Transportation headlines, Oct. 8: L.A. ranks 3rd on jobs near transit, study says

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University of Minnesota ranks accessibility to jobs by transit in the U.S. (news release)

MinnesotaStudyMap

The study finds that Los Angeles ranks third behind New York and San Francisco when it comes to the number of jobs near transit, according to the study that crunched the numbers on 46 of the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S. That puts the L.A. area ahead of some older and more established transit cities such as Chicago, Washington, Boston and Philly. The list:

Top 10 metro areas: job accessibility by transit (January 2014)

  1. New York
  2. San Francisco
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Washington
  5. Chicago
  6. Boston
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Seattle
  9. Denver
  10. San Jose

 

I don’t think the above map is exactly shocking news to those who live here and know our area — but the map still makes a pretty visual argument for better connecting transit to downtown Los Angeles and the Westside. The map also suggests that the Measure R-funded transit projects that Metro is building or plans to build are serving a real purpose. The short list:

•The Purple Line Extension will directly connect downtown Los Angeles to Westwood via the Wilshire Corridor with a short detour to Century City. The project also provides a direct link between our region’s largest transit hub — Los Angeles Union Station — and the Westside.

•The Expo Line’s second phase connects Santa Monica, West L.A. and downtown L.A. via Culver City, the northern part of South L.A. and Exposition Park.

•The Regional Connector will link the Gold Line, Blue Line and Expo Line in downtown L.A. and allow easier and faster access to and through downtown L.A. for riders on all three lines.

•The Gold Line Foothill Extension extends the Gold Line to the Azusa/Glendora border, making for easier and faster access to jobs in the Pasadena area, downtown L.A. and beyond (i.e. the Westside). Meanwhile, the second phase of the Eastside Gold Line is being studied and would connect either South El Monte or Whittier to downtown L.A. via this project and the Regional Connector.

•The Crenshaw/LAX Line will serve a north-south corridor starting at the Green Line’s Redondo Beach Station and extending north to the Expo Line, including the job-rich area around the airport. The Expo Line, in turn, offers east-west access to jobs. The map also suggests that extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line north — a project in Metro’s long-range plan but unfunded at this time — would connect people to more jobs to the east and west via the Purple Line. A South Bay Green Line Extension, a project also to be funded by Measure R, could extend the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line deeper into the South Bay.

•The map also suggests that connecting the San Fernando Valley to the Westside via the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor makes sense and that the area along Van Nuys Boulevard — to be served by the East San Fernando Transit Corridor — is also a wise proposition in the short-term. The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor is a long-term project not scheduled for completion until the 2030s unless funding is found to build and accelerate it, but the project could eventually connect to the bus rapid transit or light rail built as part of the East San Fernando Valley Transit project along Van Nuys Boulevard.

•The map also shows that the Warner Center area is one of the more job rich areas in the Valley, thereby suggesting that it makes sense for Metro to pursue improvements to the Orange Line. See this recent Source post for more about that.

Here is the page about Los Angeles in the University of Minnesota study:

Los Angeles

More headlines after the jump!

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Dodger Stadium Express will run from Union Station and Harbor Gateway for the playoffs

map

After thumping and humiliating the Giants last Wednesday night, the Dodgers are National League West champions and owners of the second seed in the NL. They’ll open the playoffs at home this Friday, Oct. 3, at 3:37 p.m. against the St. Louis Cardinals followed by Game 2 on Saturday night at 6:37 p.m.

Game 1 features a match of the very best pitcher in the majors, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, versus a top-five pitcher in Adam Wainwright. Should be a great game.

With huge crowds expected for the playoffs, the Dodger Stadium Express will be running to the ballpark from two locations: Union Station and Harbor Gateway Transit Center (731 W. 182nd Street, Gardena, CA) along with stops at Rosecrans Station, Harbor Freeway Station (for those transferring to/from the Green Line), Manchester Station and Slauson Station — all in the median of the 110 freeway (see above map). Those with tickets to the game ride for free. The new Harbor Gateway service is funded with revenues from the Metro ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway.

Please note that service from Harbor Gateway begins for the playoffs. For this weekend’s home games against the Colorado Rockies, Dodger Stadium Express service will only be from Union Station. 

Union Station is served by many Metro and municipal bus lines and Metro Rail’s Red, Purple and Gold lines, as well as Metrolink and Amtrak. Parking is available for $6.

