Why You Ride: Bicycle Edition – Steven Nancarrow, committed to transforming his life through cycling

We are collecting nominations for the Year-Round Golden Pedal Awards, Metro’s competition for great stories about bicycling. We’re featuring these stories in a monthly Why you Ride series because for many Angelenos, Bike Week never ends!

  • Name: Steven Nancarrow
  • Origin and destination: From downtown Glendale to East Pasadena.
  • Distance: Long commute – Steven rides 11 miles each way–an hour-long trip.
  • Type of commute: A combination of scenic, traffic-congested and bike paths.
  • The commuter: Converted commuter – for new riders, seasoned commuters – for old hands, and zealous commuters – for those who are encouraging others to try pedaling to school or work.

Tess Nancarrow, thanks for nominating Steven for the Gold Pedal Awards, your participation is important!

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Steven (front) and friends riding along a neighborhood street celebrating “Finish The Ride”

Tess told us that Steven has been commuting by bicycle four times a week for three years now. He now rides almost 100 miles per week and celebrated his third Bike to Work Day this year. Not too long ago, while he was still living in Eagle Rock, he used to combine cycling and transit (Metro Gold Line) to commute to work. However, since moving to Glendale he commutes to Pasadena by bike almost every day. Once Steven’s daughter is a little older, he plans to be permanently car free.

Originally, Steven started to commute by bike to lose weight and save money on gas and the gym; now he does it purely for the love of bike commuting. He is always encouraging others to use active transportation when commuting to work or going to the store. He has convinced several people at his work to start walking, biking, or taking transit to work. He continuously shows how easy and fast it is to get around Los Angeles without a car.

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Reflections on Union Station: an essay by John C. Arroyo

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On the occasion of Union Station’s 75th anniversary, Metro created a special commemorative publication, Union Station: 75 Years in the Heart of LA, featuring eight written and five photographic essays that celebrate the station by authors John C. Arroyo, William D. Estrada, Stephen Fried, Rafer Guzman, David Kipen, Marisela Norte, D. J. Waldie, and Alissa Walker. The book is on sale now at the online Metro Store. All essays will also be posted on The Source in the coming weeks. The series was edited by Linda Theung, an editor and writer based in Los Angeles.

Union Station: Los Angeles’ Enduring Symbol of Civic Optimism
by John C. Arroyo

I grew up in unincorporated East Los Angeles, a few minutes east of Union Station and the Los Angeles River. I recall the Rapid Transit District—the predecessor of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)—and their white buses wrapped in 1970s retro-inspired red, orange, and yellow stripes. I remember taking the No. 68 bus from the corner of Gage Avenue and Brooklyn Avenue (present-day Avenida César E. Chávez) into downtown and exiting at Alameda Street, near the grand entrance to Union Station. I was in constant awe of the building and the city surrounding it.

My mother, a native Angeleno, appreciated local history and culture and instilled the same kind of fervor in me. I remember going to El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument to light candles at La Placita or to eat carnitas tacos with fresh, handmade tortillas at La Luz del Día, and then crossing the street to marvel at Union Station’s painted ceilings and large, ornate chandeliers. My mother always mentioned how she liked the beautiful leather seats inside the grand waiting room. Later, when I was in my 20s, I trained to be an official Union Station docent to guide the Los Angeles Conservancy’s monthly tour of the station. I found out that the leather seats were custom built by the Angelus Furniture Company, a now-defunct, but previously legendary and independent local furniture shop located in East Los Angeles. Coincidentally, the company also supplied much of the furniture in my childhood home.

Union Station's original brown leather seating from Angelus Furniture Company, the now-defunct, but previously legendary local furniture shop located in East Los Angeles.

Union Station’s original brown leather seating from Angelus Furniture Company, the now-defunct, but previously legendary local furniture shop located in East Los Angeles.

One thing that always struck me about my visits to Union Station was how quiet it was. As a child during the 1980s I vividly remember seeing pigeons flying around the station (especially in the former Ticket Concourse). Whenever my family took the bus from Union Station to Bakersfield, transferring to the Amtrak San Joaquin line to visit family in California’s Central Valley, the trains were nearly empty.

At the time I was too young to understand Union Station’s untapped potential, which changed after I embarked on a career in urban planning and design. In many ways my decision to be an urban planner allowed me to understand the forces that promote—and impede—successful public spaces. With time and subsequent experience I put my technical charts and graphs aside and learned how to interpret the relationship between physical form, social experience, and culture firsthand. I learned to read the city.

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Hey World Cup fans: please don’t damage Metro’s buses!

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We will be the first to agree that the World Cup is a super fun thing to watch. It’s even better watching it in Los Angeles, where the diversity here means that many teams have huge and devoted local followings.

Unfortunately, a couple of Metro buses were damaged in the civil disturbance on Tuesday following Mexico’s big win over Croatia that propelled Mexico into the knockout round of the tournament. The above photo shows some of the damage to one of the buses.

