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.

Metro staff issues long-range plan funding forecast

LRTP forecast report

One of the challenges of having an ambitious agenda when it comes to building transportation projects is staying on top of funding and evoling project cost information. In a perfect world, things such as revenue streams and project budgets never budge; in the real world they change frequently and adjustments have to be made to accomplish the Long Range Transportation Plan mobility improvements.

Thus, the above report from Metro staff that forecasts the costs of carrying out the agency's long-range plan and changes that may need to be made to pay for them. The changes will be reviewed and considered by the Metro Board of Directors at this month's round of meetings, beginning later this afternoon with the Finance Committee.

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 15

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.

Brown’s budget sends cap and trade funds to the black hole of the general fund (LA Streetsblog)


When California passed it’s land-mark Greenhouse Gas reduction laws in 2006, residents and businesses were assured that funds raised through the controversial “cap and trade” program would be invested in programs and projects that would further reduce emissions. That promise is turning out to be a lot of hot air.

Some transportation advocates had hoped the money would be invested in mass transit, which is generally more efficient than vehicles carrying a single passenger.

Why we should never fine cyclists (The Atlantic Cities) 

As more bike infrastructure is added to many major cities, motorists are also pressuring police to enforce traffic laws equally to cyclists and vehicles. This greatly annoys the Atlantic Cities, which points out that most roads are still designed to benefit cars over bikes . Especially irksome, they say, are fines for cycling through empty intersections. I agree. Don’t get me started on bike routes through residential areas inflicted with four-way stop signs when, in fact, they should be two-way stop signs with the bike route not having to stop.

Atlanta Streetcar is cool but is it useful (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) 


Rendering: Atlanta Streetcar.

Transit planner Jarrett Walker has a good piece looking at Atlanta’s new 1.3-mile streetcar, one of many similar projects around the U.S. — all following in the footsteps of the infamous Portland Streetcar. Excerpt:

The Atlanta Streetcar line will be only 1.3 miles long from end to end, and a streetcar will come every 15 minutes if everything’s on time. So if you just missed one, should you really wait? Or should you just start walking?

It depends on your walking speed, but for most people, when going such a short distance, service every 15 minutes is just not worth waiting for. Start walking! You will often get to your destination before the streetcar comes.

As you walk, maybe the streetcar will overtake you and you can hop on. That’s nice, but notice what you’ve just proven. If you’re going to use the streetcar to get somewhere on time – a job, a meeting, a day care pickup – you have to allow enough time to walk the whole way. In that case, what has the streetcar accomplished?

Metro Board Planning Committee agenda change: congestion mitigation fee item withdrawn

I know there are a lot of folks who have been watching this item concerning a possible development impact fee program (here’s the staff report). It has been withdrawn from consideration from this month’s Board meetings and will likely be rescheduled soon.

For curious readers: items are frequently withdrawn from agendas and rescheduled for a whole host of reasons.