On Transportation column, July 19 edition — late night service, Dark Knight Rises at a Metro Rail station near you, bullet train plan

LATE NIGHT SERVICE: In terms of late night train frequency, Los Angeles County is now on par with New York City. Yes, that New York City. The one with the big subway system and superheroes.

As you probably have heard, Metro is planning to run all of its rail lines and the Orange Line until 2 a.m. (the Orange Line will actually run a little later) on Friday and Saturday nights beginning the weekend of July 28-29. The trains will run every 20 minutes during late-night hours.

That’s the same frequency that trains run in New York in the wee hours; as a young pup I can recall waiting for the D or F trains for the long ride home to Brooklyn. Granted, the New York subway runs overnight throughout the week, owing to the fact that the city is densely populated and has low auto ownership rates.

This is still a pretty big step forward for Los Angeles. It means that Metro’s trains are running later than most other rail transit systems in the country on the weekends. It may not be the overnight service that some want, but I suspect there’s a lot of people who don’t need to stay at the bars until the very minute they close.

Then again, I wasn’t always a crusty old grump that nods off in front of the television during “House Hunters.” As a young buck I can recall some long, bone-chilling waits at the Howard Street station in Chicago for the shuttle to Evanston. Not a fun place to be on a January night.

Batman shows one way to exit a train. Please don’t try this on Metro. Photo: Batman Begins, Warner Brothers.

GO METRO TO BATMAN: Speaking of Gotham, “The Dark Knight Rises” will be playing at dozens of theaters across the region this weekend — and many of the theaters are near Metro Rail. This is important if you — like me — would like to avoid repositories for human stupidity that are better known as parking garages. Like the one at the Paseo in Pasadena, where motorists drive as if they’re in a Grateful Dead-sponsored demolition derby.

Here’s a short list of theaters showing “The Dark Knight” and nearby Metro Rail stations — please feel free to add to it in the comments section:

Beach Cities ArcLight — Green Line Rosecrans station

Hollywood ArcLight — Red Line Hollywood & Vine station

Pasadena ArcLight — Gold Line Del Mar station

AMC Universal Citywalk — Red Line Universal City station

Hollywood Vista — Red Line Vermont/Sunset station

I’m planning on seeing the movie Sunday night after hiding in the Eastern Sierra on Friday and Saturday. Anything to avoid a spoiler, you know.

HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Getting a handle on the construction timeline for the Anaheim-to-San Francisco part of the project is not an easy thing. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill to allow the state to sell bonds to pay for the first segment of construction in the San Joaquin Valley on Wednesday, but details about when bullet trains may actually roll into Union Station were not exactly in large supply.

I’ll do my best to explain the current plan, as I understand it.

State officials say the first order of business is to break ground next year on building tracks in the first 130 mile segment between Madera and Bakersfield.

The next phase of the project would involve building high-speed rail tracks between Bakersfield and Palmdale in the Antelope Valley. That’s significant because Metrolink runs between L.A. Union Station and Palmdale.

The next phase would be to build high-speed rail tracks south from Palmdale into the San Fernando Valley, with Burbank a possible target destination. That would allow high-speed rail trains to actually serve the L.A. area proper while the next phase is built between the San Fernando Valley and Union Station.

Finally, high-speed rail trains would share tracks with Metrolink and Amtrak between Union Station and Anaheim. Plans to build separate tracks — a $6-billion proposition — were scrapped because it would cost a lot and only save 10 minutes or so of travel time.

The issue with all of this, of course, is that persistent question about money, or lack thereof. The segment between Bakersfield and Palmdale is fantastically expensive due to several tunnels that would need to be built in the Tehachapi Mountains.

The state has a total of $9 billion to spend on the project, about half of which will go to the Madera-to-Bakersfield segment. Whether the federal government will continue to help fund the project beyond that is uncertain and likely depends on whether President Obama is re-elected in November and whether he can get Congress to go along with his funding requests.

