Transportation headlines, Day of Earth, April 22

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! 

Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Linking the Los Angeles airport (New York Times)

The NYT takes a look at Metro’s Airport Metro Connector project, which seeks to connect the LAX terminals to Metro Rail via a people mover or light rail. The featured photo shows the junction where a Green Line spur was supposed to turn north toward the airport — a spur, as you know, that was never built.

Excerpt:

But just how the connection is made is where the politics lie.

There are two options drawing the most consideration. One is an underground rail line that would offer more direct access to the airport, at a cost of about $2 billion more, but it would do little to ease airport congestion. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, board has placed the proposal on the back burner.

The other option, backed by Mayor Garcetti, is centered on what Mr. Bonin, the councilman, describes as building a new front door to the airport, about a mile and a half away. Ideally, it would be not only a transit hub, but also a place where cars could be parked and luggage checked before passengers took an automated people mover that circulated through the nine terminals.

“The people mover scenario makes the most sense,” said Juan Matute, the associate director of U.C.L.A.’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “There’s a lot of land available to build a world-class arrival center. Then from there, running a people mover will allow a higher capacity of people to enter the airport.”

The article concludes with a note of skepticism anything will happen. I’m not so sure — in my time here it seems there is currently more interest than ever in getting something done and certainly having the Crenshaw/LAX Line under construction is part of that. The big unanswered question, as with most projects, involves funding, namely will there be funds available to build some of the more expensive options.

Riding transit is the best way to celebrate Earth Day (Huffington Post)

The president of a transit workers union — in partnership with the Sierra Club, btw — offers a collection of statistics demonstrating that transit is more sustainable than driving alone. Obviously he has skin in the game, but federal and academic studies back him up. Here’s a page from a 2010 Federal Transit Administration report:

PublicTransportationsRoleInRespondingToClimateChange2010

Here’s how the media is getting the whole cities & millennials story wrong (Grist)  

Bed Adler writes that the New York Times and other similar media are over-stating the migration of millennials back to cities from the ‘burbs — and the media is under-stating the reason why young sprouts are coming back to cities. It’s not entirely for art and culture, says Grist. It’s for ease of transportation that cities provide.

Interesting issue and I tend to agree with Ben. I’m writing this today from Cincinnati, Ohio (family business), where gentrification of downtown’s Over the Rhine area is underway, including a new streetcar line that is under construction. I grew up here and the number of old buildings that have been rehabbed is very noticeable and it’s hard not to interpret the gentrification as a direct response to the relentless march of sprawl and suburbs to the north. Cincinnati and Dayton were once two distinct metro areas. No more as their ‘burbs have merged.

Of course, many of us equate the ‘burbs with driving and cities with other transportation choices. But it’s not quite that easy. Almost all of the rehabbed buildings of Over the Rhine included parking and those lots were filled with some pretty pricey vehicles, Range Rovers included. I suppose the counter-argument is that city life probably reduces the need for all vehicles — including the fuel hogs — to be used.

Gentrification in Cincinnati includes parking. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Gentrification in downtown Cincinnati includes parking. Photo by Steve Hymon.

 

Court rules for Metro in state lawsuits brought by Beverly Hills over subway extension

A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Metro on Wednesday in state lawsuits brought by the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city of Beverly Hills alleging that the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension project were flawed and needed to be redone.

To put it in plain English: Judge John A. Torribio upheld the studies and denied the requests that they be redone, a task which could have potentially cost Metro millions of dollars and delayed construction of the project. The judge found that Metro’s decision to place a station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars in Century City was based on “substantial evidence” and that the station location meets the project’s goals of increasing mobility in the region.

Metro issued this statement about the ruling:

“Metro is pleased that our in-depth, multi-year environmental review process was found valid by the Superior Court.  We look forward to working with all the communities along the alignment, including Beverly Hills, to fulfill our commitment to deliver this regionally significant and beneficial project for the taxpayers of L.A. County.”

The dispute involves Metro’s plans to tunnel under the Beverly Hills High School campus in order to reach the approved Century City station at the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Avenue. The station location was selected by Metro for three reasons: to locate a station closer to the heart of Century City, generate higher ridership for the new line and to avoid an active earthquake fault  zone that runalong Santa Monica Boulevard as determined by seismic and geotechnical studies by Metro and its contractors.

The Constellation route meant that the subway would have to tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. School District and city officials complained that could damage the school and/or prevent them from building an underground parking garage, among other issues. After a final Metro Board hearing on the matter in May 2012, Metro determined that it was safe to tunnel beneath the campus, the tunnels would not prohibit any new development, noise and vibration levels would be within federal limits, old oil wells in the area do not present an unmitigable risk to tunneling and the project would not prevent the campus from being used as an emergency evacuation center.

