Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 10

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ART OF TRANSIT: Nice colors in DTLA. As for the movie ad, I know who I'm rooting for. #ApesTogetherStrong

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice colors in DTLA. As for the movie ad, I know who I’m rooting for. #ApesTogetherStrong

Dueling highway funding plans moving ahead in Congress (Bloomberg) 

Both the House and Senate plans would shore up the Highway Trust Fund through next May; the Senate plan includes some changes to the tax code that could generate revenue for the plan. It doesn’t appear that any kind of long-term plan is on the horizon and House Speaker Rep. John Boehner said as much today. In other words, we can probably look forward to more “woe the withering Highway Trust Fund” stories next spring. Bon appetit!

More here on why the Highway Trust Fund is important to Metro and other transit agencies.

Voices of public transit systems (Not Of It) 

Nice post revealing the voices being train, station and public service announcements at some large transit systems and airports in the U.S. The post includes video snippets from various media about the voices.

And what about the voice you hear on Metro trains and buses? Stephen Tu, in Metro operations, answers:

The announcements are pre-recorded and automated based on vehicle progress. Back in 2004, as the article notes, there was a hodgepodge of automated and manual announcements, are some of our trains had the capability and others did not.

It mentions the Gold and Green Lines in 2004 and that is because those were the newest (at the time) Siemens P2000 vehicles. We did not have the Breda P2550’s (Gold Line stainless steel cars) until 2009. The old Nippon Sharyo (Blue Line) and Breda A650 (Red Line) were from the early 1990s and never had automated announcements, until Rail Fleet Services engineered an in-house automated system that queues announcements by distance.

There is literally a sensor that detects wheel revolutions to determine when to play “Next Stop” and “Now Arriving” station announcements. They are all now standardized with the same voice from a professional studio we send the script to. It’s the same voice you hear when you’re placed on hold on the Metro telephone network or PSA announcements in stations. However, this voice is not used on bus announcements — there is a different person for that.

However as you can see, while the voice is now standardized, each announcement package is slightly different because of the limitations/nuances each vehicle has.  For example, P2000 can only make an eight second announcement. So we have to be very quick in calling out stations and transfer connections, whereas we have much more time on our in-house system. The P2550s can only make a “Now Arriving” station announcement when the doors actually open at the station, which means we have replaced it with “This is… (South Pasadena Station)” because you are already there.

LACMA, Metro discussing new tower across from LACMA (L.A. Times) 

LACMA is exploring building a new high-rise adjacent to the Purple Line Extension’s future station entrance at Wilshire and Orange Grove. It might include galleries, condos and a hotel, according to museum officials. In a statement, Metro’s chief planner Martha Welborne said: “We are continuing to negotiate with the individual property owners to acquire or lease property needed for the Fairfax subway station, and we are also exploring, with the property owners, the possibility of a large mixed-use project above the station.”

Excerpt:

[LACMA Director Michael] Govan declined to say how tall the tower might be, admitting that any talk of high-rise development in the area might worry nearby residents who are already girding themselves for a decade of construction as the subway is extended west along Wilshire and LACMA builds the 410,000-square-foot Zumthor building.

The question of height, he said, “is where you get neighbors all charged up. So I don’t go out there and say I want the biggest, tallest skyscraper. But we know that density is the key to urban living and to the maximization of mass transit — and key to the environment. And so for all the right reasons, this is the right place” for a high-rise.

Big Blue Bus fixing the fancy stops that riders hated (Curbed LA)

The headline may be a little strong, but it looks like Big Blue Bus may be adjusting the new stop designs it recently rolled out to provide more comfortable seats and more shade at some stops. Curbed has renderings and photos. I was in SaMo over the weekend and it struck me that the shade shields (for lack of better term) would work best if either the sun, Earth or both stopped moving.

The California High-Speed Rail debate: kicking things off (The Atlantic) 

This is the first in a series of posts by James Fallow in which he will argue that California should — and needs to — build the bullet train as planned to secure a better economic future. In this post, Fallows takes a look at some historic infrastructure upgrades that he thinks proved to be good investments, including the Panama Canal, the transcontinental railroad, the interstate highway system and the U.S. aviation system.

