New Section of L.A. River Bikeway in the west San Fernando Valley opens

Photo Credit: City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works

Marking another noteworthy achievement for Metro’s Call for Projects Program, transportation officials from the city and county of Los Angeles this morning announced the grand opening of a brand new section of L.A. River Bikeway in the western San Fernando Valley.

Located between Winnetka and Vanowen Streets in the neighborhood of Winnetka, the newly completed half-mile segment of bikeway has an impressive list of amenities, including newly striped dedicated pedestrian/bike path, signage, bridge underpasses, landscaping, drinking fountains, benches, exercise equipment and solar LED lighting.

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New “CicLAvia Explores” program connects audiences to local communities; first event is Thursday night

Heads up, people: the first event is this Thursday evening, a panel discussion on the new streets of L.A. in DTLA — event description and RSVP info is below. Here is the news release from our friends at CicLAvia:

New “CicLAvia Explores” Program Engages and Connects Audiences to

Los Angeles County Communities Throughout the Year

First Event is August 7 With Two Additional Events Planned for September

LOS ANGELES – CicLAvia is thrilled to announce the launch of “CicLAvia Explores,” a new program designed to connect Angelenos with communities in Los Angeles County through a range of engaging activities held separately from CicLAvia car-free event days. The Explores program kicks off August 7 from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. with the New Streets of LA discussion featuring transportation leaders and advocates, held in partnership with the Levi’s Commuter Workspace at 157 W. Fifth St. in downtown LA (see full details below).

When people hear the word, “CicLAvia,” they tend to think of car-free streets filled with people biking, walking, running and skating. But CicLAvia’s mission is also to engage with people to positively transform their relationship with their communities and with each other. CicLAvia Explores extends the spirit of CicLAvia in between its signature large-scale, car-free events with a series of smaller activities in areas where CicLAvia routes have traveled, will travel to and to vibrant communities that have yet to experience a CicLAvia route.

 “After every CicLAvia we hear from people who rave about discovering a new restaurant or store, coming across a historic building or beautiful park, or simply liking the ‘feel’ of a neighborhood they’ve discovered on the route,” said Executive Director Aaron Paley. “CicLAvia Explores gives us another platform for that level of community engagement. The programs will allow our audience to have a glimpse of new routes, stay connected to previous CicLAvia streets and discover other neighborhoods.”

The Explores program, which features a new play on CicLAvia’s logo, provides opportunities to delve deeper into the sights, sounds, tastes, design and heritage of communities in a more intimate manner than on CicLAvia days. The program will offer gatherings, discussions and activities highlighting the food, culture and architecture of selected neighborhoods. CicLAvia will partner with local leaders, businesses and organizations for these events to give participants an insider’s glimpse of the community. The organization will also work with the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and with city council offices to highlight the city’s Great Streets initiatives.

CicLAvia Explores year-round activities will typically be held 4-6 weeks in advance of a car-free event to give the audience a preview of what they will find on CicLAvia day. Additionally, CicLAvia Explores provides the opportunity to revisit previous routes and go into new communities that have yet to experience a CicLAvia route, demonstrating that the organization is committed to connecting with local communities outside of a car-free event.

Each CicLAvia Explores activity will be unique to the community where it is held. Some events will be free while others will have a cost. Planned events include:

August 7 (7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.)The New Streets of LA – A panel discussion followed by music, food and drinks held in partnership with Levi’s Commuter Workspace (a pop-up destination at 157 W. Fifth St.), near October’s Heart of LA route. LA’s leading transportation experts, activists and innovators will talk about the future of LA’s streets that keep LA vibrant, safe and open. The panel will feature Mayor Garcetti’s selection for General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Seleta Reynolds, as well as Los Angeles Walks executive director and founder Deborah Murphy, LA County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Jen Klausner, City of LA Transportation Commissioner Tafarai Bayne and Metro Transportation Planning Manager Avital Shavit.

RSVP at http://levis-commuter.ticketleap.com/august7/details. Event is 21+.

September 7 (2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.; 6:00 p.m. movie screening) – CicLAvia Explores Broadway – A day for CicLAvia fans to enjoy the revived Broadway Theater District, which is part of the October 5 Heart of LA route. Activities include free walking tours of the Broadway Theater District with CicLAvia Executive Director Aaron Paley (2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.), and an open house of the Million Dollar Theater (courtesy of LA Historic Theater Foundation) from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. The day will conclude with a ticketed screening of David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” in the Million Dollar Theater at 6:00 p.m. with a portion of the ticket proceeds going to CicLAvia. Visitors can also enjoy the myriad of food choices at Grand Central Market throughout the day, as well as concessions from the market for the movie that evening. Tour reservations and movie tickets will be made available in the coming weeks.

September 14 – Melting Pot Tours will lead A Taste of East LA – a culinary journey which will take participants to several restaurants on or near the Heart of LA route that highlight the cuisine of East LA. The cost is $25 and includes a CicLAvia TAP card. A portion of the proceeds will go to CicLAvia. Tickets will be available for purchase online starting August 13.

For information about the CicLAvia Explores program and events, please visit http://www.ciclavia.org/explores.

The October 5 CicLAvia – Heart of LA is sponsored by Metro, a proud partner of open streets events throughout Los Angeles County.

For a download of the CicLAvia Explores logo, click here.

About CicLAvia CicLAvia is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. CicLAvia catalyzes vibrant public spaces, active transportation and good health through car-free streets.  CicLAvia engages with people to transform our relationship with our communities and with each other. With the full support of Metro, local governments, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles City Council, Police Department, Fire Department, Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Works, the Department of Water and Power, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Department of Cultural Affairs, CicLAvia is an innovative model for creating new public space and enriching civic life.

CicLAvia Partners include Metro, the City of Los Angeles, the Wasserman Foundation and an Anonymous benefactor.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 23

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Metro opens command center for Century Crunch (KPCC) 

The $1.2-million command center — which resembles a big RV painted black — will be parked near the intersection of Aviation and Century this weekend while the old railroad bridge is demolished. The idea is that it allows Metro and other law enforcement officials to push the latest traffic information out ASAP. More info on the Century Crunch closures is here.

Seven innovations to make L.A.’s Metro better (Neon Tommy)

Suggestions include a comprehensible intercom system, maps that show riders where the trains are located at present time, the ability to use a credit card or cell phone as a TAP card, better sealing off train tracks to prevent suicides, underground cell phone and wi-fi service (the cell phone service is on its way but no firm date when it will be completed) and more secure turnstiles.

LA’s new Olympic bid team, many rivers to cross (3 Wire Sports) 

Looks like businessman Casey Wasserman, 40, is heading up the Los Angeles bid attempt at the 2024 Summer Olympics. As the article notes, there are challenges. The first is that the U.S. Olympic Committee hasn’t decided yet to bid on the 2024 Games — they’re waiting to see how some Olympic reform attempts play out.

The other challenge is that Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. may be competing with L.A. for the right to be the American representative in the international competition. Los Angeles, of course, has already twice hosted the Games while the others would be rookies. I don’t see D.C. as being realistic — fair or not, the city is too intertwined with American politics to be appealing. But I can see Beantown and San Francisco being strong competitors. Boston has pretty good infrastructure and sports facilities at the many colleges in the region while San Francisco is, well, San Francisco. One knock on them: the nicest arena in the area is in San Jose, whereas L.A. has Staples Center, the Honda Center and other smaller areans that could easily host events (Galen Center, Pauley Pavilion, Sports Arena).

I mention all this because infrastructure always is discussed as part of bid efforts. On that front, Los Angeles is at the center of a Metro Rail and Metrolink system that did not exist in 1984 and will be growing considerably between now and 2024, with the second phase of the Expo Line and Gold Line Foothill Extension scheduled to open in 2016, the Crenshaw/LAX Line in 2019, the Regional Connector in 2020 and the first phase of the Purple Line Extension in 2023.

Just in Olympic terms, think about what that means. The Crenshaw/LAX Line gets Metro Rail closer to LAX and will include a transfer to the airport people mover that LAX is going to build. The Expo Line connects downtown Los Angeles and the USC campus to downtown Santa Monica and the Westside (where there are many hotels), the Gold Line Foothill Extension will stop next to Azusa Pacific University and Citrus College and better connect the San Gabriel Valley to the Metro Rail system, the Regional Connector makes travel on the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines faster throughout the region without as many transfers and the Purple Line Extension brings the subway to the Miracle Mile, one of the cultural centers of our region.

The above is on the current Measure R schedule and doesn’t include the possibility of project acceleration if Metro pursues another ballot measure in 2016 (the agency is contemplating it).

Some bumps in the road on the way to a bike-friendly L.A. (L.A. Times) 

The editorial builds off the recent flap over bike lanes on Figueroa in northeast L.A. and Highland Park.

Excerpt:

Unless some demonstrable miscalculation was made in the bike plan, or unless there’s a real safety issue, individual City Council members should not be tinkering with the plan, which was designed carefully with the whole city in mind. Currently, Los Angeles has 337.62 miles of dedicated bike lanes. Cedillo is looking at alternatives to the Figueroa corridor, but the city planners chose these designated routes for specific reasons; nearby streets, they say, won’t work. The idea is to create a seamless network of bike lanes that allow cyclists to travel continuously from one point to another.

No one said it would be easy to make legions of drivers in car-obsessed Los Angeles relinquish a fraction of their lanes to bicycles. No driver wants to be slowed down by even 47 seconds. And it’s understandable that drivers are frustrated when they see congested roads and empty bike lanes.

But the more the city continues to implement its bike plan, the more extensive the network of bike lanes becomes. The hope is that over time, those lanes will begin to fill up — and maybe some drivers will get out of their cars and onto bikes.

That neatly distills what’s happening. I think you could say the same thing about the transit network. Networks are more powerful than individual lines. There are some other challenges when it comes to bikes but hopefully more people will use the lanes and the backlash will die down.

 

Bill could allow bike share users to pay with pre-tax dollars (New York Post)

A Congressman from Queens is introducing a bill that would allow bike share users to have the cost of bike sharing deducted from their paychecks on a pre-tax basis, just as is currently allowed for transit passes. The Post sounds a tad skeptical, but that is to be expected.

Connect US seeks to better link Union Station to neighborhoods via new esplanades and bike paths

As most of you likely know, Metro has been developing the Union Station Master Plan to preserve the historic train depot while also renovating it and redeveloping parts of the 40-acre campus as use of the station continues to grow.

A companion study has been looking at an equally important issue: better linking Union Station by foot and bike to surrounding neighborhoods. Union Station sits on the far northern end of downtown Los Angeles and, at present, it’s often not terribly pleasant to reach via sidewalk or bike.

The linkages study — called Connect US — seeks to remedy that by recommending 13 separate projects totaling $50 million to $60 million in costs that would create a series of corridors that walkers and cyclists could use between Union Station and the Regional Connector’s 1st/Central Station and surrounding neighborhoods. Among those communities: Chinatown, Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo, the Civic Center and the Arts District.

A PowerPoint of the study’s recommendations, presented by community members last Thursday at a City Hall event, is posted above. As you scroll through, there are a series of maps and renderings that provide an idea of the scope of the project.

Among the improvements: an esplanade between the entrance to Union Station that would reach across Alameda Street to El Pueblo de Los Angeles and Olvera Street; new esplanades with expanded sidewalks and protected bike lanes along Los Angeles Street, Alameda Street and North Broadway (which would sit on the bluff above Los Angeles State Historic Park), and; add bike lanes (some protected) and sidewalk and street improvements to other key streets such as 1st Street, 3rd Street and Santa Fe and Alpine.

Metro is helping to plan the improvements, which will largely be undertaken by the city of Los Angeles (the city oversees downtown streets). The project has been separated into a series of smaller projects, the idea being that each project can be done when funding becomes available, a nod to the realities of transportation funding.

The final speaker at last Thursday’s event was Gil Penalosa, the well-known former parks chief in Bogata, Colombia, and who now heads up 8-80 Cities, a nonprofit that advocates for parks, bike lanes, pedestrians and making cities more vibrant and sustainable — the kind of things people usually like in cities. As he made clear, the Connect US plan would not only help improve mobility in downtown but would make L.A. more like other well-known cities across the globe that are walk- and bike-friendly and that people love to visit.

Gil Penalosa speaking at last Thursday's event unveiling of the Connect US plan at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gil Penalosa speaking at last Thursday’s event unveiling of the Connect US plan at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 17

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House passes interim fix for Highway Trust Fund (New York Times) 

The U.S. House voted on Tuesday for a short-term fix to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent and to avoid a massive cut in federal construction funding. Instead of relying on a gas tax increase (politically unpopular for the past 21 years), the House is relying on some budgetary maneuvers (“pension smoothing”) to keep the Fund going — and the Senate and President Obama are likely to go along with it. The fate of the President’s four-year, $302-billion transportation bill proposed this year remains unknown, but things aren’t looking good.

Jon Stewart and the Daily Show took on the Highway Trust Fund last night — as usual he offers a good (and funny) primer for those who don’t know much about the subject. Warning: mildly adult language. Meanwhile, the L.A. Times editorial page says that Congress should just bite the bullet and raise the gas tax.

Over at the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, President Obama gets two Pinnochios for his repeated claim that 700,000 jobs are at risk if Congress doesn’t take action on the Highway Trust Fund. The Post says the number of jobs truly at risk is far lower and that it would be more accurate to say the Highway Trust Fund helps support 700,000 jobs.

And here’s our explanation of why all this matters to agencies such as Metro.

Halted Figueroa bike lane project riles cyclists (L.A. Times) 

A plan by the city of Los Angeles to install three miles of bike lanes to Figueroa through Highland Park has hit a bump-in-the-road in the form of Councilman Gil Cedillo, who says the lanes will impact traffic and slow emergency response times. Activists counter that the lanes will make Figueroa safer (reducing the number of emergencies) and will have little impact on vehicle travel times. Making the debate more interesting: Cedillo said that he supported the lanes during his campaign and has used campaign-style tactics to get more people to public meetings to help counter views of bike activists who don’t live in the 1st district.

Beverly Hills battles Metro over Purple Line Extension (Neon Tommy) 

The article provides a basic review of Beverly Hills’ legal fight against Metro over tunneling under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. A Superior Court judge earlier this year ruled that Metro adequately studied the issue in the environmental documents for the project. The Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city of Beverly Hills have appealed.

Meet Seleta Reynolds, the new head of LADOT (Downtown News) 

A brief interview with the new general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation; Reynolds was hired by Mayor Eric Garcetti earlier this summer. Reynolds talks a little about the differences between L.A. and San Francisco, where she formerly worked on a number of active transportation projects. She has never lived in L.A., but accurately notes how the politics of transportation work here (or don’t work depending on your POV) — they’re divided up between a number of agencies and elected officials.

L.A. and S.F. dogfight over transport visions (Cal WatchDog.com)

The headline doesn’t really describe the post which briefly — but interestingly — makes some comparisons and contrasts between the two cities. The focus of the piece is on the “Great Streets” initiative in L.A. versus the difficulty of getting a bus rapid transit project completed on busy, and often congested, Van Ness Street in San Francisco. I thought this description of L.A. was worth excerpting:

Los Angeles, in other words, is relatively distinct among America’s largest cities. Rather than an industrial-age city planned out block by block, constrained by geography, contemporary L.A. is a post-modern patchwork — a veritable network of villages that lacks a single core where residents routinely cluster on foot.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 10

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There are many reasons that the Los Angeles Kings are up three games to none over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. One big reason is that the Rangers don’t know how to defensively cover the most dangerous part of the ice in terms of allowing opponents to take shots. Top photo is Jeff Carter’s first goal in last night’s game and the bottom photo is Justin Williams taking the overtime winner in Game 1. Notice any similarities?!!! Game Four is Wednesday night in New York and Game Five, if necessary, Friday afternoon at Staples Center, located conveniently near the Pico Station served by the Blue Line and Expo Line and a pleasant stroll from the Red/Purple Line station at 7th/Metro Center.

House rejects cuts to Amtrak (The Hill)

Perhaps the source of the cuts — an outgoing Georgia politician — were the issue. Still pretty amazing, given the un-love that some Congress members have heaped on Amtrak in the past.

Why Chicago’s botched privatization of parking meters is bad for the environment (Next City) 

A while back, Chicago leased its parking meters to a private firm for $1 billion for 75 years. The idea was that the city would get an instant cash shot-in-the-arm in exchange for the revenue stream from its meters. The deal has had its critics and this article certainly takes a dim view of it — including examples of how the deal is getting in the way of other goals. Example: installing bus lanes is now more difficult as it’s more difficult to remove meters.

Eric Garcetti endorses funding mass transit with cap-and-trade revenues (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the media event held at Metro’s Division 13 last week about pending state legislation to use revenue from California’s cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions to help fund mass transit. In related news, the New York Time’s Thomas Friedman published an interesting interview with President Obama about climate change, with the president saying that putting “a price on carbon” is crucially important.

More on the Westwood Boulevard bike lane issue (Biking in LA)

Some interesting background on the bike lanes that the city of Los Angeles is not going to install of Westwood Boulevard. I mention it here because two future Metro Rail projects will have stations on the street: the Expo Line will stop just south of the Westside Pavilion and the Purple Line Extension will stop at Wilshire and Westwood. Bike connections from both stations could help with first mile/last mile issues, I suppose.

No longer for punks, skateboards cater to yuppie commuters (Wall Street Journal) 

Speaking of first mile/last mile…here is how a few people are solving the problem — by riding. The private sector is responding with electrified skateboards to tackle hills, skateboards with fat tires to handle bumpy and rocky city pavement and other contraptions that are skateboard-like. I don’t see a ton of commuters on skateboards but I’ve definitely see more skateboards in bike lanes than in the past.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 3

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Metro unveils bold proposal to modernize Union Station (L.A. Times) 

Good overview of some of the details Metro released yesterday on the emerging Union Station Master Plan, which seeks to add an expanded concourse, widened rail platforms, a relocated bus plaza and new development. A community meeting will be held Thursday evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Metro headquarters (no RVSP required) in the Board room. Our post from yesterday also has renderings.

Downtown institutions battle over having name on Expo Line station (Downtown News)

The 23rd Street station is near both the Orthopaedic Institute for Children and the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College — and both want their names on the station. The issue will eventually land before the Metro Board of Directors.

L.A. Mayor identifies city’s ‘Great Streets’ (L.A. Times)

Mayor Eric Garcetti this morning is announcing the sections of 15 streets in the city — one in each council district — that are to get an extensive makeover. The city has $800,000 budgeted for the program. Metro has busy bus lines on all the streets, btw, and some sections are near existing or future rail stations.

In related news, an appeal of the MyFigueroa plan by an auto dealer has been withdrawn, according to StreetsblogLA. That should clear the way for pedestrian and cycling improvements on the street, as well as new bus stops.

Park Mile fretting over plan for 48 little houses (Curbed LA)

Another development dispute, this time involving the Farmers Insurance campus on Wilshire Boulevard. It was purchased by the developer CIM who wants to subdivide it and build 48 homes on the site after the insurance workers move to another office. Wilshire is a busy transit corridor, of course, and it will be interesting to see how the homes are designed to fit into the fabric of the existing neighborhood of single-family homes.

Academy to pay LACMA $36 million for movie museum lease (L.A. Times) 

The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences will pay the money up front and then have a 108-year lease for its planned museum at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax. Which is conveniently located near two busy bus corridors and the future Purple Line Extension’s station at Wilshire and Fairfax! LACMA also some big plans for the eastern side of its campus.