Transportation headlines, Thursday, Sept. 18: Valley-Westside Express Bus begins Dec. 15

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Metro is running a nice promotion with the Music Center -- if you Go Metro with a TAP card, you can save 20 percent on The Australian Ballet's performance of Swan Lake at the Music Center Oct. 9 to 12. As part of the promotion, four members of the XX performed at Union Station last week. The above photo was taken in the East Portal with an assistance from some great light filtered through the glass ceiling. I'll post some more pics soon.  Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Metro is partnering with the Music Center — if you Go Metro with a TAP card, you can save 20 percent on The Australian Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake at the Music Center in October (click on the photo above for more details). As part of the promotion, the Music Center recruited four local ballerinas — Michelle Lemburg, Bella Hoy, Jolie Moray and Katie Brady —  to perform parts of Swan Lake last week at Union Station. The above photo was taken in the East Portal with a big assistance from some great light filtered through the glass ceiling. I’ll post some more pics soon.
Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Valley-Westside express bus is a go (Zev Web)

Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website has some very good news for bus riders. Excerpt:

Taking advantage of those brand-new 405 carpool lanes, Metro later this year will launch an express bus through the Sepulveda Pass, offering transit riders on both sides of the hill a speedier way through one of L.A.’s gnarliest commuting challenges.

On December 15, Line 788 will begin offering express nonstop service from UCLA in Westwood to the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley. It then will continue north on Van Nuys Boulevard, stopping at major intersections on its way to Panorama City. Because it will connect to the Orange Line rapid transit busway, the line will give people in places like North Hollywood, Woodland Hills and Chatsworth a faster path to the Westside.

Metro officials say the new bus could save riders up to 20 minutes from existing 761 Rapid Bus service. The article on ZevWeb has many more details.

In addition, Yaroslavsky submitted this motion today to the Board’s Executive Management Committee that would give the 788 the brand name Valley-Westside Express:

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Will a new law make drivers bicycle-friendly (Which Way LA?)

The KCRW program tackles California’s new three-foot passing law that requires motorists to give a three-foot buffer when passing bikes. Guests include Joe Linton of Streetsblog LA, an LAPD officer and Los Angeles County Bike Coalition’s Joshua Cohen. Good to see the topic and law getting attention it deserves on the airwaves — and a good listen for those riding transit who have a smartphone and can get a good cell signal.

Electric vehicles are cleaner, but still not a magic bullet (New York Times)

A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists says that electric vehicles are responsible for less greenhouse gas emissions than hybrid-powered cars in 60 percent of the country — i.e. the parts of the U.S. that don’t rely on coal-burning power plants to create electricity. “An electric vehicle in New York achieves the equivalent of 112 m.p.g., according to the scientist group’s data, while in California the number is 95 m.p.g,” according to the article.

Where does power come from in California? Almost 19 percent is from renewables and another nearly eight percent from large hydroelectric (which, of course, has its own environmental issues related to changing the ecosystems of rivers). The more renewables used, the cleaner electric cars will get — and the cleaner that transit powered by electricity (including all of the Metro Rail lines) will be.

Check out this chart from the state:

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As we’ve noted before, studies have found that taking transit usually results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions per rider because transit uses electricity more efficiently than most gasoline-only powered vehicles with one or two passengers in them.

Agency again seeks to refinance struggling toll road (L.A. Times)

The restructuring of the debt used to build the road means that motorists may have to pay tolls until 2050 — eight years longer than expected — in order to pay off the debt. The 73 is intended in part as an alternative to the 405 and to serve coastal communities but usage has generally been lower than originally projected.

Thousands diverted onto 110 ExpressLanes then fined by toll operator (L.A. Times)

A police shootout closed a stretch of the regular lanes on the 110 for more than 9.5 hours and motorists — many without transponders — were diverted to the ExpressLanes. They did receive fines, but those are (obviously) being refunded by Metro due to the extraordinary circumstances.

Gordo, the dog hit by van during police chase, may lose a leg (L.A. Times)

The dog shouldn’t have been wandering in the street (obviously). Nonetheless, hard to overlook even more carnage from the pursuits that seem to plague this region more than most — see this New Yorker story about that (full article is behind a pay wall). I suppose you could argue that local TV stations are doing a public service showing how scary these chases are. Just like you could argue the local TV stations are just pursuing ratings while glorifying/promoting/encouraging something that comes at the expense of public health and avoiding the expense and difficulty of reporting real news.

Sort of quasi-related but not really: my current transit read is “The Lost Dogs” about the fate of the pit bulls used as part of NFL player Michael Vick’s dog fighting operations. A really great piece of journalism and an interesting read — and very helpful as my partner and I rescued a pit bull earlier this year.

Rant related to previous quasi-related commentary: with the NFL sort of in the news these days — and not for the Bengals pleasantly surprising 2-0 start — it’s fair to wonder out loud why Commissioner Roger Goodell decided Vick is allowed to play in the league considering some of the things he and his underlings did to dogs.

Metro Board to consider changing official names of two rail stations

I know readers are always interested in station naming news — and there are two station naming motions before the Metro Board of Directors this month:

•To rename the Gold Line’s East Los Angeles Civic Center Station the East Los Angeles Civic Center/Gloria Molina Station.

•To rename the Red Line’s North Hollywood Station the North Hollywood/Zev Yaroslavsky Station.

The motions are posted above. They were authored by Metro Board Members Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor. The Board’s Construction Committee approved the motions this morning and the full Board will consider them at its Oct. 2 meeting.

Here is Metro’s property naming policy. It’s worth noting that even when station names are named after people, the geographic names are the ones commonly used in announcements on buses and trains and on maps and agency literature.

Get out of traffic, pledge to share the ride

Rideshare Week is coming up in just a few weeks! This year, it takes place from October 6 through 10, and here’s a very important question: Are you a ride sharer? If you’re not sure, here’s a handy checklist. If you have ever…

  • taken the train
  • ridden the bus
  • ridden your bike
  • walked
  • carpooled
  • vanpooled

…to work or school, then congratulations–you rideshare! Now head on over and take the rideshare pledge to share the ride some more. If you have never, ever in life used any of these modes of transit to get to work or school, now’s a good time to pledge to start. By pledging, you’ll have the chance to win some great prizes, such as gift cards to Macy’s and more.

After you pledge, share your rideshare story with us and you might be featured on The Source!

Go Metro Weekends, September 19 – 21

Friday

Join Metro and artist Alexis Disselkoen  for PARK(ing) Day at Union Station this Friday from noon to 5 p.m. Check out the temporary pop-up park that Diseelkoen will construct in a corner of the station’s Alameda-facing parking lot, and maybe even play a game of L.A.-themed Lotería (yes, there will be prizes while supplies last!). (Metro Gold, Red/Purple or Silver Line or various Rapid and Local buses to Union Station.)

It’s your last chance to Dance Downtown! Enjoy free lessons, dancing, and tunes in the Music Center Plaza from 6:30-10 p.m. The final dance of Summer 2014? La Salsa, por supuesto! (Metro Red/Purple Line to Civic Center/Grand Park Station or various Metro Rapid and Local buses serving Grand Avenue, Hill, Temple, or 1st Streets.)

Junot Diaz, author of the critically acclaimed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is on his way to Los Angeles to receive the L.A. Public Library’s 2014 Literary Award. While here, he’ll be stopping by Skylight books on Vermont Avenue to read from his latest novel: This is How You Lose Her. The reading is free to attend, but be sure to check the Skylight website for details if you plan on getting a book signed. (Metro Red Line to Vermont/Sunset, then walk 8 minutes north on Vermont Ave.)

Travel back in time to 1969 with the Egyptian Theatre’s screening of Woodstock: The Director’s Cut. Film starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $11 general admission, $9 seniors/students. (Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland Station, Metro Rapid 780 or Bus 156/656 to Hollywood/Highland, or Bus 212/312, 217, or 222 to Hollywood/Las Palmas.)

If you’re seeing Cvrches at the Hollywood Palladium this Friday, consider going Metro! Bus 2 that runs on Santa Monica Boulevard stops directly at the venue, or there’s the Red Line Hollywood/Vine Station a mere two blocks away!

Saturday

The San Gabriel Valley Pride Festival takes place this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Pasadena’s Memorial Park. Enjoy free performances in the Levitt Pavilion, book readings, vendors/exhibitors and more. (Metro Gold Line to Memorial Park Station.)

