Transit agency funding threatened as Congress continues to bicker over Highway Trust Fund

Below is the latest from Metro’s government relations staff on the ongoing tussle between the House of Representatives and the Senate on keeping the federal Highway Trust Fund funded for the new few months. The news is not good:

U.S. House of Representatives Sends Highway Trust Fund Extension Bill Back to the U.S. Senate

Moments ago, the United States House of Representatives voted (272-150) to reject the U.S. Senate amended bill to fund the Highway Trust Fund and extend authorization and appropriations for highway and transit programs. On July 15, 2014, the House passed H.R. 5021 that extended funding and programs until May 31, 2015. This past Tuesday, the Senate amended the House bill by shortening the extension until December 19, 2014 forcing Congress to deal with a long term surface transportation reauthorization bill and funding this year. With the House rejecting the Senate amended bill and members leaving Washington tonight for a five week recess, the Senate must now decide to pass the House version of H.R. 5021 by tomorrow. If the Senate does not act, the Department of Transportation will implement cash management procedures to distribute less than full transportation funding payments to states. Metro’s Government Relations staff will continue to provide updates on the status of Congress’ actions regarding transportation programs and funding.

Why does this matter? Here’s a staff reporting explaining how Metro could suffer if funds from the Highway Trust Fund to Metro would eventually slow down or be halted. It’s not good: potential long-range impacts — emphasis on ‘long-range’ — could result in service cuts, delays to maintenance projects and delaying capital projects.

The Highway Trust Fund gets its money from the federal gas tax, which is currently 18.3 cents and hasn’t been raised since 1993. Congress has been reluctant over the years to raise the tax or index it to inflation and there’s no majority view of other alternatives to keep the Highway Trust Fund in the black now that vehicles are more fuel efficient and tax revenues are down.


Free shuttle to HARD Summer for Metro riders

artworkHARD Summer is back August 2 and 3 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. both days. The two-day festival is taking place at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte and boasts more than fifty live performances and world class DJ sets including Jack U, A$AP Mob, Axwell, and Flosstraddamus performing on five stages. And taking Metro is still the best way to get to HARD Summer! HARD Summer is providing free shuttles to connect Metro riders to the concert.

To get there: hop on the Metro Gold Line to Atlantic Station in East LA and get a free shuttle ride to the concert. Shuttles will be located directly across the street from Atlantic Station, at the intersection of Pomona and Beverly Boulevards. Shuttles to HARD Summer will be running from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

After the concert: follow the festival exit signs to Rosemead Boulevard. The free shuttles will be located just south of the main entrance and will return you to Atlantic Station. Return shuttles will be running from 8 p.m. through 12 a.m. The last shuttle back to Atlantic Station leaves at midnight, so it’s best that you get in line immediately after the concert ends so you don’t miss the last train from Atlantic Station or any connections thereafter. Metro operates late-night rail service until 2 a.m. on Saturdays and will also run late-night rail service on Sunday for HARD Summer.

Tips for riding:

  • The Gold Line ride between Union Station and Atlantic Station takes less than 30 minutes.
  • Use Trip Planner for more routes and connections.
  • Regular Metro Rail fares apply: $1.50 per line / $5 Day Pass (good till 3 a.m.).
  • Each person must have his/her own TAP card. (No sharing of TAP cards)
  • Avoid long return lines at TAP Vending Machines by loading your round trip fare in advance online or on your way in.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 31

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! 

Shouldn’t Metro know how many people are riding for free? (L.A. Times) 

The editorial follows the LAT news story earlier this week about fare evasion — rail ridership estimates had 115 million boardings last year while the number of ‘taps’ recorded was 70 million. The difference is made up of people who didn’t pay fares or who had passes on TAP cards but didn’t tap them as required. Excerpt that sums up the issue well:

The amount of money Metro loses to fare evasion is most likely small compared with its operating budget — fares cover only about 26% of the cost of the rides. Officials want to raise ticket prices in the coming years to bring that number up to about 33% of the cost. But the widespread perception of fare evasion undermines public confidence in the agency and makes it harder for Metro to convince riders and taxpayers that it needs more money.

Sharrows: a primer (Orange20Bikes) 

As the headlines suggests, this is a good primer on those lane markings that show cyclists where to ride and inform motorists that bikes are to be expected in a lane. Long-time readers know that I’m not really fond of them as I think they’re mostly a good way to make it look like you’re doing something when you’re doing nothing. This blog post sort of agrees, pointing out that cities like them for that very reason (and they’re cheap) while also pointing out some research shows that sharrows tend to prompt motorists to give cyclists a bit more room and they attract a few more cyclists on roads where they’re present. That hasn’t been my experience when cycling on Lake Avenue in Pasadena, although the sharrows are pretty faded — last time I bothered to notice them.

