All 14 street crossings now complete for Gold Line Foothill Extension!

Photo: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

The Foothill Extension crossing of Mountain Avenue near the Monrovia and Duarte border. Photo: Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Here’s the news release with the good news from the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the independent agency building the 11.5-mile project between Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border:

MONROVIA, CA – On the heels of last week’s completion of all light rail track installation for the Foothill Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa, the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority (Construction Authority) announced today that the agency has achieved another major milestone for the project – completion of all 14 at-grade (or street-level) crossings for the 11.5-mile light rail extension. The final grade crossing work, at Mountain Ave., was completed this week – three months ahead of schedule.

Work began on the grade crossings in February 2013, and required long-term closures of each street. Each grade crossing received upgrades to underground utilities, the roadway, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, in addition to installation of light rail track, signals, and communications and safety equipment.

“Completing the at-grade crossings is an important milestone for the project, keeping us on time and on budget,” stated Construction Authority CEO Habib F. Balian. “We are now less than a year from turning the project over to Metro, and having the crossings complete means that most of the risk on the project is behind us.”

Construction took place at the following at-grade crossings:

•First Avenue and Santa Clara Street, Arcadia

•Mayflower Avenue, Monrovia

•Magnolia Avenue, Monrovia

•Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia

•California Avenue, Monrovia

•Mountain Avenue, Monrovia & Duarte

•Buena Vista Avenue, Duarte

•Highland Avenue, Duarte

•Virginia Avenue, Azusa

•San Gabriel Avenue, Azusa

•Azusa Avenue, Azusa

•Alameda Avenue, Azusa

•Dalton Avenue, Azusa

•Pasadena Avenue, Azusa

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Video: installing the tracks for the Gold Line Foothill Extension!

Nice video above showing the work needed to install the tracks for the Gold Line Foothill Extension, which will take the Gold Line from eastern Pasadena for 11.5 miles to the Azusa/Glendora border. The Measure R funded project will include six new stations serving Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, downtown Azusa and Citrus College and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The project is being built by the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, an independent agency. When completed, the rail line will be handed over to Metro, which will operate rail service.

The final trackwork will be completed this Saturday  at an event held by the Construction Authority at 10 a.m. the site of the downtown Azusa Station (795 N. Dalton Avenue).

Information on the event and the news release from the Construction Authority are after the jump!

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, October 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: New Metro Rail light rail vehicles being assembled in Palmdale. In this pic, two halves of a light rail car are being joined together. Photo: Metro.

Art of Transit: New Metro Rail light rail vehicles being assembled in Palmdale. In this pic, two halves of a light rail car are being joined together. Photo: Metro.

Metro breaks ground on key downtown L.A. subway link (L.A. Times)

Officials break ground on $1.4-billion Regional Connector (Downtown News)

Coverage of yesterday’s groundbreaking for the Regional Connector project that will tie together the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines in downtown L.A., making for a quicker ride to and through downtown for Metro light rail passengers. Officials emphasized that the Connector will reduce the need for transfer and should hopefully make taking the train into DTLA more convenient and possibly even quicker than driving.

I thought it was interesting that no one at the event noted, however, that the Pasadena Gold Line was originally intended to connect to the Blue Line. That was cut from the project in the 1990s due to budget woes, with officials figuring the subway could be used to bridge the gap between Union Station and 7th/Metro. Complicating matters, the Gold Line platform and subway platforms aren’t exactly adjacent — something I’m not sure you would appreciate unless you’re the one walking it day after day, month after month and year after year.

Metro’s Union Station Master Plan a significant shift (L.A. Times)

Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne takes a look at the Union Station Master Plan that the Metro Board will consider in its October round of meetings (the Board delayed taking action in September). Overall, he likes many elements of the plan and considers some of the challenges — such as how new development adjacent to the station will blend in with the historic station structure. One note from Metro: officials emphasize that raising the tracks at Union Station as part of the run-through project and providing room for the concourse below would not impact nearby bridges over the Los Angeles River.