The buses are being repaired, meaning they are not available to do what they are supposed to do: serve our everyday riders. The repairs also cost Metro and you — the taxpayer — money that could probably be spent on better things.

Thus, this announcement from Metro officials: Similar to past incidents where public safety is compromised, Metro will immediately suspend service in any area impacted by civil disturbances. Metro does not want to put its passengers, bus operators and other employees in harms way. Service will resume only when law enforcement deems it safe to do so.

As soccer fans are keenly aware, Mexico plays the Netherlands on Sunday morning in the second round of the World Cup. It’s an elimination game, meaning everything is on the line for both teams.

Metro will be closely monitoring the game and public safety on streets in our county. In particular, the following bus lines may be impacted: the 18, 94, 102, 111, 224, 230, 233, 251, 260, 612, 720 and the 761.

When service is detoured or suspended, Nextrip will not reflect accurate real-time arrivals.

To avoid potential disruptions or detours, customers should consider using Metro Rail when possible. There are tons of places to watch the game along the Red, Purple, Blue, Expo, Green and Gold Lines!

Follow Metro’s general Twitter account or Metro’s Twitter feed with only service alerts for the latest rider information.


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:

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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?

Go Metro to Grand Performances and save on lunch or dinner

Go Metro to any Grand Performance and save at Noe Restaurant & Bar or Johnnie's New York Pizzeria. Be sure to get to California Plaza early to stake out a seat--as you can see it get's a little crowded...

Go Metro to any Grand Performance and save at Noe Restaurant & Bar or Johnnie’s New York Pizzeria. Be sure to get to California Plaza early to stake out a seat–as you can see it gets a little crowded…

The 28th season of Grand Performances, downtown Los Angeles’ beloved summer concert series, is officially underway for 2014. Starting now until September 19, enjoy a spectacular variety of music, dance and spoken-word performances for free at scenic California Plaza.

This season’s highlights include:

  • Saturday, July 5 – Stones Throw Picnic at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 12 – Adventures from Paradise: A Tribute to Minnie Riperton at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 19 – Chop and Quench at noon
  • Sunday, July 20 – Quetzal 20th Anniversary Celebration at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 2 – People Get Ready: A Soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement at 8 p.m.
  • Friday, August 15 – Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate at noon.
  • Saturday, September 6 – Yuna at 8 p.m.

For a full list of artists, shows and times, click here.

California Plaza is easily accessible via Metro Bus or Rail. Take the Metro Red/Purple Line to Civic Center/Grand Park Station, or various Metro and municipal buses serving Grand Avenue, Olive Street or Hill Street. (Click here for a map of Metro service in downtown L.A.).

Go Metro to any Grand Performance and save on lunch or dinner at Noé Restaurant & Bar or Johnnie’s New York Pizzeria the day of the event! Noé Restaurant & Bar at the Omni Hotel serves up a fresh and frequently rotating “Neo Bistro” menu; show your valid TAP card to save 15% on your bill. For more low-key fare, visit Johnnie’s New York Pizzeria on a performance date and receive a free drink with your food purchase by presenting your TAP card.

Music, fun, food and flying through traffic? Sounds like the stuff of summer to me!

U.S. Conference of Mayors backs America Fast Forward

The U.S. Conference of Mayors last week voted to back a resolution by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti that “urges Congress to create a new category of qualified tax credit bonds to fund $45 billion over 10 years for transportation to stimulate infrastructure investment.”

Not exactly earth-shaking news. But it’s good news nonetheless.

Let me explain. Metro has been pursuing the America Fast Forward (AFF) initiative for four-plus years. AFF includes two parts: an expanded federal loan program and a new bond program.

The loan program — called TIFIA — was expanded by Congress in 2012. TIFIA loans help provide local transit agencies such as Metro with low-interest loans that can be used to help pay for big, expensive projects — and, in fact, TIFIA loans are being used to help finance the building of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the first phase of the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector.

The bond program has been garnering support, but Congress still hasn’t made it part of a multi-year transportation funding bill. In a nutshell: those who invest in transportation bonds receive federal tax credits instead of interest, a good way for investors to lower their tax burden and a good way for transportation agencies to save on interest costs.

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Will Congress go for it? Hard to say as partisan politics have prevented Congress from approving of a truly long-term transportation funding bill since a four-year bill was signed into law by President Bush in 2005. That bill expired in 2009, was extended several times and then replaced by a two-year bill in 2012 that expires this year.

Earlier this year, President Obama released a bill proposal that embraced the AFF bond program as well as the TIFIA program. Congress hasn’t exactly embraced the President’s bill but there have been indications of support for the AFF bond program. In the meantime, mayors continue to push Congress to do something, as many cities are trying to expand transit systems and need help financing pricey projects.

As Mayor Garcetti wrote about the Conference, “As gridlock continues to paralyze our federal government, it’s America’s mayors who are increasingly leading the charge to improve quality of life across this country.”

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.