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:

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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.

Service alert: shuttle bus replaces Orange Line between Nordhoff and Chatsworth stations this weekend

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

Due to resurfacing work on the Lassen Street Bridge, there will be no Orange Line service between Nordhoff and Chatsworth stations on Saturday, June 28, and Sunday, June 29. All Orange Line service will either begin or end at Nordhoff station and a free Metro shuttle bus will provide service between Nordhoff and Chatsworth stations.

Passengers can board the shuttle bus at a temporary stop located at the northeast corner of Canoga Avenue and Nordhoff Street, adjacent to Nordhoff Station.

Work is anticipated to last 55 hours and normal Orange Line service is expected to be restored by early Monday morning. The above map and flier shows the temporary stop location and routing.

Video of this morning’s ‘Century Crunch’ media event

Above please find video of the media event held earlier today to announce the closure of the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards for 57 hours from the night of Friday, July 25, through the early morning of Monday, July 28. If you or someone you know is headed to Los Angeles International Airport that weekend, please take heed — there will be extra traffic in the LAX area due to the closure.

Metro is encouraging LAX-bound motorists to take transit or allow extra time if driving.

The closure is being done in order to demolish an old railroad bridge over Century Boulevard in order to make way for the new Aviation/Century Station that will serve the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Green Line.

Many more details at our earlier post, including a detour map. And, of course, we will be frequently reminding you of the closure between now and July 25.

Go Metro to the BET Experience and save on concert tickets!

Go Metro to the BET Experience, a three-day music festival featuring concerts, performing artist appearances at a free fan expo and more at L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles from June 27 to 29. Among the concert headliners will be Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige and Outkast.

The Blue/Expo Line Pico Station is just one block from L.A. Live. The Blue and Expo Lines both run until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Blue Line timetable and map. Here is a list of Blue Line park & ride lots.

Expo Line timetable and map. Here is a list of Expo Line park & ride lots.

Show your valid TAP card, Metro employee ID, or L.A. County employee ID at the STAPLES Center Box Office to save 10 percent on single-day tickets or 15 percent on three-day tickets to the concerts at STAPLES Center. When purchasing tickets online, use the exclusive promo code METRO to receive the discount. Here’s more info regarding Destination Discounts.

The BET Experience starts at 11 a.m on Friday, at noon on Saturday and at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Concerts take place nightly starting at 7 p.m.; ticket prices vary. For more information on the schedule of events, visit BET.com/BETX.

To get to L.A. LIVE, take the Blue or Expo Line to Pico Station. The Metro Silver Line (timetable and map) also has stops nearby — northbound buses use Figueroa Street and southbound buses use Flower Street.

For more routes and connections, use the Trip Planner at metro.net.

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Here are maps for both the Expo Line and Blue Line:

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Attention LAX passengers: Aviation/Century intersection to be closed July 25-28 — allow extra time driving to airport!

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A media event was held this morning. In the meantime, above are the important visuals, including a map of the impacted area, the detour map and a rendering of the Aviation/Century station that will be shared by the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Green Line.

The bridge needs to be demolished as part of the Creshaw/LAX Line project, which is adding 8.5 miles of rail between the Expo Line and the Green Line. Here is the news release from Metro:

Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project Construction Alert

L.A. Metro, LAWA, LADOT Give Advance Public Notice for “Century Crunch” Bridge Demolition and Street Closures Near LAX July 25-28 

Plan ahead, allow extra travel time or steer clear of airport-area traffic the weekend of July 25-28, 2014. These are the messages that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), and Caltrans are advising the public in advance of a major bridge demolition that will result in 57-hour street closure that weekend of a portion of Century Boulevard, a major artery leading into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

“We’re advising motorists to steer clear of the construction zone and avoid getting caught in traffic during the 57-hour closure,” said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. “We’re also encouraging the public to visit Metro’s web site at metro.net/crenshaw for the latest updates including recommended detours.”

DuBois noted that the demolition work is necessary at this time for Metro to stay on schedule for the new light rail line that will connect the Metro Green and Expo lines in 2019.

“World class cities have world class airports, and world class cities have world class transit. And we all know Los Angeles is the greatest city on earth,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “So we are going to take down this bridge and we’re planning ahead to make sure that disruption is minimized just like we did with the Carmageddon that never materialized.”

For the effort, dubbed the “Century Crunch,” Walsh Shea Corridor Constructors, a contractor working for Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, will demolish a defunct railroad bridge at the intersection of Century and Aviation boulevards from 9 p.m. Friday, July 25 until 6 a.m. Monday, July 28. The work is necessary to clear the site for a new light rail train station. Demolition will close a portion of Century Boulevard at the Century/Aviation intersection. The street is a major artery leading into LAX during one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaking at the media event this morning. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaking at the media event this morning. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

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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:

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.