Making Los Angeles streets safe, zero pedestrian deaths are mayor’s and LADOT’s goal (Daily News) 

LADOT’s bold new strategic vision: eliminate L.A. traffic deaths by 2025 (Streetsblog L.A.)

A look at the “Great Streets” document released by the city of Los Angeles earlier this week. The goal of ending pedestrian deaths and all traffic fatalities in the city by 2025 is certainly commendable — and will certainly be a challenge given the size of the city and the amount of traffic within it. As the article notes, there were 80 deaths last year and that number hasn’t moved much in recent years. My humble request: improving the often lousy pedestrian environment on sidewalks near the Blue Line would be a great place to start.

From Damien Newton and Joe Linton at Streetsblog:

There have long been holistic thinkers at LADOT, but they’ve been in the minority, squeezing in opportunistic improvements in the midst of a departmental culture that prioritized car convenience. In the past half-dozen years, under the leadership of previous General Manager Jaime de la Vega and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LADOT has warmed up to a broader mission that balances the needs of all road users.

But today’s plan is a quantum leap forward.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

The document from the city is below — looks like it has some interesting facts and figures, although I haven’t had a chance to read yet in its entirety.

A high-frequency bus network: is it worth the cost? (Edmonton Journal)

Excellent intro to a longer series about an ongoing discussion in the city: should high-frequency bus service be the goal or should the city continue to spread bus service around so everyone has at least a little service? Transportation planner Jarrett Walker was hired to help city officials make some decisions — see his blog for more coverage.

Of course, this is a hugely relevant conversation in Los Angeles County, where Metro and many other municipal agencies provide bus service. Some of it is certainly high frequency (at times) and much of it dives deeply into the ‘burbs and has low ridership but is obviously critical for the mobility of those who do ride. The catch: funding for bus service is never unlimited, meaning that to some degree the number of high-ridership, high-frequency lines are limited by the number of low-frequency bus lines.

 

 

Ground is broken for Regional Connector project to link Blue, Expo and Gold Lines

RegionalConnectorMap

RegConnectorPlan

The official groundbreaking for the $1.42-billion Regional Connector project is being held this morning in Little Tokyo. The 1.9-mile underground light rail line will link the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines, allowing for faster and more frequent service on Metro’s light rail lines to and through downtown Los Angeles.

The project will also eliminate the need to transfer for many light rail riders. Riders on the Expo and Blue Line will be able to continue north on light rail from 7th/Metro Center to other downtown neighborhoods such as the Financial District, Civic Center and Little Tokyo. Likewise, Gold Line riders will no longer have to transfer to the Red/Purple Line subway at Union Station to reach the heart of downtown.

The project is currently forecast to be completed in 2020. When done, Metro plans to run trains between Long Beach and Azusa on a north-south light rail line and east-west between Santa Monica and East Los Angeles. Metro continues to work on potential naming and color schemes for its light rail lines to be used in the future.

Three other Metro Rail projects are already under construction: the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line, the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line to downtown Santa Monica and the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension to the Azusa/Glendora border. The 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway is in pre-construction with utility relocations underway.

The Regional Connector, like those other projects, is receiving funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in November 2008.

Below are a pair of the station renderings. We’ll add more pics to The Source from today’s media event later and will be posting photos to our Twitter and Instagram streams during the event. Media, bloggers, anyone: feel free to use/share any photos or renderings that we post.

And here is video from this morning’s event:

Below is the news release from Metro:

Federal, State & Local Elected Officials Join in Groundbreaking Ceremony

Metro Breaks Ground on New Regional Connector Light Rail Project in Downtown Los Angeles

Metro joined U.S Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx along with state and local elected officials today to officially break ground on the $1.420 billion Regional Connector Light Rail Project in downtown Los Angeles that will better connect the Metro Blue, Gold and Expo lines with the rest of the region.

