Metro unveils new Kinkisharyo pilot rail car

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Metro unveiled the first of 78 Kinkisharyo P3010 rail cars this morning. The first pilot car will be used for testing to ensure it is fully compatible with Metro’s system and that there are no safety or technical issues before the remaining cars are delivered.

If all goes according to plan, Metro will receive its first production car in the summer of 2015. That car will be used for testing and training on the Metro Expo Line Phase II and Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension, and then placed in service when the two lines open in 2016. All 78 cars are expected to be in service by January 2017.

Take a brief tour on the pilot car with this video:

Source writers Anna and Joe, both transit system connoisseurs, were able to take a tour inside the pilot car this morning. Their thoughts:

Joe: The first thing I noticed when I got on the train were the blue floor decals and blue seat designs that marked the disabled/priority seating areas. I’ve seen the blue seat design on our new buses and they’re hard to miss. There’s no doubt that this area is reserved for passengers with special needs and you should be prepared to move if you’re sitting in one of the seats.

I also see potential for the monitors that were located at the front and rear of the train. If they’re ultimately used for something informational such as digital signage, it would be an excellent and efficient use of the space.

Anna: Love the shiny new yellow, it’s very eye-catching. The seat arrangement also makes the train car feel more spacious, and more similar to the Nippon Sharyo cars on the Blue/Expo Line. I agree with Joe on the designated priority seats and can’t wait to see them in use. Not sure how I feel about the emergency door open handle being lower and located on the car wall behind the priority seating. On the one hand, it’s more accessible, which is good in case of emergency. But on the other, it’s located behind priority seating…which is reserved for those who may have mobility issues.

Thing I love the most? The extra large decal showing where the designated bicycle/luggage/stroller area is. It’s impossible to miss and makes it super easy for bicyclists to know where to go when they bring bikes on board.

Keep reading after the jump for the press release on the pilot car from Metro:

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Oct. 14

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! 

Art of Transit, sort of: Fall colors earlier this month along U.S. 395 near Conway Summit. Photo by Fred Moore, via Flickr creative commons.

Art of Transit, sort of: Fall colors earlier this month along U.S. 395 near Conway Summit. Photo by Fred Moore, via Flickr creative commons.

Metro bus driver quarantined after passenger yells ‘I have Ebola’ (L.A. Times)

Non-hysterical and straight-up coverage of yesterday’s very unusual incident in which a bus passenger wearing a mask said he had ebola and then exited the bus. “Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials don’t believe the rider has Ebola and believe the incident was a hoax, spokeswoman Sarah Kissell Garrett said,” reports the Times.

The only verified cases of Ebola virus in the U.S. have involved either healthcare workers who had been in Western Africa and were brought back to the United States for treatment and the patient who died in Dallas last week and one of his nurses. From the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.

Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients.

The CDC has plenty of information on Ebola on its website. Obviously it is not a disease to be taken lightly but it’s also important to understand the facts.

What would L.A. look like if 100-year-old transit plans come true? (KPCC CityCast)

A brief article and podcast covers some well-trod but interesting ground: the many transit plans that burped forth in our region over the year, some of which were permanently shelved and some of which eventually were built and are busy today — i.e, the Red Line, Blue Line and Orange Line. My three cents: when you hear about a transit project, a good first question usually is: “and how will you pay for it?” If there isn’t a solid answer, be leery.

Hopes rise again for abandoned Philly rail line (Next City)

Interesting story about possible plans for a rail tunnel abandoned in the early 1990s that runs under Broad Street in downtown Philadelphia. Several bus rapid transit alternatives are under study.

Seattle bike share kicks off (Post-Intelligencer) 

Bike sharing kicks off with about 50 stations across the Emerald City. “The Seattle program is the first in the U.S. that includes helmet use as part of the rental. Annual memberships for the bike share program range from $85 to $125. The first half hour of usage is free and there is a charge beyond that for use of the bike,” reports the PI.

I’ve been in Cincy for the past 10 days or so (helping the parents) and was pleasantly surprised to see bike share has also landed in the Queen City with some colorful Red bikes. Of course, Metro is working on a bike share program for Los Angeles County and is currently trying to finalize station locations for phase 1 of the program in downtown Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena and Santa Monica. See this recent Source post.

The startingly artful world of Soviet bus stops (Architizer)

Christopher Herwig used a Kickstarter campaign to fund a photography book on these unlikely bus stops. He traveled thousands of kilometers and spent 12 years assembling this impressive collection of photos.

 

 

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, October 9

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! 

Art of Transit: Latvian bike activists show how much space a bike takes versus that of a car. Clever. Click above for more photos. Photo by Artūrs Pavlovs.

Art of Transit: Latvian bike activists show how much space a bike takes versus that of a car. Clever. Click above for more photos. Photo by Artūrs Pavlovs.

405 speeds little changed (ZevWeb)

The traffic data firm Inrix sampled traffic on the northbound 405 for a couple of weeks last month between the 10 and 101. The finding: it basically takes the same average amount of time to travel between the 10 and 101 in 2014 as it did in 2013 before the NB 405 HOV lane was fully opened.

There are a couple of caveats: Inrix says that the number of cars crossing the pass has increased because of a regional surge in traffic (likely tied to the economy) and that travel times in the last hour of peak travel times is faster than it was before the HOV lane opened.

Excerpt:

The finding that speeds appear to have remained level despite the increase in traffic is a sign of the project’s success, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said. Caltrans, Metro’s partner on the 405 Project, estimates that the carpool lane handles 1,600 cars per hour during peak travel times. “If you didn’t have that extra lane, all those cars would be competing for five lanes instead of six,” Sotero said.

What’s more, the 405 Project’s benefits go beyond traffic speeds, Sotero said. The project enhanced safety by rebuilding three bridges to better withstand earthquakes and by creating additional shoulder space on the freeway, he said, while reconfigured on- and off-ramps have increased capacity and improved traffic flow. Sotero said the project never was expected to be a panacea for rush hour traffic.

“You can’t escape the fact that carpool lanes are going to fill up during peak periods,” Sotero said. “What carpool lanes do is reduce the duration and severity of traffic.”

Two other points worth chewing on: the new Valley-Westside Express Bus will debut Dec. 15 and use the NB HOV lane on the 405 (click here for more info). Also, the Inrix sampling doesn’t consider how many people are in cars crossing the pass. HOV lanes typically carry more people than regular lanes (because those cars are mostly carpooling!) — i.e. meaning a lot more people are probably getting across the Sepulveda Pass in the same amount of time as previous.

Expo construction at 70 percent (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

Canopies on the Westwood Station. Photo courtesy Ron Miller, via Expo Line Fan's construction gallery. Click above to visit the gallery.

Canopies on the Westwood Station. Photo courtesy Ron Miller, via Expo Line Fan’s construction gallery. Click above to visit the gallery.

Expo Line Construction Authority officials say that all bridges are done and construction should be finished by next summer when the process of handing the project over to Metro could begin. That’s not a short or trivial process btw. Metro must inspect the line to make sure that the Authority, an independent agency set up by the state, was built to the agency’s specifications.

Thoughts at a workshop on replacing CA’s gas tax with a mileage fee (Streetsblog LA)

Joe Linton attends a half-day gathering to mull the possibility of taxing motorists by the mile instead of the current scheme which involves a tax applied per gallon; California will soon launch a pilot program to test distance-based taxes. The post does a good job of capturing the nuances of the two taxation systems and concludes that distance-based taxes may work but there are a lot of variables involved. One interesting one: Americans overall are driving less, a trend that seems likely to continue.

Metro fare jumpers explain how they evade fares (LA Weekly)

Although the fare evasion rate remains elusive, L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies issued 35.5 percent more citations (89,535) for fare evasion in 2013 than 2012, according to data from a public records request submitted by LA Weekly. The data also indicates — perhaps not surprisingly — that 19- to 29-year-olds are frequently cited, males are cited three times more often than females and the Red and Blue Lines are where most citations are issued (they are Metro’s two most heavily ridden lines, btw).

The Weekly also made a video showing how turnstiles may be vulnerable to fare evasion although it should be noted: 1) Metro is hardly the only transit system with turnstiles and fare evaders; 2) If you get caught, you’ll be cited at least $75, and; 3) Metro’s bus and rail system is big and expensive to run and fares help pay for it. Not paying hurts our transit system and fellow riders.

Garcetti: NFL team ‘highly likely’ to return to L.A. in next year (L.A. Times)

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti says interest in L.A. by the NFL remains high. It appears three franchises — the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers — are the three most viable candidates and there are two potential locations, a new stadium next to Staples Center or a new stadium near Hollywood Park. From a transit perspective, it’s hard to beat the Staples Center location while Hollywood Park would require a shuttle from the Crenshaw/LAX Line when it’s completed, currently forecast for 2019.

From an aesthetic/competitive point of view, the Raiders are hopeless and belong in Oakland while the Chargers could go deep in the playoffs this season but belong in San Diego. The Rams, however, should have never left L.A., play in an extremely ugly dome in St. Louis and being in L.A. would be a better locale to play their division rivals, the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals. So if the deed must be done, Go Rams!

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, October 1

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! 

Art of Transit: New Metro Rail light rail vehicles being assembled in Palmdale. In this pic, two halves of a light rail car are being joined together. Photo: Metro.

Art of Transit: New Metro Rail light rail vehicles being assembled in Palmdale. In this pic, two halves of a light rail car are being joined together. Photo: Metro.

Metro breaks ground on key downtown L.A. subway link (L.A. Times)

Officials break ground on $1.4-billion Regional Connector (Downtown News)

Coverage of yesterday’s groundbreaking for the Regional Connector project that will tie together the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines in downtown L.A., making for a quicker ride to and through downtown for Metro light rail passengers. Officials emphasized that the Connector will reduce the need for transfer and should hopefully make taking the train into DTLA more convenient and possibly even quicker than driving.

I thought it was interesting that no one at the event noted, however, that the Pasadena Gold Line was originally intended to connect to the Blue Line. That was cut from the project in the 1990s due to budget woes, with officials figuring the subway could be used to bridge the gap between Union Station and 7th/Metro. Complicating matters, the Gold Line platform and subway platforms aren’t exactly adjacent — something I’m not sure you would appreciate unless you’re the one walking it day after day, month after month and year after year.

Metro’s Union Station Master Plan a significant shift (L.A. Times)

Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne takes a look at the Union Station Master Plan that the Metro Board will consider in its October round of meetings (the Board delayed taking action in September). Overall, he likes many elements of the plan and considers some of the challenges — such as how new development adjacent to the station will blend in with the historic station structure. One note from Metro: officials emphasize that raising the tracks at Union Station as part of the run-through project and providing room for the concourse below would not impact nearby bridges over the Los Angeles River.

Making Los Angeles streets safe, zero pedestrian deaths are mayor’s and LADOT’s goal (Daily News) 

LADOT’s bold new strategic vision: eliminate L.A. traffic deaths by 2025 (Streetsblog L.A.)

A look at the “Great Streets” document released by the city of Los Angeles earlier this week. The goal of ending pedestrian deaths and all traffic fatalities in the city by 2025 is certainly commendable — and will certainly be a challenge given the size of the city and the amount of traffic within it. As the article notes, there were 80 deaths last year and that number hasn’t moved much in recent years. My humble request: improving the often lousy pedestrian environment on sidewalks near the Blue Line would be a great place to start.

From Damien Newton and Joe Linton at Streetsblog:

There have long been holistic thinkers at LADOT, but they’ve been in the minority, squeezing in opportunistic improvements in the midst of a departmental culture that prioritized car convenience. In the past half-dozen years, under the leadership of previous General Manager Jaime de la Vega and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LADOT has warmed up to a broader mission that balances the needs of all road users.

But today’s plan is a quantum leap forward.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

The document from the city is below — looks like it has some interesting facts and figures, although I haven’t had a chance to read yet in its entirety.

A high-frequency bus network: is it worth the cost? (Edmonton Journal)

Excellent intro to a longer series about an ongoing discussion in the city: should high-frequency bus service be the goal or should the city continue to spread bus service around so everyone has at least a little service? Transportation planner Jarrett Walker was hired to help city officials make some decisions — see his blog for more coverage.

Of course, this is a hugely relevant conversation in Los Angeles County, where Metro and many other municipal agencies provide bus service. Some of it is certainly high frequency (at times) and much of it dives deeply into the ‘burbs and has low ridership but is obviously critical for the mobility of those who do ride. The catch: funding for bus service is never unlimited, meaning that to some degree the number of high-ridership, high-frequency lines are limited by the number of low-frequency bus lines.

 

 

Ground is broken for Regional Connector project to link Blue, Expo and Gold Lines

RegionalConnectorMap

RegConnectorPlan

The official groundbreaking for the $1.42-billion Regional Connector project is being held this morning in Little Tokyo. The 1.9-mile underground light rail line will link the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines, allowing for faster and more frequent service on Metro’s light rail lines to and through downtown Los Angeles.

The project will also eliminate the need to transfer for many light rail riders. Riders on the Expo and Blue Line will be able to continue north on light rail from 7th/Metro Center to other downtown neighborhoods such as the Financial District, Civic Center and Little Tokyo. Likewise, Gold Line riders will no longer have to transfer to the Red/Purple Line subway at Union Station to reach the heart of downtown.

The project is currently forecast to be completed in 2020. When done, Metro plans to run trains between Long Beach and Azusa on a north-south light rail line and east-west between Santa Monica and East Los Angeles. Metro continues to work on potential naming and color schemes for its light rail lines to be used in the future.

Three other Metro Rail projects are already under construction: the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line, the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line to downtown Santa Monica and the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension to the Azusa/Glendora border. The 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway is in pre-construction with utility relocations underway.

The Regional Connector, like those other projects, is receiving funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in November 2008.

Below are a pair of the station renderings. We’ll add more pics to The Source from today’s media event later and will be posting photos to our Twitter and Instagram streams during the event. Media, bloggers, anyone: feel free to use/share any photos or renderings that we post.

And here is video from this morning’s event:

Below is the news release from Metro:

Federal, State & Local Elected Officials Join in Groundbreaking Ceremony

Metro Breaks Ground on New Regional Connector Light Rail Project in Downtown Los Angeles

Metro joined U.S Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx along with state and local elected officials today to officially break ground on the $1.420 billion Regional Connector Light Rail Project in downtown Los Angeles that will better connect the Metro Blue, Gold and Expo lines with the rest of the region.

“This project will mean people can take a one-seat ride through Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, the Eastside and points in-between,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “Bringing our rail lines together and making transfers simpler will make it easier for people to use rail and will help take more cars off the road.”

The Regional Connector Project completes a 1.9-mile segment between the Metro Blue and Expo Lines and the Metro Gold Line by providing a direct connection with three new stations planned for 1st Street/Central Avenue, 2nd Street/Broadway and 2nd Place/Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Regional Connector will dramatically improve passengers’ daily commutes,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina.”It will provide them with better connections to the rest of the Metro Rail system without requiring them to transfer from one line to another. The Regional Connector is a major step forward in transforming Los Angeles County’s mass transit network into a truly world-class system.”

The Regional Connector Project is an important rail connection project overwhelmingly approved by the voters and funded by the Measure R half-cent sales tax ordinance for LA County transportation improvements. In addition to Measure R funding, a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the federal government secures $670 million for the project. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted Metro a loan of $160 million for the Regional Connector project from a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan (TIFIA) to complete the project.

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, September 17

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! 

Union ploy may throw Kinkisharyo off track (Antelope Valley Press)

The firm hired by Metro to build new rail cars wants to build an assembly plant in Palmdale. This editorial chastises the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 and other Antelope Valley residents for using legal tactics to try to force Kinkisharyo to hire union workers or do a full blown environmental impact report for the facility — which may mean the facility has to be located elsewhere. The new light rail vehicles are needed sooner rather than later for the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and as replacement cars for the Blue Line.

Kuehl, Shriver square off in L.A. County Supervisor debate (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of last night’s debate in the race for the third district, currently held by Zev Yaroslavsky. The Purple Line Extension was one issue discussed.

An eye in the sky, accessible to the hobbyist (New York Times)

A new drone with camera attached sells for about $1,300 — meaning these things are just going to get more popular. I recently watched a photographer use a drone at CalTech to photograph wedding pics and I’m curious how long it will be when drones are used to either photograph transit and/or the transportation industry.

On the hunt for fireflies in Utah (High Country News)

Not a transportation article, but a good read for those interested in or fascinated by the American West. Scientists have known for 30 years that fireflies — most often seen in the Midwest — were in Utah, but it wasn’t until recently that they secured proof.

Metro awarded $22 million in two federal TIGER grants to improve station access

 

Two projects to improve access to Metro Rail stations were awarded “TIGER grant” funding this week from the U.S. Department of Transportation:

•The Eastside Access Improvement Project will receive $11.8 million to help create a network of sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists to access the Regional Connector 1st/Central Station in Little Tokyo.

Proposed improvements include an enhanced network of crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists, improved pedestrian lighting, planting and street furniture along nearby streets. The above renderings show some of the possible improvements.

The Regional Connector is a 1.9-mile underground light rail line that will connect the Gold Line to the Blue and Expo Lines in downtown Los Angeles and is forecast to open in 2020. The Connector will allow Eastside Gold Line riders to take the train directly into the heart of downtown without first having to travel to Union Station and transfer to the subway.

•Metro also was awarded $10.25 million to fund a series of improvements for the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station that serves the Blue Line, Green Line, six Metro bus lines and other muni bus providers. The station sits under the 105 freeway, meaning it can be noisy, cavernous and dimly lit — all impacting the “passenger experience,” as Metro’s grant application noted.

Among the improvements to be funded by the grant money: increasing station capacity by lengthening the Blue Line platform and, according to Metro, “enhancing connections between rail, bus, bicycle and pedestrian facilities to create safer access to the station from the surrounding community.”

Metro continues to pursue a larger project that could include a new bus center, sheriff substation and pedestrian plaza. More funding will be needed for those improvements.

Please click here to see the news release from the U.S. Department of Transportation and here’s a nice USDOT map showing TIGER grants awarded around the country. Metro officials said they especially appreciated the support of Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein in securing the grants — the two largest awarded to agencies in the state of California.