Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 14

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Hines repealed (Santa Monica Daily Press)

The development approvals for a massive residential and commercial project near the future Expo Line were rescinded by the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday — just three months after narrowly approving the plan. Excerpt:

Councilmember Bob Holbrook, who criticized the vitriolic nature of the public discourse, opted to abstain, as did Mayor Pam O’Connor. Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day cast the lone vote in opposition to the project’s repeal, lauding the residents’ referendum drive but noting that he believes in the policy of the plan.

The Hines project consists of five roughly 80-foot-tall building and 765,000 square feet of office, housing, retail, and restaurants.

Opponents point first to the estimated 7,000 daily car trips that the project could add to an already congested area. They say, among many other things, the project was ill conceived and needs more housing.

Advocates point to the $32 million in community benefits over 55 years and the city’s current shortage of creative office space. They note that the land is private and that the developer could simply choose to reoccupy the space. The proposed project, they say, is better for the city.

It will be interesting to see what happens as there is certainly room for development in Santa Monica and, in particular, near the second phase of the Expo Line that will have three stations in the city (the project is current forecast to open in early 2016). The city surely could use more housing — the big westbound traffic jams on the Santa Monica Freeway each morning are due, in part, to a big workforce descending on the city that has built relatively few residential units over the past several decades and has seen rents for new units and home prices skyrocket.

5 things to know about cash-free toll roads (OC Register) 

Goodbye cash payments on The Toll Roads in Orange County. As of this week, all vehicles using the toll roads need a FasTrak transponder. If you have a transponder issued through Metro’s ExpressLanes account, it will work on the Toll Roads in the OC.

Biking to work increases 60 percent over last decade, Census Bureau reports (U.S. Census Bureau news release) 

In raw numbers, the number of people riding bikes to work has gone from 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 in 2012. Some highlights from the Census Bureau:

  • The West had the highest rate of biking to work at 1.1 percent, and the South had the lowest rate at 0.3 percent.
  • Among large cities, Portland, Ore., had the highest bicycle-commuting rate at 6.1 percent.
  • The median commute time for those who bike to work was about 19.3 minutes.
  • Men were more likely to bike to work than women were. The rate of bicycle commuting for men was more than double that of women, 0.8 percent compared with 0.3 percent.
  • Those with a graduate or professional degree or higher and those with less than a high school degree had the highest rates of biking to work, at 0.9 and 0.7 percent, respectively.
  • 1.5 percent of those with an income of $10,000 or less commuted to work by bicycle, the highest rate of bicycle commuting by any income category.
  • African-Americans had the lowest rate of biking to work at 0.3 percent, compared with some other race or two or more races who had the highest rate at 0.8 percent.

LAX Transit Plan Part 2 — people mover and ground access (Let’s Go L.A.)

This blog post looks at the ongoing studies by Los Angeles World Airports for the people mover at the airport and how it will connect with the future Crenshaw/LAX Line, which will have a station at the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards. The blog doesn’t believe the connection problem has yet been solved and is particularly critical of one alternative that would build an addition to the Crenshaw/LAX Line that would connect with the people mover at a planned transit hub. The complaints: it would slow trains, dead-end the Green Line at the transit hub, split the Crenshaw/LAX Line between two routes and require expensive modifications to the Crenshaw/LAX Line under construction.

Obviously, not everyone agrees. Proponents say the transit hub would offer an easier and more seamless connection to Metro Rail. While LAWA continues to study people mover routes, Metro and LAWA continue to work together on studies for the ongoing Airport Metro Connector project, which will determine the best way to connect Metro Rail to the LAX terminals.

Houston: transit, reimagined (Human Transit)

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker writes about a plan that he helped produce. Without adding operating costs, it would dramatically increase the number of bus lines that have frequent service. It would also cut down on bus lines that are duplicative and routes that are expensive to run but serve few people. In other words, Walker suggests, transit planners in the Houston region have been willing to make some hard choices.

Excerpt:

The huge no-cost expansion of useful service may remind you of a plan I worked on two years ago for Auckland, New Zealand, where it was also possible to massively expand the frequent network by redeploying duplicative services.   Not all  transit agencies have this much waste, so your city’s mileage may vary.  But if you suspect that transit could be doing more in your city, read all about the Houston plan.  You’ll be amazed, as we were, about how much is sometimes possible.

 

Metro CEO Art Leahy has certainly spoken about the issue of better integrating the rail and bus system to create a more efficient and useful system for customers. Click here to read his message to riders from this past January.

To stave off transit cuts, Seattle plans to go at it alone (Streetsblog Network) 

And the battle between cities and the ‘burbs continues. A recent regional transit measure failed at the polls. It received enough support to pass in Seattle, but lost in the suburbs. City officials in Seattle are now prepping another measure that would only go to city voters to spare cuts from happening in Seattle while starting a fund to help preserve routes that cross city lines.

Free metro travel spreads the peak load (Railway Gazette) 

Travelers who exit the transit system in Singapore ride for free, which has encouraged seven percent of riders to shift their commutes to an earlier hour. That has reduced crowds during the peak morning rush after 8 a.m.

Metro releases latest report with preliminary data on ExpressLanes’ performance on 10 and 110 freeways

ExpressLanes Performance Update-Prelim Report, July 2013

The Metro ExpressLanes pilot project publicly released its second performance report Monday morning, offering a statistical look at how the project is faring on the 10 and 110 freeways. This is a follow-up to the first report, released in March.

I’ll offer the same caveat we did in March: Metro and Caltrans officials stress that the data is preliminary and subject to change. The U.S. Department of Transportation has hired the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private nonprofit research firm, to conduct a full and thorough evaluation of the ExpressLanes and their overall effectiveness after they’ve been opened at least one year.

That independent evaluation won’t be issued until mid-2014. In the meantime, Metro will be releasing preliminary performance reports such as the one below in order to provide everyone a general idea of how the ExpressLanes are doing.

A few highlights from the new Metro report:

•In April, the average speed in the ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway was 64 mph during the weekday morning peak commute between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. The average speed in the ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway was 65 mph.

•In April, the average speed of the general lanes on the 110 was 48.3 mph during the same morning peak commute. In April 2012 before the ExpressLanes opened, the average speed was 48.4 mph. The average speed of the general lanes on the 10 freeway was 51.6 mph between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.; the average speed for the general lanes before the ExpressLanes opened is still being evaluated.

•Average work week trips were 57,256 on the 110 ExpressLanes in late April, exceeding the average volume of about 54,000 trips before the ExpressLanes opened. On the 10, the average work week trips were 24,613 at the end of April. That’s 88 percent below the pre-opening average volume of 28,000 but Metro expects the number of trips in the ExpressLanes to continue rising and exceed the pre-opening volumes sometime later this year.

•On the 110, 59 percent of those using the ExpressLanes are carpoolers and 41 percent are solo drivers. On the 10, users are 57 percent carpoolers and 43 percent solo drivers.

•There were 152,787 FasTrak transponders issued through the end of April.  As of June, the number has grown to 180,901. Some of those transponders are being used in multiple vehicles.

•Account holders by house income bracket are evenly distributed: 8.5 percent make less than $35,000, 19.9 percent make $35,000 to $49,000, 35.6 percent make $50,000 to $74,999, 21.3 percent make $75,000 to $99,000, 12.2 percent make $100,000 to $149,999 and 2.4 percent make over $150,000. In other words, it’s pretty much a bell curve and suggests the notion that the ExpressLanes are “Lexus Lanes” — i.e. only used by those with very high incomes — is not correct.

•Transit ridership on the bus routes using the 110 freeway was 14,137 boardings in April 2013. In April 2012– it was 12,920. In addition, there have been 58 new vanpools formed to use both corridors.

For those interested in getting a transponder in order to use the ExpressLanes, please click here. Through Labor Day, tolls during non-peak hours have been lowered to as low as 15 cents per mile, 10 cents lower than the usual base toll of 25 cents per mile.

Any thoughts on the ExpressLanes, Source readers? Please feel free to comment — and please keep comments brief and to the point so that other readers will actually read them!

ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway: so far, so good

The 10 freeway on Monday morning; the westbound lanes are on the left. Photo by Metro.

The 10 freeway on Monday morning; the westbound lanes are on the left. Photo by Metro.

The ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway between Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles and the 605 freeway opened early Saturday morning and thus far all has been going well. A few interesting stats:

•Speeds in the ExpressLanes through this morning’s commute remained above 45 miles per hour 100 percent of the time.

•The average toll to use the entire 14 miles of the ExpressLanes during peak periods has been $4.19. The maximum thus far was $5.15 for the westbound 605.

•Sixty-seven percent of the private vehicles that used the ExpressLanes during the Monday morning peak period were carpools with three or more occupants or two-person carpools. However, two-person carpools pay a toll during the peak period. So the ratio of toll-free to toll-payers was 52 percent HOV 3+ carpoolers to 48 percent single occupant vehicles and carpools with two people.

•The traffic volume in the ExpressLanes on the 10 on Monday morning was 99 percent of what it was on Monday, Feb. 4, the previous non-holiday Monday.

Remember, every vehicle that uses the ExpressLanes on the 10 or 110 freeway needs a FasTrak transponder — with the exception of buses and motorcycles with standard California license plates. You can order a transponder online by clicking here.

If you obtained a transponder through AAA, Costco or Albertson’s, click here to complete the registration process.

Officials hold event for ExpressLanes opening on 10 freeway tonight

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at this morning's event. At right is Duarte Councilman and Metro Board Member John Fasana, who served as M.C. for the event. From left that's Metro CEO Art Leahy, Assemblyman Ed Chau, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez and Rep. Judy Chu. Also present for the event but not in this photo were L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Grace Napolitano. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at this morning’s event. At right is Duarte Councilman and Metro Board Member John Fasana, who served as M.C. for the event. From left that’s Metro CEO Art Leahy, Assemblyman Ed Chau, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez and Rep. Judy Chu. Also present for the event but not in this photo were L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Grace Napolitano. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

A look at the soon-to-be ExpressLanes on the eastbound 10 freeway. Photo by Anna Chen/Metro.

A look at the soon-to-be ExpressLanes on the eastbound 10 freeway. Photo by Anna Chen/Metro.

With clear skies above and a sound weather forecast, everything looks like a go for the ExpressLanes on the I-10 to officially begin at 12:01 a.m. tonight.

Or to put it another way, if you want to use the lanes after midnight tonight, you need to have a transponder in your vehicle — unless you’re on a motorcycle with a standard California license plate. Many more details about the ExpressLanes can be found on our earlier post.

As for the press event today at El Monte Station, the many public officials on hand ran through those details and said repeatedly that they believe the new ExpressLanes will add capacity to the 10 freeway and speed up trips for motorists. Rep. Judy Chu pointed out the new lanes on the 10 will help carpoolers, transit users, single motorists who are willing to pay a toll and even those who would use the general lanes.

Perhaps the boldest prediction came from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “We’re going to take advantage of the fact that this region is willing to try new things,” he said. “…One day we’re going to have HOT lanes throughout the region.”

Obviously, the future is not written in stone and the ExpressLanes are a one-year experiment, largely funded by the federal government. As the year proceeds, Metro officials say they are going to keep tinkering with the program to give the ExpressLanes the best chance to succeed.

Motorcycles no longer need FasTrak transponders to use ExpressLanes

The ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway are scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, weather permitting. There is a press event Friday morning at the new El Monte Station — adjacent to the ExpressLanes — but I wanted to put the word out early that motorcycles no longer need FasTrak transponders to use the lanes; motorcycles use the lanes for free.

Those who have opened motorcycle only accounts will be notified by email and issued refunds when they return the transponder.

Why do motorcycles no longer need transponders? The toll system on the ExpressLanes is automated. A software update to the system now allows cameras to recognize standard motorcycle license plates — thus ensuring they won't receive a notice for not having a transponder.

Countdown to I-10 Metro ExpressLanes: understanding the differences between the 10 and the 110 ExpressLanes

130214_Toll_Entry_Map

The ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway are scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23, weather permitting. While the concept is the same as the existing ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway, there are some similarities and differences.

The big similarity: if you plan to use the lanes in a private vehicle (i.e., not a bus), you will need to have a FasTrak transponder. They can be obtained online at www.metroexpresslanes.net, through AAA or at Costco and Albertsons. If you get a transponder at AAA, Costco or Albertsons, please click here to complete the registration process.

ExpressLanes staff put together this handy list to help explain those differences:

•The 10 and the 110 corridors have different minimum occupancy requirements as a carpool lane that do not change for the conversion to ExpressLanes. The 110 allows vehicles with two or more people to travel toll-free 24/7; however the 10 allows three or more passengers to travel toll free 24/7.

Two person carpools using the 10 ExpressLanes pay a toll during rush hour (Monday through Friday 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m. -7:00 p.m.) but are not charged a toll during non-rush hour (Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m.to 4:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., and weekends). The overhead electronic signs will make it clear when tolls for two person carpoolers are in effect.

•The average toll will likely be different due to the differences in length and space available to toll payers. The 10 is longer (14 miles from Alameda Street in downtown L.A. to the 605 freeway in El Monte) and the 110 is shorter (11 miles from Adams Boulevard in downtown L.A. to the 91 freeway).

Metro has also added a second ExpressLane on the 10 (between the 605 and the 710) to provide nine new miles in each direction; the 110 already had two lanes in each direction for eight of its 11 miles. This lane is added through re-striping and did not take away any general purpose lanes.

•The number of entry and exit points are different:  the 10 ExpressLanes has four entrance points westbound and three entrance points eastbound while the 110 ExpressLanes has four entrance points northbound and six entrance points southbound. The exit and entry points are shown on the above map.

Metro ExpressLanes is an exciting new endeavor. But like all new undertakings, it will take some time to become familiar with how it works, and it will take time before we experience the full benefits and rewards of this new traffic flow improvement project. We expect to see traffic flow enhancements and congestion reduction as the project progresses over time along with some immediate advantages such as new and more frequent transit service. Participant-adoption, and on-going feedback as a vital partner in this program will ensure its success as well as an improved travel experience for all commuters between the 110 and 10 freeways to downtown Los Angeles.

Metro Board takes no action on motion to eliminate maintenance fee for ExpressLane accounts

The Metro Board agreed to hold a motion for 60 days — until the March Board meeting — by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky that proposes to eliminate the $3 monthly maintenance fee on FasTrak accounts that use the ExpressLanes three or fewer times per month. This will give Metro staff time to collect more data about the number of infrequent users of the ExpressLanes.

It is important to note that the fee has yet to take effect — it will begin when the ExpressLanes open on the 10 freeway on Feb. 23.

Metro staff told the Board that of the approximately 81,000 transponders issued so far, about half have not yet used the ExpressLanes. Staff believes that some of those numbers are due to motorists getting transponders in preparation of the ExpressLanes opening on the 10.

Here is an earlier post with a Metro staff report on the issue.

 

ExpressLanes to open on 10 freeway on Feb. 23

wpid-photo-jan-24-2013-1116-am

Here’s the news release from Metro:

More than 80,000 FasTrak® ExpressLanes Transponders Issued; Numerous Discounts Offered

Metro ExpressLanes to Debut Along 14 miles of the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway on Saturday, February 23

Following on the heels of the successful opening late last year of 11-miles of Metro ExpressLanes along the Harbor Freeway and with more than 80,000 Fastrak® ExpressLanes transponders now issued, Metro plans to open an additional 14 miles of Metro ExpressLanes along the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 23, 2013, weather permitting.

For the past couple of months, motorists have been seeing messages on the giant display message boards along the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway in preparation for the opening of the Metro ExpressLanes.

“We are excited to announce the opening date and want to encourage San Gabriel Valley commuters to get their FasTrak® transponders now so they will be ready to enjoy all the benefits of the ExpressLanes when the lanes open on the 10 freeway in February,” said Duarte Councilmember and Metro Board Member John Fasana. “With the successful opening of the I-110 ExpressLanes, we look forward to seeing how the I-10 ExpressLanes will reduce traffic congestion in the San Gabriel Valley.”

The ExpressLanes program seeks to reduce congestion by improving travel choices in the two corridors. Carpools, vanpools, and motorcycles will travel toll free. All motorists will need a FasTrak® transponder to travel in the ExpressLanes.

Metro, in partnership with Caltrans, is embarking on a one-year demonstration program that converts 11 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on the I-110 (Harbor Freeway) between the 91 Freeway and Adams Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles and 14 miles on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway (El Monte Busway) between Union Station/Alameda Street and the I-605 Freeway to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes that allow solo drivers to use the lanes for a toll. The Harbor Freeway ExpressLanes opened to the public on Nov. 10, 2012.

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