Transportation headlines, Monday, April 28

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Art of Transit: Downtown Chicago, freeways and transit lines as seen from United Airline's Yoda-sized seats on Saturday morning as I made my way back to L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Art of Transit: Downtown Chicago, freeways and transit lines as seen from United Airline’s Yoda-sized seats on Saturday morning as I made my way back to L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Metro adds monthly fee for toll road drivers (L.A. Times)

As part of an approval to continue the ExpressLanes beyond next January — pending approval of the state Legislature — the Metro Board also approved a new $1 monthly for everyone with ExpressLanes accounts. The fee is intended to help cover the cost of maintenance, as Metro must pay its contractor $3 for every transponder put into service; it is estimated the new fee will raise $700,000 annually. As both the Times and coverage in the Los Angeles Newspaper Group notes, the Metro Board vote and passage of the state bill could potentially pave the way toward other freeways getting the ExpressLanes treatment in the future.

For whom the lane tolls (Santa Clarita Valley Signal) 

This op-ed piece argues it’s wrong to keep the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways because taxpayers have already paid taxes to build the roads — and that the tolls only exist as a new government revenue stream. Interestingly, the writer never bothers to mention the HOV-toll lanes proposed for the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley. Nor does the writer mention that taxpayers have to pay fares or entrance fees for many things built with taxpayer dollars, ranging from mass transit to national parks to publicly-financed sports venues.

York Boulevard bike lane extended (LADOT Bike Blog)

The city of Los Angeles is extending the bike lanes on York Boulevard in Northeast L.A. toward South Pasadena, including lanes on the bridge over the 110 freeway. York is a key corridor and can be used to help reach two Gold Line stations — Highland Park and South Pasadena.

The first look at how Google’s self-driving car handles city streets (The Atlantic Cities)

Eric Jaffe goes for a ride in a self-driving car and gets a look at the computer software guiding the car’s decision making while in traffic. Very interesting post with some good visuals and video.

Sky-high cost of BART Oakland airport link (San Francisco Chronicle) 

A wee bit of hype in the headline in this article about BART trying to figure out the fares for the new 3.2-mile automated rail line (you can call it a people mover) that will run to the airport terminals. Fares could run from $3 to $6 one way with a $2 discounted fare for airport workers. The fares aren’t expected to cover the entire cost of running the service; then again, fares in the U.S. almost never cover the cost of operations.

Northbound 405 daytime lane reduction/nighttime closures planned May 2 to 5

Here’s the press release from Metro:

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project contractor is planning to conduct a daytime single lane closure and night-time full closure of the northbound I-405 in West Los Angeles and the Sepulveda Pass the weekend of May 2-5, 2014.  The contractor plans to remove and replace roadway, install Church Lane undercrossing expansion dams and approach slabs, stripe general purpose lanes and conduct electrical, drainage, concrete barrier, and k-rail removal work.

The closure schedule is as follows:

  • The I-405 northbound #5 lane will be closed from Sunset Boulevard to Moraga Drive beginning at 10 p.m. Friday, May 2 to 6 a.m. Monday, May 5. Northbound freeway lanes will be reduced to four lanes in this area.  Due to the planned daytime #5 lane closure over the weekend, motorists are advised to anticipate congestion, allow for extra time to reach destinations or to choose an alternate northbound freeway route based on real-time traffic conditions.   
  • The northbound I-405 will be fully closed nightly from the Wilshire on-ramp to Greenleaf Street:
  • The night of Friday, May 2, from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday morning
  • The night of Saturday, May 3, from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. Sunday morning
  • The night of Sunday, May 4, from midnight to 5 a.m. Monday morning
  • Ramps begin closing at 7p.m. and lanes will begin closing at 10p.m. each night

Ramp Closures

  • Northbound on-ramp from Santa Monica
  • Northbound on-ramp from eastbound Wilshire Boulevard
  • Northbound on-ramp from westbound Wilshire Boulevard
  • Northbound Sunset on-ramp
  • Northbound Moraga off-ramp (closed 8 p.m. 5/2 to 6 a.m. 5/5)
  • Northbound Moraga on-ramp
  • Northbound on-ramp from Getty Center Drive
  • Northbound on-ramp from Skirball Center Drive
  • Northbound I-405 connector to U.S. 101

Nightly Full Directional Detour Routes

Motorists must exit at westbound Wilshire off-ramp, turn right to northbound Sepulveda Boulevard, and turn left onto northbound I-405 on-ramp to Greenleaf Street.

What to expect:

Very first segment of new northbound 405 carpool lane opens in West L.A.

Earlier lane preparation work on northbound carpool lane in West L.A.

Earlier lane preparation work on northbound carpool lane in West L.A.

Early Monday morning, Metro’s contractor quietly completed lane restriping and freeway sign installation work needed to open an initial 2.4-mile section of northbound 405 carpool lane between the Santa Monica Freeway and Wilshire Boulevard. But hold on: it’s not the official opening yet of the full carpool lane. The remainder of the 7.5-mile lane that extends to the 101 freeway in the San Fernando Valley remains under construction.