I think there are a lot of people, including me, who agree the bullet train can do great things for the state. The skepticism tends to come from those (including me) who are troubled by the lack of a dedicated funding source that can cover the expense of what is currently estimated to be a $68-billion project for the L.A.-to-S.F. leg.

Transportation projects don’t need to take as long as they do (Atlantic CityLab) 

The post asks a perfectly good question but doesn’t really provide an answer about ways to speed up the really big transpo projects (the post includes some persuasive arguments about dealing with smaller but important projects such as bus routing).

As I tell folks often, one issue with big transit projects is the long ramp up time. It usually takes three to five years to complete the necessary environmental studies and another year in procurement to vet and select contractor. Construction, too, often has to be staggered for both logistical, safety and practical reasons, not to mention financial ones — for example, federal funds for construction are granted on a yearly basis and don’t all flow to agencies such as Metro at the beginning of construction.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 2

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Photo: Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Photo: Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti’s anniversary spin (on Metro) includes World Cup stop (L.A. Times) 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recognized his first anniversary in office by tooling around L.A. on Metro Rail on Tuesday, including a stop at Buffalo Wild Wings in the Crenshaw District to watch the USA-Belgium match. Excerpt:

On the trip, Garcetti lamented getting “stuck in City Hall,” saying quick, unplanned encounters with people help him gauge people’s concerns and can build trust with residents, particularly in his early years as mayor. “Most people don’t want a half-hour meeting with the mayor,” he said.

The mayor will also serve as the Chair of the Metro Board for the next year (the Board Members take turns). It will be interesting to see what kind of agenda he pushes at Metro — and think a good starting place is to talk to folks who ride the system and pay the bills here. Semi-related: a great way to gauge people’s concerns about Metro is to also read our general Twitter feed, including tweets from riders.

Metro commits to deal ensuring subway won’t hurt Disney Hall acoustics (L.A. Times) 

The agency and Disney Hall agree to several mitigations to ensure that the Regional Connector — running 135 deep underground and adjacent the concert venue — won’t cause vibrations that could impact acoustics. Tests last year established the ambient noise in Disney Hall and Metro has agreed to limit vibrations to well under those standards.

Burbank-Palmdale segment added to bullet train timetable (L.A. Times) 

In response to criticism and doubts from state lawmakers, the California High-Speed Rail Authority wants to accelerate construction of a Burbank to Palmdale segment of the bullet train project. Such a segment could reduce travel time for trains from more than an hour to 14 to 16 minutes.

That said, there remains considerable challenges. The first is finding the funding — the L.A. to Palmdale segment is estimated to cost more than $13 billion and that could rise if a more direct tunnel to the Antelope Valley is built under the San Gabriel Mountains. The segment would presumably later connect to Union Station and Bakersfield and the segment being planned between there and Madera.

My three cents: I think there are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical about the ability to build a $68-billion project between San Francisco and Los Angeles with the major funding source a $10-billion voter-approved bond. That said, if funding is limited, it sure would be great to see commuter rail get a boost in populated and taxpayer-heavy Southern California, an area where commuters are already riding trains on a daily basis.

Contractor for 405 sues MTA over cost overruns, delays (Daily News) 

Kiewet filed the lawsuit in May, seeking $400 million in costs, according to the Daily News. Excerpt:

In a statement, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said that “Metro does not believe this claim complies with those contract requirements. However, Metro continues to negotiate in good faith with Kiewit to resolve specific outstanding claims under terms of its contract.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents this portion of Los Angeles and has publicly blamed Kiewit for the project’s delays, declined to comment Tuesday.

 

Jenna Hornstock shares refinements to Union Station’s Master Plan (The Planning Report) 

Jenna is heading up Metro’s team of planners working on the Union Station Master Plan. In this interview, she talks about the many details of the emerging plan that were released last month (Here’s a Source post about the plans).