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Harbor Gateway Transit Center is also served by several Metro bus lines, the Metro Silver Line and Torrance Transit. Free parking is available although may be limited if the lot fills.

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Dodger Stadium Express details for the playoffs:

From Union Station:

  • Board at Bus Bay 3 of the Patsaouras Bus Plaza.
  • Service leaves Union Station every 10 minutes, starting 90 minutes before game time through the 3rd inning for all home games.
  • You can exit inside Dodger Stadium at one of two stops – behind Center Field and at the Top Deck. Service will pick up at the same stops after the game.
  • Return service runs until 45 minutes after the final out.

From Harbor Gateway Transit Center:

  • Board at Bay 9.
  • Buses run every 15 minutes starting 2 hours before game time, with the last bus leaving at game time.
  • You’ll be dropped off behind Right Field. Service back to Harbor Gateway Transit Center will pick up at the same stop after the game.
  • Return service ends 45 minutes after the final out.

Game Day Tips:

  • Your Dodger ticket is good for the Dodger Stadium Express fare*; otherwise, regular Metro fares apply.
  • Arrive early; crowds are heaviest near game time.

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, September 24

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Cloverfield TPSS Lift 2

For those who like heavy construction (literally) here’s a pic from earlier this month of a substation being lifted into place for the Expo Line. The substations supply voltage to the overhead wires that, in turn, deliver power to the trains. The substations were manufactured in Virginia and traveled a week cross-country to the Westside. 

Are toll lanes elitist or progressive? (L.A. Times)

With Orange County officials still considering toll lanes for the 405 freeway, the Times’ editorial board publishes its very interesting internal discussion on whether to back congestion pricing lanes or not. The fascinating part: they can’t reach agreement while writers on both sides of the debate make some very good points. Kerry Cavanaugh has this to say:

Also, when we looked at Metro’s fare increase a few months ago, we urged the agency to consider more tolling. So who should be bearing the burden if not riders? To start, Metro should look at ways to shift some transit system costs onto drivers, which may sound unfair until you consider that they’re getting a heavily subsidized ride on publicly built and maintained roads. If added fees make it less appealing for people to drive, that’s a good thing; fewer cars on the road reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Metro should lobby for higher fuel taxes to fund mass transit, look at expanding tolling or congestion pricing to help pay for bus and rail rides, and charge for Metro parking lots.

One of the other points debated is whether it’s best to toll just some lanes — as Metro does on the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 (the HOV lanes to be exact) — or all the lanes. In some places such as Chicago and New York, everyone pays tolls to travel certain parts of the freeway. Does it raise money? Yes. Does it cut down on traffic? Hard to say, as traffic can be pretty hideous but possibly it would be more hideous without the tolls. The other part of the question: what if the tolls were dynamic and reflected supply-and-demand?

What the latest Census data says about L.A. city bicycle commuting (Streetsblog LA)

With an assist from Jeff Jacobberger, the latest American Community Survey numbers get crunched, leading to the conclusion that about 1.2 percent of commuters in the city of L.A. are biking to work, 3.6 percent are walking, 10.8 percent are riding transit, 67.1 percent are driving alone and 9.9 percent are carpooling.

As Jeff and Streetsblog point out, these are work trips only — so the numbers aren’t fulluy capturing the folks who ride their bikes to transit or those who may use their cars for work trips but are using their bikes to run errands and such.

All that said, the number of those people biking to work appears to be up in L.A. in recent years, but many more men are willing to ride than women.

Very interesting post and it’s worth noting that a higher percentage of commuters take transit in the city of L.A. than across the entire county. That’s not a huge surprise, given that a lot of Metro’s existing service is within the boundaries of Los Angeles. That said, the numbers probably also reflect that the city has the kind of population density and geographical layout that best supports transit at this time.

Don’t count out L.A. as transit-friendly choice (Boston Globe)

This letter to the editor is about Boston’s purported transit advantage over Los Angeles when it come to bidding to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Not so fast, says the reader — having Olympic venues in Long Beach would work because of the Metro Blue Line, she says, and there are plans underway to make our region more walker, biker and river friendly.

