Transportation headlines, Monday, August 4

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It’s about the money: Yale on Metro’s plans and priorities (The Planning Report)

Very interesting interview with David Yale, Metro’s Managing Executive Officer of Countywide Planning and Development. In plain English, David is the guy that helps plan Metro’s long-term finances, including Measure R and potential project acceleration.

The interview touches on many subjects, including Measure R, the federal gas tax and potential funding for Orange Line improvements. Excerpt:

The deal for the Valley in Measure R was to get the Orange Line [Extension to Chatsworth] done quickly, which we did. We did not use Measure R money that the Valley was promised to do so, because the project was ready to go even faster than the Measure R money was available. Now, the Valley’s owed a payback project per the Measure R ordinance that must occur by the end of the tax in 2039.

Are we going to do it in 2038, 2028, or 2018? The problem with the Orange Line’s success is the question of when it becomes absolutely imperative to switch to a higher-capacity mode like light rail. With the ban lifted, we could engage in that discussion right away, though the Valley’s funding for the Orange Line payback is nowhere near enough to do a light rail project. After all, we’d need a light rail yard to maintain whatever we build, a fleet of light rail cars, overhead catenaries, and the rail. All of it adds to easily well over $1 billion in need, and we’ve got maybe $170 million for this payback project.

The silver lining here is that on the November 2016 ballot we can provide the Valley an opportunity to move this conversion, and the shortfall in the north-south corridor of the Valley, up in time with a new sales-tax proposal. This is part of that $100 billion problem. I think the Valley is taking the right approach by saying, “Don’t forget about us. We’re already talking about this and we want to do it.”

The “November 2016″ is a reference to a potential ballot measure that Metro is exploring. No decisions have been made yet; a ballot measure could be an extension of the existing Measure R half-cent sales tax (due to expire in mid-2039) or it could be a new sales tax to fund new projects. We’ll see.

But it’s interesting to see that there is a possible pot of money to do something on the Orange Line, although a lot of decisions still must be made and Orange Line improvements still must be studied. The Metro Board of Directors in September is scheduled to discuss and consider what kind of study to go forward with.

On a related note, the San Fernando Valley Business Journal reports that a new “Valley on Track” coalition has been formed (with participation from several elected officials) to lobby for three projects: an Orange Line conversion to rail, the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor to connect the Valley to the Westside via transit and the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. The latter two are Measure R-funded projects. The Sepulveda Pass project is very early in its planning stages while the East San Fernando Valley Transit project is studying potential bus rapid transit or a rail line between the Orange Line and the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station.

Major legal victory for California bullet train project (L.A. Times) 

An appeals court overturns a lower court decision and finds that the California High-Speed Rail Authority followed the law when developing an initial spending plan on the project aiming to connect San Francisco and L.A. The decision could free up station bond money the state needs to spend on planning and construction. Roger Rudick at StreetsblogLA says the ruling removes the “most significant” legal obstacle that threatened the project.

Listen up America: it’s time to start making public transit free! (Salon)

I bet that headline got your attention. Excerpt:

Many people reject the idea out of hand, saying free rides are a problem, not a solution. But “free” transit, of course, is only as free as public libraries, parks and highways, which is to say that the financial burden is merely transferred from individual riders to a municipal general fund, a sales tax or local businesses and property owners. A free ride policy represents the culmination of a long shift from thinking of transit as a business sector — one that was quite profitable in its heyday — to considering it an indispensable public service.

The article makes a persuasive case that free transit usually does boost ridership — and the article even argues that it doesn’t have to be free all the time, i.e. perhaps a targeted approach would be workable. The big problem, of course, is that while fares in most American cities (including at Metro) come nowhere near covering the expense of running transit, they do provide considerable sums — $345 million at Metro in the 2013-14 fiscal year. That’s a big chunk of change to lose while keeping service at current levels. That said, I think free fares is the one thing that would likely extract a noticeable chunk of people from their cars.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 30

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ART OF TRANSIT: Very nice photo of the under-photographed Green Line, which runs mostly down the middle of the 105 freeway. Photo by Matthew Grant Anson, via his Flickr stream.

ART OF TRANSIT: Very nice photo of the under-photographed Green Line, which runs mostly down the middle of the 105 freeway. Photo by Matthew Grant Anson, via his Flickr stream.

Metro fare increase postponed, will take effect September 15th (Streetsblog LA)

The fare increases and changes approved by the Metro Board in May will begin on Sept. 15, a couple weeks behind the originally targeted date, reports Joe Linton. At that time, the regular fare will increase from $1.50 to $1.75 and also include two hours of free transfers. The cost of regular daily, weekly and monthly passes also increases — meaning that riders really need to consider whether it’s a better deal to pay per trip or still purchase a pass. Students who pay the discounted cash fare — which will not increase — don’t get the free transfer, according to a Metro staff report.

Senate tees up last-minute showdown on transpo funding (Streetsblog Network)

The Senate and the House continue to bicker over a short extension of the federal transportation funding bill. The House has a plan to keep it limping along until May, the Senate wants to shorten that time until December and get rid of some financial tricks — such as “pension smoothing” — that would keep the Highway Trust Fund from becoming an empty balloon.

Long story short: neither bill really tackles the main problem, which is that the federal gas tax — which hasn’t been raised since 1993 — doesn’t cover the nation’s transportation funding program anymore.

California high-speed rail project considering a tunnel under San Gabriel Mountains (Daily News) 

In its ongoing studies of the Palmdale-to-Burbank segment of the bullet train line, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will study a tunnel under the San Gabes in addition to a route that largely follows the 14 freeway. The tunnel would be a more direct shot but, presumably, would come at a higher cost. It currently takes Metrolink trains about two hours to travel between Union Station and Lancaster — that’s a two-hour train trip that never leaves Los Angeles County!

83-year-old good Samaritan scores rare victory in fight against City Hall (L.A. Times) 

Columnist Steve Lopez gets the bat squarely on the ball in a column that efficiently chronicles the difficulty in getting a curb painted red in a no parking zone and a certain major utility letting its sprinklers run all day in a drought before….just read it.

Op-Ed: is bicycling the new rude (Glendale News-Press)

Peter Rusch isn’t too thrilled with spandex-clad cycling groups that run stop signs, saying he doubts they would behave that way if behind the wheel of a car. No doubt there are some cyclists who flout the law. And that’s wrong. But pleeeeeeeease. There’s equally no doubt it would easy to write a column every day about motorists who blow through red lights, stop signs and who illegally nose their cars into crosswalks — and who far outnumber cyclists on the road.

MBTA adding wi-fi to commuter rail system (Metro)

Free wi-fi will be available on 14 commuter rail lines in the Greater Boston area, including some stations. A contractor is installing it for free — they hope to make money by getting people to pay $15 a month for premium wi-fi that would allow customers to stream video.

 

@Metrolosangeles Twitter Tuesday, July 1 edition

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Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 19

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Do all roads to Century City’s future lead to more traffic? (L.A. Times) 

Very interesting story — easily could have been longer and there’s some fascinating video of the old 20th Century Fox backlot being demolished to make way for the Century City development.

The original vision for Century City was a place where Westsiders could work, live and play (my words, no theirs). But it didn’t turn out that way. The number of workers is double original projections and the number of residents is nowhere close to what was expected. Without mass transit or the Beverly Hills Freeway being built, the result has been twofold: lots of traffic and a lot of office space that competes directly with real estate downtown Los Angeles. In fact, vacancy rates in Century City are lower than in DTLA, which is served by transit.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is quoted as saying that such a large development would never be allowed today without transit being built alongside it. That’s probably right and the article, unfortunately, needed more space to explain the delays in getting transit to Century City. On the upside, the Purple Line Extension subway is scheduled to arrive at the center of Century City in 2026.

Muffler shops or cafes? East L.A. plans for the future (Eastsider LA)

A new zoning plan for East L.A. is working its way through the process. As proposed, it would allow for more transit-oriented development along the past of the Gold Line on 3rd Street and other commercial corridors in the area. It would be great to see more new development along 3rd Street, in particular.

LAX to expand FlyAway service to Santa Monica and Hollywood (L.A. Times) 

Good news for those looking for an alternative to driving to the airport. The fares will be $8 for a one-way trip and the new locations will join existing FlyAway service between LAX and four locations: Union Station, Westwood, Van Nuys and Expo/La Brea.

San Gabriel Valley business leaders urge Metro to build promised Gold Line extension to Claremont (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

The biz leaders say they want funding for an Azusa-to-Claremont for the Gold Line Foothill Extension segment in Metro’s Short-Range plan, which details funding for transit projects in the next decade. At present, the only projects listed in the plan are projects already receiving Measure R funding; the Azusa-Claremont segment is outside the bounds of Measure R, along with other unfunded projects in Metro’s long-range plan. The Pasadena-to-Azusa segment is under construction and is scheduled to open in early 2016.

Senators Murphy (D) and Corker (R) propose 12 cents gas tax increase (Streetsblog Network) 

In an attempt to stave off the Highway Trust Fund going broke, a bipartisan proposal to raise the current 18.4 cents a gallon by 12 cents over the next two years. The federal gas tax hasn’t been raised in 20 years.

@Metrolosangeles Twitter Tuesday, June 17 edition: Stanley Cup, art+transit, rider issues

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 17

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Report urges new light rail station, circulator for LAX travel (L.A. Times)

Good coverage of the Metro staff report released yesterday recommending a new light rail station at Aviation and 96th that would connect with a people mover the airport would build to connect to LAX terminals and a few ground transportation hub. The new rail station would serve the Crenshaw/LAX Line trains and some Green Line trains. Please see our post for the staff report, maps and charts.

Valley coalition formed to advocate for rail (Post-Periodical)

The Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., a group representing business interests, has formed a group called “Valley on Track” to push for conversion of the Orange Line to light rail and using rail on two Measure R projects, the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor (bus rapid is also being considered) and the Sepulveda Pass Corridor. Of the trio, the Orange Line conversion is perhaps the toughest one. There is a pending state bill to lift the restriction on using rail in the corridor, but it’s a project with no funding presently in Metro’s long-range plans.

Bergamot Station’s tenants at odds over its future as Expo Line arrives (L.A. Times)

Many of the smaller art galleries at Bergamot Station are concerned that the three development proposals being reviewed by the city of Santa Monica — which owns the site — could lead to them being squeezed out. The most expensive of the proposals would cost $92 million and keep some of the old warehouses but also add non-art retail, a new hotel and underground parking. I like the present station but a lot of the land is under-utilized — it’s basically a series of galleries with a big parking lot in the middle. As for the Expo Line, a new station will sit on the northern part of the site next to Olympic Boulevard.

Editorial: a three-phase purple money eater (L.A. Register) 

They say the Purple Line Extension will cost too much and not fix traffic. They forget to mention the part about it serving as an alternative to traffic and that 68 percent of voters in 2008 voted for a package of transit projects, including the Purple Line Extension, as part of the Measure R sales tax increase. They also forget to mention that transit hasn’t “fixed” traffic in places such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, etc.

20 before-and-after Google Street views show downtown L.A.’s dramatic changes (LA Weekly)

Great idea for a post using a new feature on Google Maps that lets you see past street views. It’s nice to see some of the buildings that were virtually abandoned get a new lease on life.

@Metrolosangeles Twitter Tuesday, June 10 edition: your pics, wisdom and tweets about Metro

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@Metrolosangeles Twitter Tuesday: your tweets, pics and wisdom on riding Metro

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, April 29

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ART OF TRANSIT: Okay, this isn't the train station we've been featuring prominently on this blog in recent weeks. Union Terminal in Cincinnati was completed in 1931 -- eight years before our Union Station opened -- and is also Art Deco but obviously very different from our station. Also different from L.A. Union Station: Cincy's station is now a museum, served only by a single Amtrak train that runs a somewhat odd route between Chicago and New York. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: Okay, this isn’t the train station we’ve been featuring prominently on this blog in recent weeks. Union Terminal in Cincinnati was completed in 1931 — eight years before our Union Station opened — and is also Art Deco but obviously very different from our station. Also different from L.A. Union Station: Our station is busier than ever in its 75-year history while Cincy’s station is now a museum, served only by a single Amtrak train that runs a somewhat odd route between Chicago and New York. Related reminder: National Train Day is Saturday with associated Union Station and train events. Click here for the rundown of events. Photo by Steve Hymon.

L.A. is a pedestrian death capital (LA weekly)

Newly released federal statistics show that Los Angeles is second only to New York City when it comes to pedestrian deaths involving motor vehicles. Excerpt:

Nationwide, pedestrian deaths comprised 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. In L.A., pedestrian deaths accounted for a whopping 41 percent of all killed in car crashes. For New York, it was 47 percent, according to the NHTSA stats.

Los Angeles’ per-100,000 pedestrian fatality rate wasn’t at all the highest, at 2.57 percent. But it beat out New York’s 1.52 percent.

Scary stuff perhaps attributable to the volumes of cars and people here. While the LAPD’s crackdown on jaywalking in downtown Los Angeles has received considerable media attention, I’m curious how much attention local police — in L.A. and elsewhere — are paying to vehicular encroachments on crosswalks. I see it happen all the time, I can’t recall ever seeing any one pulled over for it in my 20 years living in the L.A. area.

Semi-related: transportation accounts for 42 percent of worker deaths in the U.S. including road worker incidents, trucking accidents and even fishing incidents on boats.

The MTA has declared us a class-based society (CityWatchLA)

Writer Bob Gelfand despairs the Metro Board’s decision last week to extend the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 beyond next January (which also requires state legislation). He doesn’t like Lexus Lanes, saying they are more likely to be used by higher income motorists. His solution: have tolls based on the value of the car. That strikes me as fraught with problems, namely that the price of a vehicle doesn’t always correlate with a person’s income level. There has also been some evidence that transponder accounts have been opened from a variety of zip codes and census tracts representing a variety of income levels. As for the “class-based society,” it’s probably worth pointing out that Silver Line ridership has increased since the ExpressLanes opened.

Amtrak to test allowing pets on trains (Amtrak)

The pilot program in Illinois would allow pets 20 pounds or under in exchange for a $25 surcharge. Pets would have to be in carriers. Smart move, I think as Amtrak works to speed up its trains in some Midwest carriers and possibly compete with the airline and driving industries. Disclosure: I have dogs and have traveled with dogs frequently in recent years, usually by car.

Twitter Tuesday: the good, the bad and the musings

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