Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 4

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A 'CPR Block Party' was held by the EduLife Institute at five Metro Rail stations on Tuesday, including Union Station. The idea was to train as many people as possible in CPR, a very good cause. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A ‘CPR Block Party’ was held by the EduLife Institute at five Metro Rail stations on Tuesday, including Union Station. The idea was to train as many people as possible in CPR, a very good cause. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

DTLA businesses semi-win lawsuit against Regional Connector (Curbed LA)

The U.S. District Court ruled last week that work on the project is allowed to continue but that Metro must amend the final environmental document to explain why the agency is using cut-and-cover tunneling methods — and not other methods of tunneling — on Flower Street between Fifth and Seventh streets. Here is Metro’s statement:

Metro is pleased the Court upheld its analyses and mitigation of the environmental impacts of the Regional Connector Project. In the one area that requires further environmental documentation to explain why alternative tunneling methods on lower Flower Street are infeasible, Metro will follow the Court’s directive to meet and confer with the Plaintiffs and to file a joint report by June 20, 2014 regarding Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief. Metro will continue to provide the public with information on the infeasibility of alternative tunneling methods for the lower Flower Street portion of the Regional Connector Project through the environmental review process.”

 

And here is the court ruling:

Primary election results narrow candidates for Metro Board (L.A. County Registrar)

Each of the five Los Angeles County Supervisors are guaranteed seats on the Metro Board of Directors, the 13-member board that has the final say over agency policies, budgets and projects. In the two races to replace term-limited Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky, the field of candidates has been narrowed. In the first district currently represented by Molina, Hilda Solis captured more than 50 percent of the vote and won, according to unofficial results. In the third district represented by Yaroslavsky, Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver were the two top vote-getters.

In the 33rd Congressional district, where the route of the Purple Line Extension under Beverly Hills High School was briefly an issue, the finalists are Elan Carter and Ted Lieu.

Union Station plans would alter and preserve (LAObserved) 

LAObserved editor Kevin Roderick moderates a panel discussion last week at the Los Angeles Public Library on the history and future of iconic Union Station. It’s appropriate: the station just celebrated its 75th anniversary in early May and this week new details were released by Metro on the emerging Union Station Master Plan, which seeks to preserve the historic nature of the station and add improvements to serve growing crowds of riders who use the station. Here’s a podcast of the event.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti paves the way for ‘Great Streets’ (Daily News) 

The mayor on Tuesday announced 15 sections of streets in the city — one per council district — that will get refurbished to attract more pedestrians. The Daily News talks to council members representing the San Fernando Valley and they’re in agreement something needs to be done to attract more businesses to the area. The project has an initial budget of $800,000.

Just how great will those great streets become? That’s the question that Joe Linton asks at Streetsblog LA. He is skeptical — but hopeful — believing it takes more than upgraded signs and shrubbery to make an area shine again.

Evaluating protected bike lanes in the U.S. (National Institute for Transportation and Communities)

This long and academic-minded report comes to the not-surprising conclusion that protected bike lanes in six cities evaluated attract increase bike traffic fairly quickly. And those who already bike, tend to bike more often using the routes.

*******

Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and New York Rangers is this afternoon at 5 p.m. at Staples Center, one block from the Pico Station shared by the Blue Line and Expo Line. Have fun, Kings fans and welcome to the Best Coast, Rangers fans! Say your respective prayers. We like the Kings in five games.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 3

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Metro unveils bold proposal to modernize Union Station (L.A. Times) 

Good overview of some of the details Metro released yesterday on the emerging Union Station Master Plan, which seeks to add an expanded concourse, widened rail platforms, a relocated bus plaza and new development. A community meeting will be held Thursday evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Metro headquarters (no RVSP required) in the Board room. Our post from yesterday also has renderings.

Downtown institutions battle over having name on Expo Line station (Downtown News)

The 23rd Street station is near both the Orthopaedic Institute for Children and the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College — and both want their names on the station. The issue will eventually land before the Metro Board of Directors.

