Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 22

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Eric Garcetti’s moment (California Planning & Development Report) 

A short and interesting post from William Fulton, publisher of the report, longtime urban planner and former Ventura mayor. Excerpt:

What Garcetti has to do is seize the moment. The city is changing. The transit is getting built. A lot of people are already bought into the idea of “elegant density”. Even as he straddles, Garcetti can bring his constituents along by pushing the idea that new development in L.A. must revolve around the rail transit stations – responding to emerging market demand, improving those neighborhoods, and protecting existing single-family neighborhoods all at the same time.

Eric, it’s your moment. Jump on the train and get moving this morning.

The forgotten urban problem we should be trying to fix (The Atlantic Cities)

And that problem would be urban freight and, in particular, trucks delivering goods to businesses around towns or heading out of town from shipping centers.

Google Maps wants you to see all your transit options (Human Transit) 

An update tries to offer transit options that gets users where they’re going more quickly.

Seeking clarity on terrible tornadoes in a changing climate (New York Times Dot Earth blog) 

Because we discuss climate change and greenhouse gases often in this space — transit is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint — here is an interesting blog post pointing out the lack of science connecting deadly twisters to climate change. Here’s a recent chart from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:


Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti to join Metro Board of Directors on July 1

Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti on the Red Line on Monday. Photo: Eric Garcetti for Mayor.

Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti on the Red Line on Monday. Photo: Eric Garcetti for Mayor.

As you have probably heard by now, Los Angeles Councilman Eric Garcetti has won the mayoral election in Los Angeles and, as a result, on July 1 will be trading the Los Angeles Council Chambers for the Metro Board Room.

Mayor-Elect Garcetti will take the oath of office on July 1 and, at that time, also be awarded an automatic seat on the Metro Board, the 13-member body that oversees Metro  and has the final say on many of the large decisions made by the agency.

To put it another way, the Metro Board which projects to build and where to build them and also approves the agency’s budget each year. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2013-14 is $4.891 billion.

As mayor, Garcetti will also have the opportunity to appoint three others to the Metro Board. One of those three is usually a member of the Los Angeles City Council. The mayor plus the three appointees makes for a considerable voting bloc given that seven votes are usually needed to approve items before the Board. 

Each of the Los Angeles County Supervisors also has a seat on the Board, with four other seats coming from cities in different parts of the county. Here is the current roster of Board Members. The current city of L.A. representatives on the Board are Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilman Jose Huizar, former-Assemblyman Richard Katz and Mel Wilson.

RELATED: A list of the many big decisions confronting the next mayor of Los Angeles as a member of the Metro Board.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday/Election Day, May 21

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Happy Election Day to those voting today for mayor and other candidates/issues in the city of Los Angeles. To add a point to the first headline of the day, if you’re eligible to vote and fail to fulfill your civic duties, then you don’t get to gripe later about the many crucial decisions the next mayor will make about transportation in our area. Here’s the list of those issues!

If you don’t vote, you’re the problem (L.A. Streetsblog)

Take it away, Ted Rogers!:

If every eligible bike rider were to get up and vote today — and vote their self-interests as cyclists — they would be the single most dominant and powerful voice in L.A. politics.

More than the unions, more than any political party or interest group.

A force strong enough to ensure the election of a bike friendly candidate in every race, from mayor through city council, city attorney and controller.

And that’s just bicyclists.

Add to that a few hundred thousand daily transit users. As well as pedestrians — which includes all of us at one time or another.

Great post. The Source bows before Ted Rogers!

A decade later, Blossom Plaza breaks ground (Downtown News)

Ten years and a Great Recession later, a new building will finally rise next to the Chinatown Gold Line station. It will have 240 residential units, 20,000-square-feet of retail and restaurant space and a walkway connecting the station to Broadway. The Source is always pleased to hear about new housing near transit — and hope such trends continue to spread north to other Gold Line stations where no development has occurred. I’m talking to you Heritage Square and Highland Park stations!

Metro uses social media in the planning process (The Transit Wire)

An interview with Metro’s Jody Litvak about the use of Facebook to collect official comments on the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. As far as Metro knows, it was the first time that social media was actually used for official comments. The idea is to make it as convenient as possible for more people to comment on impending projects.