The Planning Report saved perhaps one of the juiciest questions for last, asking Jenna how the Master Plan would be funded and if there could be money available from a potential Measure R 2 sales tax. As Jenna wisely pointed out, the key word with Measure R 2 is “potential” and that it’s impossible at this time to say what will or will not be funded by it. As if often the case at Metro, projects are planned before all the funding is secured — the agency often needs to have firm plans in in order to get money to build them.

Donald Shoup, parking guru, on how L.A. should manage its meters (L.A. Times) 

Interesting interview with the UCLA professor who literally wrote the book on big cities and parking policies (a book highly critical of big cities, that is). There’s nothing fantastically new in the interview but it’s always fun to revisit the question of whether developers should be required to build parking or not (they almost always are for both residential or commercial properties). Parking is very expensive to build and maintain and folks such as Shoup believe it results in a lot of expensive, free and unnecessary parking that consumes a lot of space that could be better used for other purposes.

In other words, if someone in a city wants a car badly enough, they’ll find a parking place and the money to pay for it. Agree or disagree, Angelenos?

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, June 23

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Los Angeles man dies week after assault at Metro Blue Line station (L.A. Times)

A 65-year-old man who was assaulted by two women at the Willowbrook-Rosa Brooks station at 1:20 p.m. on June 13 passed away from his injuries this past Friday. No other information was released to the media. Any witnesses or anyone else with information regarding the crime should please call the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.

Next Senate leader Kevin de Leon wants Brown to rethink bullet train (L.A. Times) 

Incoming majority leader of the California Senate is critical of starting the state’s high-speed rail line in the Central Valley, saying it would make more sense to invest in transportation projects nearer Los Angeles and San Francisco. In particular, he says upgrading Los Angeles Union Station with run-through tracks would provide more bang for the buck in terms of cleaning up emissions.

Semi-related: Roger Rudick criticizes the LAT’s coverage of high-speed rail in an article posted last week at Streetsblog.

Why don’t white people take the bus in L.A.? (LA Weekly) 

The Weekly dives into Census Bureau stats and determines that only 11 percent of transit riders in Los Angeles are white, despite the fact that 32 percent of all commuters are white (Metro’s most recent customer survey found that nine percent of its bus riders are white and 18 percent of its rail riders are white). By comparison, the Weekly reports, the number of white commuters and transit riders is more closely aligned in cities such as San Francisco and New York.

So what’s going on? Transportation planner Jarrett Walker offers, I think, the best explanation, saying that whites in Los Angeles tend to live in low-density areas where there isn’t much in the way of transit service. Others suggest that buses stuck in traffic will always have a hard time competing with personal cars that despite traffic offer door-to-door service.

The LAT’s transportation reporter Laura Nelson also makes a couple of pertinent points:

And from one rider:

Big Blue Bus: 7000 words, 135 miles, 18 buses, four dollars, one day (Breitbart News) 

Joel Pollak managed to ride all 18 Big Blue Bus lines in a single (albeit long) day and wrote this post — appropriately — while riding the streets of Santa Monica and the surrounding area. Excerpt:

Another reason I attempted the challenge was simply to show my friends and neighbors what public transportation in our car-obsessed, traffic-plagued city is really like.

My friend, mentor, and former boss, the late Andrew Breitbart, found it bizarre—and perhaps a bit suspicious—that I showed up to work every day by bus.

It wasn’t just that our conservative news website was highly skeptical of government-run industry, “green” transportation subsidies, and utopian planning. It was also that Andrew had grown up in L.A. and, like many others, had come to know the city from behind a steering wheel. I don’t think he had ever been on a bus in his life.

Yet California is a state whose immense entrepreneurial energies were unleashed, in part, by wise investments in public infrastructure: dams and aqueducts especially, but also rail, roads, and public conveyances, like the ubiquitous cable car of San Francisco.

Our Big Blue Bus has certainly made life easier for me in the three years I’ve been living here, and there are days when I’ve navigated my entire day’s tasks on a few buses.