“This project will mean people can take a one-seat ride through Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, the Eastside and points in-between,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “Bringing our rail lines together and making transfers simpler will make it easier for people to use rail and will help take more cars off the road.”

The Regional Connector Project completes a 1.9-mile segment between the Metro Blue and Expo Lines and the Metro Gold Line by providing a direct connection with three new stations planned for 1st Street/Central Avenue, 2nd Street/Broadway and 2nd Place/Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Regional Connector will dramatically improve passengers’ daily commutes,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina.”It will provide them with better connections to the rest of the Metro Rail system without requiring them to transfer from one line to another. The Regional Connector is a major step forward in transforming Los Angeles County’s mass transit network into a truly world-class system.”

The Regional Connector Project is an important rail connection project overwhelmingly approved by the voters and funded by the Measure R half-cent sales tax ordinance for LA County transportation improvements. In addition to Measure R funding, a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the federal government secures $670 million for the project. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted Metro a loan of $160 million for the Regional Connector project from a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan (TIFIA) to complete the project.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, September 23

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! 

North Hollywood/Zev Yaroslavsky Station? Stop the political madness! (L.A. Times) 

Op-ed writer Kerry Cavanaugh says renaming two Metro Rail stations after two current Metro Board Members is a sour idea that “smacks of self-congratulatory back-slapping among politicians.” She urges the two Board Members to be honored — Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky — to say ‘no thanks.’

The motions proposing the station renaming are by Metro Board Members Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor. Read the motions by clicking here. A Board Committee supported changing the station names last week and the full Board will consider the motions at its Oct. 2 meeting.

Portland will still be cool but Anchorage may be the place to be (New York Times)

A variety of scientists take educated guesses about cities that will remain comfortable later this century. No one sounds too optimistic about East Coast cities or Southern California — way too hot, they say. The strip of land along the coast between San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest, however, may remain buffered with cooler temperatures because of the proximity to the ocean and little impact from rising sea waters because of already steep terrain. In other words, Sasquatch and Mendocino may be two big winners!

As we’ve noted before, reducing the number of car trips by walking, biking and taking transit is one way to reduce your carbon footprint — all better than driving alone in the average vehicle.

In other climate change news, I forgot to include coverage of the climate change marches this past week in yesterday’s headlines. Jon Stewart does a funny job catching up with the news and explaining displacement, although I have to offer the usual warning: there’s adult language and Congress is insulted. If those sort of things bother you, don’t click on the link!

And this: the number of wildfires in California is — not surprisingly — up this year, according to the L.A. Times. Fire officials blame the ongoing drought.

Kushner pulls the plug on L.A. Register effective immediately (LAObserved) 

The new newspaper covering Los Angeles croaks before reaching its six-month birthday. Too bad. More eyeballs on our region, the better. That said, the Register’s transpo coverage was mostly a low-grade mix of old news or news releases rehashed in short stories and/or columns and it never looked like the publisher got around to actually creating a plan for what the Register would cover and how it would be covered.

Your electric car isn’t making California air any cleaner (Grist) 

Government subsidies for purchase of electric cars is mostly going to wealthy zip codes in big metro areas, Grist reports — and not necessarily the zip codes where there is the most air pollution (i.e. in the San Joaquin Valley). Fair enough point, but the headline is a bit misleading — seems to me it’s still better to have an electric car on the road than one with a conventional gasoline-powered engine.

A cyclist’s plea to motorists (High Country News)

Good essay by Jonathan Thompson. Excerpt:

Cyclists must take some responsibility here. We need to abide by the rules of the road, not ride like idiots and ride defensively, as if we were invisible. The one time I got hit by a car, it was probably my fault as much as the driver’s. More caution on my end could have prevented the accident. Still, 40 percent of fatal bike/car collisions entail the car hitting the bike from behind. Those bikers, now dead, never saw it coming. They were powerless to save themselves. So, motorists, a plea: Pay attention, slow down and remember that, as annoying and gaudy as those lycra-clad bikers might be, they are dads, moms, daughters and sons. And that car you drive, no matter how much you adore it, is a deadly weapon. Treat it that way.