Nice to see L.A. getting some love on the East Coast. Of the other cities interested in the 2024 Games, I do think Boston is the most formidable opponent, given their transit system, many existing sports facilities (thanks to all their colleges) and the fact they’ve never hosted an Olympics and the region isn’t as spread out as here. On the plus side for us, there remains a decent chance no one will be able to understand anything Boston reps say when arguing for the games :)

Finally, a big welcome back aboard, Kings fans! This one — from Monday night’s pre-season game — is about as pretty as it gets:

I couldn’t care less about the phone used to film the above video. But the scenery is great, not silly far from L.A. and sort of involves transportation. If nothing else, some nice eye candy to get you past Wednesday.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Sept. 18: Valley-Westside Express Bus begins Dec. 15

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Metro is running a nice promotion with the Music Center -- if you Go Metro with a TAP card, you can save 20 percent on The Australian Ballet's performance of Swan Lake at the Music Center Oct. 9 to 12. As part of the promotion, four members of the XX performed at Union Station last week. The above photo was taken in the East Portal with an assistance from some great light filtered through the glass ceiling. I'll post some more pics soon.  Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Metro is partnering with the Music Center — if you Go Metro with a TAP card, you can save 20 percent on The Australian Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake at the Music Center in October (click on the photo above for more details). As part of the promotion, the Music Center recruited four local ballerinas — Michelle Lemburg, Bella Hoy, Jolie Moray and Katie Brady —  to perform parts of Swan Lake last week at Union Station. The above photo was taken in the East Portal with a big assistance from some great light filtered through the glass ceiling. I’ll post some more pics soon.
Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Valley-Westside express bus is a go (Zev Web)

Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website has some very good news for bus riders. Excerpt:

Taking advantage of those brand-new 405 carpool lanes, Metro later this year will launch an express bus through the Sepulveda Pass, offering transit riders on both sides of the hill a speedier way through one of L.A.’s gnarliest commuting challenges.

On December 15, Line 788 will begin offering express nonstop service from UCLA in Westwood to the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley. It then will continue north on Van Nuys Boulevard, stopping at major intersections on its way to Panorama City. Because it will connect to the Orange Line rapid transit busway, the line will give people in places like North Hollywood, Woodland Hills and Chatsworth a faster path to the Westside.

Metro officials say the new bus could save riders up to 20 minutes from existing 761 Rapid Bus service. The article on ZevWeb has many more details.

In addition, Yaroslavsky submitted this motion today to the Board’s Executive Management Committee that would give the 788 the brand name Valley-Westside Express:

IMG_5852

Will a new law make drivers bicycle-friendly (Which Way LA?)

The KCRW program tackles California’s new three-foot passing law that requires motorists to give a three-foot buffer when passing bikes. Guests include Joe Linton of Streetsblog LA, an LAPD officer and Los Angeles County Bike Coalition’s Joshua Cohen. Good to see the topic and law getting attention it deserves on the airwaves — and a good listen for those riding transit who have a smartphone and can get a good cell signal.

Electric vehicles are cleaner, but still not a magic bullet (New York Times)

A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists says that electric vehicles are responsible for less greenhouse gas emissions than hybrid-powered cars in 60 percent of the country — i.e. the parts of the U.S. that don’t rely on coal-burning power plants to create electricity. “An electric vehicle in New York achieves the equivalent of 112 m.p.g., according to the scientist group’s data, while in California the number is 95 m.p.g,” according to the article.

Where does power come from in California? Almost 19 percent is from renewables and another nearly eight percent from large hydroelectric (which, of course, has its own environmental issues related to changing the ecosystems of rivers). The more renewables used, the cleaner electric cars will get — and the cleaner that transit powered by electricity (including all of the Metro Rail lines) will be.

Check out this chart from the state:

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 8.54.40 AM

As we’ve noted before, studies have found that taking transit usually results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions per rider because transit uses electricity more efficiently than most gasoline-only powered vehicles with one or two passengers in them.

Agency again seeks to refinance struggling toll road (L.A. Times)

The restructuring of the debt used to build the road means that motorists may have to pay tolls until 2050 — eight years longer than expected — in order to pay off the debt. The 73 is intended in part as an alternative to the 405 and to serve coastal communities but usage has generally been lower than originally projected.

Thousands diverted onto 110 ExpressLanes then fined by toll operator (L.A. Times)

A police shootout closed a stretch of the regular lanes on the 110 for more than 9.5 hours and motorists — many without transponders — were diverted to the ExpressLanes. They did receive fines, but those are (obviously) being refunded by Metro due to the extraordinary circumstances.

Gordo, the dog hit by van during police chase, may lose a leg (L.A. Times)

The dog shouldn’t have been wandering in the street (obviously). Nonetheless, hard to overlook even more carnage from the pursuits that seem to plague this region more than most — see this New Yorker story about that (full article is behind a pay wall). I suppose you could argue that local TV stations are doing a public service showing how scary these chases are. Just like you could argue the local TV stations are just pursuing ratings while glorifying/promoting/encouraging something that comes at the expense of public health and avoiding the expense and difficulty of reporting real news.

Sort of quasi-related but not really: my current transit read is “The Lost Dogs” about the fate of the pit bulls used as part of NFL player Michael Vick’s dog fighting operations. A really great piece of journalism and an interesting read — and very helpful as my partner and I rescued a pit bull earlier this year.

Rant related to previous quasi-related commentary: with the NFL sort of in the news these days — and not for the Bengals pleasantly surprising 2-0 start — it’s fair to wonder out loud why Commissioner Roger Goodell decided Vick is allowed to play in the league considering some of the things he and his underlings did to dogs.

Motion proposes further study of ExpressLanes for part of the 105 freeway

The above motion is scheduled to be considered by the Metro Board of Directors this month — the motion seeks to launch environmental studies of adding ExpressLanes to the 105 freeway, with an initial segment between the 405 and 605 freeways. To be perfectly clear: the motion concerns more studies of the concept. A decision to go forward with such a project would come much later.

The 105 freeway, as you likely know, intersects with the existing ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway. The 110-105 junction includes exclusive on-ramps and off-ramps between the 110 ExpressLanes and the HOV lanes presently on the 105 — i.e. there’s no need for motorists to exit the ExpressLanes or HOV lanes when going between the two freeways.

The idea, at this time, would be to have two ExpressLanes in each direction. That would be done mostly by re-striping the freeway with some spot widening. Adding those extra lanes would require approvals from Caltrans, the state agency that oversees freeway operations.

Some background: the Metro Board in 2010 had asked Metro staff to study the possibility of adding ExpressLanes to the 405 freeway between the Orange County border and Los Angeles International Airport. At the time, Orange County was considering adding HOT lanes to the 405 but Orange County Transportation Authority officials have since rejected that notion and want to add a general lane instead to their portion of the 405. This Metro staff report explains the issues.

As a result, Metro has studied other alternatives and determined that adding ExpressLanes to the 105 and eventually the 605 would help provide an ExpressLanes corridor between Orange County and LAX. If that happens, it would be a phased approach and the Board is being asked to consider an initial segment on the 105 between the 405 and 605.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 9

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ART OF TRANSIT: The Metro 181 on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Metro 181 on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

It’s now legal to build light rail in the Valley (Curbed LA)

The Valley could get its own Metro light-rail train (LAWeekly)

Light rail in the San Fernando Valley (Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian press release) 

Gov. Brown on Tuesday signed a bill by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian that would make it legal to convert the Orange Line busway in the San Fernando Valley into light rail. The bill reverses the 1991 “Robbins” bill that outlawed light rail along the old Southern Pacific rail right-of-way that would eventually become the Orange Line.

So that’s interesting. Perhaps mostly because it shows how times have changed in the past 23 years. Whereas neighborhoods once upon a time went to great lengths to keep rail projects at bay — and a few still do — many more are actively lobbying for rail projects in their communities.

From LAWeekly:

Coby King of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA) says it’s his community’s turn to get a light-rail line that could run north-south from Canoga Park to Chatsworth:

The Metro Orange Line has been a victim of its own success, and is now so overcrowded and slow it has to turn away new passengers. Conversion to light rail is the best option for the Orange Line, with its significantly higher ridership potential and low cost relative to heavy rail and underground subways.

Nazarian himself says that having a train run though the Valley would “lead to greater connectivity to the Red Line and other transportation lines throughout Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.”

There are some mighty tall hurdles to clear for the Orange Line to ever become a rail line. The Metro Board of Directors has not asked for a study of a conversion. Nor is a conversion in Metro’s long-range plan that was adopted by the Metro Board of Directors in 2010. The list of projects in the plan that are both funded and unfunded are below, including the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor and the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor:

LRTP1

LRTP2

All that said, a conversion certainly has its advocates in the Valley, which today boasts a population of 1.77 million, according to the Census Bureau. And the Orange Line has certainly proven popular, with almost 30,000 weekday boardings, according to the latest ridership estimates from Metro. The key questions, however, remain unanswered: how many more people could a train carry? Would a train definitely be faster? (the Orange Line currently takes 55 minutes to travel between NoHo and Chatsworth and 45 minutes between NoHo and Warner Center during the morning rush hour.) What is the cost? Where would the funding come from? Assuming money is in limited supply, what’s more important — this or a transit project connecting the Westside and Valley?

Discuss, please.

Caltrans to place homes in path of 710 freeway for sale (Star News) 

The agency has listed 53 properties purchased decades ago by the state in case a surface extension of the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena was ever built. That possibility is gone: Metro is currently studying five alternatives as part of its SR-710 Study including a freeway tunnel, light rail, bus rapid transit, traffic improvements and the legally-required no-build option. The state owns more than 500 properties in Pasadena, South Pasadena and Los Angeles — many of which will be sold after the project’s environmental studies are completed.

Who gets to buy the properties? Excerpt:

According to a draft set of rules Caltrans released last month for the sale of the houses, tenants who owned the house before Caltrans bought it through eminent domain will get the first shot. They will be asked to pay a fair market value.

Next in line will be current tenants who have lived in the house for more than two years and qualify as having low to moderate income. Then come tenants who have lived in the house for five years and do not earn more than 150 percent of the area median income, which is $64,800, according to the federal government.

Both of those situations would have the tenant purchase the home at an affordable rate or the “as is” fair market value, which is derived from the comparative home sales.

After that, a public or private affordable housing organization could purchase the home at a reasonable price. Then the current tenant — if they make more than 150 percent of median income or have lived in the house less than 2 years — can buy at fair market value. Last in line are former tenants at fair market value. After that, if the house is still on the market, it will go up for auction for anyone to buy.

 

The draft environmental study for the project is scheduled to be released in February.

Balancing cars, cash and congestion: Metro Silver Line BRT in ExpressLanes (Streetsblog LA)

A good overview of the history of the Silver Line bus service that runs between El Monte Station and Harbor Gateway Station using the ExpressLanes on both the 10 and 110 freeways as well as surface streets in downtown Los Angeles.

The post also looks at the issue of too much traffic in the ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway between Union Station and Cal State L.A. — where there is only one of the tolled lanes in each direction. According to Metro, there has been a marginal reduction in speeds on that segment in recent months (which the agency hopes to correct through by adjusting tolls) although the overall average speed of the ExpressLanes remains above the federally-mandated 45 mph.

Streetsblog also went out and looked at that segment firsthand on several occasions and found:

After hearing from our tipster and from Metro, Streetsblog visited the 10 Freeway ExpressLanes three times. All on rush-hour mornings on weekdays in mid-June 2014. The good news is that there wasn’t any bumper to bumper traffic. The lanes work. Plenty of buses, carpools, and solo drivers were commuting smoothly toward downtown Los Angeles.

The only slowing observed was that transit buses would often develop a “tail” of cars lined up behind them.  It appears that buses, driving the speed limit, marginally reduce the speed of other vehicle in the ExpressLanes.

Most likely, the toll lanes are experiencing the dip in traffic congestion that generally occurs in Los Angeles during summer months. Gas prices are generally higher in the summer. Fewer students are commuting to school. Some residents go on vacation. And, lately, according to Mayor Garcetti’s video here, drivers may be playing hooky to watch World Cup soccer.

The comments include some interesting debate about the Silver Line and the ExpressLanes. I’ll echo Streetsblog’s request for any feedback from readers here who use the bus or drive in the ExpressLanes.

Bicycling can be deadlier in L.A. than in Mumbai, Shanghai and other big traffic cities (LAWeekly)

Writer Chris Walker argues that he felt safer on a bike in the chaos of the aforementioned cities (and many others in Asia) than he does in L.A. He offers some statistics to back up his argument but much of what he says is anecdotal (not that I entirely disagree with his points). His main point: drivers in L.A. have very, very little regard for cyclists.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 20

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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.