Transportation headlines, Thursday, August 21

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Hello, Source readers. I was away for a few days doing the active transportation thing: backpacking into the Hoover Wilderness of the Eastern Sierra. It’s one of the great bargains in California: wilderness permits are free, as are the campsites. Okay, not entirely active transportation as getting to the trailhead requires a long, CO2-emitting drive from L.A., but such are the tradeoffs in life. Interesting factoid: California has 14.9 million acres of designated wilderness (14 percent of the state’s land area) where the only way of getting around is walking or by horse. That’s mighty cool, IMO. Quick Source contest: any Source reader who correctly identifies the lake in the photo below will be hailed as the Most Geographically Adept Source Reader of All-Time in tomorrow’s headlines and on Metro’s social media.

Hint: the lake shares the name of a former resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Hint: the lake shares the name of a former resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Guest editorial: dreaming big about rail lines, grand boulevards, bus rapid transit and Measure R2 (StreetsblogLA)

The activist group MoveLA’s Denny Zane and Gloria Ohland opine in favor of a new half-cent transportation sales tax increase being put to Los Angeles County voters in 2016 to fund transportation improvements. While they say that rail expansion should be the centerpiece of any such ballot measure, they also propose that five to 10 percent of the funds be used for a grand boulevards program “to invest in reviving and reinventing several-mile, multi-community-long stretches of maybe 15-20 arterials around L.A. County as transit-oriented boulevards that promote economic development as they pass through more than one community.”

Zane and Ohland also propose that some of the grand boulevards money be used as a competitive grant program for cities that want to build housing along these streets. The idea, in short, is to bump up bus service on these streets while also adding housing and potential transit riders. Obviously not as sexy as a rail line, but an intriguing idea because it’s a way to bring better transit into more corners of the county — including neighborhoods and communities that may be beyond the reach of rail.

As regular readers know, Metro staff is exploring the possibility of a 2016 ballot measure that could possibly extend the half-cent Measure R sales tax (which expires in mid-2039) or another half-cent sales tax that would help fund new projects. Metro has also asked cities in L.A. County for a wish list of projects they would want funded by such a ballot measure. As Metro CEO Art Leahy has already said publicly, the list of projects is a long one and not everything could be funded. It will be very extremely super interesting to see how this evolves.

An underwhelming sidewalk repair day at L.A. City Hall (StreetsblogLA)

Joe Linton’s take on the sidewalk summit held at City Hall can be boiled down to one word: “yawn.” The gist of it: city staff is working to figure out how to spend $27 million in this year’s budget to fix bad sidewalks around the city of Los Angeles while also exploring long-term options for sidewalk repair.

UCLA’s Donald Shoup also penned an op-ed in the L.A. Times arguing that a point-of-sale program that requires homeowners to fix sidewalks at the time they sell their properties would be a good way to get thousands of miles of L.A. sidewalks fixed. The reason: properties tend to turn over on average once every dozen years, meaning that such a program could result in quicker gains than waiting for the city to have funding available.

Road and sidewalk repair has been an ongoing issue at L.A. City Hall for years. I recall writing a very short sidewalk repair story for the Times back seven or eight years ago that got buried even deeper in the print edition than most of my articles and I still got more readers response than most other stories. So it’s a big issue — and another item that could surface in discussions about Measure R2.

The 10 commandments of transit (transitcommandments.com)

These are great. My favorite: “thy shall keep their shoes on.” There are also helpful suggestions about giving up a seat for those in need and about the appropriate place to break bread (or some drippy mess from Carls Jr.). That place, in case you haven’t guessed, is at home and not the bus or train.

Supporters of closing Santa Monica Airport lose round in court (L.A. Times)

A Superior Court judge upheld a ballot measure that would require voter approval to close the controversial airport. But is this really a loss? I suspect a vote in Santa Monica on closing the airport would be close. I suspect that anyone who lives near the airport would rather it be gone (disclosure: I lived under the flight path for seven years and really disliked the frequent jet noise), but I also could see people voting to keep the airport out of fear that closing it would result in more commercial and/or residential development taking the airport’s place. FYI: the airport is about one mile south of the future Expo Line station at Exposition Boulevard and Bundy Drive. The Expo Line extension, funded by Measure R, is scheduled to open in early 2016.

Why your LA-to-Vegas commute just got slower (vegas seven)

A Caltrans project is underway to improve the 15-215 interchange at the base of the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County. It includes widening the 15 and a truck bypass. But until the project is done, expect delays. Of course, some of you may have no interest in taking the 15 to Unlucky Town, but may have their sights set on other joys further up the 15, such as Zion National Park.

Transportation headlines, Friday, August 1

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

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice pic taken last month on the Blue Line. Photo courtesy Matthew Grant Anson, via Flickr.

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice pic taken last month on the Blue Line. Photo courtesy Matthew Grant Anson, via Flickr.

The value of fast transit (Transport Politic)

As our very own Joe Lemon recently noted after a visit to the Twin Cities, the new light rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul is a crawler, taking 48 minutes to an hour to travel 11 miles. Yonah Freemark, in this new post, writes:

Of course, the Twin Cities are hardly alone in their predicament. Recent transit lines elsewhere in the country feature similarly leisurely travel times. The new Houston North Line, for example, is averaging 17 mph. Los Angeles’ Expo Line is slightly quicker at 18 mph. Bus rapid transit and streetcar projects popping up virtually everywhere are often significantly slower. Only the Washington, D.C. Metro Silver Line, which will extend that region’s subway deep into the Virginia suburbs, will speed commuters along at an average of 32 mph. It will do so while only stopping at 5 stations, all of which will be located in the middle of expressways.

With speeds like those light rail lines or services like the Silver Line, it’s little wonder that it’s so difficult to convince people to get out of their cars in so many places. The fact of the matter is that services like this often do not provide much mobility improvement over the bus services they replace. That’s particularly true for large regions where too many destinations are simply too far away to be accessible by transit that averages such slow speeds.

The post goes on to note, very correctly, that the problem is that fast transit usually means putting transit on bridges or underground and that makes it prohibitively expensive at a time when there is only so much help the federal government in the U.S. will provide. As a result, less expensive and slower versions of transit get built.

Meet the worst transit project in America (Vox)

Writer Matthew Yglesias wags his finger at a streetcar line in Washington D.C. that’s under construction. Not only will it share a traffic lane with cars, the streetcar will likely block faster buses. This kind of slow transit project, Yglesias writes, not only harms the low-income riders who most rely on public transit (i.e. they’re stuck on transit instead of doing something else useful), but also creates a backlash against expensive transit projects that turn out to be of little use to motorists seeking an alternative to driving. Concur.

The missing link: exploring the Regional Connector transit corridor (KCET)

Nice summary of the neighborhoods and sights along the future Connector’s 1.9-mile route through downtown Los Angeles between Little Tokyo and the 7th/Metro Center Station. The Connector, as the name implies, will connect the Gold Line to the Blue Line and Expo Line. That will allow trains to run straight through downtown and should allow for faster rides and fewer transfers for most riders.

L.A. is working on a major zoning code revamp (L.A. Times) 

Good primer on efforts to revise the citywide code and, more importantly, the community plans that really dictate how neighborhoods look and what kind of development is allowed. This has been in the works for quite some time and looks like there are several years to go. At the end of the day, these plans will decide what gets built near transit.

Does Eric Garcetti have a big enough vision for L.A.? (Governing)

Very interesting profile on the mayor of Los Angeles, who is also the Chair of the Metro Board of Directors for the next 11 months. Garcetti makes a persuasive case that a back to basics approach is the best way to persuade people to believe in government again. Not much on transportation until the final graph. Excerpt:

Eric Garcetti wants to win big — he just believes that the way to do it is to bring the city’s fundamental management processes under control as a first step. Not until 2016 do most observers expect to see Garcetti himself put a controversial proposal before voters: That’s when he is expected to back an updated version of Measure R, the 2008 sales tax initiative that jump-started construction of the so-called Purple and Crenshaw subway lines.

 

The Metro Board has been discussing the possibility of a ballot measure in 2016 and the agency has asked local cities for their input. Nothing has been decided yet, including whether Metro would ask voters to extend Measure R or seek a new sales tax increase in order to accelerate projects and fund new ones. This is obviously one of the big storylines this blog will be following for the next two years.

Wires up on the Expo Line Phase 2!

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Photo courtesy Ron Miller

Nice view of the new overhead wires that will deliver power to trains along Expo Line Phase 2. The photo was taken on the stretch of track between the 10 freeway and Overland Avenue.

The six-mile rail project will extend the Expo Line from Culver City to downtown Santa Monica with seven new stations. The project is forecast to open in early 2016 and is funded primarily by the Measure R half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Service alert: potential delays to bus and rail riders due to President Obama’s visit

President Barack Obama’s visit to Los Angeles continues today. There will likely be delays for Metro bus and train riders.

As per usual and due to security concerns, we can only release limited information about potential delays. According to this LAPD notice, there will likely be street closures on the Westside, Beverly Hills and the southern part of downtown Los Angeles on Thursday.

•On Thursday, bus routes that could be impacted include the 2, 302, 40, 81, 35 and the Silver Line.

•Beginning mid-morning Thursday — after the morning rush hour — expect intermittent delays to the Blue and Expo Lines in downtown Los Angeles. Here are the latest tweets:

 

Everything on the this list is subject to change. For the latest updates, please check the metro.net homepage, our general Twitter account or our service alert Twitter account.

Crenshaw Boulevard businesses are open during construction

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The corner of Rodeo Road and Crenshaw Boulevard. While the sidewalk is closed due to construction, businesses remain open – just use the rear entrance. Photo: Anna Chen/Metro

Construction continues along Crenshaw Boulevard for the Crenshaw/LAX Line. As you can see in the photo above, this stretch of businesses on the west side of Crenshaw south of Rodeo Road looks pretty closed off from the street.

However, the businesses located there are absolutely open during construction. For motorists traveling on Crenshaw, turn west on Rodeo Road and use the parking lot located in the back of the businesses. You can also get there from the Expo/Crenshaw Station –from the station, walk south on Crenshaw Blvd. It takes about two minutes.

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Parking is available in back of the businesses on the west side of Crenshaw Boulevard. Photo: Google Maps.

Some of the businesses in the area have been around for quite some time and provide important services for those in the neighborhood — and many of the merchants live in the community. Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring some of the Crenshaw businesses here on the Source to remind everyone that they are open and worth checking out. The first in the series is the Women, Infants and Children Center:

Exciting new video: work on joining Expo Line Phase 1 to Expo Line Phase 2

It may not quite be the Golden Spike, but it’s still a nice sign of progress: above is a short video taken this week from the Culver City Station platform showing welding work where tracks from the existing Expo Line meet tracks from the second phase of the Expo Line. There is a lot more to be done to truly join the two projects — work is expected to be completed late this year — but it’s still exciting to see the present meet the future.

Below are a couple of nice photos in West L.A. of the Expo Line alignment taken by Darrell Clarke (who founded Friends4Expo and currently advocates for transit on behalf of the Sierra Club) from the top of the parking garage for Bed, Bath & Beyond in West L.A. The top photo is looking west toward the Bundy Station and the bottom photo is looking east toward the Expo Line bridge over Pico Boulevard and the undercrossing of the 405 freeway.

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The second phase of the Expo Line will extend the tracks for six miles from Culver City to downtown Santa Monica with seven new stations. The Measure R-funded project is currently scheduled to open in early 2016.

Many more construction photos can be found on Expo Line Fan’s photo page.

And speaking of photos, an important public service announcement: Metro is very happy folks are excited about the many transportation projects under construction around Los Angeles County. And we’re happy that people want to take photographs. Our one request: please, please, please take those photos from vantage points outside the construction work zone. We don’t want anyone to get hurt and we don’t want to expose contractors and/or Metro to unnecessary litigation that will ultimately cost taxpayers. Work zones are covered by all sorts of laws and rules to keep workers safe. We really appreciate everyone’s cooperation especially with an unprecedented four Metro Rail projects currently under construction and a fifth on its way. Thank you!

 

“Notice to Proceed” granted for construction of Regional Connector project!

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It’s official: there are now four Metro Rail projects currently under construction after the Metro earlier this week gave its contractors — the Regional Connector Constructors, Joint Venture — the official “notice to proceed” on building the line. Until recently, Metro never had more than two rail projects underway at the same time.

The Regional Connector will be a 1.9-mile underground light rail line that will connect the Gold Line to the Blue Line and Expo Line in downtown Los Angeles. With a scheduled opening of 2020, the Regional Connector will allow trains to run directly between Santa Monica and East Los Angeles on an east-west line and between Azusa and Long Beach on a north-south line.

That should pass along several benefits to Metro Rail riders: faster and more frequent trains through downtown Los Angeles; fewer transfers for most riders; three new stations in Little Tokyo, Civic Center and 2nd/Hope, and; eliminating the need to turn around every Blue Line and Expo Line train at 7th/Metro Center, where both lines currently dead end.

Utility relocations and other advance work on the project began last year.

The three other Metro Rail lines under construction are a 6-mile extension of the Expo Line between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica, an 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border and the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line that will run between the Expo Line and connect to the Green Line south of the airport.

The Expo Line and Gold Line Foothill Extension projects are currently scheduled to open in early 2016. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is scheduled to open in 2019; it will eventually connect to a people mover to be built by Los Angeles World Airports to connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line to terminals at the airport.

The Metro Board is also scheduled to consider awarding a construction contract later this month for the 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway between the existing Wilshire/Western station and Wilshire/La Cienega. When work begins, there will be five Metro Rail projects under construction.

All five of these projects are receiving funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by two million Los Angeles County voters in Nov. 2008. Measure R included funds for 12 transit projects and a number of highway projects, as well as money for operations and funds for smaller transportation projects in cities in Los Angeles County.

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

Transportation headlines, Friday, June 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! 

A stowaway on Expo 2 (ZevWeb)

Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky got a lift along part of the Expo Line Phase 2 alignment in one of those trucks that can ride the rails. Nice essay accompanies the video at Zev’s website. Keep in mind that he has been tracking this project for the better part of two decades as it moved from the dream phase to talk phase to planning phase to lawsuit phase to construction phase.

Dialed-in with Don Knabe

Supervisor and Board Member Don Knabe talks with Metro CEO Art Leahy about the agency and some of Metro’s ongoing projects. This is a nice primer on the agency and both the Airport Metro Connector study is discussed, as well as the recent fare increases.

Carmageddon in L.A.: the sizzle and the fizzle (Access)  

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Interesting chart and article by Brian Taylor and Martin Wachs — two transportation experts — about how motorists responded to the two Carmageddon closures on the 405 in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Not surprisingly, motorists were more reluctant to hit the road during the first closure.

Excerpt:

Travelers were not the only people who learned from Carmageddon I. Given how few travelers chose public transportation as an alternative to the closed freeway, officials did not waste money on transit enhancements for the second event. Concerned public officials had informed the public of likely nightmarish traffic impacts during the first weekend closure of one of the nation’s busiest freeways. The media, without much in the way of supporting evidence, trumpeted doomsday predictions of congestion stretching to the Mexican border 150 miles away and of patients dying en route to hospitals while stuck in traffic. None of these dire predictions came to pass. In fact, the contrast between the perceived threat and reality was so stark that it left the media scratching their heads. One headline read: “Carmageddon in Los Angeles: So what was the big deal anyway?” Another read: “True-life ‘disaster’ doesn’t live up to hype.”

During the second weekend closure, transportation officials and elected leaders again appealed for public cooperation, but tempered the messaging. There were many fewer predictions of chaos and more calls for the sort of civic responsibility that had made the first closure a stay-at-home, holiday-like event. The public responded by adjusting travel plans but foregoing far fewer trips than they had during the first closure. Despite fears that the public might ignore pleas to limit travel during the second closure because they were jaded by the lack of traffic chaos the first time, it appears that travelers used the information they were provided to respond appropriately.

Transportation planners can learn much from the two Carmageddons. It’s helpful to carefully plan traffic flow patterns by scheduling closures on days when volumes are lower and trips are likely to be discretionary. But disseminating information can also be enormously effective—even more effective than providing alternative travel modes. As real-time information becomes more available to travelers, that information can complement system capacity to reduce cost and delay. Finally, crying wolf presents a dilemma and should be employed judiciously. Going overboard to scare people off of the roads ensures that the promised chaos will fail to materialize, but encourages the traveling public to take future dire warnings with a grain of salt.

I think it’s interesting — and somewhat predictable — that people didn’t shift to transit during the closures. If there was a rail line traversing the Sepulveda Pass I expect that would be a different story. There is $1 billion in seed money for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project in Measure R and Metro is studying ways that the project may be built and funded as a public-private partnership.