Transportation headlines, Friday, April 11

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! 

Garcetti offers back to the basics in first State of the City speech (L.A. Times) 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the new carpool lane on the northbound 405 over the Sepulveda Pass would open next month (Metro said there’s no date set yet), reiterated a pledge to build a rail connection to LAX (the project is still in the study phase) and offered more details on the city’s Great Streets Initiative, saying Reseda Boulevard, Gaffey Street and Crenshaw Boulevard would be among those on the list. Of course, work just started earlier this year on the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will run both along and under parts of Crenshaw between Exposition Boulevard and 67th Street.

Some thoughts on near roadway pollution and L.A.’s future (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Interesting post based on a forum held this week about pollution from roads that spills over into neighborhoods and cities. Streetsblog’s Joe Linton:

As I was listening to all this, I felt like there was too much emphasis on dealing with our car-centric system as a given. Car-choked freeways are just part of the way god made our cities. We, health professionals, are just doing our best to adjust to the system we find ourselves stuck in. The discussion was all about how to keep people out of the way of pollution, but not to look at reducing or eliminating that pollution at its source. It’s as if health professionals looking at the tobacco problem just assumed that smoking happens everywhere, and then spent a lot of effort studying gas-masks for non-smokers. Taking on tobacco is a great public health success – because health professionals were able to ban tobacco from many places, and to stigmatize tobacco based on its threat to health.

(I also think that an overly narrow focus on near-roadway-air-pollution makes us miss other huge health risks associated with cars. Every year, driving kills 30,000+ people in the U.S.1.5 million worldwide. There are greenhouse gases, water pollution, noise pollution, obesity, and plenty more issues.)

I was glad to hear Occidental College’s Mark Vallianatos, commenting from the floor microphone, suggest an important alternative. Instead of moving people away from roads, let’s change our roads to be safe for people. If we have schools, playgrounds, housing, etc. adjacent to a road, then, for the sake of health, let’s design and regulate that road to limit vehicle emissions to safe levels. Let’s traffic-calm and road diet our arterials, downgrade our freeways, hopefully get rid of, at least, some of them.

 

Good post, tough issue.

Have U.S. light rail lines been worth the investment? (The Atlantic Cities)

The reporter, Yonah Freemark, says the overall answer is ‘yes.’ But he also offers sobering news about five light rail systems built in the 1980s in five different cities, four of which are on the West Coast — San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Portland and Buffalo.

The bottom line: none of the systems increased transit use in their regions, although they have shifted more people from buses to trains. In addition, only San Jose saw a slight growth in its central city population. What to make of this?

Even this relatively positive outcome doesn’t compensate for the fact that regions that invested in light rail in the 1980s largely failed to increase the share of workers commuting by transit, or to increase the vitality of their center cities with respect to the surrounding regions. Does this mean we should cease investment in new light rail lines? Certainly not; in many cases, rail has provided the essential boost to reinvigorate communities, and in some cases it has also resulted in higher ridership than before: just look at Rosslyn-Ballston in the D.C. region or Kendall Square in the Boston region.

But spending on new lines is not enough. Increases in transit use are only possible when the low costs of driving and parking are addressed, and when government and private partners work together to develop more densely near transit stations. None of the cities that built new light rail lines in the 1980s understood this reality sufficiently. Each region also built free highways during the period (I-990 in Buffalo, I-205 in Portland, US 50 in Sacramento, CA 54 in San Diego, and CA 237 in San Jose), and each continued to sprawl (including Portland, despite its urban growth boundary). These conflicting policies had as much to do with light rail’s mediocre outcomes as the trains themselves — if not more.

Paid parking fees coming to Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink lots (Daily Bulletin) 

The city wants to impose a $4.50 daily fee or monthly charge of $25 to $30 to off-set maintenance costs for the two lots. The San Bernardino Association of Governments isn’t thrilled — it worries that the move may drive people away from transit — but approved the city’s request. Others are concerned that riders will instead drive to nearby Upland and park in the free lots there.

 

Potential future ballot measure discussed at Move LA conference today

I spent the morning at Move LA’s annual conference, held this year at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The activist group led by Denny Zane, the former Santa Monica mayor, this year focused on Measure R 2, an interesting choice given that the Metro Board has yet to decide whether to put an extension of the existing Measure R or a new sales tax on any ballot.

That said, some Board members have certainly voiced support and Metro is in the process of collecting transportation wish lists from cities across Los Angeles County for a potential ballot measure that likely wouldn’t happen until November 2016.

Four Metro Board Members spoke at the conference:

•Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he wants to pursue more regional transportation solutions and that he wants to lead a more humble city of Los Angeles that can work with other cities, both following their advice and taking the lead when appropriate (perhaps in that spirit he indicated his support earlier this week for extending the Gold Line to Claremont). He indicated he was open to a ballot measure but didn’t dwell on it.

Garcetti also said he wants to get a rail connection in our lifetimes to Los Angeles International Airport and that he supports the LAX Connect proposal by the airport to bring Metro Rail into a facility where passengers could check their bags and then transfer to a people mover that would run every two minutes and stop at each terminal. 

•Metro Board Chair and Lakewood Councilmember Diane DuBois said any new ballot measure would be on the 2016 ballot in order to give time to build a consensus across the country. She said she wanted a process that was transparent, inclusive and followed a bottoms-up approach focusing on the needs of neighborhoods. Any potential measure, she said, must include subregional mobility projects.

Chairwoman DuBois also urged a note of caution, saying it’s appropriate to consider the impact of higher sales taxes and how they might impact retail sales and where businesses decide to locate. “Please don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I’m not opposed to asking if the voters of L.A. County to decide. However, I do believe that we should fully consider the impacts of increased taxation.”

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Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 27 (part 2)

I missed this one earlier and I’m going to be tied up tomorrow morning at the Move LA conference, so I thought it best to add now:

More buses and highways across the region will ease traffic gridlock, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says (Daily News) 

Speaking at a transportation forum on the San Gabriel Valley on Wednesday, Mayor Garcetti indicated that he wants to pursue regional solutions — including the extension of the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont and the Los Angeles County-San Bernardino County line. As many readers know, the Pasadena to Azusa segment is under construction and is being funded by Measure R.

The Azusa-Claremont segment is in Metro’s long-range plan but remains unfunded and has been controversial in the past because many in the San Gabriel Valley thought it should have been funded by Measure R.

Excerpt:

Funding for a second extension of the Gold Line, from Azusa to Claremont, has not materialized. Yet, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority is moving ahead on engineering and designs this summer.

“Our project will be ready in 2017. If there is a sales tax initiative passed in 2016 we will be shovel ready and could complete the project by 2022,” said Habib Balian, CEO of the Authority.

The mayor of Los Angeles announced that he fully supports the Gold Line extension from Azusa to Claremont.

In the past, smaller cities in the county clashed with former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, but on Wednesday Duarte Mayor John Fasana, who represents the 31 San Gabriel Valley cities on the MTA board, welcomed the regional message brought by Garcetti to the inland areas.

“At times we’ve had to bare our knuckles and fight for the resources,” Fasana said. “Now, we see an unprecedented opportunity. This new era really bodes well for us.”

All that said, funding is likely to depend on whether the Metro Board — which includes Garcetti and three of his appointees — ultimately decides to pursue a new sales tax increase to Los Angeles County voters to consider in Nov. 2016. While some Board members have openly discussed the possibility, they certainly have NOT yet voted on going forth with a ballot measure.

The activist group Move LA is holding a conference on Friday in downtown Los Angeles in which a “Measure R 2″ will be the focus of discussion. I don’t know how much or how little anyone in elected office is prepared to commit to such a notion, nor do we know what projects would ultimately be funded. Metro has been, and continues, to work with Councils of Government across the county to find out more about their transportation priorities.

In the meantime, it is certainly interesting to hear the mayor support a Gold Line extension that is entirely outside the city’s boundaries, although the Gold Line certainly has a busy segment in the city and will ultimately run through downtown Los Angeles after the Regional Connector is built.

Other actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors today

It was a very quiet and relatively quick meeting today of the Metro Board of Directors owing to a light agenda. Don’t fret: I suspect the April and May meetings will be far busier — the May 22 meeting, in particular, is when the Board is scheduled to consider fare changes.

As for today, a couple of items of potential interest:

•The Board approved amending Metro’s Customer Code of Conduct to explicitly prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in Metro buses, trains and other facilities. The Code already prohibited smoking, so this is basically a clarification of that rule.

•The Board approved the motion by Board Members Eric Garcetti and Don Knabe seeking Metro to implement a number of technology upgrades, including potentially internet access on buses and trains. Here’s the motion and an earlier post.

•The Board voted to receive and file a staff report on Metro’s executive reorganization plan.

Motion asks Metro to implement a number of several tech initiatives

In July of last year, Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti and Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont Walker authored a motion asking Metro staff to report back on several technology matters, including ticketing-by-smart phone, wi-fi access at Metro facilities and the possibility of creating an internet-based customer help desk.

Metro staff responded with the following report, which includes the original motion that shows some of the tech efforts underway — including the ability to add to a TAP card by smart phone — and others that are on the radar but need more work and/or funding [pdf here]:

In response, Garcetti and Supervisor and Metro Board Member Don Knabe have submitted a new motion asking staff to go :

One note: To see a list of some third-party apps that have been developed using Metro scheduling data, please click here and then click on the “third party apps” tab. Metro also has some mobile tools available, detailed at the same link.

As for wi-fi on the Gold Line, that was an effort originally pursued several years ago by the Community Redevelopment Agency. After the CRA was legislated out of existence, the project never moved forward.

Mayor Garcetti’s news release on $200 million in federal funding in next year’s budget for Metro projects

Here’s a news release from the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on the good news in President Obama’s recently-announced budget for the next fiscal year:

GARCETTI ANNOUNCES FEDERAL FUNDING IN PRESIDENT’S BUDGET; URGES CONGRESS TO PASS MULTI-YEAR FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION BILL

LOS ANGELES–Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today that President Obama’s FY 14-15 budget contains $200 million for critical Los Angeles transportation projects — $100 million each for the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension. He also urged Congress to take immediate action to pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.

“Especially in these tough economic times, you have to prove to Washington that you’re going to deliver real results,” Mayor Garcetti said. “This funding represents the White House’s recognition that our transit program will spend money wisely, create thousands of jobs, and make a real difference for L.A. commuters. Now, it’s time for Congress to act and pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.”

The President’s proposed budget funding follows Los Angeles’ recent win of a $670 million Federal New Starts Full Funding Agreement Grant for the Downtown Regional Connector, which brings together the city’s various rail lines to make transfers convenient, dramatically improving the rider experience.

The Westside Subway Extension project will extend the subway from the current Wilshire and Western station terminus 3.9 miles to Wilshire and La Cienega. The subway project will create 25,000 jobs.

 

The funding in the budget is from the federal New Starts program, which helps local transit agencies pay for expensive transit projects. The deal for Regional Connector funding from New Starts was finalized last month and the agreement for the Purple Line Extension should be soon completed. New Starts money is awarded by the government over several years, thus the $100 million in next year’s budget for each of the projects.

Board of Directors motion asks Metro to make renewed effort on public-private parnterships to fund transpo projects

Interesting motion above that was approved today by the Metro Board. My read on the motion: it’s three members of the Metro Board — Eric Garcetti, Michael D. Antonovich and Diane DuBois — asking Metro to step up its game when it comes to developing public-private partnerships to help fund and build transportation projects.

As the name implies, public-private partnerships are financial agreements between public agencies and private companies. There are several variations of PPPs but generally speaking it means a private firm fronts some of the money to build a project and then is paid back later, sometimes from revenues created by the project.

Metro has a PPP program that has already identified five big projects that might make for good PPPs — the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor (which could involve building a rail line under the Pass to connect the Westside and the San Fernando Valley, a very pricey idea), the High Desert Corridor, the 710 South and 710 North projects and a project that would construct congestion pricing lanes on the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita area. But no deals have been finalized.

It’s hard to discuss PPPs without mentioning what’s happening in the Denver metro area, where voters in 2004 approved a sales tax increase to fund a big transit expansion. A PPP is being used there to build some of the commuter rail projects — including the 22-mile line that will connect downtown Denver and Denver International Airport.

Sound familiar? It should. Both Antonovich and Garcetti have made repeated public statements about the importance of connecting Metro Rail to LAX via the Airport Metro Connector project — a project that will likely need funding beyond the scope of Measure R to be fully realized.

Video from this morning’s Regional Connector event

Here’s our original post along with the Metro news release.

And here’s the FTA’s news release.

And the non-government view of things? Here’s the L.A. Times article.

Video of this morning’s groundbreaking event for the Crenshaw/LAX Line

And here is video of this morning’s groundbreaking for the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

There are nice comments about mobility — and the need for more of it — from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Metro would like to extend a special thank you to Secretary Foxx and Senator Boxer for making the trip to Los Angeles on Tuesday and for their help — and they were both personally involved — in getting this project off the ground.

RELATED POSTS:

And so it begins: ground is broken for the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line

Social media roundup for Crenshaw/LAX Line groundbreaking

And so it begins: ground is broken for 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line

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The groundbreaking of the Crenshaw/LAX Line was held Tuesday morning adjacent to the Expo Line’s Crenshaw station. Video is coming later today and we posted to our Twitter and Instagram feeds during the event; see this post for social media coverage of the event.

Here is Metro’s news release:

Construction began Tuesday morning on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, an 8.5-mile, $2.058-billion light-rail line that will run between the Metro Expo and Green lines and is expected to open in 2019. The project will also bring Metro Rail closer to Los Angeles International Airport.

The groundbreaking bought together top officials from federal, state and local government, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and California Senator Barbara Boxer.

One of the old Yellow Cars at Crenshaw & 54th in 1954. Photo by Alan Weeks via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

One of the old Yellow Cars at Crenshaw & 54th in 1954. Photo by Alan Weeks via Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

The event was held at the intersection of Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards, where the first of the project’s three underground stations will be built. Demolition of some existing structures will be among the first work done, with heavy construction expected to begin this spring.

“Thousands of hard-working families and seniors living in Crenshaw depend on public transportation every day to get to work, to school, and to obtain medical care,” said Secretary Foxx.  “Bringing light rail to this community will create jobs, spur local economic development and make it easier than ever for residents to access downtown Los Angeles and beyond.”

The new Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project will be the first rail line to serve Crenshaw Boulevard and the city of Inglewood since the streetcars of the Los Angeles Rail Line (known as the “Yellow Cars”) stopped running in 1955. In some places, the new light rail line will use the old alignment for the streetcars.

“The Crenshaw Line is a top priority for me because it will provide a crucial transportation link, create over 18,000 jobs, help connect communities, reduce air pollution, and provide economic development and economic opportunities,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The new light-rail line will serve the Crenshaw Corridor, Inglewood, Westchester and the area around Los Angeles International Airport with eight stations, a maintenance facility and park-and-ride lots.

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