 

Atomic gaffes (New York Times) 

Review of my next transit read, “Command and Control” by Eric Schlosser on some of the accidents and perils involving America’s arsenal of nuclear weapons. I picked up a copy at the great Vromans (Metro Bus 180/181, 256, 687/686 to Colorado & Oak Knoll in Pasadena) over the weekend, largely because I read the first chapter standing in the aisle and it managed to scare the transit pass out of me, so to speak. Feel free to share a transit read recommendation in the comments or on our social media (links above).

I’ll hop right on it as soon as I finish up the excellent “The Lost Dogs” by Jim Gorant on the fate and rehabilitation of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs. Quasi-related: it’s accepted fact that the New York Jets are a historically repulsive enterprise (even worse than the Ravens, Browns and 49ers, IMHO) and the fact that they are paying Vick a lot of Benjamins to hold a clipboard makes them somehow even more unlikeable. Go Patriots, Bills and Dolphins!

Transportation headlines, Monday, September 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! 

ART OF TRANSIT: I believe someone on our comment board recently suggested renaming a Gold Line station the "King Taco Station." Almost certainly not going to happen people, but the train is very close to  the Maravilla Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: I believe someone on our comment board recently suggested renaming a Gold Line station the “King Taco Station.” Almost certainly not going to happen people, but the train is very close to the Maravilla Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Dear MTA: I love your trains…but (Los Angeles Register)

Columnist’s David Medzerian’s not-quite-love-letter to my employer begins:

Before I get into anything else, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love your trains. I take them several times a week. I can’t remember the last time I drove into Los Angeles from Long Beach. The last two times I flew from LAX, I took the train to the airport (well, almost to the airport).

But, I’m starting to think that – how I can put this nicely? – you have no idea what you are doing.

David levels complaints about the fare increase that took effect last Monday, the subsequent shutting down of four Blue Line stations in downtown Long Beach for refurbishment work, confusing ticket machine screens and prompts and luggage-blocking turnstiles at Willowbrook Station.

Those who follow us on Twitter have certainly seen these complaints echoed by other riders. I’ll certainly send David’s column around.

Semi-related: the Register’s future may be in doubt at the same time there are some big questions hovering over other local papers, according to L.A. Weekly. Our unwavering view here: the most newspapers covering Los Angeles and the surrounding area, the better.

If so many people support mass transit, why do so few ride? (CityLab) 

About five percent of Americans use transit frequently to commute to work. But polls and transit ballot measures over the years have indicated that many more residents are willing to tax themselves to pay for more transit even if they don’t ride it. In this excerpt, Los Angeles County is used as an example of this conundrum:

One of the clearest examples of the disparity comes from Los Angeles County. In 1980, about 7.5 percent of commuters used transit. That year, voters approved a permanent half-cent sales tax increase to pay for transportation initiatives, including lots of transit upgrades, but by 1990, the share of transit commuters had declined to 6.5 percent. That year, voters again approved a half-cent increase by a two-to-one margin, with nearly all the money going to transit. But the transit commute share was still at 7 percent come 2008, when yet another transportation ballot, Measure R, was passed by two-thirds of the vote.

So why do so many people support transit—not just with their voices but their wallets—when they have no intention of using it? The conclusion reached by Manville and Cummins largely echoes that of the Onion: people believe transit has collective benefits that don’t require their personal usage. Maybe voters think transit will reduce traffic congestion, or improve the environment, or help low-income residents, or translate into economic development. So long as someone else uses transit right now, everyone else will win in the end.

The potential problem with all this is what happens when residents tire of paying for transit they don’t use — perhaps because the perceived benefits failed to materialize? The answer: in some places, city bus riders could suffer as the money that does exist is funneled into suburban rail projects. Pretty interesting stuff.

