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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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Dec. 11

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.

Government and social media (Government Technology)

This blog post urges government agencies to get off their duffs and dive into the world of social media, saying it’s now an expectation — not just a luxury. However, these words of caution:

But even as agencies flocked to social networks, they often struggled to use these new communication channels effectively. And that’s where 2013 comes into play. Going forward, social media use needs to become more sophisticated. Truly engaging with residents means more than simply posting links to press releases — it means two-way communication and keeping social media pages active with current content on a regular basis.

I’m one of the contributors to Metro’s Twitter account, which has seen a very steady increase in followers in the past year. We do try to keep it a two-way conversation, although it’s hard to respond to every question, idea or rumination. We also run Twitter Tuesday on The Source each week which gives me a chance to highlight many of your tweets about the agency and respond to some of them (this week’s edition of TT will post later today).

Highway deaths their lowest level since 1949 (L.A. Times)

The number of fatalities on America’s roads was 32,367 in 2011 — a shocking level of carnage, in my view — but that’s 26 percent below the numbers in 2005. “However, bicycle deaths rose 8.7% to 677 and pedestrian deaths rose 3% to 4,432, the NHTSA said,” according to the article. Many of the cycling accidents were caused by head injuries and the story notes that only one in four cyclists wears a helmet. Here’s a NHTSA publication from earlier this year, which concludes that the drop in deaths is due largely to a decline in the number of fatalities involving younger motorists.

Najarian Metro Board seat in danger over his opposition to 710 big dig (L.A. Streetsblog)

Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian has made it no secret as a Metro Board Member that he is opposed to filling in the gap in the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena. Officials from other cities want the issue to at least be studied — a tunnel and other project alternatives are currently in the environmental review process — and have opposed Najarian being selected for another term as a Metro Board Member.

Pols attack Expo mixed-use project on Sepulveda (Curbed LA)

A 538-unit proposed residential development adjacent to the Expo Line Phase 2 station at Sepulveda and Pico is drawing a lot of opposition from pols these days, most recently L.A. Council Members Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl, who say it’s too large. Of course, the default position for westside politicians is to oppose development because of traffic concerns (and hey it’s worked so far!). The site, which is currently occupied mostly by a cement manufacturer is not only adjacent to a future Expo station — making connections to Santa Monica, Culver City and downtown L.A. easy — it’s also next to bus lines running on Pico and Sepulveda boulevards. The nearby neighborhood along Pico is also walkable; the Westside Pavilion is down the street. Will residents of the development have cars and use them? Surely. Will they use them as much as they would if they lived in the ‘burbs or far from transit? Probably not.

Four years later: the status of Measure R transit projects

Work on the Measure R-funded Expo Line Phase 2 along Olympic Boulevard in Santa Monica. Photo by Expo Line Fan.

We’re one week shy of the fourth anniversary of the passage of Measure R by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The half-cent sales tax approved for 30 years upended everything: a host of transit and road projects that otherwise lacked funding suddenly had some dollars behind them.

Or to put it in less bureaucratic terms: projects such as the Westside Subway Extension were basically dead — it was a nice idea that lacked one cent in funding. Measure R gave it life.

To put it mildly, there’s a lot of balls in the air at Metro right now because of Measure R. To help all of us remember what-is-where, I’ve put together a brief status update for the transit projects covered by Measure R. I’ll write about some of the road projects later this week.

Before launching into this list, a quick sentence about Measure R: It’s not just building projects. The sales tax increase also provided money for bus and rail operations as well as local transportation projects by returning 15 percent of Measure R proceeds to local cities and unincorporated areas. Here’s the full Measure R expenditure plan.

Also, a word about completion dates for projects: they are subject to change depending on funding (not all the money is coming from Measure R), construction timelines and other factors that impact large infrastructure projects. It’s also important to note that the Measure J ballot measure proposes to accelerate some projects scheduled for the second and third decades of Measure R. More information is available here.

Measure R transit projects

Orange Line Extension: The four-mile extension of the Orange Line busway between Canoga Park and Chatsworth opened this summer. Originally slated to receive Measure R funding, the project was finished on-time and on-budget and didn’t need the Measure R dollars.

Expo Line Phase 2: The 6.6-mile extension of the Expo Line light rail from its current terminus in Culver City to 4th & Colorado in Santa Monica is under construction by the Expo Line Construction Authority. The projected completion date of construction work is late 2015. Project website

Gold Line Foothill Extension: The 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line light rail from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border is under construction with work being overseen by the Foothill Extension Construction Authority. The estimated completion date for construction is late 2015. Project website

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Expo Phase 2 construction notice for Military Avenue

Work is well underway up and down the Expo Line Phase 2 alignment between Culver City and Santa Monica — grading, bridgework, utility relocation, etc. 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:

Click above to see larger.

Utility relocation work begins on Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica for Expo Line 2

This is the stretch of Colorado in which the train will run down the middle of the street to its terminus at 4th and Colorado — steps from the Third Street Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier and beach:

Click above to see larger.