Questions aside, there are certainly reasons to be happy about the bill signing by Gov. Brown. As I wrote yesterday, there’s $350 million now available for fly-through tracks at Union Station (a project environmentally cleared in 2002 but the document will need to be updated), $88.7 million for Metrolink fleet upgrades and grade separations and $115 million for the Regional Connector.

There’s also money available to electrify the Caltrain corridor between San Jose and San Francisco.

These are all good projects that will serve the daily needs of commuters — where the demand for rail travel is still the greatest.

CARMAGEDDON II ANNOUNCED: Well, I suppose I should say something. So here are two bold predictions: the Los Angeles region will live to see October and having the Expo Line now open will help with transit travel on the Westside, unlike the first apocalyptic shutdown of the 405.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 19

Photo by Christopher Chan/Flickr

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.

High-speed rail and a changing Union Station (KCRW “Which Way LA?”)

At Union Station yesterday Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill authorizing billions of dollars for the state’s high-speed rail system. Metro has plans to make Union Station a hub for high-speed rail and other transit systems, but its plans go well beyond Union Station itself. Metro CEO Art Leahy discusses some of the possibilities for the beautiful, iconic structure and adjacent area with KCRW. Just listen.

It’s not just a bus line. Streetsblog explores Orange Line Extension art pieces (Streetsblog)

Metro commissioned twenty five pieces of art at four new Orange Line Extension stations and the new platform at Canoga Station. Streetsblog takes a look and likes what it sees. (It also shares photos.)

Anaheim to launch first city bicycle sharing program in California (KCET)

Bicycle sharing has been talked about so much in the last few years that you would think there are systems up and running all over the place. While there are a handful of programs in California, they mostly are found on college campuses or in hybrid forms. But this week Anaheim will become the first city in the state with a bike sharing system.

Copenhagen commuters pedal to work on their very own superhighway (New York Times)

Picture 11 miles of smoothly paved bike path meandering through the countryside. Largely uninterrupted by roads or intersections, it passes fields, backyards, chirping birds, a lake, some ducks and, at every mile, an air pump. For some Danes this is the morning commute.

Carmageddon II announced for Sept. 29-30

Rubble on the 405 freeway being cleaned up during Carmageddon I in July, 2011. Photo by Gary Leonard for Metro.

Here’s the news release:

LOS ANGELES (July 19, 2012): The second 10-mile closure of both directions of the I-405 over the Sepulveda Pass, popularly known as “Carmageddon,” has now been scheduled for Sept. 29-30, 2012 when contractors will demolish the remaining side of the Mulholland Bridge.  Motorists throughout the State of California are advised to “Plan Ahead, Avoid the Area, or Eat, Shop and Play Locally” to avoid generating extreme auto congestion in the project area and throughout the greater Los Angeles region.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Metrolink, Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Department of Transportation and Los Angeles Fire Department are giving the public advance notice to enable everyone to make all necessary advance travel arrangements to avoid the closure area that weekend.

The I-405 is the nation’s busiest freeway and will be closed in both directions for 53 consecutive hours between the I-10 and U.S. 101.  Half a million motorists drive this portion of the I-405 over a typical weekend.

“This closure will surely impact the nearly 250,000 motorists from all over the county that travel the Sepulveda Pass each day on the weekend,” said Metro Board Chair and L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.  “Law enforcement, transportation and emergency response agencies strongly advise that county residents make plans in advance to use an alternate route or transit.”

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Go Metro to the Grand Park opening and get the chance to win a huge prize package

A view of Grand Park in the late afternoon. Photos by Anna Chen/Metro

The first two blocks of downtown’s brand-new Grand Park - from Grand Avenue to Hill Street – will open to the public with a two-day celebration on July 28 and 29. Grand Park is just steps from Civic Center Station on the Red and Purple Lines and plenty of buses also have stops around the park, which means it’s easy to get there with Metro – and if you go Metro to the opening events, you’ll get the chance to win the Grand Avenue Prize Package!