Metro’s contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West, has been conducting a series of nighttime northbound freeway closures — with more planned in the coming weeks — to get the entire lane through West L.A. and the Sepulveda Pass ready for prime time. So, for the time being, the new northbound carpool lane will ultimately convert back to a general purpose lane.

Contractor gets ready to open new carpool lane segment with installation of HOV signage at the freeway median.

Contractor gets ready to open new carpool lane segment with installation of HOV signage at the freeway median.

Carpoolers traveling on the existing northbound carpool lane prior to the I-10 freeway will notice new striping and “HOV Lane” signs for the very first time. For those keeping track, the southbound 405 carpool lane through the area was opened by Caltrans in 2007.

The addition of the carpool lane officially brings the total number of vehicle lanes on the northbound 405 to six. The project also added an extra auxiliary lane between the eastbound to northbound 10 freeway connectors and the Santa Monica Boulevard off-ramp. That’s an extra project benefit to help keep traffic moving as quickly as possible through this heavily traveled portion of the 405.

Metro, Caltrans and Kiewit anticipate the whole 10-mile stretch of new carpool lane will open sometime in late May. An exact opening date has not been finalized, but progress is clearly being made and the full lane opening is in sight. That should be music to the ears of every motorist who drives the 405 on a daily basis.

Gold Line Update: limited service restored between Lake and Sierra Madre Villa stations

Friday, 9 p.m.: Some good news for Gold Line riders. Metro’s repair team has cleared one of the tracks between Sierra Madre Villa and Lake stations, allowing limited service to be restored between those stations.

What do we mean by limited? While trains will run every 10 minutes between Atlantic and Lake Station, trains serving Allen and Sierra Madre Villa will run every 20 minutes. In other words, only some Gold Line trains will travel all the way to/from Sierra Madre Villa Station. The others will turn back to Downtown LA/East LA at Lake Station. This is necessary to reduce train bunching and keep the line running smoothly until complete repairs are made.

Customers should allow for extra time if taking the Gold Line, especially if traveling to or from Allen or Sierra Madre Villa stations. Trains traveling between Lake and Sierra Madre Villa stations will be required to reduce their speed, as crews will still be working nearby on repairs to the opposite track.

Those who normally park-and-ride from Sierra Madre Villa Station should consider using the Del Mar or Fillmore lots instead to avoid delays. Parking at Fillmore is limited. Parking at Del Mar costs $2 with proof of Metro fare (a TAP card). Protip: you may have an easier time finding a space if you enter the garage from the Arroyo Parkway side.

Metro will continue with updates via The Source and on Twitter @metrolosangeles and @metroLAalerts as we proceed with repairs.

Final Update: Red/Purple Line resumes normal service

FINAL UPDATE 8:15 p.m.: The Red and Purple Lines are resuming normal service, as the earlier police investigation at Civic Center/Grand Park has been resolved.

UPDATE 4:50 p.m.: The Red and Purple Lines are currently experiencing major delays due to the police investigation following this afternoon’s train-trespasser incident. Red Line trains serving Downtown L.A. currently share 1 track in the area, and will require customers to disembark at Westlake/MacArthur Park for connection to additional Red Line trains serving the MacArthur Park-North Hollywood segment. Purple Line still runs ONLY between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/Vermont stations on the upper platform.

For alternate bus routes to avoid Red/Purple Line delays, click here.

The Metro Red and Purple Lines are currently experiencing delays of up to 20 minutes due to a train-trespasser incident that occurred at approximately 1:35 p.m. this afternoon. According to initial reports from Metro, the individual—a confirmed fatality—apparently jumped in front of an approaching North Hollywood-bound train at Civic Center/Grand Park Station. Delays on the Red and Purple Line are expected to continue through rush hour as police investigate the incident.

Metro Red Line trains currently share the Union Station-bound track between 7th Street/Metro Center and Union Station. Purple Line trains are ONLY running between Wilshire/Vermont and Wilshire/Western. For alternate bus routes to avoid Red/Purple Line delays, click here.

Those headed to Union Station on Metrol Rail to take the Dodger Stadium Express should consider driving to the station or taking one of the many bus lines that serves Union Station. For maps and timetables:

Finally, Metro would like to thank all Red and Purple Line customers for their patience as we work to resolve this incident as quickly as possible. Please check back here at The Source, or follow us at @metrolosangeles or @metroLAalerts, for further updates.

Other actions taken today by Metro Board of Directors; First/Last Mile Strategic Plan adopted

Here are a few of the more noteworthy items tackled by the Metro Board of Directors at their monthly meeting earlier today:

•Item 7; The Board adopted the First/Last Mile Strategic Plan and stations to serve as pilot program areas. The Board also approved a companion motion by Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky asks Metro to include two stations along the Red Line (Universal City and NoHo) to the other pilot stations — Bundy and 17th on the Expo Line Phase 2 and Arcadia and Duarte on the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Strategic Plan is attached to the Metro staff report; it’s a technical document intended to help Metro and city planners best consider different options for getting people to and from transit stations.

