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!)

Reminder: Independent Citizens’ Advisory and Oversight Committee holds public hearing Friday

The Committee oversees the half-cent sales tax increases that Los Angeles County voters approved in 1980 (Prop A) and 1990 (Prop C), respectively. Here is the meeting notice and agenda:
INDEPENDENT CITIZENS’ ADVISORY AND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE MEETINGPUBLIC HEARING

Metro Headquarters

3rd Floor – Board Room

One Gateway Plaza

Los Angeles

Friday, April 4, 2014 – 11:00 A.M.

PROPOSITIONS A & C AUDIT – FY 2013

Emina Darakjy, Chair

Brian Russell, Vice Chair

1. Remarks by Hearing Officer, Emina Darakjy.

2. Statement by the Board Secretary’s Office

concerning publication of notices and

dissemination of public information.

3. Public Comment.

4. Motion to Close Hearing.

The Chair will determine order of appearance before the Board.

Speakers will be limited to three minutes. If available, a written

copy of testimony should be presented to Secretary.

Union Station: A grand opening

Click on a photo to see a larger version or click on the first version to begin a slideshow-type display. Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Collection.

This is the first of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that will run on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout April. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3.  

The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal finally opened to the public on May 3, 1939 and it was celebrated with a massive parade down Alameda Street. The theme was the history of transportation and the parade included covered wagons, stagecoaches, Pony Express riders and several massive steam-powered locomotives.

The station’s grand opening was a huge deal for what was still in many ways an unsophisticated western town, albeit one whose population mushroomed since 1920 to about 1.5 million people in 1939. The city finally had a central passenger terminal. The L.A. Times reported that people hung from trees to get a better look at the festivities. Some fainted from the heat.

The parade was followed by tours of the station and a 45-minute production called “Romance of the Rails.” The free show along the tracks inside Union Station was subtitled “California’s Story of Transportation,” and the program notes that it was adapted and directed by John Ross Reed. No one now seems to know who John Ross Reed was. Was he a famous Hollywood director of the time?

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 32

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! 

Some awesomeness from the Toronto Transit Commission from last April 1.

Why raise Metro fares when giving away free parking? (LA Streetsblog) 

Joe Linton argues that according to his back-of-the-napkin calculations Metro is squandering $3.5 million in a year in potential revenues if it charged $3 for parking at its lots. As he notes, most parking at Metro lots is currently free. Of course, $3.5 million doesn’t cover the projected budget shortfalls that Metro is projecting and using to justify the fare increases (the shortfalls begin at $36 million in FY 2016 and then rise).

Still, revenue is revenue. There are certainly Metro lots where parking is tight and I think one key public policy question is whether free parking is an incentive to get people out of their cars and onto transit. That said, another important piece of context: most lots were built and opened at a time when gas was far cheaper than now. Thoughts, readers?

Cobalts were seen as lemons from the start (New York Times) 

The evidence grows that General Motors knew there were serious — and potentially deadly — problems with the Cobalt as far back as 2005 when consumers were demanding their money back. The company has already linked an ignition issue with 13 deaths. The chief of General Motors will tell Congress today that she doesn’t know why the carmaker didn’t publicly announce the safety defect with the cars until recently. The answer is pretty obvious: there must have been an internal culture at G.M. in which telling the truth and delivering bad news to customers was seen as less important than covering one’s own backside. There’s nothing on the GM home page, btw, except for some boasting of the craftmanship of the Escalade SUV. The two-wheel drive version of that SUV gets 17 mpg in case you’re interested.

Panel’s warning on climate risk: worst is yet to come (New York Times) 

The latest report from the U.N. is perhaps its bleakest yet. Excerpt:

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.

Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty.

The report focuses in particular on resource shortages — especially food and water — that may accompany climate change. Such shortages, says the UN, will likely exacerbate political instability in places where millions could go hungry or thirsty.

Although transit is certainly not a panacea for climate change, studies have found that transit is a more efficient way of moving people around when it comes to using electricity and fossil fuels — especially when compared to driving alone.

Transportation headlines, Monday, March 31

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! 

Happy REAL opening day, baseball fans and Metro Riders. Above, the first game at Ebbetts Field.

Happy REAL opening day, baseball fans and Metro Riders. Above, the first game at Ebbets Field.

Transit riders assail proposed Metro fare hike at public meeting (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the four-hour hearing on Saturday over the proposed fare increase. As the story notes, most of the comments received were along the lines that the increases were too much. There was no support for the second option, which involves creating different fares for off-peak and peak hours. There was limited support for the first option, although some people said that transfers should be included for two hours, not 90 minutes as Metro proposes. Without an increase, Metro officials said they would have to cut one million hours of bus service and lay off 1,000 employees, according to the Times.

Transportation advocates back half-cent sales tax (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the Move L.A. conference on Friday in which the pro-transit group discussed a possible half-cent sales tax increase for the 2016 ballot that help fund more transportation projects in L.A. County. Excerpt:

Metro has not yet decided to put a measure on the ballot. But with as much as $27 billion in added tax money to spend on rail projects, advocates said, the agency could build a light-rail link to Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, convert the San Fernando Valley Orange Line busway to rail and extend the Green Line near LAX to sweep through South Bay cities and connect with the Blue Line in Long Beach.

“What we’re doing here is trying to figure out what wins,” Move L.A. Executive Director Denny Zane said.

[snip]

Guaranteeing projects across the county may be a political necessity, but it doesn’t always serve passengers the best, said Lisa Schweitzer, a USC professor who studies transit funding. She said transit-using communities with the potential for highest ridership, a common measure of success, tend to be clustered in the core of the county.

[snip]

“In order to get those areas interested in transit, you have to gold-plate it and sugarcoat it” with high-profile projects such as the Westside subway extension, which appeal to residents who typically drive their own cars, Schweitzer said. “But you can’t win without them.”

Two things worthy of your consideration here: 1) the current Measure R put about $13.8 billion toward a dozen transit projects over its 30-year lifespan, and; 2) some of those projects — such as the Airport Metro Connector and the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor — may need more funds to get built.

My point: a second sales tax, if Metro pursues it, is not a free pass to build every project on everybody’s wish list!!! :)

Tree removal along Crenshaw Boulevard has residents stumped (L.A. Times) 

Crenshaw Boulevard is expected to lose about 175 trees to accommodate construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, leaving some residents unhappy in the wake of the 71 that were taken down to accommodate moving the Endeavour between LAX and the California Science Center in 2012. Metro has said it will plant two trees for every tree lost, although there is skepticism that new trees will truly replace the mature pines that are in Crenshaw Boulevard’s median, particularly in Park Mesa Heights.

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.

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.

Westside Subway neighbors worried about night-time construction noise (L.A. Times) 

Metro is proposing some night-work work. But important to remember: the work is NOT for the duration of the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, as the sub-headline suggests. Excerpt:

Subway construction won’t be accomplished without din, dust, vibration and street closures, Metro officials say, but 24-hour work will last for only a few weeks, said Dennis Mori, executive officer of project management. After an initial period of digging and pile installation, he said, tunneling itself will be less disruptive. Of course, there will be the nighttime rumble of trucks hauling away 1.1 million cubic yards of dirt.

“While we take community concerns very seriously, there is simply no such thing as ‘immaculate construction,’” Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said. “Some community groups appear to be sending a mixed message: ‘Yes, we support the subway, but don’t touch anything, and don’t inconvenience us in any way.’”

San Antonio police chief tells Lyft to quit operations (Government Technology) 

The city’s police chief says the problem is that Lyft’s drivers are not permitted as a taxi or limo drivers per municipal laws. Lyft says its drivers have insurance and go through background checks.

10 reasons why Beverly Hills homeowners are opposing bike lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard (Curbed LA)

A review of the controversy over widening Santa Monica Boulevard to accommodate bike lanes. The widening would cause some grass to be removed on the north side of the street. The post includes city diagrams to see what is being proposed. Lots of debate in the comments.

Watch a fun video explaining why the Riverside-Figueroa bridge should become a park (Curbed LA)

The old bridge is being replaced. The city of L.A. intends to tear it down while some activists say the old bridge should host a park. My three cents: the most important project in that area needs to be getting the L.A. River bike path into downtown L.A.