Transportation headlines, Oct. 8: L.A. ranks 3rd on jobs near transit, study says

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University of Minnesota ranks accessibility to jobs by transit in the U.S. (news release)

MinnesotaStudyMap

The study finds that Los Angeles ranks third behind New York and San Francisco when it comes to the number of jobs near transit, according to the study that crunched the numbers on 46 of the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S. That puts the L.A. area ahead of some older and more established transit cities such as Chicago, Washington, Boston and Philly. The list:

Top 10 metro areas: job accessibility by transit (January 2014)

  1. New York
  2. San Francisco
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Washington
  5. Chicago
  6. Boston
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Seattle
  9. Denver
  10. San Jose

 

I don’t think the above map is exactly shocking news to those who live here and know our area — but the map still makes a pretty visual argument for better connecting transit to downtown Los Angeles and the Westside. The map also suggests that the Measure R-funded transit projects that Metro is building or plans to build are serving a real purpose. The short list:

•The Purple Line Extension will directly connect downtown Los Angeles to Westwood via the Wilshire Corridor with a short detour to Century City. The project also provides a direct link between our region’s largest transit hub — Los Angeles Union Station — and the Westside.

•The Expo Line’s second phase connects Santa Monica, West L.A. and downtown L.A. via Culver City, the northern part of South L.A. and Exposition Park.

•The Regional Connector will link the Gold Line, Blue Line and Expo Line in downtown L.A. and allow easier and faster access to and through downtown L.A. for riders on all three lines.

•The Gold Line Foothill Extension extends the Gold Line to the Azusa/Glendora border, making for easier and faster access to jobs in the Pasadena area, downtown L.A. and beyond (i.e. the Westside). Meanwhile, the second phase of the Eastside Gold Line is being studied and would connect either South El Monte or Whittier to downtown L.A. via this project and the Regional Connector.

•The Crenshaw/LAX Line will serve a north-south corridor starting at the Green Line’s Redondo Beach Station and extending north to the Expo Line, including the job-rich area around the airport. The Expo Line, in turn, offers east-west access to jobs. The map also suggests that extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line north — a project in Metro’s long-range plan but unfunded at this time — would connect people to more jobs to the east and west via the Purple Line. A South Bay Green Line Extension, a project also to be funded by Measure R, could extend the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line deeper into the South Bay.

•The map also suggests that connecting the San Fernando Valley to the Westside via the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor makes sense and that the area along Van Nuys Boulevard — to be served by the East San Fernando Transit Corridor — is also a wise proposition in the short-term. The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor is a long-term project not scheduled for completion until the 2030s unless funding is found to build and accelerate it, but the project could eventually connect to the bus rapid transit or light rail built as part of the East San Fernando Valley Transit project along Van Nuys Boulevard.

•The map also shows that the Warner Center area is one of the more job rich areas in the Valley, thereby suggesting that it makes sense for Metro to pursue improvements to the Orange Line. See this recent Source post for more about that.

Here is the page about Los Angeles in the University of Minnesota study:

Los Angeles

More headlines after the jump!

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Actions taken today by the Metro Board of Directors

A gastropub is coming to the Fred Harvey Room at Union Station thanks to a lease approved today by the Metro Board of Directors. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A gastropub is coming to the Fred Harvey Room at Union Station thanks to a lease approved today by the Metro Board of Directors. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A few highlights from the meeting (agenda here) of the Metro Board of Directors on Oct. 2, 2014:

•Item 7: The Board approved a lease with Eric Needleman and Cedd Moses for a new gastropub for the Fred Harvey Room at Union Station. Staff report and earlier Source post.

•Items 5 and 6: The Board also approved leases for two kiosks in Union Station’s East Portal. One will serve bento boxes and the other kiosk will offer coffee.

•Item 23: The Board approved moving ahead with the design and environmental review of a new portal and pedestrian passageway between 7th/Metro Center Station and the shopping center across 7th Street now known as The Bloc. In plain English, this project will add an entrance to the busy 7th/Metro Center from the south side of 7th Street. Staff report

•Item 20: The Board approved a budget of $1.4 million to add approximately 200 parking spaces at the Red Line’s North Hollywood Station using “temporary parking surface material” in order to lower the cost and make the project more feasible. Staff report

•Item 77: The Board approved calling the new 788 Rapid Bus between the San Fernando Valley and Westwood the “Valley Westside Express” — the bus will use the HOV lanes on the 405 freeway to get across the Sepulveda Pass. Please see this earlier Source post for a map of the service, which begins Dec. 15.

