Reminder: Independent Citizens’ Advisory and Oversight Committee holds public hearing Friday

The Committee oversees the half-cent sales tax increases that Los Angeles County voters approved in 1980 (Prop A) and 1990 (Prop C), respectively. Here is the meeting notice and agenda:
INDEPENDENT CITIZENS’ ADVISORY AND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE MEETINGPUBLIC HEARING

Metro Headquarters

3rd Floor – Board Room

One Gateway Plaza

Los Angeles

Friday, April 4, 2014 – 11:00 A.M.

PROPOSITIONS A & C AUDIT – FY 2013

Emina Darakjy, Chair

Brian Russell, Vice Chair

1. Remarks by Hearing Officer, Emina Darakjy.

2. Statement by the Board Secretary’s Office

concerning publication of notices and

dissemination of public information.

3. Public Comment.

4. Motion to Close Hearing.

The Chair will determine order of appearance before the Board.

Speakers will be limited to three minutes. If available, a written

copy of testimony should be presented to Secretary.

Union Station: A grand opening

Click on a photo to see a larger version or click on the first version to begin a slideshow-type display. Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Collection.

This is the first of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that will run on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout April. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3.  

The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal finally opened to the public on May 3, 1939 and it was celebrated with a massive parade down Alameda Street. The theme was the history of transportation and the parade included covered wagons, stagecoaches, Pony Express riders and several massive steam-powered locomotives.

The station’s grand opening was a huge deal for what was still in many ways an unsophisticated western town, albeit one whose population mushroomed since 1920 to about 1.5 million people in 1939. The city finally had a central passenger terminal. The L.A. Times reported that people hung from trees to get a better look at the festivities. Some fainted from the heat.

The parade was followed by tours of the station and a 45-minute production called “Romance of the Rails.” The free show along the tracks inside Union Station was subtitled “California’s Story of Transportation,” and the program notes that it was adapted and directed by John Ross Reed. No one now seems to know who John Ross Reed was. Was he a famous Hollywood director of the time?

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 32

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! 

Some awesomeness from the Toronto Transit Commission from last April 1.

Why raise Metro fares when giving away free parking? (LA Streetsblog) 

Joe Linton argues that according to his back-of-the-napkin calculations Metro is squandering $3.5 million in a year in potential revenues if it charged $3 for parking at its lots. As he notes, most parking at Metro lots is currently free. Of course, $3.5 million doesn’t cover the projected budget shortfalls that Metro is projecting and using to justify the fare increases (the shortfalls begin at $36 million in FY 2016 and then rise).

Still, revenue is revenue. There are certainly Metro lots where parking is tight and I think one key public policy question is whether free parking is an incentive to get people out of their cars and onto transit. That said, another important piece of context: most lots were built and opened at a time when gas was far cheaper than now. Thoughts, readers?

Cobalts were seen as lemons from the start (New York Times) 

The evidence grows that General Motors knew there were serious — and potentially deadly — problems with the Cobalt as far back as 2005 when consumers were demanding their money back. The company has already linked an ignition issue with 13 deaths. The chief of General Motors will tell Congress today that she doesn’t know why the carmaker didn’t publicly announce the safety defect with the cars until recently. The answer is pretty obvious: there must have been an internal culture at G.M. in which telling the truth and delivering bad news to customers was seen as less important than covering one’s own backside. There’s nothing on the GM home page, btw, except for some boasting of the craftmanship of the Escalade SUV. The two-wheel drive version of that SUV gets 17 mpg in case you’re interested.

Panel’s warning on climate risk: worst is yet to come (New York Times) 

The latest report from the U.N. is perhaps its bleakest yet. Excerpt:

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.

Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty.

The report focuses in particular on resource shortages — especially food and water — that may accompany climate change. Such shortages, says the UN, will likely exacerbate political instability in places where millions could go hungry or thirsty.

Although transit is certainly not a panacea for climate change, studies have found that transit is a more efficient way of moving people around when it comes to using electricity and fossil fuels — especially when compared to driving alone.

Transportation headlines, Monday, March 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! 

Happy REAL opening day, baseball fans and Metro Riders. Above, the first game at Ebbetts Field.

Happy REAL opening day, baseball fans and Metro Riders. Above, the first game at Ebbets Field.

Transit riders assail proposed Metro fare hike at public meeting (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the four-hour hearing on Saturday over the proposed fare increase. As the story notes, most of the comments received were along the lines that the increases were too much. There was no support for the second option, which involves creating different fares for off-peak and peak hours. There was limited support for the first option, although some people said that transfers should be included for two hours, not 90 minutes as Metro proposes. Without an increase, Metro officials said they would have to cut one million hours of bus service and lay off 1,000 employees, according to the Times.

Transportation advocates back half-cent sales tax (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the Move L.A. conference on Friday in which the pro-transit group discussed a possible half-cent sales tax increase for the 2016 ballot that help fund more transportation projects in L.A. County. Excerpt:

Metro has not yet decided to put a measure on the ballot. But with as much as $27 billion in added tax money to spend on rail projects, advocates said, the agency could build a light-rail link to Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, convert the San Fernando Valley Orange Line busway to rail and extend the Green Line near LAX to sweep through South Bay cities and connect with the Blue Line in Long Beach.

“What we’re doing here is trying to figure out what wins,” Move L.A. Executive Director Denny Zane said.

[snip]

Guaranteeing projects across the county may be a political necessity, but it doesn’t always serve passengers the best, said Lisa Schweitzer, a USC professor who studies transit funding. She said transit-using communities with the potential for highest ridership, a common measure of success, tend to be clustered in the core of the county.

[snip]

“In order to get those areas interested in transit, you have to gold-plate it and sugarcoat it” with high-profile projects such as the Westside subway extension, which appeal to residents who typically drive their own cars, Schweitzer said. “But you can’t win without them.”

Two things worthy of your consideration here: 1) the current Measure R put about $13.8 billion toward a dozen transit projects over its 30-year lifespan, and; 2) some of those projects — such as the Airport Metro Connector and the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor — may need more funds to get built.

My point: a second sales tax, if Metro pursues it, is not a free pass to build every project on everybody’s wish list!!! :)

Tree removal along Crenshaw Boulevard has residents stumped (L.A. Times) 

Crenshaw Boulevard is expected to lose about 175 trees to accommodate construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, leaving some residents unhappy in the wake of the 71 that were taken down to accommodate moving the Endeavour between LAX and the California Science Center in 2012. Metro has said it will plant two trees for every tree lost, although there is skepticism that new trees will truly replace the mature pines that are in Crenshaw Boulevard’s median, particularly in Park Mesa Heights.

The Endeavour moving north through Park Mesa Heights in 2012. The light rail line will run along the median at right, where the trees are located. Photo by Steve Hymon.

The Endeavour moving north through Park Mesa Heights in 2012. The light rail line will run along the median at right, where the trees are located. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Westside Subway neighbors worried about night-time construction noise (L.A. Times) 

Metro is proposing some night-work work. But important to remember: the work is NOT for the duration of the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, as the sub-headline suggests. Excerpt:

Subway construction won’t be accomplished without din, dust, vibration and street closures, Metro officials say, but 24-hour work will last for only a few weeks, said Dennis Mori, executive officer of project management. After an initial period of digging and pile installation, he said, tunneling itself will be less disruptive. Of course, there will be the nighttime rumble of trucks hauling away 1.1 million cubic yards of dirt.

“While we take community concerns very seriously, there is simply no such thing as ‘immaculate construction,’” Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said. “Some community groups appear to be sending a mixed message: ‘Yes, we support the subway, but don’t touch anything, and don’t inconvenience us in any way.’”

San Antonio police chief tells Lyft to quit operations (Government Technology) 

The city’s police chief says the problem is that Lyft’s drivers are not permitted as a taxi or limo drivers per municipal laws. Lyft says its drivers have insurance and go through background checks.

10 reasons why Beverly Hills homeowners are opposing bike lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard (Curbed LA)

A review of the controversy over widening Santa Monica Boulevard to accommodate bike lanes. The widening would cause some grass to be removed on the north side of the street. The post includes city diagrams to see what is being proposed. Lots of debate in the comments.

Watch a fun video explaining why the Riverside-Figueroa bridge should become a park (Curbed LA)

The old bridge is being replaced. The city of L.A. intends to tear it down while some activists say the old bridge should host a park. My three cents: the most important project in that area needs to be getting the L.A. River bike path into downtown L.A.

 

Metro explores new green energy options: placing a wind turbine in a subway tunnel

Photos: Evan Rosenberg/Metro

You’re standing on a subway station platform, waiting for the train. Suddenly, the wind picks up. You know this means the train is coming. Many of you may also know why there’s wind: it’s displaced air being pushed through the tunnel by the fast moving train. And some of you — including Tom Kefalas, Metro Environmental Compliance and Services Manager — may have wondered if there was a way all that generated wind could be utilized as a renewable energy source.

Thanks to Tom Kefalas and Cris Liban, Director of Metro Environmental Compliance Services, we now know the answer is yes. From August through September 2013, Metro conducted a one-month pilot program to see if wind energy could safely and effectively be captured and used. The project involved working with engineers from WWT Tunnel, LLC, a subcontractor to Arcadis U.S., to create and install a unique 10-foot multi-blade mass airflow collection equipment (MACE) in the Red Line tunnel. To our knowledge, this is the first time a transit agency has tested the effect of having a wind turbine in a subway tunnel.

The MACE was installed between the North Hollywood and Universal City stations, a segment of the tunnel that sees trains reaching speeds of up to 70 mph. Each time a train left the station, the MACE fan blades would start spinning, thus capturing energy up to a minute before the train actually passed by. The blades would continue to spin up to 2 minutes after the train passed, and exceeded 1,070 revolutions per minute (RPM). The amount of electricity produced by these train initiated events was nearly double the amount that had originally been anticipated.

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Patsaouras Plaza closed April 11 to 14 for landscaping renovations

Patsaouras Transit Plaza will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians from 9 p.m. Friday, April 11, through 4 a.m. Monday, April 14, for landscaping renovations. Work being done will address water damage to the plaza and structures underneath and replace waterproofing, landscaping, electrical and irrigation systems.

No vehicles or pedestrians will be able to enter the plaza while work is being done. Buses that normally enter the plaza will stop at Cesar Chavez/Alameda to both board and drop off customers.

Flyaway and Megabus.com will utilize the Amtrak bus pick-up/drop-off location on the west side of Union Station during the plaza closure.

Follow Metro on Twitter @metrolosangeles or @metroLAalerts to stay up-to-date on transit news and service advisories. To see what other improvements are taking place around Union Station, check out this previous post.

Hearing on fare changes adjourns after 165 or so public speakers

Click on a photo to see larger. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro

The hearing adjourned about 2:15 p.m. after more than four hours that included a brief staff presentation on the fares, about 165 public speakers and a brief disruption near the end of the meeting that resulted in two arrests for disturbing the peace. One of the people arrested may also face a charge of assaulting a peace officer. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE TWO FARE CHANGE OPTIONS.

Order was quickly restored at the urging of both Metro Board Members and members of the public who wanted the chance to testify before the Board. A vote on the fare changes is scheduled for the Board’s May 22 meeting — and before the meeting ended many Board Members indicated they will have plenty of questions  between now and then about the fare proposal and Metro’s finances.

Metro staff explained the fare changes, which are designed to prevent Metro from facing future deficits and to prevent service cuts. As staff explained, the changes would raise the base Metro fare but include transfers for 90 minutes — presently passengers must pay a full fare to transfer, even for a short ride.

As for the public testimony, it’s hard to summarize the views of 165 different people. While the Bus Riders Union was certainly present at the meeting, others appeared to be everyday riders who had something to say about the fare change proposal.

A few things I heard from speakers more than once:

•Bus service in some parts of Los Angeles County is not frequent enough or good enough to warrant a fare increase. Trips involving multiple bus legs, a few speakers said, can take several hours.

•There was no support for the second fare option which would have different fares for peak and off-peak hours.

•Several people complained fares should not be raised until the agency clamps down on fare evasion; during their presentation, agency staff said that work on reducing fare evasion is already underway.

•The most common complaint: affordability — many people said they make too little money to spend any extra on transit. “Some of you are lucky enough to have gotten an education. Think about the people you representing,” said one woman.

RELATED POSTS:

Some audio and video from today’s fare proposal hearing

Pictorial part 2: the public speaks at today’s fare change hearing

Pictorial part 1: the public speaks at today’s fare change hearing

Public hearing on Metro’s proposed fare changes is underway

A look at what some riders and readers are saying about Metro’s fare proposals