L.A. Mayor identifies city’s ‘Great Streets’ (L.A. Times)

Mayor Eric Garcetti this morning is announcing the sections of 15 streets in the city — one in each council district — that are to get an extensive makeover. The city has $800,000 budgeted for the program. Metro has busy bus lines on all the streets, btw, and some sections are near existing or future rail stations.

In related news, an appeal of the MyFigueroa plan by an auto dealer has been withdrawn, according to StreetsblogLA. That should clear the way for pedestrian and cycling improvements on the street, as well as new bus stops.

Park Mile fretting over plan for 48 little houses (Curbed LA)

Another development dispute, this time involving the Farmers Insurance campus on Wilshire Boulevard. It was purchased by the developer CIM who wants to subdivide it and build 48 homes on the site after the insurance workers move to another office. Wilshire is a busy transit corridor, of course, and it will be interesting to see how the homes are designed to fit into the fabric of the existing neighborhood of single-family homes.

Academy to pay LACMA $36 million for movie museum lease (L.A. Times) 

The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences will pay the money up front and then have a 108-year lease for its planned museum at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax. Which is conveniently located near two busy bus corridors and the future Purple Line Extension’s station at Wilshire and Fairfax! LACMA also some big plans for the eastern side of its campus.

Transportation headlines, Monday, June 2

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If you’re a hockey fan and lucky enough to be attending the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, the Pico Station shared by the Blue and Expo Lines is one block from Staples Center. Maps and timetables here.

L.A. is still car crazy and we shouldn’t apologize for that (LA Weekly) 

The essay and reality check by Dennis Romero is in response to a statement in the L.A. Times that L.A.’s love affair with the car is over — a statement that slipped out in response to the Purple Line Extension securing $2 billion from a federal grant and loan. If you consider that more than 80 percent of L.A.’s commuters use vehicles to reach work and the fact that L.A. remains a significant hub of auto imports and design, Dennis has a point :) This is not an anti-transit article, by the way. I like these two graphs:

You needn’t be a Luddite or pig to embrace our love affair with cars, either. Vehicles are evolving at an amazing pace, and you can still be a “car guy” (or girl) and environmentally conscious at the same time.

Don’t get us started on all the rich Westsiders with power-sucking McMansions who think they’re doing their part by driving Priuses. You don’t have to be this kind of hypocrite to dig cars nowadays.

I just took a few days off and drove to the Eastern Sierra and back in my car. So I have about zero moral authority to argue with Dennis. That said, I left my car parked in Pasadena this morning and took the Gold Line to work. Yes, I still drive. But I drive less than I used to :)

Speaking of the Eastern Sierra, here's a place served only by foot. Let's see if any readers can name that lake. Bonus points for naming the peak behind it. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Speaking of the Eastern Sierra, here’s a place served only by foot. Let’s see if any readers can name that lake. Bonus points for naming the peak behind it. Photo by Steve Hymon.

When will the Las Vegas monorail expand to the airport? (Las Vegas Review Journal) 

There has been some very preliminary talk about connecting the monorail — which serves the Strip — to the busy airport. But nothing firm yet, although officials say the cab industry won’t hold up an airport monorail if it should come to pass. Because, you know, Las Vegas is such a virtuous place politically speaking :)

Fil-Am appointed as L.A. Board of Transportation commissioner (Asian Journal) 

Metro’s Cris B. Liban, executive officer for the Environmental Compliance and Services Department was appointed by Mayor Garcetti as one of the commissioners for the L.A. Board of Transportation. Cris, btw, is someone who most definitely practices what he preaches.

Legal challenge seeks to stop L.A. from demolishing historic bridge (L.A. Times) 

Cycling and open space advocates are seeking to stop the city of Los Angeles from demolishing the old Riverside Drive bridge, which is being replaced with a new structure. They want the bridge to be used as park space and to help provide a cycling connection between the east and west sides of the Los Angeles River. City officials says that keeping the old bridge would require retrofitting and would add to the cost and timeline for completing the new one.

Boxer: transportation bill ‘unworkable’ (The Hill) 

A new proposal from House Republicans to pay for a short-term transportation bill with cuts to the Postal Service is not earning rave reviews from California Senator Barbara Boxer. The current multi-year transportation funding bill expires this year and Congress has been struggling — to say it politely — to come up with a new bill that governs federal transpo spending in the coming years.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 30

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Have fun this evening and thanks for riding, L.A. Kings fans!

