Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 20

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! 

My horrible, hopeful L.A. commute (Zocalo Public Square) 

Columnist Joe Mathews writes about his three- to four-hour daily journey that involves starting in South Pasadena, driving to Arcadia to drop the kids at pre-school and then turning around driving 30-plus miles to his office in congested Santa Monica. It’s quite terrible, Mathews writes. But there’s hope. Along the way he has been watching the progress of the Gold Line Foothill Extension (which will stop in downtown Arcadia) and the Expo Line (which will stop in downtown Santa Monica) and can foresee the day he could use those rail lines to travel between the San Gabriel Valley and the Westside. Both rail lines are forecast to open in early 2016.

He’s also a proponent of the ExpressLanes, which he uses on the 10 freeway east of downtown. They save him time, Mathews writes, and he hopes that Metro uses the toll money to make more transportation improvements in the region.

Building a better downtown Long Beach (Longbeachize) 

Among the ideas for improving Long Beach’s downtown offered here: conversion of one-way streets to two-way thoroughfare, a bike share program, selling un-used public space to the private sector, less parking and transforming part of the Terminal Freeway to park space.

The two-way street proposal is interesting — one-way streets do a better job moving traffic but some folks argue that two-way streets are safer, better for pedestrians and provide better access to businesses. Curiously, the Blue Line doesn’t get a mention even though it loops through downtown Long Beach, is Metro’s most heavily ridden light rail line and offers a direction connection to downtown Los Angeles and Metro’s growing rail system.

Candidates spar over subway route during debate (L.A. Times) 

Candidates for County Supervisor in the third district (currently occupied by Zev Yaroslavsky) discuss the route of the Purple Line Extension through Beverly Hills. Of course, it’s somewhat of a moot point. The Metro Board of Directors and the Federal Transit Administration approved the project’s environmental documents — including a route — in 2012. Earlier this year, a Superior Court judge upheld the validity of the documents, ruling for Metro in a state lawsuit brought by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. A federal lawsuit brought by Beverly Hills and the BHUSD is, however, pending.

Former transportation secretary to join investment firm (New York Times)

Ray LaHood is joining Meridiam, a firm that specializes in investing in public infrastructure projects. One of his new colleagues will be Jane Garvey, a former chief of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Corralitas Red Car land step closer to becoming a park (L.A. Times) 

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land is in negotiations with the landowner to buy the 10-acre strip of land in Silver Lake that once served as the right-of-way for Red Cars traveling between downtown Los Angeles, Glendale and Burbank. A purchase would end decades of controversy over the land, with neighbors repeatedly turning back attempts at development.

 

Construction notice: Military Avenue closed at Exposition Boulevard for utility work May 19 to June 13

Expo notice

Here’s the latest notice from the Expo Line Construction Authority, the independent agency charged with building the line that is being funded by Measure R.

Metro currently has three rail projects under construction: the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Utility relocations on two more rail projects, the Regional Connector and Purple Line, are underway and heavy construction is expected to begin later this year on both. All are funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. In addition, Metro has begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles.

Service Advisory: expect minor delays on Expo Line this weekend due to Phase 2 construction

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Crews will work to relocate tracks so they can be used for Expo Line Phase 2.

The Expo Line Construction Authority will be conducting track integration work on Expo Line Phase 2 this weekend, which will result in minor delays on the Expo Line. Trains will share one track between Expo/La Brea and Culver City stations at various times between 7 a.m. and 5.p.m this Saturday and Sunday, May 17 and 18.

Over the weekend, crews will be working to relocate tracks so they can be used for the Phase 2 aerial structure over Venice Boulevard.

For live service updates, follow Metro on Twitter or check the Metro home page. You can also check out the latest construction photos on Expo Line Phase 2 in this previous post.

Metro currently has three rail projects under construction: the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Utility relocations on two more rail projects, the Regional Connector and Purple Line, are underway and heavy construction is expected to begin later this year on both. All are funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. In addition, Metro has begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles.

Construction notice: week-long closure of intersection of Lincoln & Colorado in Santa Monica begins Monday for Expo Line track work

Lincoln1

Lincoln2

The good news is that construction of the second phase of the Expo Line continues to chug along at a speedy pace. The not-quite-as-good-news: the busy intersection of Lincoln Boulevard and Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica needs to be closed for a week to accommodate construction of the tracks along Colorado Ave.

Please help spread the word. The official notice from the Expo Line Construction Authority — the agency building the project — is posted above.

The second phase of the Expo Line is funded by the Measure R sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. It is one of three rail projects receiving Measure R funding that are currently under construction (along with the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Gold Line Foothill Extension) with construction of two other projects expected to begin later this year (Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension). Metro has also begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles.

First of 18 new traction power substations delivered today

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A noteworthy construction milestone was reached today when the first of 18 new power traction substations was delivered to the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the Expo Line projects.

The first of the substations — which transfer electricity to the overhead wires — was delivered to the Foothill Extension in Duarte near the interchange of the 210 and 605 freeways, as shown in the above photos.

Both projects are now more than 50 percent complete, construction on the Crenshaw/LAX Line is now underway and utility relocation and other prep work is ongoing for the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector projects. All the projects are receiving funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, October 9

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

ART OF TRANSIT: A stretch of the second phase of the Expo Line between the 10 freeway and Overland Avenue. From our Instagram feed.

And from maeryan’s Instagram feed:

Glendale-Hyperion Improvement Project (City of Los Angeles)

First observation: Tom LaBonge’s excitement is a little more palpable than Mitch O’Farrell’s :) Second observation: if you’re an elected official, always speak before Tom LaBonge.

The big news — to me — is that a new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists will be built atop the abutments that once supported the old streetcar bridge that was adjacent to the current structure.

Not everyone is impressed with the plans and many are downright worried the project will make things worse. Damien Newton has two posts at LA Streetsblog, here and here. The chief concern is that there won’t be a bike lane on the actual bridge intended for vehicles and that even a new ped/bike bridge that only spans the Los Angeles River may not really help walkers and cyclists get between Atwater Village and many destinations on the western side of the river.

BART talks likely to go to the 11th hour or beyond (Mass Transit) 

Two unions and the rail system that connects San Francisco to the East Bay and the southern part of the San Francisco Peninsula have until 11:59 p.m. Thursday to reach a new contract deal. A 60-day cooling off period imposed by Gov. Jerry Brown in August doesn’t seem to have helped much and a strike that would impact thousands of riders may be looming.

Smart phones, social media blamed for Beijing traffic jams (South China Morning Post)

Photo credit: Xinhua.

Photo credit: Xinhua.

Driving .6 miles in only two hours sounds like fun!

Air travel map from 1929 (Slate)

The map was made by Transcontinental Air Transport and given to passengers to show them sites they could expect to see from air and ground alike as they traveled across the country. Awesome idea! Of course, nowadays air travel has become so commonplace that many passengers simply shut their window and completely ignore the miracle of flight. And get this: I used to completely geek out by bringing maps to try to figure out a plane’s location. I suspect doing that these days earns you a visit with the Homeland crew.

Many in GOP offer a theory: default wouldn’t be so bad (New York Times) 

Photo credit: Sierra Club.

Photo credit: Sierra Club.

The disagreement over the Affordable Health Care Act now extends to whether the government will be unable to pay its bills and, if so, whether that would be such a bad thing (the counter-argument is that it shows America is balancing its budget).

On a related note…although this poll appears extremely unscientific to me, I would like to hear a pollster read these questions without laughing. Bottom line: Congress is more popular than Ebola virus but less popular than hemorrhoids. Semi-related note: I’m pretty sure if this is the first appearance of the word “hemorrhoids” on this blog in its nearly four-year existence!

Distinguished artist Walter Hood to create integrated sculptural work for Downtown Santa Monica Station

Photo by Jim Chapman 02-14-06,C.S. Walter Hood Landscape Architect.

Walter Hood, image courtesy of Hood Design Studio

Walter Hood, a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome and a winner selected to represent the United States at the 2010 Venice Biennale, has been selected to create an integrated sculptural work for the Expo Line Downtown Santa Monica Station.

Hood is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was chair of the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department from 1998 to 2002. He is also the Goldman Sachs Design Fellow for the Smithsonian Institute (Washington, D.C.), where he is assisting with the reconceptualization of the museum’s public spaces.

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Reminder: why Election Day in Los Angeles matters if you care about transportation

Click above to find your polling place if you live in the city of Los Angeles.

Click above to find your polling place if you live in the city of Los Angeles.

As you may have heard, there’s a primary election Tuesday in Los Angeles to elect the next mayor of the second-largest city in the nation — a city with about 3.8 million inhabitants and some well-known transportation challenges.

So even if you get all scratchy and/or break out in hives during campaign season, I’m here to kindly remind you to vote because there’s a lot at stake. Strike that. There’s tons at stake. Look up your polling place here.

Here’s why. Metro is a county agency and is overseen by a 13 member Board of Directors who serve as the deciders on most significant issues. The Mayor of Los Angeles gets a seat on that board and gets to fill three other seats with his appointees.

So let’s do some math! A majority of the Metro Board — i.e. seven votes — is required to approve most items. Four of those seven votes are controlled by the Los Angeles mayor. That means that the mayor controls more than half the votes needed to approve items that have impacts (hopefully always very positive!) across Los Angeles County.

Here are some items that are likely to confront the Metro Board in the next four or so years, meaning they’re items likely to confront the lucky soul (if luck is the right word) who becomes the next mayor of the City of Angels and/or Parking Lots:

•Although there’s nothing currently on the table, there will likely be a discussion in the next four years about Metro’s fare structure — all large transit agencies have to confront the fare issue at regular intervals. If you’re one of the readers who has left countless comments on this blog calling for distance-based fares, then this might interest you.

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Transportation headlines, Thursday, Jan. 31

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I've become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I’ve become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines’ Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

My apologies for the somewhat sporadic posting in the past few weeks — personal stuff.

FTA to streamline environmental review process (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that for the first time in a quarter century, the Federal Transit Administration is taking steps to speed its review of transportation projects to ensure they comply with federal law. For example, projects in existing transportation corridors will no longer require the same high level of review as projects breaking new ground.

This is welcome news. I hope it works. I’ve certainly chirped in the past about the need to cut red tape and get studies done quicker — proposing to build a busway or light rail line along an existing street should not require five years of study to determine impacts are slight or beneficial. One reason studies take so long is that the FTA, by law, must constantly review them.

Exploring the course of the future Metro Expo Line (KCET) 

Eric Brightwell has a nice write-up with plenty of photos of the stations and surrounding environs of the six-mile second phase that will extend the train from Culver City to Santa Monica. Tip of the cap to Eric for including one of my fave Mexican food joints in the area, Gilbert’s El Indio, which is in Santa Monica at Pico and 26th and is a bike ride or stroll from the future 26th/Olympic Station. Carnitas plate: I salute you!

A tale of competing Century City high-rises (Curbed LA)

JP Morgan Chase has hired a lobbyist to create a group — “Save the Westside” — to prevent a 37-story high-rise office tower from being built next to the future Century City Purple Line subway station. The issue? JP Morgan Chase trying to save its bottom line; the firm is a property owner in Century City and apparently doesn’t welcome any more competition, according to the office of Councilman Paul Koretz.

A subway’s birthday: Happy 20th, Metro Red Line! (Militant Angeleno) 

Great post by the militant one on the subway’s opening in 1993 and what it was like to ride the train back in 1993 — when it was only seven minutes from end to end. He also makes an outstanding point about how dull and lifeless downtown Los Angeles was back in ’93 — and how the subway impacted one business in Westlake:

Within a few months, thousands of Downtown workers suddenly discovered that they were just 25 cents and a couple minutes away from the best pastrami in town, and injected new life into a once-floundering Westlake delicatessen, right across the street from the subway’s western terminus.

He speaks, of course, of Langers. In the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words:

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

710 freeway coalition faces growing efforts against linking the route to 210 (Pasadena Sun)

Interesting article looking at groups for and against filling the gap in the 710 with a tunnel. Generally speaking, southern San Gabe Valley cities support the effort while those in the north oppose it. Metro is about to launch a draft environmental study for the project that is considering five alternatives: no-build, transportation systems improvements (i.e. signals and intersections), bus rapid transit, light rail and a freeway tunnel that would directly link the two ends of the 710.

 

CTA website offers ‘why things go wrong’ explanations (Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Transit Authority has a new feature on its website: a lengthy feature story trying to explain why buses and trains are sometimes delayed. But the Trib’s transportation columnist is not entirely impressed and doesn’t buy the CTA’s assertion that many service delays are entirely beyond its control.

My three cents (inflation!): Explanations are nice but never an excuse for poor service. That said, I thought the CTA page was thoughtful in trying to answer some very common questions about delays and this is something we should probably do here at Metro, where we have another equally important task: improving the speed that service alerts are communicated to riders.

Judge the CTA page for yourself. Here’s their take on bus bunching:

We know—bunching is frustrating. It frustrates us too, both as people who are charged with providing service, and people who use that same service to get around town. Bunching is the bane of bus systems around the world and there is no easy fix to it—particularly in places where there’s lots of traffic and where frequent bus service is required.

So how does it happen? Here’s a scenario:

Imagine a busy route that has buses running about every 5 minutes on a busy street, right at the morning peak, and all is right on time. Then, one bus gets delayed—let’s say a minor accident between two cars happens, and a lane is temporarily blocked while drivers exchange info, and this creates a backup that adds just two and a half minutes to the bus’s trip.

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