Nice piece, Joel! There are also a slew of good photographs.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, June 13

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Metro is running longer trains than usual this evening to serve those headed downtown to attend or watch Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and the Rangers and the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game. If the Kings win tonight, the Stanley Cup sticks around Southern California for an extended stay. If not, the Cup catches a flight back to New York for Game 6 on Monday night. That is not a highly desirable proposition :)

Editorial: Bullet train scam is a bad budget deal (Oakland Tribune)

“Scam” is a pretty strong word, but the Trib’s editorial board doesn’t like the budget deal that would allocate 25 percent of the state’s future cap-and-trade revenues to the high-speed rail program. Their big beef: they don’t believe the bullet train would help cut California greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as is the goal. Excerpt:

Even the most starry-eyed believers in the bullet train would not claim it’ll be running in six years, let alone producing cost-effective environmental gains. Using cap-and-trade revenues for this purpose is legally questionable at best. Critics from the start said the revenue would just become a slush fund, and Brown wants to prove them right.

The Legislature should set rigorous, performance-based standards for the use of cap-and-trade dollars to achieve the goal by 2020. Fortunately, there are plenty of feasible projects that would, for example, increase affordable housing near employment centers to cut long commutes and expand cities’ public transit. Both could swiftly produce gains.

The budget deal reportedly would send only 15 percent of the cap-and-trade money to local transportation projects, 20 percent to affordable housing and the remaining 40 percent to a combination of energy and natural resources projects. All of these could pay off by 2020.

Actually, even getting local transit projects that aren’t funded built by 2020 is probably a stretch given the time it takes to do environmental studies, planning and construction these days. That said, this editorial hits a good public policy question: is money better spent on connecting cities by rail or on rail projects that serve daily commuters?

New CicLAvias to hit the road (ZevWeb)

A look at Metro’s Open Streets grant program to help cities in Los Angeles County cover the expense of CicLAvia-type events. Applications have been turned into Metro and, ZevWeb reports, events in the next couple of years are planned for Santa Monica, Long Beach, Pasadena and the San Fernando Valley.

BART sets fare at $6 for new airport connector service (KTVU.com)

The BART Board voted to impose $6 fares on the new airport train connecting BART to the airport terminals. It was the most expensive of the options considered. Officials say they may offer promotional fares. BART projects that about 3,200 people each day will use the service at about a $5 million annual loss to the agency.

The ridiculous politics that slow down America’s best BRT project (Streetsblog USA) 

The 7.1-mile Healthline in Cleveland takes about 44 minutes to cover that distance despite being called bus rapid transit. Why? Poor signal timing overseen by the city of Cleveland. It’s proven to be a popular bus route but is only marginally faster than the route it replaced.

Brazil averts transit strike on eve of World Cup (Associated Press) 

Union officials got cold feet, saying they may not be ready for a confrontation with police.

How airlines are sticking it to travelers, in six charts (Atlantic CityLab) 

No news here if you’ve been flogged by the airline industry recently. I recently paid United Airlines $25 to keep my bag at LAX while I flew to Cincinnati — after checking in curb-side 75 minutes before my flight. To United’s credit, they refunded me the 25 clams after it took 24-plus hours for my bag to catch up with me.

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, June 6

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A media event was held Friday morning at Metro's Division 13 facility to promote cap-and-trade efforts in the state and the regional benefits of reducing greenhouse gases. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is at the podium in the above photo. Behind him, from left, are Senator Kevin de Leon,  Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro.

A media event was held Friday morning at Metro’s Division 13 facility to promote cap-and-trade efforts in the state and the regional benefits of reducing greenhouse gases and raising money for transit and other clean energy programs. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is at the podium in the above photo. Behind him, from left, are Senator Kevin de Leon, Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro.

Kern County votes to sue over high-speed rail review (Bakersfield Californian) 

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to file a state lawsuit alleging the environmental impact report for the bullet train project did not adequately study the impacts and mitigations on the route between Fresno and Bakersfield. The city of Bakersfield is also planning to file a similar suit. The city has taken issue with the proposed route through town for the train, alleging it’s too disruptive to existing buildings and roads. The county is also one of the plaintiffs in an ongoing suit alleging the project is not properly using voter-approved state bond money.