Beverly Hills appeals ruling that lets Metro tunnel under high school (L.A. Times) 

The city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District are appealing a Superior Court ruling earlier this year that upheld the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension. The city and school district are unhappy that the subway’s route will tunnel under a part of the Beverly Hills High School campus and have also filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration that challenges the federal environmental documents for the project.

Judges in both lawsuits are only deciding whether Metro has to redo the environmental studies (or part of them) for the project. The judges are not deciding the route for the subway. Metro staff recommended and the Metro Board of Directors adopted a route under the high school campus to avoid earthquake fault zones along Santa Monica Boulevard and to reach a station in the heart of Century City that will be easier for more workers and residents to reach.

Readers react: make driver pay for HOV lane access (L.A. Times) 

A trio of letters about the opening last week of the northbound HOV lane on the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways. One calls for making the lane a toll lane, one says authorities need to do a better job of keeping vehicles with single motorists out of the lane and the other calls for monorails spanning the pass to provide transit.

 

In expansion of No. 7 line, one problem: an elevator (New York Times)

The project is expected to open later this year and will extend the 7 Line from Times Square to 11th and 34th on the far western side of Manhattan. The project would have opened last year if not for problems involving a diagonal elevator designed to be more convenient for wheelchair users than a traditional elevator. The article does a nice job of dissecting the decisions and the contracting that have led to delays in the project, which was originally expected to open while Michael Bloomberg was still mayor.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 28

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Editor’s note: Hello Source readers. I’m traveling this week and will be mostly away from the blog — but wanted to catch up to the news of late. Regular programming resumes next Monday!

Metro fares will increase despite protests of low-income riders (L.A. Times)

Good story covers all the bases in last Thursday’s vote by the Board of Directors to raise the base fare from $1.50 to $1.75 this fall while including two hours of free transfers — meaning some riders may see a fare decrease. Many others, of course, will not. Excerpt:

Riders’ advocates said the increase will disproportionately hurt minority passengers, who make up about 80% of bus ridership. More than 90% of Metro riders are low-income, with an average household earning less than $20,000, according to agency data.

“Do you even understand how much we’re struggling day by day?” said Hee Pok Kim, a 92-year-old woman who could barely see over the public comment lectern. She spoke in Korean through a translator. “When we reach out to you for help, you shouldn’t push us away. You should grab our hands.”

We received a lot of comments and questions on the fare increases on The Source. I’ve answered the inquiries that I could. Metro officials are preparing answers to other questions and we will have all the information on the blog soon.

Northbound car-pool lane opens on the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass (Daily News) 

Coverage of the opening of the northbound HOV lane on the 405 on Friday. Excerpt:

As many as 300,000 cars and trucks pass over the 405 Freeway each day — a number that may rise by 50 percent to 447,000 by 2025, federal transit officials say.

The car-pool lanes have become the primary tool for adding capacity to such aging freeways with little room to grow, according to Caltrans. The state has 1,400 miles of car-pool lanes, or 40 percent of the nation’s total, with more than 800 miles in Southern California.

Similar car-pool lanes are being added along the 5 Freeway between Santa Clarita and downtown, with plans for continuous HOV lanes through Orange County.

In Los Angeles, each average car-pool lane can ferry 3,100 people in 1,300 vehicles per hour — nearly double the number of motorists than in a regular lane, MTA officials say. Together, some 322,000 cars containing 750,000 people car-pool across Los Angeles County each day, making it the busiest HOV lane system in the country.

Officials hope those numbers will grow as more car-pool lanes are added and more commuters opt to share rides as the legendary traffic worsens across the region. A new express bus may be in the works between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.

 

We’ll be keeping tabs on the studies for the express bus. As for the numbers above about increases in traffic, it will be very interesting to see if those kind of numbers come to pass. They certainly make a good argument for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project, which aims to provide transit across — or perhaps under — the Pass.

