Transportation headlines, Monday, July 28

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! 

And 30 years ago today…

So how many people are paying to ride? (L.A. Times) 

This article about fare evasion, turnstiles and ridership estimates is generating a lot of discussion on our Twitter feed. The story looks at the sometimes wide discrepancy between Metro’s ridership estimates and data from the TAP system. The problem is that ridership is more than the TAP numbers, suggesting that the difference consists of people either not paying to ride and those who have paid but aren’t tapping. But pinpointing the number who are evading fares has proven difficult.

Excerpt:

Reducing fare jumping as much as possible has become increasingly important to Metro, which is under pressure to boost ticket revenue as its rail network rapidly expands. Income from fares covers just 26% of Metro’s bus and rail system operating expenses, one of the lowest rates of any major world city. That ratio must increase in the next few years or the agency risks losing crucial federal funding needed to continue building and operating the train network.

Metro has responded by raising fares, starting in September, with more hikes proposed for coming years.

In addition to fare hikes, some elected officials are asking the agency to examine other ways to bring in more revenue. And they are taking note of the disparities between Metro’s ridership estimates and the numbers of tickets being counted at rail stations.

“They owe it to you and to anybody else who’s interested to explain the difference,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a Metro board member, who says it’s still too easy to get on trains without paying.

 

Those four graphs frame the issue. It’s a considerably longer article accompanied by some interesting graphics. Please read if you’re interested in the issue.

As the article mentions, there is some evidence that increased fare enforcement and latching the turnstiles present in half of the Metro Rail stations might be having an effect. I also think it’s important to remind everyone that paying fares helps keep the system running and that it’s important for everyone to always tap when boarding a Metro bus or train. That will help riders avoid potentially costly citations and also help Metro because having better ridership data will also help the agency better plan future service and projects.

Metro picks Skanska venture to build first phase of subway extension (L.A. Times) 

A look at some of the issues in play in the Metro Board’s decision last Thursday to award a $1.6-billion construction contract to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega. Metro did not pick the low-bidder price-wise and instead selected a contractor — in this case, Skanksa, Traylor and Shea — based on a variety of criteria including price, project management and technical approach.

Metro July meeting recap: subway, SRTP, active transpo and more (Streetsblog LA)

A good recap and analysis of the many issues tackled by the Metro Board at their meeting last Thursday. Streetsblog has been keeping an eye on the short-range plan and funding for pedestrian and bike projects. As Joe Linton notes, the short-range plan approved by the Metro Board is being seen by some as a “casting call” for a potential 2016 ballot measure and thus the interest in particular projects.

Gold Line on schedule, on budget for Azusa extension (L.A. Register) 

A progress report on one of the Measure R-funded projects, the 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border with six new stations along the way — and considerable development opportunities near the tracks and stations. Construction continues to progress well and is on schedule to be completed by next September, when the process would begin of handing the line over to Metro and testing. Metro is currently forecasting opening the line in early 2016.

Mayor sets out to transform L.A. streets through ‘urban acupuncture’ (L.A. Times) 

A deeper look at Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s initiative to transform sections of 15 streets in the city — one per council district — into more walkable, bike-friendly and transit-friendly streets  to encourage residents to eat, shop and play locally instead of driving to distant points in the L.A. megalopolis.

As the article notes, there will be hurdles to cross and this type of effort has been tried in the past. Most notably, some residents say don’t necessarily want streets that will slow down their journey to the nearest freeway.

My hunch is that zoning regulations spelled out in local community plans will play a big role in this effort in terms of attracting the type of development — commercial and residential — that could help re-establish a Main Street type feel to some streets .

Century Crunch final update: Aviation/Century intersection on track to open 2 a.m. Monday

The intersection reopened at 1:30 a.m., four-and-a-half hours ahead of schedule.

The intersection reopened at 1:30 a.m., four-and-a-half hours ahead of schedule.

Work on the demolition of the old railroad bridge and the bridge abutments remains ahead of schedule. The intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards is on track to reopen at 2 a.m. Monday, four hours ahead of the original schedule. 

Traffic congestion on the roads around Los Angeles International Airport was either light or manageable for most of the weekend thanks to the public taking heed of warnings to avoid the area, use the appropriate detours and/or take FlyAway bus or transit.

“The successful completion of ‘Century Crunch’ shows that when we all plan and work together, we can avoid undue burdens as we build the transit and airport infrastructure necessary to reduce congestion in the long-term,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti.

Over the weekend, the old railroad bridge and its abutments on the north and south side of Century Boulevard were removed. Traffic lanes on Century Boulevard were also reconfigured on Sunday to allow for construction of the new aerial Aviation/Century Station that will be part of the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

The light rail line will run for 8.5 miles between the Green Line and Expo Line and include two rail stations near the airport — one serving Century Boulevard and the other, at 96th Street, that will allow passengers to connect to a people mover that will carry them to LAX terminals. The project is funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The demolition work on the bridge began early Saturday morning add was completed by early Sunday afternoon. Crews commenced to clean the streets and install new street signal posts at the Century/Aviation intersection — the old traffic signals were mounted on the bridge.

Below are a pair of time-lapse videos taken of the demolition work. The first one covers Friday night through Saturday morning and the second shows the work done Saturday to topple the bridge.

In remarks, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti outlines his goals as Metro Board Chair

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti delivering his remarks on Thursday morning. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti delivering his remarks on Thursday morning. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

As noted earlier, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is the Chair of the Metro Board of Directors for the next year. At the start of today’s Board meeting, Garcetti briefly outlined his goals as Board Chair. Here are some highlights from his comments.

•”When you’re talking about transportation, the top priority has to be reducing traffic.   Traffic, especially in Los Angeles, defines our lives. It keeps us from being with our loved ones and enjoying life’s daily moments. But it’s equally important that we provide good service for our customers and build for the future.

“The only way we can do that well is by working together as a region. We all know that traffic doesn’t care about borders. And none of us can serve our constituents well if we only care about what happens inside our city limits.”

•”How we do that? Innovation and technology. That’s not only the obvious things — like having cell service in our stations or creating an app where riders can load their tap cards on their phones so they don’t have to wait in line at the ticket machine.”

•”We must always be looking at where there is new demand and build projects in our most heavily traveled corridors. We must complete projects like the Exposition line all the way to Santa Monica. We must plan to build the Gold Line extension to Claremont. We must improve service between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. We must make sure the Blue Line is fixed, and our highest [ridership] rail line runs like it once did. And we must find a way to open the train to the planes by the time the Crenshaw Line starts running.”

•”I’m committed to keeping the momentum going on our construction projects — and making sure they’re done on time and on budget. We cannot repeat the cost overruns and sinkholes of the 1990s.

“When I became Mayor, I was told the new lane on the 405 project wouldn’t be open until the fall. So I called an old friend, Nick Patsaouras, and asked him to volunteer his time and talents to get it done sooner. He came through big for us. As Chair, I am calling on him to now lend his expertise and provide construction oversight of the Crenshaw Line.”

•”Over the last year, we were successful in securing over three billion dollars from the federal government. I’m confident that success will continue if we work together across the region to get our fair share from Washington and Sacramento. But we also need to think creatively about public-private partnerships and innovative financing. People are impatient, people can’t wait.”

Metro Board of Directors July meeting about to begin

Good morning, readers and riders! The gavel will shortly drop on the July meeting of the Metro Board of Directors. This will be the first full Board meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti serving as the Board Chair; he assumed the role on July 1 and will be the Chair through next June. The Chairmanship is filled on a rotating basis among the 13 Board Members.

The agenda for today’s meeting is above. Among the items scheduled to be discussed are a $1.6-billion contract to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, motions to study upgrading the Orange Line and installing ExpressLanes on part of the 105 freeway and Metro’s short-range transportation plan, among others.

You can listen to the meeting live stream here. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. You can also listen over the phone by dialing 213-922-6045 although capacity is limited.

As per usual I’ll update the blog and Metro’s general Twitter account with any interestingness as it occurs.

Transportation headlines, Monday, July 21: preparing for the ‘Century Crunch’

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! 

Photo: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

ART OF TRANSIT: The clock tower that will soon be installed at the Arcadia station for the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Foothill Extension Construction Authority officials say the project that will extend the Gold Line 11.5 miles from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border is almost 75 percent complete. Photo: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Century Crunch could make journey to LAX worse (Daily Breeze)

Coverage of the closure this weekend of the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards near LAX in order to demolish an old railroad bridge to make way for the Crenshaw/LAX Line. The closure begins at 9 p.m. Friday and is scheduled to last through 6 a.m. Monday. Excerpt:

“We anticipate there is going to be a lot of congestion in and about the airport,” said Dave Sotero, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “We just don’t want to see people missing their flights because they are affected by the extended time frames.”

For weeks, LAX and MTA officials have worked to spread the word, sending notices to the media to alert the public, to airlines and other transportation companies to warn their employees, and to hotels along Century Boulevard to alert their guests.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti even starred in a YouTube video, asking airport travelers to plan ahead.

“Because we planned ahead, Carmageddon never happened on the 405. So let’s plan ahead again,” Garcetti said. “Avoid the area if you do not need to be there and, if you must, allow for extra travel time and use public transit.”

The airport is expecting its usual heavy air traffic through the weekend and almost 93,000 vehicles pass through the Aviation/Century intersection on the average day — airport officials say it’s the busiest entrance and exit to the airport.

Please consider taking the Flyaway bus or public transit if traveling to or from the airport this weekend. If driving, the detour map is below and using Sepulveda Boulevard is one choice for avoiding Century Boulevard.

CrenshawDetourMap

Report to Metro: pay attention (L.A. Register)

Tough audit sparks reforms (ZevWeb)

The Register looks at an internal audit of the of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which is under contract by Metro to patrol the agency’s buses, trains and stations, and contract oversight by Metro. Excerpt from the Register:

“The results of the audit are disappointing,” said County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who sits on the Metro Board of Directors. “The Sheriff’s Department should have done a better job in meeting the requirements of our contract and MTA executive staff failed to manage the contract competently or effectively.”

The report noted some recent improvements, however.

“More citations have been written, the number of fare checks has increased, officer morale has generally increased, and plans to address staffing issues and other improvements are underway,“ the audit said.

Spokespeople for both Metro and LASD said the organizations agreed with most of the recommendations and said that actions were already underway to increase performance. As a result, there was a persistent decline in violent crime over the past year.

Serious crimes incidents are below 4 incidents per 1 million boardings, and the numbers have improved since last year, according to Metro spokesperson Marc Littman.

 

As the article on Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website notes, “The audit comes as the sheriff’s Metro contract—by far the department’s largest—is up for renewal. The new contract will likely be worth more than $400 million over five years, the report said. The department currently is working under a $42 million six-month contract extension that expires on Dec. 31.”

Kicking the can down the road: a habit that is hard to kick (NPR)

Good piece that attempts to answer why Congress will only offer temporary fixes for the Highway Trust Fund and other budgetary matters. The answer: it’s hard to do anything decisive when there’s another big election looming.

Museum row losing tenant to Metro (L.A. Register) 

No new news here, but a reminder that the Architecture and Design Museum on Wilshire Boulevard has to be move to make way for construction of the Purple Line Extension’s Wilshire/Fairfax station. Museum officials are looking for a new location — with downtown Los Angeles one possibility. Meanwhile, the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday is scheduled to consider approving a $1.6-billion contract with Skanska, Traylor and Shea to build the project’s 3.9-mile first phase with new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 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! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, July 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! 

ART OF TRANSIT: A Metro local bus in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A Metro local bus in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Guest editorial: don’t destroy the Orange Line, improve it (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Annie Weinstock and Stephanie Lotshaw argue that there is no need to convert the Orange Line to light rail. A state bill was signed into law earlier this week that rescinded the ban on light rail in the corridor. As we have posted before, converting the Orange Line to light rail is not in Metro’s long-range plans nor has the agency studied the issue.

Excerpt:

First, simply increasing bus frequency would be an obvious improvement. While there have been concerns that increasing frequency will cause bunching at intersections, this appears to be due to a signal timing issue which favors cross street traffic over public transportation on the Orange Line corridor. Timing traffic signals to favor automobiles shows an outdated mode of thinking. It would take some political will on the part of the city to change the signal timings, but it is a simple solution, far cheaper and faster than upgrading to light railwhich would still be faced with signal timing problems.

Then, by raising the boarding platforms at stations to the level of the bus floor, buses could complete the boarding process more quickly, further increasing capacity by allowing more buses to pull into the station more quickly. The system could also phase in more passing lanes at stations, allowing for a quadrupling of capacity and a mix of service types.

In addition, changing the intersection regulations, which currently require buses to slow to 10mph from 25, would increase overall speeds along the corridor. The reduction in speeds was initially implemented because of several accidents which occurred at the start of operations in 2005. But most systems experience problems in the early years, particularly where new signals have been introduced. Now, after almost 10 years of BRT operations as well as extensive signage and education done by Metro, these restrictions are obsolete and only make the system less convenient for passengers.

This is just an excerpt — please read the entire editorial for discussion of other salient points about bus rapid transit in the U.S. and the Orange Line. As for the issue of signal timing, the traffic lights are controlled by the city of Los Angeles.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti supports Gold Line Whittier route, Azusa-to-Claremont extension (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

(UPDATE, JULY 17: Mayor Garcetti told the Metro Board’s Executive Management Committee that the Tribune article was in error and that he did not say which potential alignment he supported at the meeting — and that a tape of the meeting shows that he did not state a preference).

At a transportation forum with San Gabriel Valley and San Bernardino County officials, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he supports the Gold Line being extended to Whittier and that he would like to see it extended to both Whittier and South El Monte if funding can be found to build both. Metro will soon release the draft environmental study for the project; one alternative extends light rail to Whittier, another to South El Monte. Cities along both routes support the project.

Important note: an extension of the Eastside Gold Line is a project to be funded by Measure R and under the current schedule would be completed in 2035 unless funds are found to accelerate the project.

Garcetti also reiterated that he would like to see the Gold Line Foothill Extension built from Azusa to Montclair (something he said earlier this year) and would like to help find funding for the project whether or not it’s added to Metro’s short-range plan. The Pasadena-to-Azusa segment is under construction (it’s a Measure R-funded project) and scheduled for an early 2016 opening. Funding would need to be found for the Azusa-Montclair segment.

The greater context here is that Metro has been discussing a possible sales tax ballot measure in 2016 that could possibly be used to accelerate current projects or fund new ones. The Metro Board of Directors has not made any decision yet whether to take anything to Los Angeles County voters. But the agency is seeking feedback from cities in the county on what type of projects they would like to see funded. If — and it’s still a big ‘if’ –the agency seeks a ballot measure, the big decision to be made is whether the ballot measure would extend the current Measure R sales tax (which expires in mid-2039) or whether it would add an additional half-cent sales tax.

Work on big Pershing Square mixed-user to begin in mid-2015 (Curbed LA) 

The 600-unit residential building with commercial space would occupy the parking lots on the north side of Pershing Square and help densify a section of downtown L.A. that should be dense. The site, of course, sits adjacent to the Metro Red/Purple Line Pershing Square station and is a short train ride or walk to the 7th/Metro Center station that will eventually host trains headed to Long Beach, Santa Monica, Azusa and East Los Angeles.

Times intern recounts traffic challenges on way to Dodger Stadium (L.A. Times) 

It took Everett Cook 90 minutes to travel the two miles from the Times (at 2nd/Spring) to Dodger Stadium on Thursday thanks to traffic en route. “For what it’s worth, the vast majority of the traffic police and Dodgers employees were as helpful as can be. There might not even be a solution to this — too many cars in too small a stretch will be a problem anywhere,” he writes.

As I’ve written many times before, ballpark traffic is the price everyone pays for the decision in the 1950s to build the stadium atop a hill and away from the city grid — and the transit that goes with it. No one wants to move the ballpark into downtown, so it’s likely that traffic will remain an issue. The Dodger Stadium Express provides bus service between Union Station and the stadium is an alternative to driving. It’s free for those holding game tickets.

ART OF TRANSIT 2: There are many reasons why a train may go out of service, including the planet being taken over by apes. Credit: 20th Century Fox.

ART OF TRANSIT 2: There are many reasons why a train may go out of service, including the planet being taken over by apes. Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 3

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! 

Why we need to raise the gas tax — and then get rid of it (Washington Post) 

An interview with Rep. Earl Blumenauer about the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, the need to raise the federal gas tax in the short-term to patch up the fund and then eventually replace it with a vehicle mile tax. Good interview with a lot of information about the history of the gas tax and how a VMT could work.

Five lessons U.S. transit systems should learn from London (Citylab)

On the list are annual fare increases to keep pace with operating costs, service upgrades corresponding with fare hikes, technology upgrades and both leasing and developing agency property. That last one is something I know many of our readers have said that Metro should be doing given there seems to be available space at some transit stations.

New Sixth Street viaduct will have climbable 60-foot arches (Curbed LA)

The new bridge over the Los Angeles River is still being designed but it looks like a pair of the arches will have stairs to the top to provide views of the river and downtown Los Angeles. Sounds like a good sunrise/sunset photo spot!

Garcetti website getting good (LAObserved) 

Bill Boyarsky likes the improvements to the DataLA website, which he says pulls together the kind of data from a variety of sources that allows people to come to conclusions about the performance of city government and the local economy. I think all government agencies should take a look — as most agencies, including Metro, are sitting on a pile of performance data that often resides in many different places. Consolidating that data and making it presentable and easy to navigate is a ton of work, of course. It’s also good for democracy.

How to photograph fireworks (Ken Rockwell) 

A very helpful guide for those planning on shooting some pics tomorrow night. And, of course, our PSA: You can Go Metro to many of the fireworks displays around our region from Long Beach to downtown L.A. to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. We’ll have a post up soon.

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

Metro Board approves new station at Aviation/96th as best option to connect to LAX people mover

newa2map

The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously approved a new light rail station at Aviation Boulevard and 96th Street along the Crenshaw/LAX Line as the best option to serve as the “gateway” transfer point to an Automated People Mover that would take people to terminals at Los Angeles International Airport. The people mover is being planned by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), which would build the project.

The next steps: Metro must environmentally clear the station, design it and identify the funding before anything gets built. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is currently under construction and the new station would be added to that project. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2019; the people mover could be completed as early as 2022 according to the Metro staff report and officials with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office said Thursday that the city will attempt to possibly accelerate that date.

“This is a historic day for LAX and a historic day for our city because we’re finally on the way to bringing rail to LAX,” Garcetti told the Metro Board on Thursday. “I think we’ll be able to fix a historic mistake of our past.” 

The Metro Green Line infamously came up two miles short of LAX and requires a shuttle bus ride to reach airport terminals. The new Aviation/96th station would also serve some Green Line trains; please see the conceptual operating map below.

People movers are a type of train and are used to connect to regional transit systems by large airports in the U.S. and abroad. The chief advantage of the people mover over the existing shuttle bus: the people mover would run on an elevated guideway above traffic while the shuttle bus shares roads with traffic.

The new Aviation/96th station would be about .4 miles north of the station to be built at Aviation and Century boulevards as part of the Crenshaw/LAX Line. The idea, according to Metro, is that the Aviation/96th station would be the gateway for passengers headed to LAX while the Aviation/Century station would connect riders to the many businesses along the Century Boulevard corridor.

Metro Board Members made it clear that the Aviation/96th station needs to be extraordinarily designed to serve as the airport gateway.

“The question before us is can 96th Street do what it needs to do to be a world class experience?,” asked Board Member Mike Bonin who co-authored a motion (posted after the jump) directing Metro to make the station an enclosed facility with a number of amenities including concourse areas, restrooms, LAX airline check-in and public art, among others. The motion was co-authored by Garcetti and Supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas.

LAWA is scheduled to finalize details on the people mover alignment and the number of stations near airport terminals in Dec. 2014. In a presentation to the LAWA Board in May, LAWA staff showed options that included two or four stations for the people mover within the central terminal horseshoe. Should LAWA move the people mover alignment back to 98th Street — as was previously studied — Metro would seek to make the Aviation/Century station as the primary connection point to the people mover.

Metro — in coordination with LAWA — has in the past couple of years looked at a number of options for connecting the airport terminals to the Metro Rail system. Among those was bringing light rail directly to the terminals or building a spur to a new airport transportation hub that is being planned east of LAX.

Ultimately, Metro studies found that a Metro Rail-people mover connection took about the same time and resulted in about the same ridership as having a light rail line run directly into the airport terminals. The Metro Rail-people mover connection also cost billions of dollars less and resulted in speedier train rides for Crenshaw/LAX Line passengers not heading to the airport.

In the future, it’s expected that about 57 percent of airport bound passengers would arrive by private car, 33 percent by shuttles, taxis and limos, eight percent by the Flyaway bus and one to two percent via transit buses and trains, according to the Metro staff report. About 66.6 million passengers used LAX in 2013, meaning even small percentages can add up to a lot of riders.

Metro Board Member Don Knabe raised a salient point several times in recent months: what guarantees are in place that LAWA will actually build the people mover? LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey told the Metro Board on Thursday that traffic has gotten so bad in the airport’s horseshoe — up to 200,000 vehicles a day — that the airport must build the people mover, a consolidated rental car facility and a new ground transportation hub to steer more vehicles away from the terminals.

The Airport Metro Connector is one of the dozen transit projects to receive funding from the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase approved by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

140529_amcoperations_2

Please see the motion on the Aviation/96th Street station that is posted after the jump.

Continue reading