Gold Line Extension to Claremont left off funding list by MTA (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Officials in the San Gabriel Valley want a planned segment of the Gold Line from Azusa to Montclair to be included in the short-range plan to be considered by the Metro Board this summer. The only transit projects listed in the plan — which covers the next decade — are those that have funding from Measure R. Of course, what gets built over the next decade or so could change, depending on whether the Metro Board seeks a ballot measure in 2016 to accelerate and/or build more transit projects.

Expo adjacent mall rising quick, signing leases (Curbed LA)

The new mall — to be called The Platform — is across the street from the Culver City station on the site of old auto dealerships. One of the new tenants is Blue Bottle Coffee for you coffee nerds out there. Nice to finally see some development in Culver City near the train station. There has been a lot of talk but not much action in recent times.

Brazil Metro on strike one week before World Cup (AP)

The opening game is June 12 in Sao Paulo, perhaps the reason that transit workers in Sao Paulo went on strike Thursday. Naturally, the easiest and best way for fans to reach the game is by train. Not all workers left the job — but enough did to cripple the system, despite a judge’s orders not to strike. In related news, if you have HBO watch the segment on Real Sports about countries that build stadiums for the World Cup and Olympics and what happens to those facilities after. Short answer: white elephants.

Have fun at tomorrow afternoon’s game, Kings fans. Staples Center is easily reachable via the Pico Station shared by the Blue Line and Expo Line. As for the above photo…it’s nice to see the Rangers making a beer league mistake, leaving Kings winger Justin Forward alone in the high slot — the exact place from which you never want the other team shooting on your goal.

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 7

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ART OF TRANSIT: Looking north to the San Gabriel Mountains from the bridge that will carry the Gold Line Foothill Extension over Foothill Boulevard in Azusa. Awesome photo by Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

ART OF TRANSIT: Looking north to the San Gabriel Mountains from the bridge that will carry the Gold Line Foothill Extension over Foothill Boulevard in Azusa. Awesome photo by Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Move LA’s Measure R 2 proposal, including their rail fantasy map (Streetsblog L.A.) 

A look at the activist group’s “strawman proposal” for a half-cent sales tax increase they would like to see on the Nov. 2016 ballot; please note that Metro hasn’t decided to pursue such a tax yet although is surveying cities about their own desired projects. In any case, Move LA wants to see a 45-year sales tax increase with 30 percent of the funds dedicated to new rail and bus rapid transit projects — which they say would raise $27 billion over the life of the tax.

As Streetsblog notes, Move LA says their proposal is intended only to spur discussion and they include some projects for potential funding. Some are projects receiving seed money from the present Measure R (Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, South Bay Green Line Extension) while others are new such as converting the Orange Line to a rail line, extending the Green Line to a junction with Metrolink in Norwalk, extending the Gold Line to San Bernardino County, extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line to Wilshire Boulevard, extending the Purple Line to Santa Monica from its future terminus at the West LA VA Hospital and extending the Eastside Gold Line Extension to both South El Monte and Whittier instead of just one of those.

If such a tax goes forward it will certainly be interesting to see how much is allocated to paying for new transit projects and which projects. As Move LA’s list shows, there are certainly some worthy candidates out there that would travel through many different parts of the county. And there are certainly parts of the transit network with holes in it. Stay tuned!

The real reason that mass transit fares are rising across the U.S. (The Atlantic Cities) 

Writer Eric Jaffe points out that several large agencies in the U.S. are currently pursuing fare increases (including Metro). And that’s not surprising: using data from a new federal report, Jaffe says that most agencies have seen the cost of providing bus and rail service rise substantially since 2000 while allowing fares to lag behind — often for good reasons (affordability, mobility, etc.). A lot of the cost appears not to come from employee salaries but rather the cost of employee benefits, which I’m guessing really means health care. It’s a national problem, Jaffe writes, and there doesn’t appear to be a neat solution on the near horizon outside of fare increases.