•Item 62; The Board approved a living wage program for contract landscape and irrigation maintenance workers under contract to the Board. The policy proposes to increase the hourly rate to $15.67 per hour.

•Item 17; The Board approved 

">a motion by Board Member Paul Krekorian asking Metro staff to report on whether increased revenues may come from digital billboards on Metro properties and more ads on buses and at other facilities.

•Item 41; The Board approved a motion by Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky asking Metro to continue studies for an express bus line between Westwood and the San Fernando Valley that would use the 405 HOV lanes.


•Item 69; The Board approved a motion by Board Member Don Knabe asking Metro staff to reconsider Measure R funding forecasts as well as study future revenues from station gating and the ExpressLanes.

•Item 42; The Board voted to extend the contract for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to police the Metro system for an additional three months — which is through the end of September — for $22.2 million. The staff report says that Metro needs additional time to analyze three other letters of interest about the contract before considering a longer contract for policing the Metro system.


Transportation headlines, Thursday, April 24

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! 

The people mover at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Photo by David Wilson, via Flickr creative commons.

ART OF TRANSIT: The people mover at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Photo by David Wilson, via Flickr creative commons.

Freeway toll lanes seem to speed things along, somewhat (L.A. Times) 

Here’s the top of the story, which provides a good summary of the preliminary analysis of the ExpressLanes that was released this week:

The first comprehensive analysis of Los Angeles County’s experimental toll lanes indicates the pay-to-drive routes made some rush-hour commutes faster and less painful, both in the toll lanes and in the free lanes, but made little to no difference for many drivers battling morning traffic.

According to an independent report prepared for federal transportation officials, the toll lanes along the 110 and 10 freeways didn’t significantly change overall traffic speeds during peak periods for drivers using either the tollway or the general lanes.

But for individual drivers on the freeways at certain times, the experimental lanes may have made a significant difference: Drivers heading west on the 10 Freeway toll lanes at 7:30 a.m. may have driven up to 18 mph faster than they could have before the tollway opened, the report said. But on the northbound 110 Freeway at 8 a.m., commuters in the free lanes crept toward downtown Los Angeles at 21 mph, the same speed as before the lanes opened.

The Metro Board is scheduled to today to consider whether extending operation of the ExpressLanes beyond January 2015.

In related news, the Los Angeles Newspaper Group has an editorial saying it’s too soon to continue the ExpressLanes. Excerpt:

As it is now, the MTA has authority to run toll programs along the two freeways through January 2015. There’s a bill in the Legislature that would extend that authority and open the possibility of proposing more toll roads.

The legislation by California Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, could be a game changer for the MTA, which has previously floated the idea of a toll lane on the 405 Freeway.

It’s going before some key legislative committees next week, so there’s a push by MTA staffers to get the board to back an extension. An affirmative vote would bolster the bill, SB 1298, which has already gained the support of the board.

Also, RAND’s Martin Wachs (a senior researcher) and UCLA’s Brian Taylor (Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies) have an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Register arguing that the Metro Board should make the ExpressLanes permanent. Excerpt:

HOT lanes carry more people with less delay than other lanes, and can be added at lower cost and disruption than most alternatives. An independent consultant to the Federal Highway Administration issued a report last week showing that these lanes have improved transit service and given drivers more choices. Unlike other new highway lanes, they also raise needed revenues for transit improvements from drivers voluntarily paying tolls. Most importantly, HOT lanes increase the choices available to travelers, who can drive in regular lanes for free, pay for faster and more reliable driving during rush hours, opt for the improved express bus service financed by the tolls, or join new toll-subsidized van pools.

The FHWA study found that during the short demonstration period, in addition to those already having them, nearly 260,000 new drivers were issued transponders. While average driving speeds changed only slightly in both the express lanes and general lanes during the peak hours, travel time reliability was a principal benefit for HOT lane users.

Bait bikes ready to nab S.F. bike thieves (SFist) 

Gotta love this:

The bike theft unit of the San Francisco police department took to Craigslist on Tuesday with a post titled, “We Have Our Bait Bikes Out.” Complete with a snazzy decal of a creepy cycling skeleton, the ad warns of GPS-laden bikes that the cops will track. And if you sell a stolen bike, the po-po threaten to toss you in jail and plaster your face “all over social media.” 

The SFPD isn’t saying how many bikes actually have GPS devices installed in them. Nor does it say if clever thieves can de-activate or destroy the GPS. The idea is to instill a kernel of doubt in those who steal.

Off the bus, but pressing on (USDOT Fast Lane blog) 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says that President Obama will soon release a detailed proposal for a multiyear federal transportation spending bill. The current bill expires this year and Congress hasn’t yet agreed on the next one. Metro is certainly watching this one closely, hoping the bill includes both a loan and bond program that are key to the America Fast Forward program to expand federal funding for transportation projects.

Security cameras help transit agencies fight crime (Transit Wire) 

A short and unskeptical article but with some interesting info about efforts to use cameras to deter crime or enforce rules in both Portland and Chicago.