Density: Census numbers betray an L.A. cliche (KCET)

D.J. Waldie does a nice job explaining the issue of density and how L.A. compares to other American cities, most notably New York. The gist of it: while New York has much higher concentrions of density in Manhattan, L.A. has an overall higher level of density over a larger area. It’s a salient point and a good argument for investing in transit here, but I also fret that people use this stat to wrongly suggest that L.A. is becoming Manhattanized. As a former Manhattan and Brooklyn resident, I don’t recall ever seeing one part of either borough that reminds me of Los Angeles. Or vice versa.

Transportation headlines, Monday, May 20

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Mayor candidates on transportation: innovation versus tried and true (L.A. Times)

With Election Day tomorrow in Los Angeles, the Times tries to tease apart the differences on transportation policy between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel. If not much difference on the issues, there may be an issue in style, says one of the academics who is quoted.

As the article points out, the biggest source of influence for the next mayor will be the four seats on the Metro Board of Directors directly under their control (the mayor gets one seat and then can appoint three others). I think perhaps the most interesting revelation, however, was this:

Among likely L.A. city voters in Tuesday’s election, nearly half said they thought policymakers should focus on public transportation, compared with 35% who favored spending on roads and freeways, according to a new poll by the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and the Los Angeles Times.


I think that’s pretty interesting given the car-centric reputation of the area and, of course, interesting if there’s another Measure R or Measure J down the road.

 L.A.’s next mayor to have a regional impact (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

Of course, you can say that about any mayoral election in Los Angeles because of the mayor’s voting bloc on the Metro Board. This article makes two points pertinent to the San Gabriel Valley: the next mayor could play a big role in deciding who manages Ontario’s airport in the future (it’s currently run by L.A. but locals want control) and the next mayor plays a big role in decisions made by the Port of Los Angeles, a major driver of freight traffic on roads and rails in the region.
The most provocative part of the article — at least the part in which my coffee almost ended up in my lap — comes from a Montclair council member who says that money for the Purple Line Extension would be better spent on a Gold Line extension to Montclair, a small city in western San Bernardino County. I think a smarter quote would have been to argue that L.A. County needs a transit network that spans almost the entire width of the county; I think that’s something voters get while pols tend to focus only on projects in their district. Shocking, I know.
The Los Angeles Mayor says he has worked closely with the City Council to find $40 million the city could contribute toward a Leimert Park station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, although it will cost more than that. As part of the bidding process, Metro is seeking a construction firm that can build the optional station within the project’s $1.76-billion budget.
The Metro staff recommendation is supposed to be released soon and the contract could possibly be voted on at the June meeting of the Metro Board — which will also be Villaraigosa’s last Metro Board meeting as mayor. If a vote occurs, it’s a pretty dramatic way for Mayor V to end his eight-year tenure in office. If the issue isn’t decided in June, then Eric Garcetti or Wendy Greuel will confront a big vote early in their term — and they’ve also made some interesting statements about not just adding a station, but also undergrounding the line through Park Mesa Heights, an expensive proposition.

A pair of nice views of new Expo Line bridges

EXPO LINE 05-17-2013 108

EXPO LINE 05-17-2013 012

Photos by Expo Line Fan, via submission

A couple of nice views of the work-in-progress bridges. The top is the new bridge that will be adjacent to the Palms station. The bottom photo shows the bridge that will carry the Expo Line over Cloverfield and Olympic boulevards in Santa Monica.

Check out more construction photos on Expo Line Fan’s Flickr stream.

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 17

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

L.A. Philharmonic concerned about potential subway noise (L.A. Times)

The story reports on the ongoing process by Metro to protect the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Colburn School from any noise from Regional Connector trains that will pass under or near the buildings. Metro CEO Art Leahy told the Times that the Regional Connector is being designed to have zero net impact on acoustics at either building.

Two other points to add: Metro has hired Rick Talaske, a renowned acoustic engineering consultant, to assist with the Regional Connector project. And, the project will not go out to bid until appropriate sound levels for trains are determined. In other words, the construction firm or firms that wins the contract to build the Regional Connector will have to build the project to the sound standards mandated by Metro and agreed upon with both the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Colburn School.

