Transportation headlines, Monday, August 25

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: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gold Line Eastside project environmental document released (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Coverage of the release on Friday of the Eastside Gold Line Phase 2 environmental study.  As the article notes, the two light rail alternatives would extend the Eastside Gold Line from East L.A. to either South El Monte or Whittier. Metro staff at this time has not selected a preferred alternative — that will happen in November. Under Measure R, the project is not scheduled to be complete until 2035, but Metro is trying to accelerate funding for the project, including possibly through a sales tax ballot measure in 2016. Here’s our post about the study, with links to the document.

L.A. County Supervisor’s alternate bullet train route gaining traction (L.A. Times)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority seems to be considering a tunnel under the San Gabriel Mountains on equal footing with two earlier proposed routes along the 14 freeway — neither of which is very popular with communities such as Action, Agua Ducle and Santa Clarita. Bullet train officials say the tunnel-only option advocated by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich — which would require 18 to 20 miles — of tunnels may actually prove cheaper than the 14 freeway routes, which also require extensive tunneling anyway. If you want to dream about traveling from Palmdale to Burbank in 15 minutes, read the article. The usual bullet train caveat: securing funding for the project — which aims to eventually connect L.A. and San Francisco — remains a huge hurdle.

Fault lines in L.A. over new subway construction (Breitbart News) 

The city and school district in Beverly Hills are touting a new study from their consultants that claims that there are not any earthquake faults that would prohibit a subway station under Santa Monica Boulevard. Metro is sticking by its stance that active faults make building a station under Santa Monica Boulevard unsafe and it’s better from a safety and planning viewpoint to put the Purple Line Extension station in the center of Century City, under the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation boulevard. Beverly Hills officials want the station under Santa Monica Boulevard because it would not require tunneling under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. As you likely know, Beverly Hills has challenged the project’s environmental studies with a pair of state and federal lawsuits. The Superior Courts ruled in favor of Metro in the state case and Beverly Hills appealed. The federal suit is ongoing.

After earthquake near Napa, up to 100 homes labeled as unfit to enter (L.A. Times) 

The 6.0-magnitude temblor that struck early Sunday didn’t do much damage to major transportation infrastructure throughout the Bay Area — although there was certainly damage to homes and businesses and other key infrastructure.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Have Americans really fallen out of love with driving? (Fortune)

Consumer spending has risen steadily over most of the last decade — with a brief dip due to the Great Recession. But the number of miles driven by Americans has remained flat since late 2007 — even as the number of those with jobs has increased in recent years. What gives? The independent research firm Behind the Numbers suggests that driving less is a trend here to stay and is a combination of several factors including high gas prices, baby boomers growing older, millennials gaining in numbers (millennials are less interested in driving), more interest in transit and more desire by many to live in urban settings. Fortune is a little skeptical, saying that gas prices adjusted for inflation are not outrageous and millennials still don’t play much of a role in the overall economy.

My three cents: I’m certainly not a millennial (I’m 48) but I certainly don’t want to drive more or purchase more gasoline than is absolutely necessary. Nor do I like spending money on cars, which notoriously lose value very quickly. I think with good transit, biking and housing options in cities with good public spaces, driving will remain flat in America as along as it remains relatively expensive.

Here’s how easy it is to hack a traffic light with a laptop (Vox)

With permission from local authorities, hackers in Michigan were able to disrupt timing of traffic lights in an un-named city rather easily. Vox suggests that this is a security concern — and it is certainly illegal to tamper with lights. That said, in my neck of the woods (Pasadena), I’m not sure that the timing of traffic lights could be much worse, the reason other computer hacker targets inspire a little more fear.

 

A better Blue Line: 30-day closure of four Blue Line stations in Long Beach to begin Sept. 20

The track switch near Downtown Long Beach Station will be moved so trains can run more reliably. Photo: Anna Chen/Metro

The track switch near Downtown Long Beach Station will be moved and renewed so trains can run more reliable service. Photo: Anna Chen/Metro

Heads up, Blue Line commuters: Metro will start work on station and rail improvements in Long Beach on Saturday, September 20. The work will require a 30-day closure of four Blue Line stations in downtown Long Beach: Downtown Long Beach Station, Pacific Street Station, 1st Street Station and 5th Street Station. Metro will operate free bus shuttles in place of rail service in the Long Beach Loop during the closure.

Customers will be able to ride the bus shuttles from Anaheim Street Station to the four stations listed above at no charge. Shuttles will run at the same Blue Line service levels and will be scheduled to meet trains for transfers. At Anaheim Street Station, regular train service will continue northward to Los Angeles.

Work at the four Long Beach stations will include installing new tile, lighting, paint and extending station canopies. Other work will involve replacing a switch between tracks near Downtown Long Beach Station and rail inspection and replacement.

The work is part of the $1.2-billion overhaul taking place on the Metro Blue Line. Some of the updates have already been completed and many others, including major track improvement work, are now underway. Metro will make every effort to minimize disruptions to service while work is being done, but in this case, some disruption is inevitable. While dealing with any kind of service disruption can be a huge headache, please keep in mind that when the work is completed, the Blue Line should have more reliable service.

Buses in Long Beach will be detouring off 1st Street to Ocean Avenue during the closure. First Street will be closed from Long Beach Boulevard to Pacific Avenue during construction. Pedestrian and bicycle access on 1st Street will remain open.

We will continue to update The Source with more information on the project as it progresses. You can also check the Blue Line Upgrades page for rail alerts or follow Metro on Twitter @metrolosangeles or @metrolaalerts to get service advisories.

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Related Posts

A Better Blue Line
Test Demonstration of Track Work

Transportation headlines, Friday, August 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: Nice pic taken last month on the Blue Line. Photo courtesy Matthew Grant Anson, via Flickr.

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice pic taken last month on the Blue Line. Photo courtesy Matthew Grant Anson, via Flickr.

The value of fast transit (Transport Politic)

As our very own Joe Lemon recently noted after a visit to the Twin Cities, the new light rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul is a crawler, taking 48 minutes to an hour to travel 11 miles. Yonah Freemark, in this new post, writes:

Of course, the Twin Cities are hardly alone in their predicament. Recent transit lines elsewhere in the country feature similarly leisurely travel times. The new Houston North Line, for example, is averaging 17 mph. Los Angeles’ Expo Line is slightly quicker at 18 mph. Bus rapid transit and streetcar projects popping up virtually everywhere are often significantly slower. Only the Washington, D.C. Metro Silver Line, which will extend that region’s subway deep into the Virginia suburbs, will speed commuters along at an average of 32 mph. It will do so while only stopping at 5 stations, all of which will be located in the middle of expressways.

With speeds like those light rail lines or services like the Silver Line, it’s little wonder that it’s so difficult to convince people to get out of their cars in so many places. The fact of the matter is that services like this often do not provide much mobility improvement over the bus services they replace. That’s particularly true for large regions where too many destinations are simply too far away to be accessible by transit that averages such slow speeds.

The post goes on to note, very correctly, that the problem is that fast transit usually means putting transit on bridges or underground and that makes it prohibitively expensive at a time when there is only so much help the federal government in the U.S. will provide. As a result, less expensive and slower versions of transit get built.

Meet the worst transit project in America (Vox)

Writer Matthew Yglesias wags his finger at a streetcar line in Washington D.C. that’s under construction. Not only will it share a traffic lane with cars, the streetcar will likely block faster buses. This kind of slow transit project, Yglesias writes, not only harms the low-income riders who most rely on public transit (i.e. they’re stuck on transit instead of doing something else useful), but also creates a backlash against expensive transit projects that turn out to be of little use to motorists seeking an alternative to driving. Concur.

The missing link: exploring the Regional Connector transit corridor (KCET)

Nice summary of the neighborhoods and sights along the future Connector’s 1.9-mile route through downtown Los Angeles between Little Tokyo and the 7th/Metro Center Station. The Connector, as the name implies, will connect the Gold Line to the Blue Line and Expo Line. That will allow trains to run straight through downtown and should allow for faster rides and fewer transfers for most riders.

L.A. is working on a major zoning code revamp (L.A. Times) 

Good primer on efforts to revise the citywide code and, more importantly, the community plans that really dictate how neighborhoods look and what kind of development is allowed. This has been in the works for quite some time and looks like there are several years to go. At the end of the day, these plans will decide what gets built near transit.

Does Eric Garcetti have a big enough vision for L.A.? (Governing)

Very interesting profile on the mayor of Los Angeles, who is also the Chair of the Metro Board of Directors for the next 11 months. Garcetti makes a persuasive case that a back to basics approach is the best way to persuade people to believe in government again. Not much on transportation until the final graph. Excerpt:

Eric Garcetti wants to win big — he just believes that the way to do it is to bring the city’s fundamental management processes under control as a first step. Not until 2016 do most observers expect to see Garcetti himself put a controversial proposal before voters: That’s when he is expected to back an updated version of Measure R, the 2008 sales tax initiative that jump-started construction of the so-called Purple and Crenshaw subway lines.

 

The Metro Board has been discussing the possibility of a ballot measure in 2016 and the agency has asked local cities for their input. Nothing has been decided yet, including whether Metro would ask voters to extend Measure R or seek a new sales tax increase in order to accelerate projects and fund new ones. This is obviously one of the big storylines this blog will be following for the next two years.

Service alert: potential delays to bus and rail riders due to President Obama’s visit

President Barack Obama’s visit to Los Angeles continues today. There will likely be delays for Metro bus and train riders.

As per usual and due to security concerns, we can only release limited information about potential delays. According to this LAPD notice, there will likely be street closures on the Westside, Beverly Hills and the southern part of downtown Los Angeles on Thursday.

•On Thursday, bus routes that could be impacted include the 2, 302, 40, 81, 35 and the Silver Line.

•Beginning mid-morning Thursday — after the morning rush hour — expect intermittent delays to the Blue and Expo Lines in downtown Los Angeles. Here are the latest tweets:

 

Everything on the this list is subject to change. For the latest updates, please check the metro.net homepage, our general Twitter account or our service alert Twitter account.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, July 22

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! 

Reward to be offered in fatal beating at Blue Line station (L.A. Times)

TEMPLATE Board

The Board of Supervisors has approved a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of two women who assaulted artist John Whitmore at the Blue Line’s Willowbrook station early in the afternoon of Friday, June 13. Whitmore, 65, died one week later of his injuries. Anyone with information regarding the slaying is asked to call detectives at (323) 890-5500.

Funding feud means end of the line for four Metrolink trains between L.A. and San Bernardino (Mass Transit) 

After the San Bernardino Assn. of Governments refused to provide the full funding request from Metrolink, the commuter rail agency has cut four trains between Union Station and San Bernardino. They’re all off-peak hours and include the 11 p.m. train from L.A. Metrolink says they targeted low-ridership trains. Each of the five counties served by Metrolink — Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura — contribute funds to the agency each year.

Metro Committee OKs dismal walk/bike plan now, funding report later (StreetsblogLA)

I missed this post last week, when it was first published. The Metro Board’s Planning Committee moved a draft of the agency’s short-range transportation plan (which covers the next decade) to the full Board for its consideration on Thursday. Advocates for active transportation — i.e. walking and biking — partially filled the Board room and protested that the short-range plan lacks a dedicated funding stream specifically for active transportation.

Members of the committee were sympathetic and Mike Bonin introduced a motion calling for Metro to develop an active transportation funding strategy by Jan. 2015. The issue here is that Metro does supply funding for pedestrian and bike projects — but this is mostly done on a discretionary basis. For example, 15 percent of Measure R receipts are returned to local cities for use on transportation-related projects, which may include active transportation. It’s obviously an important issue, given that Metro recently released a first-mile/last-mile strategy that places emphasis on better connecting transit stations to surrounding neighborhoods.

Uber takes credit for drop in drunk driving, but police are skeptical (KPCC)

Interesting story. The ride-sharing service cherrypicks some statistics — including the number of times patrons vomited in their cars — to argue that drunk driving has been cut as Uber has grown more popular. The police say that’s a very hard thing to prove and some of the drops in DUIs in places such as Seattle may be attributed more to concerted crackdowns by law enforcement. Excerpt:

In Los Angeles, KPCC found DUI citations over the last five years issued by the California Highway Patrol peaked the year before Uber arrived and have fallen both years the company has been on the roads here. (Uber started operating in Los Angeles in April 2012. The low-cost UberX expanded here a year after that, along with competitor Lyft.)

Interesting, but anecdotal. The drop roughly coincides with Metro also offering more light night rail service on weekends — but I don’t think you can draw any firm conclusions from that. I suspect some of this also involves the fact that young people are driving less, according to numerous studies and statistics.

Perhaps what matters most is that there are viable options — taxis, ride-sharing and transit — for those who are too tipsy to drive. Metro Rail and the Orange Line operates until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights; timetables are here.

 

“Notice to Proceed” granted for construction of Regional Connector project!

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It’s official: there are now four Metro Rail projects currently under construction after the Metro earlier this week gave its contractors — the Regional Connector Constructors, Joint Venture — the official “notice to proceed” on building the line. Until recently, Metro never had more than two rail projects underway at the same time.

The Regional Connector will be a 1.9-mile underground light rail line that will connect the Gold Line to the Blue Line and Expo Line in downtown Los Angeles. With a scheduled opening of 2020, the Regional Connector will allow trains to run directly between Santa Monica and East Los Angeles on an east-west line and between Azusa and Long Beach on a north-south line.

That should pass along several benefits to Metro Rail riders: faster and more frequent trains through downtown Los Angeles; fewer transfers for most riders; three new stations in Little Tokyo, Civic Center and 2nd/Hope, and; eliminating the need to turn around every Blue Line and Expo Line train at 7th/Metro Center, where both lines currently dead end.

Utility relocations and other advance work on the project began last year.

The three other Metro Rail lines under construction are a 6-mile extension of the Expo Line between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica, an 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border and the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line that will run between the Expo Line and connect to the Green Line south of the airport.

The Expo Line and Gold Line Foothill Extension projects are currently scheduled to open in early 2016. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is scheduled to open in 2019; it will eventually connect to a people mover to be built by Los Angeles World Airports to connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line to terminals at the airport.

The Metro Board is also scheduled to consider awarding a construction contract later this month for the 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway between the existing Wilshire/Western station and Wilshire/La Cienega. When work begins, there will be five Metro Rail projects under construction.

All five of these projects are receiving funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by two million Los Angeles County voters in Nov. 2008. Measure R included funds for 12 transit projects and a number of highway projects, as well as money for operations and funds for smaller transportation projects in cities in Los Angeles County.

Other actions taken by Metro Board of Directors today — station names, L.A. River in-channel bike path, promoting discounted fares

Three other actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors at their meeting today that might be of interest:

•The Board approved the following official name changes to Metro Rail stations, although signage will often continue to reflect shorter names:

–The Blue Line’s Grand Station becomes the ‘Grand/Los Angeles Trade-Technical College Station.’

–The Expo Line’s 23rd Street Station becomes the “Los Angeles Trade-Technical College/Orthopaedic Institute for Children Station.”

–The Expo Line’s La Brea station becomes the “Expo/La Brea/Ethel Bradley Station.”

Metro staff were also instructed to implement the changes at minimal cost without using operating funds.

•The Board approved a motion by Board Members Mike Bonin and Gloria Molina instructing Metro to launch a multi-lingual ad campaign to promote fare subsidy programs prior to the fare increase scheduled to take effect Sept. 1 or after.

More information on reduced fares for seniors, disabled/Medicare passengers, K-12 students and college/vocational students and applications in nine languages can be found by clicking here.

•The Board approved a motion by Board Members Mike Bonin, Eric Garcetti and Gloria Molina to take steps needed to launch a study on building a bike path within the Los Angeles River channel between Taylor Yard (just north of downtown Los Angeles) and the city of Maywood, along with bike/pedestrian linkages to roads and sidewalks near the river. Motion