Both the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District have also filed lawsuits against the Federal Transit Administration, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act. The FTA is helping fund the Purple Line Extension and approved the environmental studies for it. Those lawsuits are still in court.

Local funding for the 8.5-mile Purple Line Extension was approved as part of the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase that was supported by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The project is being built in three phases: phase one is from Wilshire & Western to Wilshire & La Cienega, phase two extends the project to Century City and the third phase extends tracks to two stations in Westwood — one at Wislhire and Westwood and the final one near the Westwood/VA Hospital, just west of the 405 freeway.

Advanced utility relocation for the first phase of the project is underway and the FTA is expected to soon announce a funding agreement for that part of the project. The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to select a contractor to build the project this summer with construction starting in late 2014. The first phase is currently forecast to open in 2023.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Oct. 2

em>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: From our Instagram page.

RCTC gets green light for Perris Valley Line (Riverside Press-Enterprise)

The Federal Transit Administration gives Riverside County officials the go-ahead to begin construction on the 24-mile extension of Metrolink to Perris with four new stations. However, Riverside County is still awaiting word from the FTA on a $75-million federal grant to build the line (and the FTA is now mostly shuttered due to the government shutdown) and it remains unclear when actual construction will begin.

Trolley dances give transit a twist (New York Times) 

A nice look at the mini-dance performances held along transit lines in San Diego (where it started), San Francisco and Riverside. Excerpt:

The organizers in all three cities praise their transit partners for being game for such an unusual collaboration. “In transit, we’re always looking to something to draw people’s attention,” said Paul Jablonski, the chief executive of San Diego’s transit system, “to try to get them to use it, to show the community that we’re part of the community.”

Logistically, working with the transit system is often the easy part. “The beast of the program is getting the sites, the permitting process, and getting insurance for the day of the event and the rehearsals,” said Sue Roginski, the organizer of the Riverside Trolley Dances. “Everything is so detailed.” So much so that Ms. Roginski had to scramble to complete the Riverside Trolley Dances route when she lost a prime site because of unforeseen construction.

Yosemite’s largest ice mass is melting fast (L.A. Times) 

Shrinking glaciers could mean less water for fish and people in the Tuolumne River in Yosemite. Photo courtesy Julie Sheer.

Shrinking glaciers could mean less water for fish and people in the Tuolumne River in Yosemite. Photo courtesy Julie Sheer.

The Lyell Glacier is shrinking and researchers blame climate change, the same culprit that is reducing glaciers across the western United States. The Maclure glacier in Yosemite is also getting smaller but is faring better than Lyell. The issue with both is that they feed water to Lyell Canyon and the Lyell fork of the Tuolumne River, which in turn helps water the lovely Tuolumne Meadows. A shrinking glacier could mean a shrinking meadow.

If you haven’t been to Lyell Canyon, you should go — although not right now, as Yosemite National Park is closed to the taxpaying public due to the government shutdown. And, of course, one easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is to take transit, walk or bike some of the time.

The shutdown hits the West harder (High Country News Goat blog) 

Excerpt:

Every Western state has a higher percentage of federal employees than the nation as a whole, many of whom have now been furloughed. In my little corner of Colorado, alone, hundreds of employees of federal land agencies are staying home today, without pay. The private concessionaire that runs a hotel and restaurant in Mesa Verde National Park is now without customers and the same is true for many other parks. While the tourists getting kicked out of the parks might spend more money in surrounding communities today, many of them will surely cut their vacations short if the parks stay closed. Services in Indian Country will be hit hard.

Like it or not, Westerners are dependent on the federal government, and our economies depend on federal spending. We’re also pretty lousy when it comes to getting health insurance — and oftentimes health care — to our citizenry. And we therefore stand to benefit the most from so-called Obamacare (neé Romneycare), the very law that the extremists are trying to kill.

No heel hazards or gusts as the subway expands (New York Times) 

The Second Avenue subway that is under construction won’t have the ubiquitous grates that help ventilate much of the New York subway system. This is good news for those who wear heels but such good news for Marilyn Monroe wannabes, reports the NYT

Letter from Federal Transit Administration on possible federal government shutdown next week

Potential FTA Shutdown Dear Colleague 09 26 13

The above letter was sent from Peter Rogoff, Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, to transit agencies across the United States. One obvious impact of a shutdown, as the letter states, is that the FTA won’t be able to process grants that are being negotiated with Metro — including the pending Full-Funding Grant Agreement for the Regional Connector and the Purple Line Extension.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, September 4

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 Transportation Headlines online newspaper, which you can also access via email subscription (visit the newspaper site) or RSS feed.

Reducing train deaths is the goal of new program (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

Coverage of yesterday’s news conference by Metro and Metrolink to promote Rail Safety Month. Excerpt:

Whether they are vehicles negotiating a grade crossing, pedestrians who stumble into an oncoming train, or a person committing suicide, the issue of train safety is becoming more important as Southern California experiences additional freight trains moving goods from the ports and adds new passenger lines in South L.A. the Westside, and the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley.

