Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 2

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Photo: Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Photo: Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti’s anniversary spin (on Metro) includes World Cup stop (L.A. Times) 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recognized his first anniversary in office by tooling around L.A. on Metro Rail on Tuesday, including a stop at Buffalo Wild Wings in the Crenshaw District to watch the USA-Belgium match. Excerpt:

On the trip, Garcetti lamented getting “stuck in City Hall,” saying quick, unplanned encounters with people help him gauge people’s concerns and can build trust with residents, particularly in his early years as mayor. “Most people don’t want a half-hour meeting with the mayor,” he said.

The mayor will also serve as the Chair of the Metro Board for the next year (the Board Members take turns). It will be interesting to see what kind of agenda he pushes at Metro — and think a good starting place is to talk to folks who ride the system and pay the bills here. Semi-related: a great way to gauge people’s concerns about Metro is to also read our general Twitter feed, including tweets from riders.

Metro commits to deal ensuring subway won’t hurt Disney Hall acoustics (L.A. Times) 

The agency and Disney Hall agree to several mitigations to ensure that the Regional Connector — running 135 deep underground and adjacent the concert venue — won’t cause vibrations that could impact acoustics. Tests last year established the ambient noise in Disney Hall and Metro has agreed to limit vibrations to well under those standards.

Burbank-Palmdale segment added to bullet train timetable (L.A. Times) 

In response to criticism and doubts from state lawmakers, the California High-Speed Rail Authority wants to accelerate construction of a Burbank to Palmdale segment of the bullet train project. Such a segment could reduce travel time for trains from more than an hour to 14 to 16 minutes.

That said, there remains considerable challenges. The first is finding the funding — the L.A. to Palmdale segment is estimated to cost more than $13 billion and that could rise if a more direct tunnel to the Antelope Valley is built under the San Gabriel Mountains. The segment would presumably later connect to Union Station and Bakersfield and the segment being planned between there and Madera.

My three cents: I think there are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical about the ability to build a $68-billion project between San Francisco and Los Angeles with the major funding source a $10-billion voter-approved bond. That said, if funding is limited, it sure would be great to see commuter rail get a boost in populated and taxpayer-heavy Southern California, an area where commuters are already riding trains on a daily basis.

Contractor for 405 sues MTA over cost overruns, delays (Daily News) 

Kiewet filed the lawsuit in May, seeking $400 million in costs, according to the Daily News. Excerpt:

In a statement, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said that “Metro does not believe this claim complies with those contract requirements. However, Metro continues to negotiate in good faith with Kiewit to resolve specific outstanding claims under terms of its contract.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents this portion of Los Angeles and has publicly blamed Kiewit for the project’s delays, declined to comment Tuesday.

 

Jenna Hornstock shares refinements to Union Station’s Master Plan (The Planning Report) 

Jenna is heading up Metro’s team of planners working on the Union Station Master Plan. In this interview, she talks about the many details of the emerging plan that were released last month (Here’s a Source post about the plans).

The Planning Report saved perhaps one of the juiciest questions for last, asking Jenna how the Master Plan would be funded and if there could be money available from a potential Measure R 2 sales tax. As Jenna wisely pointed out, the key word with Measure R 2 is “potential” and that it’s impossible at this time to say what will or will not be funded by it. As if often the case at Metro, projects are planned before all the funding is secured — the agency often needs to have firm plans in in order to get money to build them.

Donald Shoup, parking guru, on how L.A. should manage its meters (L.A. Times) 

Interesting interview with the UCLA professor who literally wrote the book on big cities and parking policies (a book highly critical of big cities, that is). There’s nothing fantastically new in the interview but it’s always fun to revisit the question of whether developers should be required to build parking or not (they almost always are for both residential or commercial properties). Parking is very expensive to build and maintain and folks such as Shoup believe it results in a lot of expensive, free and unnecessary parking that consumes a lot of space that could be better used for other purposes.

In other words, if someone in a city wants a car badly enough, they’ll find a parking place and the money to pay for it. Agree or disagree, Angelenos?

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, July 1

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Boo!

Boo!

Hello Metro riders and readers. I was on vacation for a couple of days, so I’m catching up. As usual, please bear with me.

Train station to connect Metro rail lines with LAX approved (L.A. Times) 

The Times neatly and succinctly summarizes the Metro Board’s decision last Thursday to go forward with environmentally clearing an additional station on the Crenshaw/LAX Line that would connect with a people mover to be built by Los Angeles World Airports. Excerpt:

Officials say the new station will speed up airport access and could include check-in counters, flight information boards and currency exchange locations. The board also asked for a review of baggage check facilities at similar airport transportation hubs in other cities to determine whether that service could be added.

In an early Metro concept sketch, the station is depicted as a glass, multi-story building with covered rail platforms and a passenger drop-off area.

The 96th Street station still must go through a final design process, environmental review and cost analysis. Additions such as ticketing areas and concessions would increase the $200-million cost.

 

MTA predicts less than one percent of LAX passengers will take train to LAX (LA Weekly) 

Gene Maddeus dives into the Metro staff report and focuses on ridership estimates that show that the majority of LAX passengers in the future will likely travel to and from the airport by car — and that the FlyAway bus may attract significantly more passengers than a light rail-people mover connection. Excerpt:

The station approved Thursday is a much cheaper alternative, which probably won’t have all the bells and whistles that Garcetti had envisioned. Nevertheless, it is a rail connection to LAX, and Garcetti heralded it as a key step in the direction of building a world-class airport.

Assuming that LAX and MTA can continue to cooperate on this, the rail link could open around 2022. That leaves one big unanswered question: Will anybody use it?

As the saying goes, predictions are hard, especially about the future. Nevertheless, MTA has made its best effort to guess how many people will take the train to the airport. The answer:

0.8%.

[snip]

This is not to say that the train-to-LAX link should not be built. It is to suggest that expectations be kept in check until MTA can plan, fund and build a more comprehensive rail network.

 

The new Aviation/96th station will likely be most convenient to those using the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line. An extension of the Green Line to the south (a Measure R funded project) and extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the north to a connection with the subway (a project in Metro’s long-range plan but without any current funding) would, of course, significantly increase the reach of both lines.

Supervisor Don Knabe on the Aviation/96th station (Supervisor Don Knabe’s website)

LAX is in Don Knabe’s district and the Supervisor and Metro Board Member sent this note to constituents about last week’s vote — the last graph is key:

For years, I’ve said it’s embarrassing that the second largest city in America with the third busiest airport still does not have a direct transit connection. Major airports across the country, as well as internationally, can be accessed by subway, people mover, or air train, yet traveling to LAX requires a car, or a shuttle ride from the Green Line.

We’ve struggled for decades trying to solve this transportation puzzle, but finally, the MTA Board took a giant leap towards creating a solution last week. On a motion by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Mike Bonin, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and me, the Board voted in favor of constructing a rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard as part of the new Crenshaw/LAX rail line. This state-of-the-art station will serve as a “front door” for riders, connecting them to the LAX terminals via airport people mover.

Though this is a major milestone in finally linking the airport to our regional transit system, there are still hurdles to clear. Metro must continue working with Los Angeles World Airports and the Board of Airport Commissioners to ensure that a people mover will be constructed. Without their guarantee, we could end up stuck with a state-of-the-art station to nowhere. As the details surrounding the new rail station and a people mover continue to develop, I will be sure to keep you updated.

 

Metro buses get multi-camera surveillance systems (KABC-7) 

In order to prevent crime and remind riders that law enforcement is watching, Metro is overhauling the video systems on its buses — including monitors showing riders a real-time video feed. The move was prompted, in part, by the 191 assaults on Metro bus operators between 2010 and 2013. “We have every confidence that this is going to increase safety and discourage those who might be inclined to do otherwise,” L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is quoted in the article. Here  is our post from last week announcing the upgrades.

The painful consequences of liking fake subway maps (Los Angeles Review of Books) 

Ben Pack ruminates on transit maps, driving and bike riding in the Los Angeles area, culminating in a cycling accident in Hollywood.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 25

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

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

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

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

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

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:

https://twitter.com/TracyRHill/status/481113631837265921

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

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

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

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

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.