LA gets Purple Line transit money but will Angelenos leave their cars? (KPCC)

The headline doesn’t quite match the story, although there’s some of the usual skepticism about investing in transit in a city renowned for getting around by car. Elected officials from our region point out — rightfully, I think — that building an alternative to sitting in So Cal’s infamous traffic seems like the smart and kind of obvious thing to do.

I also think the last four graphs are the most important. Excerpt:

Transit construction is booming across LA County. By years’ end, there will be a record five rail lines under construction, funded in part by $3.5 billion in federal grants and loans.

The competition for future federal dollars to finish those projects will be tougher. LA got one in ten TIFIA loan dollars over the past two years. Measure R gave the region a head start, but now states and local communities across the nation are also competing for the loans. In fact, attending the Wednesday press conference was a public radio reporter from Alaska who says her state wants a shot at TIFIA money for a major bridge project.

Senator Feinstein says there’s another “boogeyman” out there that could prevent LA from getting future funding: sequestration. If Congress returns to its cost-cutting solution that mandates across the board cuts, funding for future transportation projects – including extension of the Purple Line to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Westwood – will be in jeopardy.

The Purple Line is scheduled to reach La Cienega Blvd. by 2023. It won’t reach the VA until 2035. The project is projected to cost $2.8 billion.

There is, of course, Measure R money available to complete the Purple Line Extension to Westwood. But federal loans and grants profoundly help and it won’t be good news if those things end up being in short supply.

The myth of the magic bus: the weird politics and persistently weird logic of the Orange Line (Streetsblog L.A.)

Writer Roger Rudick argues the Orange Line should have been a rail line and is not the success that some claim it to be as it’s often running at capacity. He argues that for the same cost — $324 million or $23 million per mile — the Orange Line could have been rail, citing the cost of a couple other rail projects in the U.S., including the Sprinter in northern San Diego County. Lots of interesting debate in the comments.

As far as light rail construction goes in Los Angeles County (the chosen rail technology here thus far), the cost has proven in recent times to be a lot more than $23 million a mile. The least expensive of the ongoing projects is the Gold Line Foothill Extension with a $735-million budget for 11.5 miles of rail and some of the cost of building the rail car maintenance campus in Monrovia.

Planning for Expo Line in Santa Monica (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

Officials are planning to modify traffic signals along Colorado Avenue to give Expo trains priority and allow them to run every five minutes eventually. That’s potentially good news for those who plan on taking the train all the way to downtown Los Angeles (and beyond) and want speedier commutes and less waiting time for trains. It’s refreshing to see cities give signal priority to transit — as signal priority has proven to be an issue on the aforementioned Orange Line and the first phase of the Expo Line.

Remembering the designer who changed the way that we think about transit maps (The City Lab)

A nice tribute to graphic designer Massimo Vignelli, who died Tuesday at the age of 83. He was known for more minimalist designs and his map of the New York City Subway endured for most of the 1970s before being replaced with a more literal design.

Google’s next phase in driverless cars: no brakes or steering wheel (New York Times) 

With progress slow on cars that allow humans to take over driving from the computer, Google is exploring another strategy: smaller, slower cars that lack a steering wheel, brake and gas pedals and gear shifts. Most interesting sentence in the article: “The front of the car will be made from a foamlike material in case the computer fails and it hits a pedestrian.” Hmm.

No MetroCard needed (New York Times) 

A good story about the relationship between real estate and bicycling in New York City. Excerpt:

As the search for more affordable real estate in New York City pushes deeper into neighborhoods that were once considered out of the way, bicycle lanes are taking on new importance. Since 2007, the city has carved out more than 350 miles of bike lanes in the five boroughs, according to the Department of Transportation. As a result, the distance from the nearest subway or bus stop has become less of a drawback for the two-wheeled set, particularly in transit-challenged areas of Brooklyn like Red Hook, Greenpoint and parts of Bushwick. In a twist to the real estate catch phrase, location, location, location, brokers say, bicycling is beginning to influence some real estate decisions.

“Your housing options change when you buy a bike and use it,” said Lyon Porter, a sales and leasing director of Town Residential, who relied heavily on a fixed-gear Dutch cruiser when living in Williamsburg several years ago and continues to cycle frequently around the city. “People get so much more for their money in this tight, compressed market,” when freed from the need to be near a train line, he said. “Your definable boundaries are different on a bike.” Without one, he said, “your map changes.”