Just show your Metro pass at the info booth on either Saturday, July 28 or Sunday, July 29 to enter for your chance to win. The Grand Avenue Prize Package includes:

July 28 also happens to be National Dance Day. Head to the park and get your dance on with Lauren Gottlieb, a “So You Think You Can Dance” All-Star, and Gina Grant from Zumba. The two ladies will lead the public in the official National Dance Day dance routines.

The National Dance Day Celebration lasts from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Afterward, enjoy free community dance classes and performances, a special performance by IRIS from Cirque du Soleil, other fun activities and food trucks for the rest of the day.

Festivities continue Sunday, July 29 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with Music in the Park. The inaugural musical event will feature regional musical performers presented by Grand Performances in partnership with The Music Center.

When the third block of Grand Park (from Hill St. to Broadway) opens later this summer, visitors exiting Civic Center Station will come out right in the middle of the park.

The art of transit

photo by William Andrews, via submission

William emailed this photo over a few weeks ago — as a summer solstice photo — but I thought it would be nice to run on what promises to be a stinking hot day here in So Cal. The photo was taken in 2002 on on the Bognes-Lødingen Ferry in Norway, which is north of the Arctic Circle. The village of Lødingen is visible in the background. Very nice all-around photo.

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.

Metro Rail ridership surges in June


The ridership numbers for Metro buses and trains for June 2012 have been released. The gist of it: bus ridership is flat (but with increases on the Silver Line and Orange Line), rail ridership is way up and overall the system didn’t reach the number of boardings in June 2010 or June 2011.

On the rail side, the new Expo Line helps explain some of the increases with weekday boardings increasing to an average of 16,569 in June even though the Farmdale and Culver City stations did not open until June 20. There was about an average of 11,000 weekday boardings in May.

There were also significant gains on Metro’s other four rail lines. Here are the charts and here is the web page with all the stats.

Rail Systemwide Ridership Estimates

June 2012 June 2011 June 2010
Average Weekday Boardings 362,904 321,626 326,663
Average Saturday Boardings 209,858 196,284 197,972
Average Sunday and Holiday Boardings 163,934 155,082 169,990
Total Calendar Month Boardings 9,326,015 8,481,237 8,658,429

Bus – Systemwide

June 2012 June 2011 June 2010
1,123,977 1,156,643 1,156,866
Average Saturday Boardings 771,183 764,436 785,518
Average Sunday and Holiday Boardings 572,376 557,394 583,356
Total Calendar Month Boardings 29,748,939 30,733,462 30,926,539

Systemwide Ridership Estimates

June 2012 June 2011 June 2010
Average Weekday Boardings 1,486,882 1,478,269 1,483,528
Average Saturday Boardings 981,041 960,719 983,490
Average Sunday and Holiday Boardings 736,309 712,476 753,346
Total Calendar Month Boardings 39,074,954 39,214,699 39,584,968



Gov. Brown signs bill at Union Station for high-speed rail funding


Gov. Jerry Bown and other elected officials gathered at Union Station on Wednesday morning to sign a bill authorizing the state to sell $4.7 billion in bonds to build 130 miles of high-speed rail track between Bakersfield and Madera in the San Joaquin Valley and fund local transit improvements in both the Los Angeles and Bay Area regions.

The Governor is scheduled to hold a similar ceremony in San Francisco this afternoon. The $4.7 billion in bonds is supposed to be matched by $7.9 billion in federal funds and local monies. Here’s the news release from the Governor’s office.

In our area, the bill signing means there will be $350 million availabe for fly-through tracks at Union Station, which should help improve Metrolink and Amtrak service. In addition, $115 million will go to the Regional Connector project and $88.7 million to Metrolink to likely be used for grade separations and new locomotives.

In their remarks, both Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa defended the bullet train project as a noble endeavour that California will need in the future — and said the line will be a worthy investment in the state’s economy and mobility. Brown said those who don’t see it that way need to get their “heads out of the sand.”

High-speed rail officials said construction on the first segment of the line should begin in 2013 and that there will be high-speed rail service between the San Joaquin Valley and the L.A. area in 10 years. At present, Amtrak runs a bus between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro