What's happening at other transit agencies?

The University-Link light rail runnel will speed up trips for Seattleites along this busy corridor. Photo by flickr user Oran Viriyincy.

This weekly post features news from other transit agencies and planners from around the world. Did we miss a good story? Let us know in the comments.

Seattle, Wash., tunnel-boring machine breaks through in Capitol Hill

The $1.9-billion project to connect the University of Washington to downtown Seattle via light rail subway hit a milestone. The second of two tunnel-boring machines has arrived at the future Capitol Hill station. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was on hand to capture the scene as the football-field-length boring machine broke through. The P-I adds: “The U-Link project, set to open in 2016, is about halfway completed and on schedule, Sound Transit reports.” As someone who lived in Seattle, I can attest to value the rail link will bring, as it will make what’s currently a 30-minute transit trip into more like a ten-minute trip.

Bus-Rapid Transit advocates launch online BRT database

Two organizations, EMBARQ and BRT Across Latitudes and Cultures, have collaborated to produce an exciting online BRT database available at brtdata.org. The resource includes detailed information and specifications on over one hundred BRT systems in 36 countries, including Los Angeles County Metro’s Orange Line — but, curiously, not the Silver Line or any other Metro Rapid lines. EMBARQ Director of Research and Practice Dario Hidalgo describes “the website’s aim as providing “reliable and up-to-date data to help researchers, transit agencies, city officials, and NGOs understand and make better decisions to improve BRT and bus corridors in their cities.” Check it out!

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AEG proposes $10-million contribution to Metro to expand Pico Station to serve Farmers Field

The Pico Station that serves the Blue Line and Expo Line. Photo: Google Maps.

AEG released a draft environmental impact study on Thursday on its proposed football stadium adjacent to Staples Center and L.A. Live. The transportation chapter in section one of the report discusses a wide range of transportation impacts and includes this:

Mitigation Measure B.1-1: Prior to issuance of a building permit for the Event Center, the Event Center Applicant shall enter into an agreement with Metro requiring the Event Center Applicant to make a one-time, fixed contribution of $10,000,000 to Metro to improve the Pico Metro Station prior to the operation of the Event Center. The Pico Metro Station, located on Flower Street between 12th Street and Pico Boulevard one block from the Project Site, is currently a single platform station with limited capacity access to the platform from the east sidewalk of Flower Street. Metro will use the Event Center Applicant’s contribution to (a) add a second platform parallel to the existing Pico Metro Station platform, and (b) refurbish the existing station platform to improve the passenger handling capacity.

Metro, of course, would ultimately have to approve of a platform expansion before it happens.

As we wrote in this morning’s headlines, AEG is also proposing a number of other mitigations for any traffic impacts from a new football stadium. Among them: giving patrons the chance to buy transit tickets when purchasing game tickets online, widening and/or restriping streets and widening a mile-long stretch of the Hollywood Freeway, using a smartphone app to guide motorists to parking and running shuttles between downtown parking lots and the stadium. There are also two new parking garages planned.

Officials tout fourth CicLAVia in L.A. on April 15

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a contingent of other local public officials, event organizers and cyclists this morning touted the fourth CicLAvia that will soon hit city streets on Sunday, April 15.

The 10-mile route through L.A. streets will be car-free for walking, biking and playing.

“We saw during ‘Carmaheaven’ when we encouraged everybody to get out of their car, a day without a car in Los Angeles – what a beautiful thing,” Villaraigosa said. “Ciclavia represents a sea-change in our city. When we erase the boundaries between sidewalks and streets, and we just get out of our cars for even a few minutes or a few hours, amazing things happen.”

Here’s a few highlights from the press event:

  • Bike Nation, a L.A. area bike sharing company, will provide 100 free rental bikes to the first Angelenos who sign up online through the CicLAvia web site.
  • A new Spanish language Public Service Announcement is now available to advocate safety for Los Angeles’ large Spanish-speaking community.  Check the PSA out here.
  • The message for all Angelinos every day: drive safely, be courteous, follow the rules and share the road.

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Metro CEO Art Leahy explains need to demolish properties to construct Wilshire/Fairfax subway station

Click above for a larger image.

The Los Angeles Times ran an opinion piece earlier this week criticizing the Westside Subway Extension for proposing to demolish buildings housing the A+D architecture museum and the Edward Cella Art+Architecture and Steve Turner Contemporary galleries. The land would be used as one of two construction staging areas for the Wilshire/Fairfax station.

On Wednesday, Metro CEO Art Leahy issued this response:

There are good reasons why you can’t stage construction for the Purple Line subway extension at “nearby sites” that are two blocks away from the Wilshire/Fairfax station.