Speaking of bikes…

LAPD: No public record found that bike lanes delay emergency response times (Streetsblog L.A.)

In response to a public records request, the LAPD found no documents or studies showing that bike lanes slow down police or emergency vehicles. The request stemmed from an ongoing dispute in Northeast L.A. about a city plan to put bike lanes on North Figueroa Street. As it turns out, response times in that part of the city are already slower than elsewhere — but there’s no actual proof that the bike lanes would slow things down any further.

New LADOT G.M. enthusiastically accepts management challenge (The Planning Report) 

Good interview with Seleta Reynolds, the new chief of the city of Los Angeles’ transportation department, which oversees DASH buses, bike lane construction and traffic signals. She worked previously in San Francisco. I thought what she had to say about walking was interesting. Excerpt:

One of the most telling things that I’ve taken away from projects I’ve done was during a study in Spokane Washington. We asked people why they wanted to live in a walkable neighborhood. “Well, I like walking.” You ask them, “Why is that? What is it about walking that’s important?” They would give you answers like, “I might run into my neighbor along the way”; “You don’t know what you’ll see”; “Something unexpected or interesting might happen”; “I don’t experience the city in the same way when I’m in my car”; “It also offers an opportunity to unplug and interact with people in my household.”

Social interactions that strengthen neighborhoods and even can strengthen the resiliency of a community to recover after a disaster are improved if you offer people the opportunity to walk or bike to get around. Making those modes a real option for trips that are less than a mile for walking or one-to-three miles for biking is important for a huge variety of reasons. That’s what I’m interested in from an active transportation perspective. That’s where the opportunities are.

Well put. Everyone I know loves to talk about some city they visited where you could walk everywhere or there were lovely places to walk. Yet, there isn’t as much clamoring for that on the home front. It will be interesting to see what Reynolds can do, especially given that zoning is controlled by the city’s planning department and the City Council has last say on everything — and often exercises that right.

Is Reynolds the antidote to L.A.’s defeatist attitude on transportation? (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Speaking of the new LADOT chief, Damien Newton writes that hiring someone from outside L.A. to run the city’s transportation department was probably a wise move. Damien also says arguments otherwise — that L.A. is too unique and thus needs one of its own — amount to big pile of bunk. Excerpt:

For some reason, people that live and drive in Los Angeles have sat through so many traffic jams that they have come to believe that idling in endless traffic is a natural phenomenon.  They also believe a harmful corollary: that things that have worked in other areas to make people’s commutes better will not work in Los Angeles. Because “this is Los Angeles.”

It’s the reverse of exceptionalism.

Because over the last six and a half years, we’ve heard that Los Angeles, and Angelenos are so enamored with our vehicles that we will never be able to walk, much less ride a bike or ride transit, even though wild dogs can learn to ride transit. Following the passage of Measure R, many are starting to accept that transit is a viable option in Los Angeles, although the anti-transit theory it still pops up in some cities on the Westside.

Nowadays, we hear some mix of theories from “smart growth won’t work in Southern California,” to “road diets won’t work in Southern California” to “people won’t bicycle in Southern California.” These sort of self-defeating prophecies sap the energy out of transportation reformers, jade community activists, and generally have a corrosive impact on those seeking to make our streets safe for everyone.

Concur. The only thing unique about L.A. is that we have better Mexican food and an arguably better climate that some of other sprawling metropolises around the planet.

Motorized roller skates: from fiction to reality (BBC)

Speeds up to 12 miles per hour! They run on electricity and look easy to step in and out of. Tilt foot forward, they go. Tilt foot back, they stop. So says the manufacturer.

UPDATE: Blue and Expo Line resuming normal service

7:58 a.m.: The Blue and Expo Lines are resuming normal service. The earlier signals issue has been cleared. Metro thanks you for your understanding and patience.

The Blue and Expo Lines are experiencing major delays due to a signal failure near Del Amo station. Please allow extra time on your morning commute. For Blue and Expo Line alternate service, see here.

For up to the minute alerts, please follow us on twitter at @metrolosangeles and @metrolaalerts.


Service Advisory: Metro buses continue to detour around water main repairs in Westwood/UCLA area

Metro buses serving the Westwood/UCLA area continue to be impacted by yesterday’s #SunsetFlood. LADWP has estimated that Sunset Boulevard will remain closed between Veteran and Hilgard avenues for at least the next 24 hours:

Seems pretty reasonable if you’ve seen photos of the damage:

The issue: a giant sinkhole leaves little room for Metro buses. And then there’s the sharks:

While repairs are made to the broken water main, the following delays and detours remain in effect:

  • Metro Rapid 761 and Late Night 233 northbound will detour from Hilgard/Sunset to Beverly Glen, Wilshire, and Veteran to continue north. Southbound buses will use Church Lane, Montana, Gayley, and Le Conte to continue south.
  • Lines 2/302 westbound will detour from Hilgard/Sunset to Beverly Glen, Wilshire, and Le Conte to continue west.
  • In addition, customers should plan for delays on the 20 and Rapid 720 due to spill-over traffic on Wilshire Boulevard.

Metro will continue to keep customers informed of any changes to the above lines/detours here on The Source, via Twitter @metrolosangeles or @metroLAalerts, and on our Service Advisories page.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 30

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! 

ART OF TRANSIT: Very nice photo of the under-photographed Green Line, which runs mostly down the middle of the 105 freeway. Photo by Matthew Grant Anson, via his Flickr stream.

ART OF TRANSIT: Very nice photo of the under-photographed Green Line, which runs mostly down the middle of the 105 freeway. Photo by Matthew Grant Anson, via his Flickr stream.

Metro fare increase postponed, will take effect September 15th (Streetsblog LA)

The fare increases and changes approved by the Metro Board in May will begin on Sept. 15, a couple weeks behind the originally targeted date, reports Joe Linton. At that time, the regular fare will increase from $1.50 to $1.75 and also include two hours of free transfers. The cost of regular daily, weekly and monthly passes also increases — meaning that riders really need to consider whether it’s a better deal to pay per trip or still purchase a pass. Students who pay the discounted cash fare — which will not increase — don’t get the free transfer, according to a Metro staff report.

Senate tees up last-minute showdown on transpo funding (Streetsblog Network)

The Senate and the House continue to bicker over a short extension of the federal transportation funding bill. The House has a plan to keep it limping along until May, the Senate wants to shorten that time until December and get rid of some financial tricks — such as “pension smoothing” — that would keep the Highway Trust Fund from becoming an empty balloon.

Long story short: neither bill really tackles the main problem, which is that the federal gas tax — which hasn’t been raised since 1993 — doesn’t cover the nation’s transportation funding program anymore.

California high-speed rail project considering a tunnel under San Gabriel Mountains (Daily News) 

In its ongoing studies of the Palmdale-to-Burbank segment of the bullet train line, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will study a tunnel under the San Gabes in addition to a route that largely follows the 14 freeway. The tunnel would be a more direct shot but, presumably, would come at a higher cost. It currently takes Metrolink trains about two hours to travel between Union Station and Lancaster — that’s a two-hour train trip that never leaves Los Angeles County!

83-year-old good Samaritan scores rare victory in fight against City Hall (L.A. Times) 

Columnist Steve Lopez gets the bat squarely on the ball in a column that efficiently chronicles the difficulty in getting a curb painted red in a no parking zone and a certain major utility letting its sprinklers run all day in a drought before….just read it.

Op-Ed: is bicycling the new rude (Glendale News-Press)

Peter Rusch isn’t too thrilled with spandex-clad cycling groups that run stop signs, saying he doubts they would behave that way if behind the wheel of a car. No doubt there are some cyclists who flout the law. And that’s wrong. But pleeeeeeeease. There’s equally no doubt it would easy to write a column every day about motorists who blow through red lights, stop signs and who illegally nose their cars into crosswalks — and who far outnumber cyclists on the road.

MBTA adding wi-fi to commuter rail system (Metro)

Free wi-fi will be available on 14 commuter rail lines in the Greater Boston area, including some stations. A contractor is installing it for free — they hope to make money by getting people to pay $15 a month for premium wi-fi that would allow customers to stream video.

 

Reminder: Metro Presents Mark de Clive-Lowe’s CHURCH at Union Station July 31

Don’t forget, critically acclaimed pianist, composer, producer, DJ and live re-mixer Mark de Clive-Lowe will be celebrating his new album CHURCH with a free performance at the Fred Harvey Room in Union Station this Thursday, July 31. Admission is free and will be on a first come, first served basis. Dancing will be encouraged.

Doors open at 6:45 p.m. There will be a DJ set at 7 p.m. and Mark de Clive-Lowe’s CHURCH begins at 8 p.m.

The event is being presented with Mercado La Paloma.