Dan Walters: bullet train faces withering set of issues (Sacramento Bee)

The political columnist concludes his column by asking whether construction should even begin on a project this year that may never have the funds to complete a link between L.A. and San Francisco or even the San Joaquin Valley. He also neatly lays out some of the current issues on the table, many involving legal challenges as to whether the project fulfills requirements in a 2008 bill that allowed the bond measure to go to state voters. Obviously this bears watching with one interesting but little publicized side issue: if the bullet train project hits more obstacles what happens to the part of the state bonds to help local projects connect with the bullet train? Both L.A. and San Francisco are using some of that money to fund local projects (the Regional Connector, to be specific).

What the Internet thinks of the world’s subways (Mashable) 

Fun pros and cons of 10 big subway systems around the globe (Los Angeles’ is not included) as gleamed from online reviews. Warning: the language used is not always delicate.

Transportation headlines, Friday, March 28

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Bullet train won’t meet targeted travel time, lawmakers told (L.A. Times) 

The High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group told legislators in Sacramento that it’s very unlikely a bullet train will be able to provide regular service between Los Angeles and San Francisco in two hours, 40 minutes — as voters were promised in 2008 before approving the sale of $10 billion in bonds to pay for the project. I count this one as the non-shocker of the day as those kind of travel times never sounded terribly plausible at any kind of realistic price-tag. Whether the Peer Review Group’s statements impact the project remains to be seen.

Apple’s new texting idea means never having to look up from your phone again (The Atlantic Cities) 

The lede says it all:

Apple has filed a patent for “transparent texting” technology, which would be a handy new mobile service that will replace a text message’s white background with a live feed of the things literally happening right in front of your face.

The technology is designed to be used to protect texting pedestrians, allowing them to walk and text without bumping into things like lampposts or moving cars. In describing the need for such game-changing technology, the patent describes the “rather unique predicament” of the text message-ers:

“A user who is walking while participating in a text messaging session may inadvertently collide with or stumble over objects in his path because his attention was focused on his device’s display instead of the path that he was traversing. Even if a user remains stationary while participating in a text messaging session, that user may expose himself to some amount of danger or potential embarrassment if he is so engaged in his device’s display that he becomes oblivious to changes in his surrounding environment.”

 

Sounds awful.

Washington Metro Board approves fare increases (Washington Post) 

A typical rail fare will be $2.90 while on the bus side the fare was set at $1.75, with the surcharge eliminated for those who use cash. Transfers from bus to bus are free for two hours for riders who use electronic fare cards similar to Metro’s TAP cards.

Reminder: public hearing is tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. for Metro’s fare change proposal. More info here

.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, February 24

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It may be Monday, but maybe you’re already thinking of Friday. Take it away, Bruce Springsteen…

Beverly Hills using petty bureaucracy to hold up Purple Line work (Curbed LA)

Some excerpts:

The city council decided last August that all permit requests from Metro related to the subway extension’s first phase—which is nowhere near the disputed Century City station or the much-fretted-about Beverly Hills High School—must be passed by the full council instead of just getting a staff approval, which is the normal procedure; staff work five days a week and the city council only gathers monthly or, at most, twice a month. That move is already proving to be a problem as Metro is waiting on two permits related to pre-construction activities (like utility relocation and groundwater and gas sampling). The council refused to grant the permits in January and asked for Metro to come back and provide more explanation on traffic and parking issues related to the construction. Metro did, but by then the council’s February agenda was already too full to add a vote on the permits, so maybethey’ll grant them at their March 4 meeting.

[snip]

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence, though, that Beverly Hills ands its school district have four lawsuits pending over the placement of the Purple Line’s Century City station, which requires tunneling under Beverly Hills High. There are officials like Councilmember Nancy Krasne, who makes no bones that she’s sticking it to Metro just to be petty (she’s also the one that thought terrorists would use the subway tunnel to blow up BHHS), but you can’t heap all the blame on the politicians—they’re beholden to their constituents, many of whom read the histrionics and half-truths in the Beverly Hills Courier every day (Metro’s The Source blog has to correct them nearly every time they publish a story on the line).