BTW, the most recent Census Bureau American Community Survey numbers show that 6.9 percent of commuters in L.A. County commute to work by transit, down from 7.1 percent in the 2008-2012 average of the roundups. With population growth factored in, 6.9 percent today is more total people than seven percent in 1980 but here’s my question: what would it take to bump that number up? Could it ever get to 10 percent here?

On a related note, the Census Bureau’s news release on L.A. County led with this:

The Los Angeles metro area’s 2013 median household income ($58,869) decreased since 2010, the first full year after the last recession, when it was $60,409 in 2013 dollars, according to new statistics released today from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the nation’s most comprehensive data source on American households.

One Santa Fe and its 438 apartments in the Arts District (Downtown News)

Good look at the 438-apartment development in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District that will also include about 25 retail stores and restaurants and 525 parking spaces for residents — a fair amount of parking, I think, for a downtown development. All in all, I think this is a good development for downtown which should help local businesses prosper.

I also suspect it will increase the demand for building a subway platform in the adjacent maintenance yards for the Red and Purple Line — something Metro has discussed in the past. That would allow Arts District residents to take a fairly quick (albeit circuitous) ride to other downtown destinations and beyond. The new underground light rail station being built in Little Tokyo will also help connect residents to trains running to the San Gabriel Valley, East L.A., Santa Monica and Long Beach.

Reimagining Union Station (Washington Post)

Very thoughtful article on talk and preliminary plans for massive $7 billion expansion of Washington D.C.’s central train terminal — which in recent years (like our Union Station here in L.A.) has grown increasingly crowded.

The article thinks big and looks at the plans through the prism of urban revivals taking place across the United States. Excerpt:

With the era of exurban sprawl having run its course, people and jobs are moving back to more densely populated urban areas. That’s happening not just in Washington, but also in Boston, Austin, Seattle, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The only way these cities can accommodate such growth, and realize the economic efficiency that it will generate, is to dramatically improve their public transportation infrastructure and increase the density of land use around key public transportation nodes.

I agree. And the best part — as the One Santa Fe development shows — is that there is actually plenty of room in many urban areas for growth. It will be very interesting in the coming years to see what happens with Union Station here, the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, Penn Station in Gotham and Union Station in our nation’s capitol.

Titus seeks support to revive Amtrak in Las Vegas (Review-Journal)

With the latest plans to build a new rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas now pretty much dead (the Desert XPress high speed rail between Victorville and Vegas), Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) says reviving Amtrak service may be the way to go. Amtrak service between L.A. and Las Vegas and onward to Ogden, Utah, was discontinued in 1997.

I have zero interest in taking a train to Las Vegas — the unhappiest place on Earth, IMHO — but I’d take a train to St. George, Utah, if it could get me there in six to seven hours and there was a convenient shuttle bus to Springdale and Zion National Park.

Chinese city opens phone lane for texting pedestrians (Guardian) 

As far as I’m concerned this is just further proof that the apes will soon rule. And, yes, I thought “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was the best movie I’ve seen thus far this year. My only criticism: it was a little too plausible.

Hmmm, I don't think he's made because of the lines for the iPhone6. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Cesar probably has even less patience for humans who walk around while staring into their phones and bumping into things. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Metro Board to consider changing official names of two rail stations

I know readers are always interested in station naming news — and there are two station naming motions before the Metro Board of Directors this month:

•To rename the Gold Line’s East Los Angeles Civic Center Station the East Los Angeles Civic Center/Gloria Molina Station.

•To rename the Red Line’s North Hollywood Station the North Hollywood/Zev Yaroslavsky Station.

The motions are posted above. They were authored by Metro Board Members Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor. The Board’s Construction Committee approved the motions this morning and the full Board will consider them at its Oct. 2 meeting.

Here is Metro’s property naming policy. It’s worth noting that even when station names are named after people, the geographic names are the ones commonly used in announcements on buses and trains and on maps and agency literature.