All told, more people and more drivers will be exposed to trains in the next five years, a potential safety disaster, especially in a region whose populace is more familiar with cars and freeways than locomotives and rails.

“Remember, a train operator can’t turn out of the way,” explained Jeff Lustgarten, spokesman for Metrolink. “A train could take as much as a half mile to stop.”

California leads all states in the number of fatalities in highway-rail grade crossings, according to Metro and Metrolink. Many are from vehicles hit by Union Pacific trains, the largest railroad in the state.

Video from the news conference is here. And here are recent Metro rail accident statistics.

Long Beach sharrows experiment seems to show drop in crashes (Long Beach Press Telegram)

These sharrows are unusual — they are a wide green stripe down the middle of the right lane on 2nd Avenue. And stats released by the city show a drop in vehicular and bike accidents since 2009. Do the sharrows deserve the credit? Hard to say, but the results are good nonetheless.

Wait continues for Perris Valley Line grant (Riverside Press-Enterprise) 

The 24-mile extension of the Riverside Metrolink line needs a $75-million grant from the Federal Transit Administration in order to be fully funded. Officials were hoping to have heard yes or no by now — but that appears to have been pushed back. Meanwhile, a new survey seems to show that area citizens and funders of the FTA really want transportation improvements.

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, April 24

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.

Union Station and downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro.

A win-win scenario for Farmers Field (Los Angeles Times)

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup writes that AEG should bundle their event tickets for Farmers Field with free Metro day passes (and, in fact, AEG has proposed to sell transit tickets with game tickets as part of their draft environmental study). In support of his proposal, Shoup cites the experience of Seattle’s 72,000-seat Husky Stadium where the team contracts with Seattle Metro to allow tickets to serve as transit passes on game days. Public transit ridership among fans jumped from four percent the year before the program began in 1987 to 20 percent in 2008.

New York City finalizing maps of bike share stations (Transportation Nation)

Bike share in New York is inching closer to becoming a reality as the city finalizes its bike station locations. Large bike docks are planned for important transit stops including the Port Authority, Penn Station, Columbus Circle and Astor Place. The placement of bikes at subway stations and major bus stops should help New York address its first mile/last mile problem, or how commuters travel between the subway or bus to their nearby destination. Continue reading

Metro issues response to FTA letter on civil rights compliance

Below is Metro’s statement concerning a letter received today from Peter Rogoff, the head of the Federal Transit Administration:

Today, Metro received a letter from FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff concerning the ongoing civil rights compliance issues.  The letter recognizes that Metro has successfully resolved two of the five deficiencies identified in the 2011 compliance review, and that a great deal of work has been done towards reaching the goal of full compliance.  The letter and attachment also acknowledges the errors in the final compliance review report and introduces a new requirement for Metro to conduct an equity analysis of the cumulative impact of all service changes since 2009. Metro must receive approval from the FTA for the methodology prior to undertaking this new requirement.The letter does not make any new findings and does not document any Civil Rights violation. The FTA raises the potential for federal funds to be withheld if the necessary tasks to reach full compliance are not completed in a timely manner.

Metro staff will be meeting with the FTA on May 7th to review the methodology for the cumulative impacts analysis and other outstanding issues. Metro will comply will all FTA directives and expeditiously complete the analysis being requested.

 

The FTA letter is posted after the jump.

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Final environmental document for Crenshaw/LAX Line approved by FTA

Good news for Metro on the final business day of 2011: The Federal Transit Administration has approved the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the light rail project that will run between the Green Line and the Exposition Line.

The approval allows Metro to go forward with any necessary property acquisitions, utility relocation and the purchase of any rail cars needed for the project. It also makes Metro eligible for any federal funding requested for the project. (The bulk of the project will be funded by the Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008).

The FTA’s record of decision is below. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is scheduled to open in 2018 under Metro’s long-range plan.

20111230 CrenshawLAX Record of Decision

Five things I'm thinking about transportation, Dec. 14 edition

FTA COMPLIANCE REVIEW: For those who want to firmly understand the difference between a public transit agency and private for-profit business, take a look at the FTA’s Civil Rights compliance review of Metro released earlier this week.

Bottom line: as a public agency, Metro can’t just serve any one constituency — there are a lot of riders who rely on the system and Metro is obligated to provide a base level of service to them as well as find the best ways to communicate with them.

I’m not saying any of this because I think it’s a bad thing. Metro is government and government works to protect the most vulnerable and provide safety net services, such as mobility.

SERVICE CHANGES: I think it’s pretty clear from reading comments on The Source over the past year that many readers would like more information from Metro when service changes are proposed.

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