Transportation headlines, Thursday, Oct. 23

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.  

Going off the rails on Metro’s rail cars (L.A. Times) 

Photo: Juan Ocampo/Metro

One of the new rail cars after delivery to Metro. Photo: Juan Ocampo/Metro

This editorial says there still could be a glimmer of hope that rail-car manufacturer Kinkisharyo — contracted by Metro to build new vehicles — will build a permanent light rail car manufacturing facility in Palmdale. The firm has said it will take the facility out of state because of a union-backed lawsuit challenging the factory on environmental grounds.

The union wants to organize workers at the new facility. Kinkisharyo wants a formal vote on unionization, which would allow the firm to make its case to workers that a union is not necessary. The Times’ editorial board says that a compromise is still possible:

Both the company and the unions are wrong, and their intransigence could cost L.A. County good jobs. Political leaders, including Metro board members Mayor Eric Garcetti, who chairs the Metro board, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has close ties to labor, should be working overtime with their colleagues to broker a deal to keep the jobs here.

The Times would like to see Kinkisharyo fully flesh out the environmental impacts of a new facility. The newspaper also suggests that some local union leaders are working on behalf of another rail car manufacturer.

Related: here’s a post with more pics of the first new light rail car delivered to Metro.

The fundamental rule of traffic: building more roads just makes people drive more (Vox)

A new study reaches an old conclusion that has now been long-debated in transportation and activist circles. Not surprisingly perhaps, the photo accompanying this blog post features our very own 405 freeway all gummed up with traffic. Excerpt:

Turner and Duranton have also found that public transportation doesn’t really help alleviate congestion either — even if it takes some people out of cars and puts them on buses or trains, the empty road space will be quickly filled up by new vehicle-miles. Other researchers have found exceptions to this rule (say, when a transit route parallels heavy commuting corridors) but it doesn’t seem to be a large-scale traffic solution, at least given the way US cities are currently built. (Note that transit can have other beneficial effects, like making a city more affordable. But it doesn’t seem to have much effect on congestion.)

So why does traffic increase when new road capacity is added? Turner and Duranton attribute about half of the effect to people’s driving decisions. “Think of it as if you made a bunch of hamburgers and then gave them all away,” Turner says. “If you make hamburgers free, people will eat more of them.”

Again, not exactly a shocking conclusion. Those who attended last month’s Zocalo Public Square forum on can-we-fix-traffic heard UCLA’s Brian Taylor explain:

Can traffic be fixed or seriously improved? The short answer: probably not much can be done unless the region embraces drastic and politically unpopular measures such as heavier tolling across all lanes on freeways to reduce peak hour traffic, passing laws to greatly restrict driving, building many billions of dollars of new freeways (which includes the challenge of finding places to put them) or going the Detroit route by shedding jobs, residents and the local economy.

If you would like to listen to the forum, please click here.

Does that mean all road projects are pointless? Well, no. There are places where roads can be made safer, bottlenecks can be fixed and capacity added via HOV lanes. Roads can be made more complete by adding pedestrian and cycling improvements.

More headlines are after the jump!

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Metro Board approves Union Station Master Plan, allowing near-term projects to go forward

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors today approved actions to officially move the Union Station Master Plan, an ambitious long-range roadmap for L.A.’s single largest public transit hub, from planning to implementation.

Metro can now pursue its initial implementation strategy for near-term projects, which includes a programmatic environmental review of the recommended transit improvements as well as the commercial development program. Metro can also seek immediate funding opportunities for improvements to the station’s perimeter, and will form partnerships with the city and county, real estate and investment communities to support related implementation efforts.

“Today is a milestone day in our goal to bring ‘America’s Last Great Train Station’ into the 21st century,” said Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Mayor and Metro Board Chair. “Metro is now on the move to make Los Angeles Union Station a world-class transit hub.”

Planned improvements to Union Station’s perimeter include a series of streetscape, open space and transit stop improvements that soften the edges of the station, improve the pedestrian and cyclist experience, strengthen connections to and from the station’s entrances and create a more welcoming environment to transit riders and visitors. Foremost among these improvements is the planned removal of the surface parking lot on the northern side of the forecourt and the creation of a public plaza. This and other improvements will directly link with the El Pueblo Historic Monument, where apprxoimately $1 million in local open space funds has been identified to support the design and implementation of these improvements.

Metro was recently awarded other grant opportunities to improve four bus stops along Cesar Chavez between Alameda and Vignes, which includes creating shelters, additional seating and information, and bike facilities.  Metro has also received a grant from the Congestion Reduction ExpressLanes Net Toll Revenue Project and is providing matching funds to create a Metro Bike Hub on the west side of Union Station that will offer parking for about 300 bicycles, 24-7 secure access control, a space for bike retail and repair services, and a meeting/training space to conduct bike safety training workshops. This bike hub is expected to open in 2017.

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Metro Board awards contract for Business Solution Center for Crenshaw/LAX Line

Here is the Metro staff report and below is the news release from Metro:

In another unprecedented step today the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors awarded a two-year contract for $646,462 to Del Richardson & Associates, Inc. (DRA) to operate Metro’s pilot Business Solution Center (BSC) to help small businesses impacted by Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project construction. The contract includes two one-year options for $349,682 for total of $996,144.

“We’re finally making desperately needed investments to our public transportation system in South Los Angeles, but construction simply cannot come at the expense of our businesses,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “This Business Solution Center will ensure that businesses along the Crenshaw Line will be able to thrive despite any temporary inconveniences to customers and employees.”

“Rail construction is always challenging and it’s particularly difficult for nearby businesses, that’s why we are committed to standing with these merchants during the whole construction process,” said Metro Board 1st Vice Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This Business Solution Center – while not solving all problems – is an important first step toward helping the local business community survive and thrive during the difficult days. We are happy that we could make this happen.”

The Business Solution Center is expected to open in November, 2014 and will be located at the Los Angeles Urban League, 3450 Mount Vernon Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90008.

The Metro pilot Business Solution Center (BSC) will provide hands-on case management services for small businesses along the Crenshaw corridor between 48th and 60th streets.
Services will include marketing help, business plan development, financial planning, small business operations advice and legal assistance counseling. In addition, BSC will help small businesses apply for capital via existing loan programs. It also will help them gain certification as small, disadvantaged, disabled, veteran-owned, minority-owned and/or woman-owned businesses.

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Metro Board of Directors meets Thursday — here’s the agenda

UPDATE: Good morning! The meeting began at 9:15 a.m. and the Metro Board just voted to approve the items on the consent calendar.

The Metro Board of Directors gathers Thursday at 9 a.m. for its regular monthly meeting. The agenda is above.

The meeting, as always, is open to the public and will be held on the third floor of Metro Headquarters adjacent to Union Station. You can also listen to the meeting online by clicking here.

Or, you can listen over the telephone by calling 213-922-6045.

New Metro video: TAP the target, sings Steps of Doe

And here is the second of the trio of new videos from Metro’s marketing team, this one featuring the L.A.-based folk duo Steps of Doe with instructions for reloading your TAP card at ticket machines.

The new videos are intended as a fun way to help folks learn to ride the Metro system and remind everyone that taking transit can be fun and/or interesting. Please feel free to share/comment/review on social media using the hashtag #metrorocks. Metro is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The first video, which debuted last week, featured Galactic Flo promoting Metro’s and Google’s trip planner.

One other note: the musicians who appear in the videos (and the firm that made them, Conceptive, Inc.) are entirely local. If you’re a musician and would like to share your song about local transit, you can email us here.

The Metro Trip Planner is on the metro.net homepage. If you prefer, Google Maps can also be used to plan transit trips.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, October 22

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.  

Rail to River moves forward (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas website)

The post concerns a motion by Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas that asks Metro to supply $2.8 million in funding for more planning and design work on a new walking and bike path in South Los Angeles. The motion will be heard at Thursday’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors.

As envisioned by Ridley-Thomas, the path would convert the old Harbor Subdivision Right-of-Way owned by Metro and convert it to a walking and bike path between the West Boulevard Station of the future LAX/Crenshaw line and the Los Angeles River.

The article and the accompanying video on MRT’s website invokes New York City’s “High Line” as well as the Greenway Trail in Whittier as examples of projects that successfully have converted unused railway to assets that benefit the surrounding communities. Here’s a Source post from earlier this year about the concept.

This item from the Source’s Steve Hymon:

Times, ABC 7 and Metro’s parking stores are wrong and misleading (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Joe Linton responds to stories on parking — and the lack thereof — at some Metro transit stations (L.A. Times and ABC-7). Among his key points: 1) it’s often free parking that is in short supply at some stations stations while paid parking spaces may be available or could be available if managed better, and; 2) there may be other important reasons why people choose not to ride other than parking — such as frequency or quality of transit service.

Whether to include parking at transit stations is a tough piece of public policy, especially given that free parking is subsidized by Metro for better or worse (depending on your point of view). I’ve heard good arguments on all sides of this debate. I’ll offer the same disclosure that I did in yesterday’s headlines: the $2 I pay to sometimes park at the Gold Line’s Del Mar Station makes my transit trip to work a little quicker.

Lyft, Uber secure SFO deal (S.F. Examiner)

The deal means that the three most used app-based rideshare services (or “transportation network companies“) can now legally pick up and drop off passengers at San Francisco International Airport as part of a 90-day pilot program. Sidecar, another popular service, reached an agreement with the airport last week. The terms of the deal will allow the airport to limit the number of vehicles available at the airport at a given time. SFO is the first airport in California and the second in the U.S. to reach an agreement with app-based ride services.

Meanwhile in L.A., Los Angeles World Airports last spring asked for comments on a draft agreement for a potential pilot program to allow transportation network companies at LAX. There’s been little news out of either camp regarding progress on granting permits since then.

In June, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the fledgling rideshare industry in California, issued cease-and-desist letters to a handful of companies specifically citing unauthorized airport operations. Police at both LAX and SFO were reportedly cracking down on unlicensed drivers throughout the summer. But despite such a rough start, SFO and rideshare companies were still able to strike deals within a few months. So is it only a matter of time before similar agreements will be inked at LAX?

NYC sets one-day subway ridership record (WNYC)

Passengers board the New York subway in September. Photo by Jim Pennucci, via Flickr creative commons.

Passengers board the New York subway in September. Photo by Jim Pennucci, via Flickr creative commons.

There were 6.1 million boardings on Sept. 23, the most since records started being kept in 1985. Officials say the subway was only averaging 3.6 million boardings a day 20 years ago and credit the growth to the New York MTA’s efforts to improve the system’s efficiency and capacity.

Washington State traffic forecast finally recognizes reality (Sightline Daily)

The blog post by Clark Williams-Derry of the Sightline Institute cites a recently published forecast from Washington state that predicts traffic growth in the state will be modest and eventually decline. This trend is a striking change from the same orecast from last year which, like many other traffic growth forecasts across the country, indicated steady traffic growth. Williams-Derry calls the forecast a “refreshing change” because:

First, it reflects the growing empirical evidence of a long-term slowdown in the growth of vehicle travel, evident on major roads in Washington, for Washington State roads as a whole, for the US, and for much of the industrialized world.

Second, even if the forecast is wrong, assuming that traffic won’t grow much is the most fiscally prudent way to plan a transportation budget.

The article goes on to say a consequence of slowed traffic growth combined with unrealistically optimistic traffic forecasts (if more cars on the road is an optimistic prospect to anyone) is reduced revenue from gas tax and tolling, most of which the state of Washington is forced to use on debt repayment instead of much-needed infrastructure improvements.

It will be interesting to see if more agencies use the recent trend in declining traffic growth as a basis for predicting a long-term trend, especially considering per capita vehicle miles of travel in the U.S. declined for the 9th straight year in 2013. Even more interesting: whether funds will shift toward other ways of getting around.

 

Alameda Corridor-East holds groundbreaking for Puente Avenue roadway underpass

Photos: Joe Lemon/Metro

The Alameda Corridor-East (ACE) Construction Authority broke ground today on a four-lane roadway underpass of Puente Avenue that will be built beneath a Union Pacific railroad line that runs along Valley Boulevard in the City of Industry. The $99.6-million project will support 1,780 jobs over four years of construction with completion scheduled for early 2018, according to ACE.

The Puente Avenue project will eliminate crossing collisions, vehicle queuing and congestion, train horn noise and reduce emissions from vehicles waiting for trains to pass through the intersection. Metro is the largest single financial contributor to this project, providing more than 50 percent of the program funding through Measure R sales tax and Prop C funds.

Here’s the press release from the ACE Construction Authority:

(City of Industry, CA) – Officials gathered today to kick off construction of a four-lane roadway underpass on Puente Avenue and Workman Mill Road that will be built beneath a Union Pacific Railroad line in the City of Industry. A railroad bridge and loop connector road between Workman Mill Road and Valley Boulevard will also be constructed.  The $99.6 million project will create 1,780 jobs over four years of construction with completion scheduled for early 2018.

“The Puente Avenue project will eliminate crossing collisions, vehicle queuing and congestion and train horn noise and reduce vehicle emissions,” said El Monte Councilwoman Norma Macias, Chair of the Alameda Corridor-East (ACE) Construction Authority Board of Directors. “We appreciate the support for this project from our funding partners.”

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