Transportation headlines, Thursday, April 3

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. Pick your social media poison! 

South L.A. needs trees (L.A. Times) 

The editorial despairs the loss of about 135 trees along Crenshaw Boulevard to accommodate construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line but also says the train is an important project. A city of Los Angeles streetscape plan to follow construction is vital, says the editorial.

Westside subway survives legal challenge from Beverly Hills (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of yesterday’s Superior Court ruling in favor of Metro in a pair of state lawsuits brought by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District against the Purple Line Extension. Reporter Laura Nelson this morning tweeted an update: the Beverly Hills City Attorney said a decision whether to appeal is still to come. Here’s our post with the ruling, links to the complaints and background on the issue.

UPDATE: LAT reporter Laura Nelson on Boston radio and on KPCC. And CurbedLA on the news.

Beverly Hills City Council approves two permits for Metro (Beverly Hills Weekly)

Outside of court, life goes on and the City Council on Tuesday approved two permits for Metro to conduct utility relocation work near the future Wilshire/La Cienega station. The city and Metro continue to work on a master agreement that will govern when and how construction is done in the city, according to the Weekly.

Watch the Wilshire bus lane stretching westward to Highland (Curbed LA)

And, speaking of Wilshire Boulevard, city of Los Angeles workers are making progress on the construction of the peak hour bus lane that will operate on parts of Wilshire between the Santa Monica-Los Angeles border and just west of downtown. Rebuilt lanes should hopefully make for a smoother ride for the 20 and 720 buses instead of the sometimes kidney-rattling journey of present.

Metrolink, Metro propose more express trains for busy San Bernardino County line (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

Studies are underway to add more express trains — although it would require double-tracking some parts of the alignment. The project is still unfunded. There is currently one express train in each direction between San Bernardino and L.A. with a 65-minute run time compared to the usual one hour, 50 minute run time. The downtowns of the two cities are about 60 miles apart, btw.

Is effective transit possible in a transit-hostile city (Transport Politic)

The city is Nashville, where a big and nasty dispute has erupted over a 7.1-mile bus rapid transit project. Among the fears: the loss of regular traffic lanes. No word yet on where Reyna James, ex-hubby Mayor Teddy and Juliet Barnes stand on the matter.

Court rules for Metro in state lawsuits brought by Beverly Hills over subway extension

A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Metro on Wednesday in state lawsuits brought by the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city of Beverly Hills alleging that the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension project were flawed and needed to be redone.

To put it in plain English: Judge John A. Torribio upheld the studies and denied the requests that they be redone, a task which could have potentially cost Metro millions of dollars and delayed construction of the project. The judge found that Metro’s decision to place a station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars in Century City was based on “substantial evidence” and that the station location meets the project’s goals of increasing mobility in the region.

Metro issued this statement about the ruling:

“Metro is pleased that our in-depth, multi-year environmental review process was found valid by the Superior Court.  We look forward to working with all the communities along the alignment, including Beverly Hills, to fulfill our commitment to deliver this regionally significant and beneficial project for the taxpayers of L.A. County.”

The dispute involves Metro’s plans to tunnel under the Beverly Hills High School campus in order to reach the approved Century City station at the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Avenue. The station location was selected by Metro for three reasons: to locate a station closer to the heart of Century City, generate higher ridership for the new line and to avoid an active earthquake fault  zone that runalong Santa Monica Boulevard as determined by seismic and geotechnical studies by Metro and its contractors.

The Constellation route meant that the subway would have to tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. School District and city officials complained that could damage the school and/or prevent them from building an underground parking garage, among other issues. After a final Metro Board hearing on the matter in May 2012, Metro determined that it was safe to tunnel beneath the campus, the tunnels would not prohibit any new development, noise and vibration levels would be within federal limits, old oil wells in the area do not present an unmitigable risk to tunneling and the project would not prevent the campus from being used as an emergency evacuation center.

Both the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District have also filed lawsuits against the Federal Transit Administration, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act. The FTA is helping fund the Purple Line Extension and approved the environmental studies for it. Those lawsuits are still in court.

Local funding for the 8.5-mile Purple Line Extension was approved as part of the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase that was supported by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The project is being built in three phases: phase one is from Wilshire & Western to Wilshire & La Cienega, phase two extends the project to Century City and the third phase extends tracks to two stations in Westwood — one at Wislhire and Westwood and the final one near the Westwood/VA Hospital, just west of the 405 freeway.

Advanced utility relocation for the first phase of the project is underway and the FTA is expected to soon announce a funding agreement for that part of the project. The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to select a contractor to build the project this summer with construction starting in late 2014. The first phase is currently forecast to open in 2023.