Construction must be staged immediately adjacent to the station itself so crews can dig down and feed equipment into the station box. This allows most of the construction to be performed off-street, sparing the public from even bigger traffic nightmares on Wilshire Boulevard.

Metro is required by law to provide just compensation for properties it must acquire for construction. Building the subway in this incredibly dense urban environment is certainly not easy.  Doing so without incurring any impacts to existing properties is simply unrealistic.

Once built, this critically needed subway line will have tremendous benefits for Museum Row, the Wilshire Corridor and entire L.A. region.

 

 

Some more background: Metro needs two construction staging areas at most of the proposed seven stations to have enough space to do the work. It also makes construction logistically easier and faster with two ways to get equipment in and dirt out of the underground station box. At Fairfax, there will likely be the additional challenge of dealing with gassy soils and preserving fossils (the area is just west of the La Brea tarpits).

For more information about planned construction of the Westside Subway Extension, please see Chapter 2 of the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report, which discusses station locations, construction areas and station entrances. In addition, this construction fact sheet explains how the stations will be built.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, April 5

A rendering of the proposed Farmers Field. Source: AEG.

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

AEG unveils traffic plan for downtown football stadium (Daily News)

Among the mitigrations proposed: doubling the size of the platforms at the Pico Station that serves the Blue and Expo light rail lines, giving patrons the chance to buy transit tickets when purchasing game tickets online, widening and/or restriping streets and widening a mile-long stretch of the Hollywood Freeway, using a smartphone app to guide motorists to parking and running shuttles between downtown parking lots and the stadium.

AEG identified 50,000 parking spaces within a 20-minute walk of the stadium — a fact that, I think, says something about downtown L.A. and the ridiculous amount of space dedicated to parking. The developer also plans to build two parking garages to add 1,000 more spaces.

Beverly Hills may pursue legal action on the subway (Beverly Hills Patch)

Beverly Hills Mayor William Brien explains why the City Council has directed city staff to hire legal counsel to help the city fight any efforts by Metro to tunnel under parts of Beverly Hills High School for the Westside Subway Extension project. Metro staff have proposed an alignment that travels under the school campus as part of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report. The Metro Board of Directors are scheduled to consider that route as part of their certification of the FEIS/R at their April 26 meeting.

Biting the bullet train cost (Long Beach Press Telegram)

This editorial takes a skeptical view of the new business plan released this week by the California High-Speed Rail Authority that trimmed costs of the project from $98 billion to $68 billion. The Telegram’s view: if $30 billion in savings could be found, perhaps there’s more left to chop. The editorial says that Californians are all for innovation but want to see a return for their investment and build something they’ll actually use.

Post 9/11 Security Upgrade To NYC Transit Lags (Transportation Nation)

A new report by the New York State comptroller says the first phase of the New York MTA’s security upgrade — in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — will not be be completed for another two years. The report notes that the M.T.A. has already installed 3,000 cameras at transit hubs and in bridges and tunnels but still needs to find personnel to monitor videos and photos and share information with the police and fire departments. The upgrade was supposed to be completed in 2008 but that date has now been pushed back to 2014. The final budget is expected to be $882 million dollars–nearly $300 million over the originally estimate.

 

The art of transit

photo by Matt Johnson, via Flickr creative commons

With the Los Angeles area on the verge of opening a new light rail line — the Expo Line — here’s a photo of another recent addition to the Western U.S. expanding rail system. Take a guess where it was taken — the answer is after the jump.

To submit a photo for the Art of Transit, post it to Metro’s Flickr group, email it to sourcemetro@gmail.com or Tweet it to @metrolosangeles with an #artoftransit hashtag. Many of the photos we’ve featured can be seen in these galleries on Flickr.

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On Transportation: April 4 column

Can the high-speed rail project build new tracks over and under Tehachapi Pass in the next decade?

HIGH-SPEED RAIL PLAN: The revised plan that was released Monday proposes to build 300 miles of high-speed rail track between Merced and the San Fernando Valley by 2021. It’s nice to see the initial segment of the project expanded to Los Angeles County, but there’s an obvious question here: Even if funding can be found, can 300 miles of high-speed rail be built in a decade?

For the sake of comparison, the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension began construction last year and is scheduled to be complete in late 2015. The 6.6-mile second phase of the Expo Line also began last year, with work scheduled to be finished in late 2015, with a contingency date of 2016. Neither line is completely grade separated although some significant bridges need to be built for both.

Can 300 miles of high-speed rail line be built in a decade? Sure. But it’s going to take a lot of effort and a dedicated funding source that has yet to be determined. In my view, the lack of such a funding stream is the biggest challenge with the project — and it creates the kind of uncertainty that will allow opponents to keep throwing rocks at the project.

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