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 20

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My horrible, hopeful L.A. commute (Zocalo Public Square) 

Columnist Joe Mathews writes about his three- to four-hour daily journey that involves starting in South Pasadena, driving to Arcadia to drop the kids at pre-school and then turning around driving 30-plus miles to his office in congested Santa Monica. It’s quite terrible, Mathews writes. But there’s hope. Along the way he has been watching the progress of the Gold Line Foothill Extension (which will stop in downtown Arcadia) and the Expo Line (which will stop in downtown Santa Monica) and can foresee the day he could use those rail lines to travel between the San Gabriel Valley and the Westside. Both rail lines are forecast to open in early 2016.

He’s also a proponent of the ExpressLanes, which he uses on the 10 freeway east of downtown. They save him time, Mathews writes, and he hopes that Metro uses the toll money to make more transportation improvements in the region.

Building a better downtown Long Beach (Longbeachize) 

Among the ideas for improving Long Beach’s downtown offered here: conversion of one-way streets to two-way thoroughfare, a bike share program, selling un-used public space to the private sector, less parking and transforming part of the Terminal Freeway to park space.

The two-way street proposal is interesting — one-way streets do a better job moving traffic but some folks argue that two-way streets are safer, better for pedestrians and provide better access to businesses. Curiously, the Blue Line doesn’t get a mention even though it loops through downtown Long Beach, is Metro’s most heavily ridden light rail line and offers a direction connection to downtown Los Angeles and Metro’s growing rail system.

Candidates spar over subway route during debate (L.A. Times) 

Candidates for County Supervisor in the third district (currently occupied by Zev Yaroslavsky) discuss the route of the Purple Line Extension through Beverly Hills. Of course, it’s somewhat of a moot point. The Metro Board of Directors and the Federal Transit Administration approved the project’s environmental documents — including a route — in 2012. Earlier this year, a Superior Court judge upheld the validity of the documents, ruling for Metro in a state lawsuit brought by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. A federal lawsuit brought by Beverly Hills and the BHUSD is, however, pending.

Former transportation secretary to join investment firm (New York Times)

Ray LaHood is joining Meridiam, a firm that specializes in investing in public infrastructure projects. One of his new colleagues will be Jane Garvey, a former chief of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Corralitas Red Car land step closer to becoming a park (L.A. Times) 

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land is in negotiations with the landowner to buy the 10-acre strip of land in Silver Lake that once served as the right-of-way for Red Cars traveling between downtown Los Angeles, Glendale and Burbank. A purchase would end decades of controversy over the land, with neighbors repeatedly turning back attempts at development.

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, May 19

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ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Riding the Metro (L.A. Register) 

A reporter with the new L.A. Register takes a few rides on Metro Rail and then compares it to the D.C. Metro before lobbing a few questions at Metro CEO Art Leahy. Some interesting observations about the difference in fare evasion on the two systems.

Fare dodging is an organized rebellion in Stockholm, and it’s winning (New York Times) 

Proof that fare evasion is a problem that many other transit agencies grapple with. In this case, an organized group in Stockholm asks members to pay a fee and then skip paying fares; the group then covers the cost of citations that members receive for fare evasion. It’s a growing problem and Stockholm Metro officials say three percent of riders aren’t paying fares, costing the agency $36 million annually.

Gas tax hits rock bottom in 10 states (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)

The purchasing power of the gas tax in 10 states is at a new all-time low. Why? The gas tax in those states hasn’t changed in many years, while inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the money collected. California isn’t on the list. The gas tax here is 18 cents per gallon and hasn’t changed since 1990. Here’s a recent L.A. Times story about mileage taxes versus gas taxes.

North Figueroa bike lanes: public safety reps against public safety project (Streetsblog L.A.) 

A proposal to install bike lanes along Figueroa in northeast Los Angeles is getting mixed reviews. The city’s transportation department included the lanes in its bike lane plan dating to 2010 but public safety officials have expressed concern the lanes could slow emergency vehicle response times. Streetsblog’s response: the bike lanes are a project to improve road safety. Interesting debate.