On Transportation Column: July 11 back-from-vacation-catch-up edition

The Orange Line Extension in Chatsworth. Photo by Gary Leonard for Metro.

I decided to flee town for a week of vacation because I didn’t believe much would be happening in early July, especially with Independence Day falling on a Wednesday. And — surprise!! — I was only 110 percent wrong. Whoopsydoodle.

I knew in advance I would miss the Orange Line Extension’s debut, which was scheduled after I had already planned my vacation. That was strike one.

Second, after two-plus years of partisan bickering, Congress surprisingly (read: amazingly/unbelievably) got its act together enough to pass a two-year transportation spending bill including provisions of the America Fast Forward program advocated by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Metro Board of Directors. Strike two.

Third, the Federal Transit Administration finished its lengthy review of the Regional Connector’s final environmental study and issued a “record of decision,” the bureaucratic term that means not only are the commas in the right place, the project is now also eligible to receive federal dollars. Strike three.

Fourth, the State Legislature voted to sell enough bonds to allow for construction of the first segment of the state’s high-speed rail project, a vote that was — not surprisingly — squeaky close. That one was like falling down the dugout stairs after striking out.

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 11

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.

Are state and local mass transit projects really job creators? (L.A. Observed)

The post is mostly a transcript of a segment on KPCC featuring L.A. Observed business editor Mark Lacter, who asks and attempts to answer a good question: how many jobs do big infrastructure projects really generate? As Lacter puts it, the total number of jobs is often open to different interpretations and the number of people working on a project at any given time is usually a different (read: lesser) number than the estimates.

What high-speed rail means for So Cal in the next decade (L.A. Streetsblog)

Damien Newton rightly points out that the Legislature’s approval of bond money for the project also includes dollars for local projects in the Bay Area and Southern California that help tie the bullet train tracks into local transit systems. In our area, that could mean money for some double tracking of Metrolink lines and station upgrades for Palmdale and Anaheim.

Is California’s high-speed rail project on track or off the rails (L.A. Times)

Columnist Patt Morrison doesn’t really answer the question in this opinion piece, but tries to draw parallels to other big, ambitious projects that cost a lot of money and may also have done some good. And she includes this good kicker, which I think neatly summarizes the moral quandary facing the state over the project:

High-speed rail could wind up as a techno-evolutionary dead end, or it could be a model for the nation, one for which future Californians will bless us.

That’s why government undertakes big, important, useful things: because no one else can, or will.

As for high-speed rail, in a way, there’s no wrong vote on it, and no right vote, either, except through the rear-view mirror of history, when people either will be lionized or reviled for their decisions. And there are perfectly sound reasons for legislators to vote either way. But none of those reasons should be a timidity of ambition or narrowness of vision.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, July 10

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.

I’m back from vacation and catching up on the past week’s news between the Orange Line opening, the passage of part of the America Fast Forward program by Congress, the Legislature’s vote to begin funding high-speed rail and the record-of-decision by the FTA on the Regional Connector’s environmental studies. Here are a few stories in today’s headlines and I’ll play catch-up on some of the other news that involves Metro.

LAX makes plans for arrival of space shuttle (Daily Breeze)

The Endeavour is scheduled to arrive in late September and then make its way through city streets to its new home at the California Science Center in mid-October. The Science Center, of course, is adjacent to the new Expo Line. Also, CicLAvia moved its fall date to Oct. 7 to clear the way for the space shuttle move the next weekend, reports Curbed LA.

L.A. — transit’s promised land (L.A. Times)

In this op-ed piece, transit activist Taras Grescoe argues that Metro and Los Angeles’ reputation is at an all-time high among transit scholars because of the recent opening of new projects and those that are in the pipeline. Excerpt:

The key, in a city with L.A.’s mix of ethnicity, languages and economic classes, is not to get caught up in turf wars. In city after city, I’ve seen how transit too often gets mired in ideology, when the discussion really needs to be about mobility — what works. A metropolis of Los Angeles’ standing deserves as much rail transit as it can get.

Agree?

Inside Beverly Hills — subway update (Inside Beverly Hills)

Beverly Hills newspaper columnist Rudy Cole interviews Beverly Hills Unified School Board Member Lewis Hall on the dispute over the Westside Subway Extension. Hall talks a lot about the studies done by Metro and intimates that the agency didn’t do much actual study of the soils in the area. If you would like to read Metro’s reports for yourself, here is the link to the many reports and Metro’s responses to the work done by Beverly Hills.

Video: President signs the Surface Transportation Bill

Screen shot of President Barack Obama signing Surface Transportation Bill that includes 'America Fast Forward' credit: www.whitehouse.gov/live

Screen shot of President Barack Obama signing Surface Transportation Bill that includes ‘America Fast Forward’ credit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/live

The Surface Transportation Bill was signed into law at 5:32 EST. In case you missed it, here is a replay in the ‘photos & video’ menu of the White House website.

About America Fast Forward embedded in transportation bill: previous post 

Watch live on C-SPAN: President set to sign the Surface Transportation Bill

UPDATE (2:04 p.m.): The signing will be streamed live at http://www.whitehouse.gov/live
President Obama is scheduled to sign the Surface Transportation Bill at 4:55 p.m. EST (1:55 p.m. PST). The long-awaited transportation bill includes America Fast Forward, which would make it possible for localities — including Los Angeles — to accelerate their transportation projects. Congress voted (House: 373-52, Senate: 74-19) to approve the bill last Friday, June 29. Watch it live on C:SPAN and whitehouse.gov/live, beginning at 1:55 PST

Innovative New Metro Pass Program for Foster Youths Begins One-Year Test

 

L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Michael Antonovich with Youth on the Move participants (from left) Miani Giron, Norma Lathan and Tommy Dias. Photo by Anna Chen/Metro

Metro hosted a press event this morning about a new program offering mobility to L.A. County youths transitioning out of the foster care system. It’s called Youth on the Move and it’s the first of its kind in the U.S. Here’s the release:

L.A. County Supervisor and new Metro Board Chair Michael Antonovich was joined today by County and Metro officials and foster youths in announcing an innovative new transit pass program — the first of its kind in the country — to benefit young people emerging from the Los Angeles County Foster Care system.

 

The new program, called Youth on the Move, is a one-year pilot to determine the feasibility of this important addition to Metro’s transit pass options. Youth on the Move offers free passes to  foster youths participating in the Los Angeles County Youth Self-Sufficiency Program that helps them transition from foster care to  independent living.

 

The Youth on the Move idea was introduced to the Metro Board by L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Antonovich and subsequently approved for the one-year test by the Metro Board.

 

“County government must work effectively and efficently to prepare foster and probation youth for a successful transition to productive adulthood,” said Supervisor Antonovich.  “This new countywide transit pass program — aimed specifically at foster youths transitioning to adulthood — is designed to be a tool to help them continue their education, search for work and be able to accept work in any part of our county.”

 

The new pass program began pre-testing in June when about 20 foster youths between the ages of 18 and 21 were issued Mero passes and EZ transit passes. (EZ passes are valid on Metro bus and rail, as well as on many other carriers inLos AngelesCounty.) The program is launching today and as many as 2,000 young people could ultimately benefit from the pilot program this year.

 

All of the youths in the new Metro program are self sufficient, meaning that they are no longer living with a family or are transitioning out of a group home setting. And all are either employed, looking for work, going to school or, in some cases, all three. 

 

Participants are being issued special TAP transit cards with photos that allow them to travel anywhere in Los Angeles County. Should the cards be lost they can be replaced, since individual users are registered and their passes protected. Distribution of the passes and trip data will be collected and used to help determine the success of the program.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 28

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.

Orange Line busway is Metro’s quiet success story (L.A. Times)

With the Orange Line Extension opening Saturday, the reporter posits that perhaps there should be more busways and less rail projects in L.A. County and cherrypicks a few stats to back up that point. I think the Orange Line is a success, but I also think the story could have pointed out that four of Metro’s rail lines have significantly higher ridership than the busway and that the fifth rail line — Expo — just opened.

Tentative deal reached on 2-year transportation bill (New York Times)

After nine extensions of the transpo funding bill approved by Congress in 2005, the current Congress looks to have an agreement on a two-year bill. Funding stays at current levels and the bill looks to more closely resemble a bipartisan version reached in the Senate rather than a highly partisan bill floated by the Republican-led House.

Battle lines drawn in high-speed rail vote (L.A. Streetsblog)

A good overview of the three main proposals on the table as the state Legislature prepares to vote on whether to release funds for construction of the first segment of the bullet train in the San Joaquin Valley.

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 27

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.

Grand Park to open in late July (ZevWeb)

The first two blocks of the new Grand Park — between Grand Avenue and Hill Streets — will open to the public on Saturday, July 28. The other two blocks between Hill and Spring streets will open in late summer or early fall. The park literally has a subway stop right underneath it, the Civic Center station serving the Red and Purple lines.

Work begins on first Expo Line-adjacent mixed-use in Culver City (CurbedLA)

Buildings have been cleared on the southeast corner of Washington and National to make way for new market-rate apartments and commercial space adjacent to the new Culver City station. Residents will get a year’s worth of passes to the Expo Line to encourage use, but the building will also have two levels of underground parking to appease neighbors who fretted that a residential building without enough parking would increase parking pressure on their streets.

Proposal to extend Measure R: lots of unanswered questions (CityWatch)

This long and somewhat meandering article hits on many of the questions that will likely surface at tomorrow’s Metro Board meeting about whether to ask voters to extend the Measure R sales tax to accelerate transit and road projects. Specifically, writer Ken Alpern points to uncertain project timelines and the big question of which, if any, future non-Measure R projects could be funded.