That project has been talked up by Move LA, the activist group urging Metro to pursue a “Measure R 2″ in 2016.

The bigger story here — and it’s a good one, reporters — is that with the possibility that Metro will go to the ballot in 2016, many cities and other stakeholders across the region are starting to push for their projects to be included. There is certainly no shortage of projects that have been talked about for years that are not funded. Look at the funded and unfunded list in Metro’s long-range plan (pages 30 and 31). The interesting part, of course, is that the Metro Board has not made any decision yet whether to go forward with a measure, nor do we know what the Board may even pursue or whether there would be any money for projects outside Measure R.

Climate change study finds U.S. is already widely affected (New York Times) 

A wide range of scientists overseen by the federal government developed the report, including representatives from two oil companies. Here’s the first graph:

The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects. [snip]

And, more notably, here are the last two graphs — which perhaps are two of the most important graphs in the story:

Historically, the United States — with its large cars, large houses and high per capita consumption of energy — was responsible for more emissions than any other country. Lately, China has become the largest emitter over all, though its emissions per person are still far below those of the United States.

The report pointed out that while the country as a whole still has no comprehensive climate legislation, many states and cities have begun to take steps to limit emissions and to adapt to climatic changes that can no longer be avoided. But the report found that these efforts are inadequate compared with the magnitude of the problems that are coming.

Of course, you don’t have to wait around for the government to do something if this is an issue you care about. Walking and biking are emissions free! And taking transit has been shown as a way to reduce your carbon footprint when compared to driving alone or even with passengers. Please see this UCLA study on how the Gold Line and Orange Line both produce fewer greenhouse gases in the near- and far-term than driving, especially driving alone.

The Federal Transit Administration also published this report in 2010 on public transit’s role in how the country responds to climate change. To quote the report: “National level data show significant greenhouse gas emission savings by use of public transportation, which offers a low emissions alternative to driving.” And a graphic from the report:

greenhousegas

Did Metro build a perpetual motion machine (Streetsblog L.A.) 

And on the subject of clean energy….this is a critical look at the MACE project that we posted about recently. The $600,000 test project aimed to determine if energy could be captured by placing a wind turbine in a Red Line tunnel. The idea is that wind from a passing train would turn the turbine and then create energy.

Experts interviewed by Roger Rudick on Streetsblog, however, are dubious. They say that passing trains likely meet resistance from the new turbine and thus must use more power to maintain their speed — meaning that any energy captured is canceled out by the extra energy needed to push trains down the track.

According to the test, the wind turbine could capture $6,000 in energy annually. Streetsblog says a turbine that could be switched on and off may perform better but that Metro may reap more energy by regenerative braking similar to what hybrid cars use (and this is something Metro is pursuing).

Good article and I encourage you to read. I think the question really comes down to whether the wind turbine is something worth pursuing and whether it can be improved to the point where it’s economically useful.

Northbound 405 full freeway closure between Wilshire Boulevard and Getty Center Drive planned overnight

Here’s the press release from Metro:

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor is planning to conduct overnight closure of the northbound I-405 freeway between Wilshire Boulevard and Getty Center Drive beginning tonight, May 6 at midnight through tomorrow, May 7 at 5 a.m. The closure will facilitate permanent striping of general purpose lanes and electrical, drainage, concrete barrier and k-rail removal work.

Ramps will begin to close at 7 p.m. and lanes will begin to close at 10 p.m.

Ramp Closures:

  • NB on-ramp from Santa Monica Boulevard
  • NB on-ramp from EB Wilshire Boulevard
  • NB on-ramp from WB Wilshire Boulevard
  • NB on-ramp from Sunset Boulevard
  • NB on-ramp from Moraga Drive

Detour: Exit Northbound off-ramp from westbound Wilshire Boulevard, head north on Sepulveda Boulevard to northbound Getty Center Drive on-ramp.

What to expect: