Transportation headlines, Tuesday, October 28

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.  

ART OF TRANSIT: The turkeys are out, but it's not even holiday yet. Hmm. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The turkeys are out, but it’s not even holiday yet. Hmm. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gold Line lays final tracks in Azusa, project 80 percent complete (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Coverage of the completion of track work for the Measure R-funded 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border. The article provides a nice overview of the project and its long history along with a look forward:

Monrovia is betting that $25 million in Metro and state funding for a transit plaza, a promenade for live music and food trucks, and a new park with an amphitheater will connect the south part of town and Gold Line station to its vibrant north Myrtle Avenue location.

Duarte, not to be outdone, has plans for a hotel and a movie theater, said Mayor Liz Reilly, both amenities Monrovia has had for years. “We will be closer to the Gold Line station than they (Monrovia) are,” she said.

The Duarte station lies across the street from its largest employer, City of Hope, a nationally known research and cancer treatment hospital that employs 4,300 people, many of whom she hopes will take the train to and from work.

But as the mountains sat down at the mouth of San Gabriel Canyon, the tracks reached APU/Citrus College station at the doorstep of the 1,250-home Rosedale planned development. It may be the first suburban housing project built train-station ready with a plaza to be built within walking distance.

Go get ‘em, Duarte! :) The Monrovia Station will be interesting as the tracks are on the south side of the 210 and the city’s very nice downtown sits about a mile away on the north side of the freeway. It’s not a crazy long distance between the two, but it’s a walk or bike ride through a more commercial area. It will be very interesting as the years go by to see what kind of linkage develops.

One other note: the views of the San Gabriel Mountains from the Foothill Extension tracks should be crazy good. Metro is currently forecasting an early 2016 opening for the line.

How commute times stack up (L.A. Times) 

The graphic compares 2013 median commute times to the previous year’s times (I think), with much of our region hovering around the national average of 25.4 minutes. Any readers care to hazard a guess why more centrally located Alhambra and East L.A. have greater average times than Santa Clarita, a northern ‘burb?

An accompanying story on the annual Texas Transportation Institute rankings for traffic delays, says our region has climbed back to the No. 2 position behind only the Washington D.C. area. I’m not a huge fan of such rankings — which seem to suggest that city dwellers should expect blissful quick commutes all the time — but an accompanying article has some interesting observations:

The good news, in the long view: Annual congestion-related delay for Greater Los Angeles is still below the peak of 79 hours per motorist reached in 2006, when gas prices were low and the economy was booming. The rise in average commute times is only a few minutes more than in 1990.

Wachs said it’s likely people are adjusting their work and travel habits to avoid commuting during rush hour. They work at home, change hours, move closer to their jobs and otherwise try to travel during off-peak periods.

Brian Taylor, an urban planning professor at UCLA, agreed with Wachs and Pisarski but cautioned that rising commute times may involve factors beyond street and highway congestion.

For example, longer travel distances and greater use of bicycles and public transit can increase trip times. Such a shift might be underway in the Los Angeles area, where the portion of those driving to work has dipped by as many as three percentage points since 1990.

 

My own three cents: most of my friends and acquaintances have pretty normal commutes whether driving, taking transit or walking and/or biking. The folks I know with the really long commutes tend to take Metrolink to travel from outlying ‘burbs to downtown L.A., although I have one friend who has a long-ish drive between Claremont and Riverside. Whereas in the ’90s I knew some people driving crazy long distances (San Juan Capistrano to DTLA, for example) on a daily basis, many people I know seem to be giving more thought to their commutes and transit that may be available when picking places to live, work and play.

New York MTA told it must focus on repairs, not growth (New York Times) 

Some back and forth between the New York MTA — which operates the busy New York Subway system — and the watchdog Citizens Budget Commission. The agency says its capital plan includes money for improvements that riders want, along with a second phase of the Second Avenue Subway (the first phase is under construction). The group points to increasing ridership on the subway and says modernizing the system and maintenance should be the first priorities.

