California High-Speed Rail Authority releases revised business plan

The big news is that the first segment planned for construction is no longer 130 miles between Bakersfield and Fresno. The initial segment in the new business plan is now 300 miles between Merced and the San Fernando Valley, which the Authority says reduces the project price from $98 billion to about $68 billion — still many billions more than the Authority has thus far secured to build the project. So that’s one challenge.

While that initial segment is being built, Caltrain will be electrified in the Bay Area to speed commutes between San Jose and San Francisco; eventually that will be connected to the rest of the high-speed system, as will Anaheim and Los Angeles Union Station. By “blending” high-speed rail with existing rail — and providing upgrades to Metrolink also — the Authority says it can speed up construction and avoid inflation and cut costs.

Here’s the news release:

FRESNO – The California High-Speed Rail Authority today released a revised Business Plan to launch the nation’s first high-speed rail service—capable of traveling 220 miles-per-hour from Merced to the San Fernando Valley—within ten years.

“Our revised plan makes high-speed rail better, faster and cheaper,” High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard told a news conference today at the Southern Pacific Building in Fresno. “Drawing on hundreds of public comments as well as the expertise of our technical staff, we were able to refine our thinking and improve the plan enormously. The revised plan will enhance local rail service immediately and, in the long term, cut total project costs by $30 billion.”

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Expo Line FAQ

It’s beyond obvious that both expectations and anticipation for the Expo Line opening on April 28 are sky-high right now. The Source had its highest traffic day ever when the opening was announced last month.

Readers have been asking many questions about the line. I’ll do my best to answer the most common ones below.

First, I’d like to offer a little perspective. Opening a rail line to the public is not easy. It’s one thing to run empty test trains, it’s another to run real revenue service with paying customers.

The Expo Line was built to serve the public for many decades to come. As with Metro’s other rail lines, there will likely be tweaks made to the service over time. The Gold Line, for example, has shaved seven minutes off its run time between Pasadena and Union Station since its debut in 2003 and greatly increased the frequency of trains throughout the day.

The same will likely apply to the Expo Line. It’s great that the project is finally opening, but this is just a beginning. On to your questions:

Will there be free rides on opening weekend?

Yes, the public can ride the Expo Line for free on both April 28th and 29th; fares will still be charged on other Metro rail and bus lines. Passengers must begin paying fares on the Expo Line on Monday, April 30.

When will Expo Line timetables be published?

Timetables should be posted on the Metro website about two weeks prior to opening the line. Print timetables should be available about a week before Expo debuts.

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How do they do that? Create Metro's award-winning marketing and graphic design

How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How do you market mass transit to people sitting in comfy cars? You build a good transit system and sell it with advertising.

That’s what Metro is doing with its award-winning communications pieces that appear on buses (outside and in), on trains, in rail stations, on billboards, on bus shelters, on the web, in print publications and through informational brochures that are available aboard buses and trains and in Metro Customer Centers.

The overall goal of the work is to convince those who have never taken transit to try it and to tell those who do take it about new and upcoming services and special offerings that will make their commutes and their lives easier. It also reports construction projects, public information meetings, how to save money riding Metro and how to get discounts available only to Metro customers.

Who creates all the pieces that have won more than 100 awards in the past 10 years? It’s done by Metro’s own in-house communications department, which functions very much like an advertising agency — without the 1950s drama you see on Mad Men, of course.

Among the most recognized and awarded campaigns was the Opposites campaign that debuted in 2008 and featured a series of two simple images each, pairing mass transit with opposites such as air pollution, high gas prices and traffic congestion.

While most work throughout metro is done on PCs, the graphic design for Metro’s advertising and customer communications is done on Apple computers, using Adobe Creative Suite software and Photoshop, plus the usual pencils, erasers, pens and printers. The team produces between 2,500 and 3,000 individual jobs each year.

Why does Metro have an in-house agency rather than hiring outside ad agencies to do the work? It saves time since the staff already knows the product well, so fewer revisions are necessary. And since many pieces are printed in-house too, the production time can be lightening fast, when necessary, as it often is.

Ideas for the campaigns come from the communications team, either in brainstorming groups or individually. But the themes are consistent: The convenience of transit. How much money riders can save by taking transit. How L.A. air-quality benefits from sharing the ride. How the stresses of sitting in traffic can be avoided. What a great improvement in quality of life taking transit offers. Jobs created by transit.

And the goal? To help riders understand how best to use the growing system and to inform L.A. County about its bright transit future … in large part because of the growing transit system made possible by Measure R.

Metro to hold community meetings on East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor

Here’s the news release from Metro about the project study that includes transit improvements on Van Nuys Boulevard:

Metro, in cooperation with the City of Los Angeles, will hold three community meetings in April to update the public on the Alternatives Analysis (AA) study that is evaluating options to improve north-south travel opportunities in the East San Fernando Valley and provide connections to the regional transportation network. The AA study is a precursor to the draft environmental document.

In October 2011, a series of community meetings were held introducing this transit study which initially included only the Van Nuys Boulevard corridor between Ventura Boulevard and the I-210 freeway.  As a result of public input, the project study area has now been expanded to include Sepulveda Boulevard and the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station as a northern terminus/origination point.

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The art of transit

photo by Steve Hymon/Metro

This isn’t exactly a secret spot, but I had never visited the old Pacific Electric streetcar right-of-way in Silver Lake. About .8 miles of the old alignment still exists on open property between the 2 freeway and Fletcher Avenue — various developers have had no luck developing the land over the years. A good write-up of the hike along with a very cool historic photo of the old tracks can be found at Modern Hiker.

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.

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 2

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.

All the details on the proposed Orange Line-Red Line link in NoHo (Curbed LA)

Check out the schematic of the proposed tunnel under Lankershim Boulevard that would connect the subway’s mezzanine level and the Orange Line street level platforms in North Hollywood. Metro is applying for a federal grant to pay for most of the cost; if it comes through, the project could be done by 2014.

California set to release $68.4-billion high-speed rail plan to appease critics (San Francisco Chronicle)

Nice possible scoop. The Chronicle reported over the weekend that the latest business plan by the California High-Speed Rail Authority will drop the price of the project from $98 billion to about $68 billion. How? Excerpt:

While the updated strategy still calls for construction to start in the Central Valley, it abandons plans to build only a 130-mile stretch from Chowchilla (Madera County) to Bakersfield. Instead, it extends the initial line north to Merced and south across the Tehachapi Mountains to Palmdale and the San Fernando Valley, probably Burbank, and calls for it to carry high-speed trains along the 300-mile stretch. It relies heavily on what officials have called a “blended approach” that uses existing commuter rail lines – including Caltrain – in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

That shift, authority board members said Saturday, is largely responsible for the cost savings because it eliminates the need to build separate tracks for high-speed rail through dense metropolitan areas.

We’ll see today if the Chronicle got it right. The Authority is holding a news conference this morning to explain the new business plan. I’ll post the news release and any other materials provided later today.

A good overview of the positive train control system that Metrolink is installing. The system uses GPS and digital communications to track trains to ensure they are on the proper track and abiding by signals. Metrolink officials say it could have prevented — or at least lessened the severity — of the crash in Chatsworth between a Metrolink train and freight train in 2008 that killed 25. Here’s a video that Metrolink made about PTC:

 

Metro hosting a job fair for veterans

Metro will be hosting a job fair for military veterans on Friday, April 13. The fair starts at 10 a.m. and is located at Metro Headquarters Building, One Gateway Plaza. Some of the participating organizations include Metro, LAPD, LAFD and Metrolink.

Job Fair for Military Veterans