•Items 74 and 75: The Board approved motions by Members Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor calling for Metro to incorporate the names of two Board Members — Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina — into the names of the North Hollywood and East Los Angeles Civic Center stations, respectively. Item 74, Item 75 and earlier Source post.

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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, Monday, September 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! 

ART OF TRANSIT: I believe someone on our comment board recently suggested renaming a Gold Line station the "King Taco Station." Almost certainly not going to happen people, but the train is very close to  the Maravilla Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: I believe someone on our comment board recently suggested renaming a Gold Line station the “King Taco Station.” Almost certainly not going to happen people, but the train is very close to the Maravilla Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Dear MTA: I love your trains…but (Los Angeles Register)

Columnist’s David Medzerian’s not-quite-love-letter to my employer begins:

Before I get into anything else, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love your trains. I take them several times a week. I can’t remember the last time I drove into Los Angeles from Long Beach. The last two times I flew from LAX, I took the train to the airport (well, almost to the airport).

But, I’m starting to think that – how I can put this nicely? – you have no idea what you are doing.

David levels complaints about the fare increase that took effect last Monday, the subsequent shutting down of four Blue Line stations in downtown Long Beach for refurbishment work, confusing ticket machine screens and prompts and luggage-blocking turnstiles at Willowbrook Station.

Those who follow us on Twitter have certainly seen these complaints echoed by other riders. I’ll certainly send David’s column around.

Semi-related: the Register’s future may be in doubt at the same time there are some big questions hovering over other local papers, according to L.A. Weekly. Our unwavering view here: the most newspapers covering Los Angeles and the surrounding area, the better.

If so many people support mass transit, why do so few ride? (CityLab) 

About five percent of Americans use transit frequently to commute to work. But polls and transit ballot measures over the years have indicated that many more residents are willing to tax themselves to pay for more transit even if they don’t ride it. In this excerpt, Los Angeles County is used as an example of this conundrum:

One of the clearest examples of the disparity comes from Los Angeles County. In 1980, about 7.5 percent of commuters used transit. That year, voters approved a permanent half-cent sales tax increase to pay for transportation initiatives, including lots of transit upgrades, but by 1990, the share of transit commuters had declined to 6.5 percent. That year, voters again approved a half-cent increase by a two-to-one margin, with nearly all the money going to transit. But the transit commute share was still at 7 percent come 2008, when yet another transportation ballot, Measure R, was passed by two-thirds of the vote.

So why do so many people support transit—not just with their voices but their wallets—when they have no intention of using it? The conclusion reached by Manville and Cummins largely echoes that of the Onion: people believe transit has collective benefits that don’t require their personal usage. Maybe voters think transit will reduce traffic congestion, or improve the environment, or help low-income residents, or translate into economic development. So long as someone else uses transit right now, everyone else will win in the end.

The potential problem with all this is what happens when residents tire of paying for transit they don’t use — perhaps because the perceived benefits failed to materialize? The answer: in some places, city bus riders could suffer as the money that does exist is funneled into suburban rail projects. Pretty interesting stuff.

BTW, the most recent Census Bureau American Community Survey numbers show that 6.9 percent of commuters in L.A. County commute to work by transit, down from 7.1 percent in the 2008-2012 average of the roundups. With population growth factored in, 6.9 percent today is more total people than seven percent in 1980 but here’s my question: what would it take to bump that number up? Could it ever get to 10 percent here?

On a related note, the Census Bureau’s news release on L.A. County led with this:

The Los Angeles metro area’s 2013 median household income ($58,869) decreased since 2010, the first full year after the last recession, when it was $60,409 in 2013 dollars, according to new statistics released today from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the nation’s most comprehensive data source on American households.

One Santa Fe and its 438 apartments in the Arts District (Downtown News)

Good look at the 438-apartment development in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District that will also include about 25 retail stores and restaurants and 525 parking spaces for residents — a fair amount of parking, I think, for a downtown development. All in all, I think this is a good development for downtown which should help local businesses prosper.

I also suspect it will increase the demand for building a subway platform in the adjacent maintenance yards for the Red and Purple Line — something Metro has discussed in the past. That would allow Arts District residents to take a fairly quick (albeit circuitous) ride to other downtown destinations and beyond. The new underground light rail station being built in Little Tokyo will also help connect residents to trains running to the San Gabriel Valley, East L.A., Santa Monica and Long Beach.

Reimagining Union Station (Washington Post)

Very thoughtful article on talk and preliminary plans for massive $7 billion expansion of Washington D.C.’s central train terminal — which in recent years (like our Union Station here in L.A.) has grown increasingly crowded.

The article thinks big and looks at the plans through the prism of urban revivals taking place across the United States. Excerpt:

With the era of exurban sprawl having run its course, people and jobs are moving back to more densely populated urban areas. That’s happening not just in Washington, but also in Boston, Austin, Seattle, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The only way these cities can accommodate such growth, and realize the economic efficiency that it will generate, is to dramatically improve their public transportation infrastructure and increase the density of land use around key public transportation nodes.

I agree. And the best part — as the One Santa Fe development shows — is that there is actually plenty of room in many urban areas for growth. It will be very interesting in the coming years to see what happens with Union Station here, the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, Penn Station in Gotham and Union Station in our nation’s capitol.

Titus seeks support to revive Amtrak in Las Vegas (Review-Journal)

With the latest plans to build a new rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas now pretty much dead (the Desert XPress high speed rail between Victorville and Vegas), Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) says reviving Amtrak service may be the way to go. Amtrak service between L.A. and Las Vegas and onward to Ogden, Utah, was discontinued in 1997.

I have zero interest in taking a train to Las Vegas — the unhappiest place on Earth, IMHO — but I’d take a train to St. George, Utah, if it could get me there in six to seven hours and there was a convenient shuttle bus to Springdale and Zion National Park.

Chinese city opens phone lane for texting pedestrians (Guardian) 

As far as I’m concerned this is just further proof that the apes will soon rule. And, yes, I thought “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was the best movie I’ve seen thus far this year. My only criticism: it was a little too plausible.

Hmmm, I don't think he's made because of the lines for the iPhone6. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Cesar probably has even less patience for humans who walk around while staring into their phones and bumping into things. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Construction notice: 2nd Street partial closure on Saturday in DTLA for Regional Connector work

CN_ Power_2nd_Spring-Broadway_One Day Full Closure (08-16-14)

It’s just a one-block closure, but please take note if you’re planning on traveling around the Little Tokyo and Civic Center area on Saturday or live/work in the area.

The Regional Connector is a 1.9-mile underground light rail line that will connect the Gold Line to the Blue and Expo Lines, allowing a one-seat ride for most riders through downtown Los Angeles. The project is partially funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. The project began construction this year and is currently scheduled to open in 2020.

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.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 24

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! 

L.A. County Sheriff’s Department not meeting Metro’s policing goals (L.A. Times)

More coverage of the recent — and critical — audit of Metro and the LASD, which is under contract by Metro to patrol buses, trains, stations and other facilities. In response, both Metro and LASD said that improvements in policing have been made this year. Metro officials have noted that serious crimes are below four incidents per million boardings.

MTA approves study to convert Orange Line to light rail (Daily News)

Metro plan would link light rail systems in San Fernando, San Gabriel valleys (CBS)

Metro Board expected to discuss Orange Line improvements (Post Periodical)

Metro Board to decide light rail plan (San Fernando Valley Business Journal) 

The headlines are a little misleading. The Metro Board today did direct Metro staff to do a preliminary study of potential Orange Line upgrades, including conversion to rail and an extension to the Gold Line in Pasadena. At this point, neither a conversion of the Orange Line to rail or an extension are in Metro’s long-range plan. Nor is such a project funded.

Here’s the big plan to make Union Station finally accessible to walkers and bikers (Curbed LA) 

Coverage of the US Connect plan to build a series of esplanades and other sidewalks and bike lanes that would connect Union Station and the Regional Connector’s 1st/Central Station to neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, Chinatown, the Civic Center, Little Tokyo and the Arts District.

Gatto and Englander stump state legislation for hit-and-run alert system (Streetsblog L.A.)

Assemblyman Mike Gatto and L.A. Councilman Mitch Englander support a bill written by Gatto that would use electronic sign boards on freeways and other roads to quickly alert motorists when a hit-and-run has occurred, the idea being that it may lead to earlier arrest of suspects. Excerpt:

Assemblymember Mike Gatto enumerated the gruesome hit-and-run statistics: 20,000 hit-and-run collisions take place in L.A. County each year; 4,000 of these result in death or serious bodily injury; only 20 percent of fatal hit-and-run perpetrators are arrested. Gatto relayed the story of a similar alert system in Colorado which resulted in the city of Denver increasing their apprehension rate from 20 percent to 75 percent.

Hard to argue with that. Here’s the bill. It passed the Assembly and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. A companion bill by Gatto would suspend the license of hit-and-run perpetrators.

The forgotten history of L.A.’s failed freeway revolt (CityLab)

Nice reminder that many Boyle Heights residents weren’t exactly standing and cheering as a variety of freeways sliced and diced across their community in the 1950s and ’60s.