The lost navigator (High Country News) 

Touching essay by Jane Koerner on her father succumbing to Parkinson’s Disease.

After church, he took us on drives into the country, navigating the gravel roads by instinct and the position of the sun. No street signs for guidance, acres and acres of plowed prairie the color of daylight, an occasional farmhouse with a bleached barn — nothing like my mountainous Colorado home. Dad never needed to consult a road map…He was fascinated by trains. From the comfort of his easy chair, with the TV chattering nearby, he’d plot a course across the Western United States and Canada, using the railroad timetables and histories that crowded his bookshelf.

Today’s fun, easy article to read on transit that doesn’t involve transit: Why fast food chains’ love (and deny) having secret menus (New Yorker) I knew about In-N-Out’s animal style fries but I really didn’t know about the 3×3. Which now I want. And certainly don’t need.

Shoe shine stand opens in Union Station

The first shoe shine stand at Union Station in decades opened Monday, as the stand’s attendant Marco Ramirez and his team began working their magic earlier this morning. Among the stand’s first customers were Metro Board Member and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Metro CEO Art Leahy.

The shoe shine stand is located at the west end of the Union Station passageway near the Famima convenience store. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A shine costs six dollars. Customers will be seated in a beautiful four-seat historic replica of an early 20th century shoe shine stand while their scuffed and dull shoes are buffed, brushed, polished and rejuvenated.

The opening of the shoe shine stand is emblematic of the revitalization of Union Station as a major transit hub, and is one of a growing number of amenities for the 60,000 commuters that travel through the station each day.

Most recently, T&Y Bakery opened near the Amtrak ticketing area. The Metro Board of Directors has also approved leases for Café Crepe, two food and beverage kiosks in the East Portal, and a gastropub in the Fred Harvey Room that will be managed by downtown restauranteurs Cedd Moses and Eric Needleman.

Mr. Ramirez, a U.S. Army veteran, has shined shoes at the Los Angeles Athletic Club in downtown Los Angeles for 31 years and also manages the shoe shine stand at the U.S. Bank Building. He will run the stand in Union Station along with his colleagues Filemon Ruano, Kevin Dixon and David Trejo.

Metro Presents: Invisible Cities to perform acoustic opera at Union Station

Invisible Cities opera took place at Union Station in 2013. Photo courtesy of Alissa Walker.

Invisible Cities opera took place at Union Station in 2013. Photo courtesy of Alissa Walker.

Last year, Invisible Cities performed a haunting “silent” opera at Union Station. This Wednesday, Metro Presents brings you a free acoustic concert performance of the award-winning opera in the Union Station Historic Ticketing Hall. Doors open at 7 p.m. and seating is first come, first served. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m.

Union Station is accessible via Metro Rail, Metro Bus and several municipal bus lines. Use the Trip Planner for routes and connections. Car and bicycle parking are also available on site.

Transportation headlines, Monday, October 27

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.  

Art of Transit: 

Bicycle traffic deaths soar; California leads nation (L.A. Times)

Sobering news from a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Assn.: bicycle deaths across the U.S. rose 16 percent between 2010 and 2012. California led the nation with 123 deaths; California, of course, is the nation’s most populous state. For perspective, 2,816 motorists were killed in California in 2012.

Perhaps one of the most notable trends bicycling-wise is that adults 20 or older are now most often the victims compared to the 1970s, when most victims were 19 or younger. Alcohol and not wearing a helmet continue to be major factors in bike accidents these days. Experts also say there may be more bike commuters these days.

Does this mean that biking is unsafe? Of course not — plenty of people use their bikes every day with no incident. As with most other things in life, there are some good safety precautions worth taking. Please see the bike page on metro.net, which has plenty of commuting and safety tips and links to other sites. It’s especially important as daylight savings time ends this weekend, meaning it will be getting dark out during many peoples’ afternoon commutes.

Niall Horan took London Underground and his fans can’t handle it (BuzzFeed) 

The One Direction singer takes a selfie on a train. Most of the people around him seemingly fail to notice or care or experience a life-changing moment. On social media…it’s a different story.

Our highways’ toll on wildlife (New York Times) 

Spring and fall are usually the time when most animal-vehicle collisions occur, owing to wildlife migrations. This op-ed offers some useful advice — be careful, especially on two-lane roads in rural areas — and argues that more specialized wildlife crossings (i.e. bridges and tunnels) should be built to get critters across the road. Caltrans and the National Park Service are talking about a wildlife crossing under the 101 to help mountain lions and other animals migrate between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills — although lack of funding will be a big challenge.

Obviously we have our share of wildlife, often living in or near the L.A. metro area. So please be careful driving on mountain and suburban roads where everything from deer to raccoons to coyotes may be common. I was hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains on Sunday and came around a curve (slowly!) near Dawson’s Saddle and encountered a pair of bighorn sheep, one of which is shown below:

Photo by Steve Hymon.

Photo by Steve Hymon.

Quasi-related: The Angeles Crest Highway, shown above, may not offer transit service but there are plenty of trails and hikes reachable via transit in our area. In fact, we did a series of “Trailhead Hunter” posts in the past about this. Check ‘em out: Griffith Park, L.A. State Historic Park (currently closed while being renovated) and Temescal Canyon. Also, you can reach Eaton Canyon Nature Center by taking the Gold Line to Sierra Madre Villa Station and transferring to the Metro 264 Bus and exiting at the intersection of Altadena Avenue and New York Drive. From there, it’s a relatively short walk to the Nature Center, which includes trails and access to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road.

Dubai: gold prizes offered for public transport users (BBC)

One million dirham in prizes (equivalent to about $272,000) are being given away as part of a promotion to entice residents to take transit. Included in the prizes are nearly nine pounds of pure gold. The BBC says car ownership rates in Dubai are some of the highest in the world at 2.3 vehicles per family. That said, car ownership rates in the U.S. overall are far higher than in the United Arab Emirates.

Cars remain king and barrier to economic opportunity (Brookings Institution)

The think tank crunched Census Bureau numbers and found that in many metro areas, zero-vehicle households are still driving to work, often in great numbers by borrowing cars or carpooling. Excerpt:

Our work has found that nearly all zero-vehicle households live in neighborhoods with transit service, but those routes only connect them to 40 percent of jobs within 90 minutes. On the flip side, the Urban Institute found vehicle availability can improve economic outcomes for housing voucher recipients, especially in terms of neighborhood choice. Little wonder then that many car-less commuters find a vehicle to get to work.

The big goal for policymakers at all government levels is to improve access to jobs, for all workers and across all transportation modes.

Brookings also notes the recent work by the University of Minnesota that ranked large metro areas by access to the most jobs via transit. The Los Angeles metro area fared well, ranking third in the country. Hard to argue with Brookings’ conclusion that improving mobility across all modes is a worthy goal — the more options, the better, I think.

New study ranks L.A. metro area 3rd in U.S. in connecting people to jobs via transit

MinnesotaStudyMap

The darker the shade of orange and red, the more jobs that can be reached within 30 minutes using transit. Click above to see larger. Source: University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies.

Los Angeles

Earlier this month, the University of Minnesota released a study that found that the Los Angeles metro area ranks third behind New York and San Francisco when it comes to the number of jobs reachable by transit within an hour’s time. The study looked at 46 of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States and Metro scored better than some older cities with established transit systems — places such as Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.

Here’s the top 10 according to the study through January 2014:

  1. New York
  2. San Francisco
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Washington
  5. Chicago
  6. Boston
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Seattle
  9. Denver
  10. San Jose

I wasn’t surprised that the Los Angeles area was in the top 10. After all, we live in the nation’s second-largest metropolis and our region — despite is reputation for traffic — boasts a considerable amount of transit. Metro, for example, runs the nation’s second-largest bus system in terms of ridership behind only New York. That said, I was mildly surprised to see that our metro area ranked third.

I asked study co-author Andrew Owen, the director of the Accessibility Observatory for the University of Minnesota, if the results surprised him. The answer: not really. His main points were:

•The Los Angeles region has a ton of jobs — vastly more than many other metro areas in the U.S.

•Because of geography — i.e., mountains and oceans — we’re actually more densely populated across the metro area than (for example) a place such as Chicago, which
doesn’t have anything to constrain its sprawl.

•The Los Angeles region actually has a lot of transit (particularly buses) although that is often overlooked because of the region’s reputation for traffic. On that note, I’ll add this: Metro is just one of many bus providers in our region and Metro’s bus ridership alone is the second highest in the nation behind only New York City.

“Los Angeles has a lot of stuff — a lot of jobs and a lot of people,” Owen said. “Of course, it would be possible to have a city and a lot of people and none of them could get anywhere by transit. But look at downtown Los Angeles and the areas south and west. There are huge amounts of jobs that people can reach by transit because transit is run there. If transit wasn’t there or it wasn’t run frequently and didn’t connect people to jobs, this ranking would be far lower than it is.”

Owen also pointed to another interesting thing captured by the numbers: while our region ranked second in the number of jobs, it ranked third in terms of transit accessibility to them. That suggests that the L.A. area has some catching up to do in terms of reaching more jobs via transit. Still, Owen said, we’re already better off than a place such as the Atlanta region that ranked ninth in the total number of jobs and 30th in terms of accessibility.

I also asked Owen if about the map at the top of this post. It’s important to understand what it shows: the areas that are darker shades of orange and red are the ones that are closest to the most jobs via a 30-minute transit ride or less (it doesn’t matter whether it’s train or bus). That’s why the areas around downtown Los Angeles and the Westside — the number one and two jobs areas in our region — are so dark. They’re near a lot of jobs and there’s enough transit to reach those jobs.

The map also suggests that the Measure R-funded transit projects that Metro is building or plans to build are serving a real purpose — better connecting our region to jobs. Look at the “Under Construction” map after the jump.

Continue reading

Photos: Neptune Winds brings their music to Union Station

Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Neptune24Oct2014-6907-Edit

Neptune24Oct2014-6976-Edit

Metro would like to thank Neptune Winds of the Colburn Conservatory of Music for playing in Union Station during the afternoon rush hour on Friday as part of the ongoing Metro Presents series. We hope everyone enjoyed the music! Click above to see larger versions of the photos.

More pics after the jump! 

Continue reading

All 14 street crossings now complete for Gold Line Foothill Extension!

Photo: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

The Foothill Extension crossing of Mountain Avenue near the Monrovia and Duarte border. Photo: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Here’s the news release with the good news from the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the independent agency building the 11.5-mile project between Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border:

MONROVIA, CA – On the heels of last week’s completion of all light rail track installation for the Foothill Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa, the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority (Construction Authority) announced today that the agency has achieved another major milestone for the project – completion of all 14 at-grade (or street-level) crossings for the 11.5-mile light rail extension. The final grade crossing work, at Mountain Ave., was completed this week – three months ahead of schedule.

Work began on the grade crossings in February 2013, and required long-term closures of each street. Each grade crossing received upgrades to underground utilities, the roadway, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, in addition to installation of light rail track, signals, and communications and safety equipment.

“Completing the at-grade crossings is an important milestone for the project, keeping us on time and on budget,” stated Construction Authority CEO Habib F. Balian. “We are now less than a year from turning the project over to Metro, and having the crossings complete means that most of the risk on the project is behind us.”

Construction took place at the following at-grade crossings:

•First Avenue and Santa Clara Street, Arcadia

•Mayflower Avenue, Monrovia

•Magnolia Avenue, Monrovia

•Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia

•California Avenue, Monrovia

•Mountain Avenue, Monrovia & Duarte

•Buena Vista Avenue, Duarte

•Highland Avenue, Duarte

•Virginia Avenue, Azusa

•San Gabriel Avenue, Azusa

•Azusa Avenue, Azusa

•Alameda Avenue, Azusa

•Dalton Avenue, Azusa

•Pasadena Avenue, Azusa

Continue reading