Orange crush (ZevWeb) 

Very good story on crowing on the Orange Line busway, particularly at peak hours. Excerpt:

While improvements are planned to handle the growth in ridership during off-peak hours, rush hour is a different story.  One additional bus trip will be squeezed onto the back end of the peak traffic period but, after that, the agency is just about maxed out on how many buses it can run at a time. Among other issues, the line is constrained at intersections with north-south roadways, which are managed by the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation.

“Running buses every 4 minutes during rush hour is the best we can do under the current traffic configuration,” Hillmer said. “The city is reluctant to go below the 4-minute frequency level.”

Jonathan Hui, a spokesman for the city agency, said it allows buses to pass through the intersections every two minutes, but they only get special priority—early or longer green lights—every four minutes. That preferential treatment is important to keep the line moving swiftly.

“Not everybody can get the green at the same time,” Hui said. “The Orange Line is obviously important, but so are drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The two agencies are currently working on a solution to the problem. Hillmer said possibilities include sending two buses in tandem through intersections, or shortening the length of the green lights the buses get, which could enable more of them to get through.

Is future baseline the baseline of the future? (Thomas Law Group) 

A good look at the legal arguments in the Neighbors for Smart Rail versus Expo Line Construction Authority case made earlier this month before the California Supreme Court. In the case, Neighbors for Smart Rail (which wants the train to go underground in the Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park area) is challenging the EIR for the second phase of the Expo Line project, saying it was improper for the Construction Authority to use future traffic conditions as the baseline for determining the train’s impacts. The Authority argued using future conditions is a better way to gauge the real impacts.

According to the blog, four Justices seemed receptive to Neighbors for Smart Rail’s arguments, another Justice seemed to favor the Construction Authority’s stance and two other Justices didn’t say anything during the hearing. A ruling is expected within 90 days. With construction of the project underway, it remains to be seen if an unfavorable ruling would impact work — or whether the Court just wants to clarify how agencies should handle the baseline issue in future EIRs.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 16

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Alhambra declares 710 day, reaffirming support for freeway extension (L.A. Times) 

Mark your calendars: the big day will be July 10 to show support for a tunnel that would connect the 710 from its terminus at Valley Boulevard to the 210 freeway in Pasadena. The current connection involves using city streets such as Fremont, Pasadena Avenue and Orange Grove that are also heavily residential. Metro is currently studying a project to help improve traffic in the area; the alternatives include a freeway tunnel, bus rapid transit, light rail, traffic signal and intersection improvements and the obligatory no-build option.

Mayoral candidate scorecard (Crenshaw Subway Coalition) 

The group advocating for a Leimert Park station and the undergrounding of the light rail line in Park Mesa Heights between 48th and 59th issues its grades on where L.A. mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel stand on the two issues. Here is the news release and here are letters from the candidates.

It is worth noting (as the news release does) that it’s still possible that the Metro Board of Directors will select a firm to build the project before the next mayor takes office on July 1; otherwise the decision will be made when the next mayor will be on the Metro Board along with three appointees. Metro is seeking a firm that can build the Leimert Park station within the project’s existing $1.76-billion budget. The Leimert Park station is included in the project’s final environmental study that has been approved by the federal government; the 48th to 59th tunnel is not in the study, meaning the study or a part of it would have to be re-done.

Furthermore, while the candidates have similar views — there is some subtle differences in the language they employ — neither says where the hundreds of millions of dollars would come from to reopen the project’s environmental studies and then build the light rail line underground in Park Mesa Heights.

Portuguese car commercial goes Metro to slam transit riders (LA Streetsblog) 

Hmmm. How shall I spin this? I know–I’ll change the topic and use the video to remind everyone that eating ginormous hamburgers is prohibited on Metro trains and buses! Thank you for your cooperation and helping to keep our local transit system clean and tidy!

Want a subway extension? Here’s what you can look forward to! (LAObserved) 

The recent news that bids came in high to build stations for San Francisco’s Central Subway project lights the fuse at LAObserved with Mark Lacter predicting it’s inevitable to happen here with the Purple Line Extension. Lacter cites a 2003 study that found that rail projects around the world often go over budget.