Sunday

Mexican actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna bring their Ambulente Film Festival to Los Angeles for it’s North American debut. First organized in Mexico in 2005, the festival aims to show great documentary films for free in unconventional, community spaces. The screenings begin this Sunday at 7 p.m. in MacArthur Park with Ink & Paper and Bronx Obama. (Metro Red/Purple Line to Westlake/MacArthur Park Station.)

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Staff report on short- and long-term improvements to Orange Line

The Orange Line is Metro’s second-busiest bus line behind only the 720, the Rapid bus service along Wilshire Boulevard. With the Orange Line often crowded at peak hours, the Metro Board in July approved a motion asking Metro to investigate short-term fixes to speed up the Orange Line and add capacity, the feasibility of a possible bus rapid transit line between North Hollywood, Bob Hope Airport and the Gold Line in Pasadena and a possible conversion of the Orange Line to rail.

The above Metro staff report explains how the agency plans to go forward.

The gist of it: as for the question of rail conversion and extending bus rapid transit to Burbank and Pasadena, Metro plans to have those issues studied as part of an ongoing “mobility matrices” process. Yes, that’s a mouthful. In plain English, the matrices are evaluating potential transportation projects around Los Angeles County to see which should be included in an update of Metro’s long-range plan.

An update of Metro’s long-range plan, in turn, could be used to select projects to be funded by a possible ballot measure in 2016 that Metro is considering, as this report explains.

The matrixes are currently scheduled to be presented to the Metro Board in April.

The staff report also lists some possible immediate, short-term and long-term improvements that could be made to the Orange Line (see pages 3-4 of the staff report) and are in need of more study and/or work.

Among those: getting bus operators to maintain a more consistent speed to get more green lights, possibly extending peak hour service, possibly adding service between North Hollywood and Reseda stations, possibly increasing bus speeds across intersections from 10 mph to no more than 25 mph, possibly removing some seats on the bus to accommodate more bikes, studying whether buses longer than 60 feet can be used and investigating grade separation of some of the larger Orange Line intersections.

From the Department of From What It’s Worth: I spent the better part of a day in August riding and photographing the Orange Line. I think the bus is a very comfortable way of getting around, but it’s also obvious that the bus has mixed success hitting green lights consistently (some of the red lights did quickly turn green). Some pics I took on one ride between Sepulveda Station and Warner Center:

 

 

 

New video: Metro awarded more than $20 million in TIGER funds

As Steve posted Friday, Metro is the recipient of two TIGER grants and this is a pretty big deal, since there were 800 applicants and TIGER grants are based on merit. The gratitude and celebration continued Saturday morning, as Washington D.C.-based U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez flew in to make the official announcement.

The announcement was made at the Blue and Green line Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station, which will benefit with enhanced connections between rail and bus, bicycle and pedestrian as a result of the grant. (The other grant is for the Little Tokyo/Arts District 1st and Central Station on the Regional Connector, which began construction earlier this year.)

Secretary Mendez was joined by Mayor and Metro Board Chair ERic Garcetti, U.S. Congresswoman Janice Hahn; U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters and L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas.

A video of the event is posted above. As you can see, even in the heat … everyone was happy.

Metro seeks OK to move Union Station Master Plan from planning to implementation

The Metro Board this month will consider recommendations for finalizing and implementing the ambitious Union Station Master Plan. That process begins Wednesday at the Board’s Planning Committee meeting at 2:30 p.m., with the full Board scheduled to vote on the issue at its Oct. 2 meeting. Here is the latest Metro staff report.

(UPDATE: At the request of Board Member Diane DuBois, the Planning Committee on Wednesday decided to consider the item in next month’s Board meetings in order to have more time to digest the plan and understand some components of it.) 

The staff recommendations set a path for short- and long-term projects and future commercial development at the station. Metro purchased Union Station from a private firm in 2011 and wants to turn the facility into a world class transit hub that can better handle a growing number of transit riders, protect the historic core of the station and accommodate high-speed rail and some development in the future.

One of the Metro staff’s primary recommendations is to officially begin a program environmental impact report (a ‘program EIR’ considers a series of actions an agency wants to take) for some of the big ticket improvements in the Master Plan, such as building an expanded multi-modal concourse under the current tracks and relocating the Patsaouras Bus Plaza closer to a raised north-south plaza on the west side of the train tracks.

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