New Flyer holds open house for new bus facility in Ontario

New Flyer opened a new bus service facility in Ontario earlier this year, creating more than 50 new local jobs. The facility helps to support delivery and maintenance service of the 550 buses ordered by Metro.

The buses are built in the manufacturing plant in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Once they are approximately 80 percent to 90 percent complete, they make the 2,200-mile trek from St. Cloud to Ontario. The drive acts as a “breaking in” and helps New Flyer perform final testing and performance evaluation before the buses are sent into service. At the Ontario facility, buses undergo final build–i.e. the installation of seats, support rails and decals as well as testing and safety acceptance. They are then handed over to the operating agency.

The facility has already finished and delivered 66 buses, many of them Metro buses that are already in service on the streets of L.A.

Trees to be removed for Crenshaw/LAX Line along Crenshaw Boulevard

Crenshaw_lax_tree_removal_factsheet FINAL 032614 Crenshaw2

We posted last week about plans to remove about 135 trees along Wilshire Boulevard to accommodate the first phase of the Purple Line Extension. This week we are posting about similar tree removal plans for the Crensaw/LAX Line, a subject tackled in a story published Monday in the L.A. Times.

The above flier provides a good overview of the work. The highlights:

•The removals will be done in three stages, as shown in the map in the above flier.

Phase 1 from Exposition Boulevard to 48th Street: 98 trees are being removed. Of those, the arborist has identified 11 trees that may potentially be relocatedThe final decision on the number of trees to be relocated will to made by the city of Los Angeles. Two trees will be planted for each tree that is being removed.

Phase 2 from 48th to 67th streets: the arborist report for this area is still in draft phase but it is estimated that 53 trees will be removed with two trees planted for each that is removed. The actual number of trees to be removed may vary.

Phase 3: the arborist report is still under development and the number of trees to be removed is still to be determined.

•The plan is to keep the present trees as long as possible until construction is imminent. The plan calls for planting two trees for every non-native tree that is removed.

•Perhaps the most controversial of the tree removals is in Park Mesa Heights, where mature Canary Island Pines are in the median of Crenshaw Boulevard. These are trees, as their name implies, are native to the Canary Islands located off the northwest coast of Africa and are known for being drought-tolerant.

The median and the trees will eventually being removed to accommodate the train tracks that will run down the middle of the street.

Here are a couple of views:

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.57.02 PM

This is the view looking south on Crenshaw Boulevard between 51st and 52nd Streets. Photo: Google Maps.

The Endeavour moving north through Park Mesa Heights in 2012. The light rail line will run along the median at right, where the trees are located. Photo by Steve Hymon.

A view of the trees looking north on Crenshaw Boulevard from 54th Street. The train will run down the middle of the street and north and south traffic and parking lanes will be on either side of the tracks. Photo by Steve Hymon.

The Canary Pines were considered for relocation, but it was determined they didn’t have a good chance of surviving for a variety of reasons including their extensive root systems, previous damage from vehicles on Crenshaw Boulevard and from signs being posted to them in the past.

•The size of the replacement trees will vary depending on the species. The trees will initially be raised in nurseries and some may be nine- to 10-feet tall when first planted along the Crenshaw/LAX Line alignment.

•Plans still need to be finalized for the palm trees along the rail right-of-way on the north side of Florence Avenue. The project’s environmental studies indicated that most would remain and Metro is required to preserve 90 percent of the palms in the right-of-way in the city of Inglewood.

•The city of Los Angeles Planning Department is in the midst of developing a streetscape plan for the Crenshaw Boulevard area that is being funded with a grant from Metro. The agency has commented on the plan — but it’s important to recognize the plan is not part of the Crenshaw/LAX Line project.

•On a similar note, some trees in the project area were previously removed for the move of the Endeavour from LAX to the California Science Center. The museum has a plan to replace those trees. That plan is separate from the Crenshaw/LAX Line project.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 2

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. Pick your social media poison! 

A tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass? It might be yours for 25 cents a day (L.A. Times) 

Kerry Cavanaugh looks at the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project through the prism of a possible transportation sales tax increase that Metro is exploring for 2016. Measure R dedicates about a billion dollars for the project, but some of the early options for the project — including both a road/toll tunnel and rail tunnel — would require a public-private partnership, cost billions more and probably require some public money. Excerpt:

Yet the possibility of easing the most congested corridor in the nation is so tantalizing that Los Angeles voters might just be willing to tax themselves again to build it, right? That’s what transportation advocacy group Move LA is certainly hoping. Last week during a conference focused on developing a new half-cent sales tax increase proposal, Move LA organizers made the Sepulveda Pass tunnel a key focus of the discussion.

Move LA is pitching the sales tax measure for the November 2016 ballot, with a eye toward raising $90 billion over 45 years. The group estimates that it would cost the average county resident about 25 to 30 cents a day. This would be on on top of the existing Measure R half-cent tax increase for transportation.

After the loss of Measure J (a 30-year extension of the Measure R tax, which voters narrowly rejected) in 2012, Move LA and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are approaching the ballot measure cautiously. They’re trying to build more county-wide consensus on needed transportation projects, with the incoming Metro board president, Mayor Eric Garcetti, promising a more “humble Los Angeles city” as he courts the San Gabriel Valley and South Bay cities that rejected Measure J.

As Kerry writes, the prospect of a good transit project across the Sepulveda Pass has always seemed to be a “distant dream.” So true. If there is a ballot measure in a couple of years, it will be very interesting to see what, if any, role this project plays in it. On a related note, here’s a study from 2012 that shows some of the different concepts initially explored for the Sepulveda Pass project.

L.A. could clash with L.A. County on transit tax measures (L.A. Times) 

Reporters Laura Nelson and David Zahniser ask a good question: if the city of Los Angeles pursues a sales tax increase this November to pay for street repair, how will city voters respond if Metro (a county agency) pursues the aforementioned ballot measure in 2016? It’s especially tricky considering the city of of L.A. is, of course, by far the largest city in the county and no county measure would likely pass without major support from city voters. The few people willing to talk on the record say that pursuing sales tax increases in both 2014 and ’16 is a poor idea but elected officials from the city of L.A. declined comment.

Koreatown to become next luxury market (GlobeSt.com)

The real estate site’s article is bullish on the prospects for K-town, saying there will be more multi-family housing and one of the big attractions for the area is its quick transit connections to downtown L.A. and Hollywood. The words “cosmopolitan” and “luxury” are tossed around in the article; the word “affordable” does not make an appearance.

L.A.’s interchanges are beautiful — if you’re not stuck in traffic (Southland-Gizmodo)

Nice photo spread on some of our bowl-of-spaghetti freeway interchanges, with a couple of sweet aerial shots of the four-level 110-10 junction in downtown.

Study ranks metro areas by sprawl (Governing) 

If there’s anything new here, it’s the assertion that more compact and connected metro areas offer more economic mobility. Makes sense. Not entirely sure why it required a study. About to send your child to graduate school? My three cents: perhaps a plant identification guide, map of the Pacific Crest Trail and a good lightweight backpack would be a better investment — if, that is, enlightenment is the goal.

America’s zippy new trains still lag behind those in Europe (Wired) 

A short and depressing reminder that train travel in the United States — the same country known for its big, wide open spaces — will mostly remain a 79 mile per hour or under affair with a few exceptions.

April Metro Service Council Meetings

The first Service Council agendas for the spring season are now set for this month’s five meetings, though changes may be made prior to the meeting dates.

All April Council meetings include a report from Metro Service Council Director Jon Hillmer, providing monthly and year to date statistics on ridership, performance and other measures of Metro service. This month, all meetings will also include presentations on the Five-Year Transit Service and Capital Improvement Plan (TSCIP).

Other topics for Service Council meetings this month include:

San Fernando Valley (6:30 pm, Wednesday, 4/2) – Presentation on Metro’s “On The Move Riders Club” Program; Update on Motion 79 concerning Rail Connectivity

Westside/Central (5 pm, Wednesday, 4/9) – Swearing in of new Westside/Central Service Council Representative David Feinberg, Transit Government Relations Officer for Santa Monica Big Blue Bus; Presentation on Proposed Expo Line Station Name Changes; Presentation on Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project Interface with Expo Line

Gateway Cities (2 pm, Thursday, 4/10) – Update on ExpressLanes Public Hearings; Presentation on the Bus Stop Usability Study

South Bay (9:30 am, Friday, 4/11) – Update on LAX Green Line Buses Transfer Policy, Los Angeles World Airport.

San Gabriel Valley (5 pm, Monday, 4/14) - Presentation on the Bus Stop Usability Study

For a listing of the dates, times and locations of all five Service Council meetings, click here. For more information about each service council, click on the name of the service council listed above.

All service councils welcome and encourage public participation. If you would like to comment at any of the meetings, please fill out a speaker card when you arrive, noting the specific item you are there to address.  General comments on issues that aren’t on the agenda are taken as a part of the “public comment” section of the agenda.  If you would like to provide input to a Council but cannot attend a meeting, you can submit your comments in writing through the Service Council web page or send them to servicecouncils@metro.net.  If your comments are for a specific council, please make sure to indicate which one you are addressing.

@Metrolosangeles Twitter Tuesday

You know the drill: To get our attention, tweet us at @MetroLosAngeles tag to your tweets and subscribe to our feed if you haven’t already. For specific complaints and customer service, please use the Customer Comment Form on metro.net.


[View the story "The week in tweets! " on Storify]

(sorry folks — can’t get it to embed as usual — hit the above link to read!)