Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 25

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New LACMA design spans Wilshire (ZevWeb) 

An expansion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art might include a bridge over Wilshire Boulevard to a new structure on both the north and south side of the street — the south side to be built on the museum’s parking lot. If it gets approved, funded and built, the new building would be a couple of blocks east of the entrance to the Wilshire/Fairfax Purple Line station that will be located at Wilshire and Orange Grove.

From the Purple Line Extension’s fact sheet on station locations:

mpl_station_factsheet

Click above to see larger version.

S.F. Central Subway’s big dig done (Chronicle) 

The excavation of 8,300 feet of tunnels from south of Market Street to North Beach has been completed on time and on budget. Excerpt:

After several months of gnawing twin tunnels beneath San Francisco’s densest districts, tunnel-boring machines Big Alma and Mom Chung have arrived at the former home of thePagoda Palace Theater in North Beach. They’ll be dismembered at the bottom of a giant pit and then yanked, piece by piece, from the ground and hauled away.

It’s an unceremonious end to a big dig – excavating and building 8,300 linear feet of concrete-lined tunnels running from South of Market beneath Union Square and Chinatown to North Beach. But the excavation passed unnoticed by people on the surface, who didn’t even feel vibrations.

Big Alma and Mom Chung, each weighing 750 tons and stretching longer than a football field, even passed 7 feet beneath the BART tracks below Market Street without requiring the transit system to stop, or even slow, its trains.

“Isn’t it amazing that we can build a tunnel underneath the most congested part of San Francisco without making the front page of The Chronicle?” said John Funghi, project manager for the subway.

There’s a ton of work to be done, including station construction, the laying of tracks and the installation of sophisticated electronic systems. Test trains are scheduled to be up and running in 2018 with an opening of the new subway in 2019.

Foothill Transit: design your transit system (Foothill Transit) 

A very cool new survey by our compadres at Foothill Transit, which provides bus service across the San Gabriel Valley. The survey allows users to pick amenities that they would like to see the agency add — and keeps score of associated costs so that people can’t just pick everything under the sun. Very cool.

No, you can’t auction public parking spaces in San Francisco (Time)

Apparently this is not legal:

Imagine that you snag a parking spot on a busy downtown street where finding a slot is generally the equivalent of winning the lottery. Once your car is in the spot, Dorsey says, the app allows you to “sell” that space to the highest bidder. The winner gets to slide their car in as yours pulls out, paying you perhaps $25 in addition to the actual meter fees. The problem is that those parking spaces, unlike driveways, are clearly public assets that private citizens are forbidden to sell.

There are really people stupid enough to spend $25 plus the cost of a meter for a parking space?

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 24

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Garcetti taps San Francisco official as transportation head (L.A. Times) 

Seleta Reynolds worked on cycling and pedestrian issues in San Francisco and will take over LADOT if Mayor Eric Garcetti’s pick is confirmed by the City Council. LADOT runs the DASH bus system and controls traffic signals in L.A. — yep, the traffic signals that Metro buses and trains must abide by. In L.A., Reynolds will be paying particular attention to the city’s expanding bike lane network and initiatives to put selected portion of some streets on a road diet. The City Council tends to micro-manage these things, making LADOT chief one of the tougher jobs in L.A.

Speaking of San Francisco, a humorous post at Streetsblog on what happened when the city closed the curly part of Lombard Street to car traffic on a trial basis to reduce tourist-driven traffic jams. “Chaos” in the words of one television reporter.

How Denver is becoming the most advanced transit city in the West (CityLab)

The article is mostly about FasTraks, the sales tax increase approved by Denver-area voters in 2004 and that would help fund 10 transit projects. The price-tag has risen from an original $4.7 billion to $7.8 billion and not everything is built. But progress has been made and there will soon be bus rapid transit to Boulder, more light rail and a new commuter train to Denver International Airport, which sits far east of the city.

But….many people say that Denver remains a car town with about six percent of commuters using transit to work — less than in places such as Los Angeles, Calgary and Atlanta. The challenge is classic and familiar: the Denver metro area is big and sprawling and getting people to and from transit stations isn’t always easy, especially when those people already have cars.

Nonetheless, I suspect the region will be well served by its transit expansion in the coming decades as more development eventually finds its way near stations, the downtown resurgence continues (and it’s been going on for quite some time) and there is a realistic transit option that previously didn’t exist.

Tracks on the rail project linking downtown Denver to DIA, which sits on the prairie far east of town. Photo via RTD's Flickr page.

Tracks on the rail project linking downtown Denver to DIA, which sits on the prairie far east of town. Photo via RTD’s Flickr page.

At last the Silver Line is ready; service begins July 26 (Washington Post) 

Not far from the nation’s capitol, suburban Virginia has turned into Sprawlsville USA as the Washington D.C. metro area continues its relentless and pretty much unimpeded march outward. The Silver Line’s first phase takes the rail line to Tysons Corner and the second phase, scheduled to open in 2018, will extend the tracks to Dulles International Airport and beyond. Tysons Corner sounds kind of quaint, doesn’t it? Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps:

TysonsCorner

 

Downtown L.A. like I’ve never seen it (L.A. Register) 

A reporter goes on an “exhaustive” and long walk with DTLA real estate agent and blogger Brigham Yen, who writes the great DTLA Rising blog. The Register article is, however, short and doesn’t really get into any significant issues involving downtown. The Register is being touted as a new daily newspaper covering L.A. but most of the articles I’ve seen are of the very short featurette variety.

Secrets of underground London (PBS)

There’s a lot more down there than just The Underground — Roman ruins, offices, bunkers, tombs, trains and forgotten rivers. Watch the episode to see more.

Free BART school field trip program launches (BART)

The program will supply about 40,000 free rides to students under 18; schools must apply for passes. Metro has a similar program! If you are an educator, please click here for more info on applying to get passes.

Transportation headlines, Monday, June 23

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Los Angeles man dies week after assault at Metro Blue Line station (L.A. Times)

A 65-year-old man who was assaulted by two women at the Willowbrook-Rosa Brooks station at 1:20 p.m. on June 13 passed away from his injuries this past Friday. No other information was released to the media. Any witnesses or anyone else with information regarding the crime should please call the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.

Next Senate leader Kevin de Leon wants Brown to rethink bullet train (L.A. Times) 

Incoming majority leader of the California Senate is critical of starting the state’s high-speed rail line in the Central Valley, saying it would make more sense to invest in transportation projects nearer Los Angeles and San Francisco. In particular, he says upgrading Los Angeles Union Station with run-through tracks would provide more bang for the buck in terms of cleaning up emissions.

Semi-related: Roger Rudick criticizes the LAT’s coverage of high-speed rail in an article posted last week at Streetsblog.

Why don’t white people take the bus in L.A.? (LA Weekly) 

The Weekly dives into Census Bureau stats and determines that only 11 percent of transit riders in Los Angeles are white, despite the fact that 32 percent of all commuters are white (Metro’s most recent customer survey found that nine percent of its bus riders are white and 18 percent of its rail riders are white). By comparison, the Weekly reports, the number of white commuters and transit riders is more closely aligned in cities such as San Francisco and New York.

So what’s going on? Transportation planner Jarrett Walker offers, I think, the best explanation, saying that whites in Los Angeles tend to live in low-density areas where there isn’t much in the way of transit service. Others suggest that buses stuck in traffic will always have a hard time competing with personal cars that despite traffic offer door-to-door service.

The LAT’s transportation reporter Laura Nelson also makes a couple of pertinent points:

And from one rider:

Big Blue Bus: 7000 words, 135 miles, 18 buses, four dollars, one day (Breitbart News) 

Joel Pollak managed to ride all 18 Big Blue Bus lines in a single (albeit long) day and wrote this post — appropriately — while riding the streets of Santa Monica and the surrounding area. Excerpt:

Another reason I attempted the challenge was simply to show my friends and neighbors what public transportation in our car-obsessed, traffic-plagued city is really like.

My friend, mentor, and former boss, the late Andrew Breitbart, found it bizarre—and perhaps a bit suspicious—that I showed up to work every day by bus.

It wasn’t just that our conservative news website was highly skeptical of government-run industry, “green” transportation subsidies, and utopian planning. It was also that Andrew had grown up in L.A. and, like many others, had come to know the city from behind a steering wheel. I don’t think he had ever been on a bus in his life.

Yet California is a state whose immense entrepreneurial energies were unleashed, in part, by wise investments in public infrastructure: dams and aqueducts especially, but also rail, roads, and public conveyances, like the ubiquitous cable car of San Francisco.

Our Big Blue Bus has certainly made life easier for me in the three years I’ve been living here, and there are days when I’ve navigated my entire day’s tasks on a few buses.

Nice piece, Joel! There are also a slew of good photographs.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, June 20

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A stowaway on Expo 2 (ZevWeb)

Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky got a lift along part of the Expo Line Phase 2 alignment in one of those trucks that can ride the rails. Nice essay accompanies the video at Zev’s website. Keep in mind that he has been tracking this project for the better part of two decades as it moved from the dream phase to talk phase to planning phase to lawsuit phase to construction phase.

Dialed-in with Don Knabe

Supervisor and Board Member Don Knabe talks with Metro CEO Art Leahy about the agency and some of Metro’s ongoing projects. This is a nice primer on the agency and both the Airport Metro Connector study is discussed, as well as the recent fare increases.

Carmageddon in L.A.: the sizzle and the fizzle (Access)  

access44-carmaggedon-figure-3

 

Interesting chart and article by Brian Taylor and Martin Wachs — two transportation experts — about how motorists responded to the two Carmageddon closures on the 405 in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Not surprisingly, motorists were more reluctant to hit the road during the first closure.

Excerpt:

Travelers were not the only people who learned from Carmageddon I. Given how few travelers chose public transportation as an alternative to the closed freeway, officials did not waste money on transit enhancements for the second event. Concerned public officials had informed the public of likely nightmarish traffic impacts during the first weekend closure of one of the nation’s busiest freeways. The media, without much in the way of supporting evidence, trumpeted doomsday predictions of congestion stretching to the Mexican border 150 miles away and of patients dying en route to hospitals while stuck in traffic. None of these dire predictions came to pass. In fact, the contrast between the perceived threat and reality was so stark that it left the media scratching their heads. One headline read: “Carmageddon in Los Angeles: So what was the big deal anyway?” Another read: “True-life ‘disaster’ doesn’t live up to hype.”

During the second weekend closure, transportation officials and elected leaders again appealed for public cooperation, but tempered the messaging. There were many fewer predictions of chaos and more calls for the sort of civic responsibility that had made the first closure a stay-at-home, holiday-like event. The public responded by adjusting travel plans but foregoing far fewer trips than they had during the first closure. Despite fears that the public might ignore pleas to limit travel during the second closure because they were jaded by the lack of traffic chaos the first time, it appears that travelers used the information they were provided to respond appropriately.

Transportation planners can learn much from the two Carmageddons. It’s helpful to carefully plan traffic flow patterns by scheduling closures on days when volumes are lower and trips are likely to be discretionary. But disseminating information can also be enormously effective—even more effective than providing alternative travel modes. As real-time information becomes more available to travelers, that information can complement system capacity to reduce cost and delay. Finally, crying wolf presents a dilemma and should be employed judiciously. Going overboard to scare people off of the roads ensures that the promised chaos will fail to materialize, but encourages the traveling public to take future dire warnings with a grain of salt.

I think it’s interesting — and somewhat predictable — that people didn’t shift to transit during the closures. If there was a rail line traversing the Sepulveda Pass I expect that would be a different story. There is $1 billion in seed money for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project in Measure R and Metro is studying ways that the project may be built and funded as a public-private partnership.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 19

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Do all roads to Century City’s future lead to more traffic? (L.A. Times) 

Very interesting story — easily could have been longer and there’s some fascinating video of the old 20th Century Fox backlot being demolished to make way for the Century City development.

The original vision for Century City was a place where Westsiders could work, live and play (my words, no theirs). But it didn’t turn out that way. The number of workers is double original projections and the number of residents is nowhere close to what was expected. Without mass transit or the Beverly Hills Freeway being built, the result has been twofold: lots of traffic and a lot of office space that competes directly with real estate downtown Los Angeles. In fact, vacancy rates in Century City are lower than in DTLA, which is served by transit.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is quoted as saying that such a large development would never be allowed today without transit being built alongside it. That’s probably right and the article, unfortunately, needed more space to explain the delays in getting transit to Century City. On the upside, the Purple Line Extension subway is scheduled to arrive at the center of Century City in 2026.

Muffler shops or cafes? East L.A. plans for the future (Eastsider LA)

A new zoning plan for East L.A. is working its way through the process. As proposed, it would allow for more transit-oriented development along the past of the Gold Line on 3rd Street and other commercial corridors in the area. It would be great to see more new development along 3rd Street, in particular.

LAX to expand FlyAway service to Santa Monica and Hollywood (L.A. Times) 

Good news for those looking for an alternative to driving to the airport. The fares will be $8 for a one-way trip and the new locations will join existing FlyAway service between LAX and four locations: Union Station, Westwood, Van Nuys and Expo/La Brea.

San Gabriel Valley business leaders urge Metro to build promised Gold Line extension to Claremont (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

The biz leaders say they want funding for an Azusa-to-Claremont for the Gold Line Foothill Extension segment in Metro’s Short-Range plan, which details funding for transit projects in the next decade. At present, the only projects listed in the plan are projects already receiving Measure R funding; the Azusa-Claremont segment is outside the bounds of Measure R, along with other unfunded projects in Metro’s long-range plan. The Pasadena-to-Azusa segment is under construction and is scheduled to open in early 2016.

Senators Murphy (D) and Corker (R) propose 12 cents gas tax increase (Streetsblog Network) 

In an attempt to stave off the Highway Trust Fund going broke, a bipartisan proposal to raise the current 18.4 cents a gallon by 12 cents over the next two years. The federal gas tax hasn’t been raised in 20 years.

Metro celebrates Dump the Pump Day by squashing a pump

A media event was held at El Monte Station this morning; video is above. Here’s the news release from Metro:

With gasoline prices topping $4 per gallon the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) stresses now is the perfect time to try bus, rail or vanpool to discover how much money and time can be saved compared to driving. National Dump the Pump Day, June 19, 2014, highlights transit as a way to help people save money.

Commuting to work alone in a car costs more than the price of gasoline. Drivers have to take into account insurance, maintenance, wear and tear and parking at many destinations. For example, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) estimates the cost of driving a car annually at $10,174. By using transit or vanpooling, commuter can save about 75 percent.

“Every day, Metro puts 2,000 buses on our streets and trains on 88 miles of light rail and subway tracks. There is a very good chance that Metro has a transportation alternative that works for you,” said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. 

For commuters with a roundtrip drive of at least 30 miles, Metro also offers an extensive vanpooling program supporting a fleet of 1,331 public vanpool vehicles destined to L. A. County work sites each day. Nearly 90 percent of Metro Vanpool commuters used to drive alone and, based on ridership statistics, vanpooling results in nearly 7,000 cars off the road each day.

 “Vanpool passengers save time and money and benefit by not having wear and tear on their personal vehicles driving to work and back every day,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy. “In terms of reducing carbon footprint, we estimate that taking people out of their cars and putting them into vanpools reduces carbon emissions by nearly 4,000 metric tons in L.A. County each month.”

APTA reports that in 2013, Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, the highest in 57 years. According to APTA, since 1995, public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent outpacing population growth, 20.3 percent and vehicle miles traveled, 22.7 percent.

Metro bus and rail riders continue to increase in numbers. In Fiscal Year 2011, Metro had a total of 453 million boardings. In the FY2013, Metro increased that to 472.7 million boardings. 

APTA estimates that public transportation in the United States reduces the nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually, which is the equivalent of the electricity usage of Los Angeles, New York City, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Denver combined. In addition, research by the Texas Transportation Institute Census Bureau shows that in 2011, U.S. public transportation use saved 865 million hours in travel time and 450 million gallons of fuel in 498 urban areas. 

Stay informed by following Metro on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.net, facebook.com/losangelesmetro, twitter.com/metrolosangeles and twitter.com/metroLAalerts and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.

About Metro

Metro is a multimodal transportation agency that is really three companies in one: a major operator that transports about 1.5 million boarding passengers on an average weekday on a fleet of 2,000 clean air buses and six rail lines, a major construction agency that oversees many bus, rail, highway and other mobility related building projects, and the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County.  Overseeing one of the largest public works programs in America, Metro is helping change the urban landscape of the Los Angeles region. Dozens of transit, highway and other mobility projects largely funded by Measure R are under construction or in the planning stages. These include five new rail lines, the I-5 widening and other major projects.

crusing pump

Photo by Gary Leonard for Metro.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 18

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Five key tips for Metro regarding safe bus-bike interactions (Streetsblog LA)

Joe Linton tackles an issue that has been in the news lately: conflicts between buses and bikes on area streets. He offers some safety tips of his own about the best way to pass a bus that is moving to the right to drop off/pick up passengers. He also recommends that Metro get more serious about funding and/or backing more bicycle infrastructure, including bike lanes and a countywide bike share program.

Joe also does not think bus-bike conflicts — i.e. buses cutting off bikes — are isolated events and that they happen more frequently than is reported via social media. Here’s a recent post on The Source about such conflicts with some information on bus operator training concerning sharing the road with bicyclists. It’s obviously an issue of great importance — with or without Metro’s ongoing “every lane is a bike lane” campaign.

Visualizing MBTA data

A pair of grad students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute created this amazing web page filled with charts, animations and other visual goodies based on data from the Boston area transit system. You can track delays, frequency of service, how long it takes to run different trains on the same line, station entries, etc. Really great stuff.

Moscow pledges $83 billion to fight traffic (Moscow Times) 

Even though the city has an expansive subway, officials want to accelerate rail construction, rebuild roadways and do anything possible to get people to consider taking transit more often. The average motorist, says the Times, spends three hours a day commuting. By comparison, the average one-way commute in L.A. is about 29 minutes, according to the Census Bureau.

The existing Moscow Metro.

The existing Moscow Metro.

The triumphant return of U.S. passenger rail (Citylab)

Interesting story about the All Aboard Florida project, a private venture that will run passenger trains between Orland and Miami beginning in 2016. It’s being billed as the first privately run regular passenger train service in the U.S. and will mostly use an existing freight corridor. The rail line says trips will take about three hours between Orlando and Miami — a trip that takes about 3.5 hours by car. Sounds promising and there’s an interesting real estate component, with upcoming development around key stations.