[snip]

Bryan Pennington, Metro’s executive director of engineering and construction, says that even if Beverly Hills approves the permits, the process could be very bad news for Purple Line construction:

“We are continuing to work with the City of Beverly Hills to obtain these two outstanding permits. We believe that we have provided the information they are seeking while we continue working to deliver this much needed project as it has been promised to the taxpayers and commuters of greater Los Angeles. Up until last August, we were able to work with Beverly Hills city staff for the permits we needed for street work. We have cooperative agreements with the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles that allow us to handle permit requests at the staff level. If Beverly Hills continues to require review of all permits by their Council, it could extend the construction schedule.

I recommend reading the entire Curbed post. There is a lot of additional information and important context I didn’t excerpt. Also, here is a recent Source post about the construction timeline for the Wilshire/La Cienega station. And here is a post from last fall about the construction timeline for the entire project and the importance of master cooperative agreements with cities along the subway’s route.

Four key executives leaving in shakeup of Metro’s leadership (L.A. Times) 

The departures are part of a reorganization effort designed to make Metro less top-heavy and reduce the number of executives reporting to the CEO’s office. The restructuring was recommended in an outside audit of Metro obtained by the Times. As the story points out, the changes come amid a project building boom but with the agency facing a budget deficit within a couple of years.

Federal authorities give state more time to raise cash for bullet train project (L.A. Times)

The feds have given the California High-Speed Rail Authority three more months to start spending on the project, meaning the state has to find the money given that bond sales — the planned source of funding for the project — are tied up in court.

Now what? City fears flameout after the games (New York Times) 

The Rosa Khotor ski area map. Looks fun but will anyone be skiing there in the future?

The Rosa Khotor ski area map. Looks fun but will anyone be skiing there in the future?

Most of the transit lines in the above map are new. Source: Sochi2014 website.

Most of the transit lines in the above map are new. Source: Sochi2014 website.

The Russian government isn’t saying exactly what was spent on bringing the Winter Olympics to the Black Sea resort town of Sochi but one media report puts the figure at $51 billion. The rough part: there is no apparent plan on how many facilities or improvements in the area — including a new rail line and new highway to new ski resorts — will be used in the future or how Sochi will see long-term benefit from the Winter Olympics.

Hmm. My first thought: I hope the ski resort helps introduce more Russians and other people who live in the region to the skiing sports. Russia — given its climate (at least for now) — should be good at skiing. It’s not, based on Olympic and World Cup results.

My second big thought is that we’re now three-and-a-half years away from the International Olympic Committee’s decision in 2017 on where to put the 2024 Summer Olympics. Los Angeles officials have said they will seek the Summer Games, meaning L.A. first has to earn the right to be America’s bidder from the U.S. Olympic Committee. IOC President Thomas Bach told NBC’s Bob Costas that an American bid would be welcome, given that in 2024 it will have been 22 years since the Games were in the U.S. (Salt Lake City in 2002).

I would love, love, love to see L.A. go for a three-peat when it comes to hosting the Games. And I hope the bid here, if it does emerge, is a rebuttal of sorts to the IOC’s love affair with demanding that Olympic host cities build new facilities and spend billions on the Games (exactly what the IOC loved about Sochi, according to the NYT). The strength of our bid could be that ongoing improvements here are being done anyway and will make it possible, and even easy, for the region to seamlessly host the Games without breaking the bank. And, of course, setting an example for future host cities.

Transit improvements, of course, could be a big part of our region’s pitch. Transit already serves or is near many existing facilities (Staples Center, Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Honda Center, Santa Anita Park, Long Beach Marina, East L.A. College, entire list of venues here) and ongoing projects are expanding the existing transit network. The two big projects to watch are the Airport Metro Connector, which is still in the planning stages and not scheduled to be complete until the late 2020s under Measure R. Same goes with the Purple Line Extension to Westwood, which wouldn’t reach there until 2036. Serving LAX and getting the UCLA campus (with several sports facilities and potential athlete housing) connected to rail would almost certainly be important for the Olympics.

The lovely thing about are ongoing transit expansion is that we’re doing it anyway, Olympics or no Olympics. The same goes in Denver, another city that could — and probably should — look to host the Winter Olympics, given its ongoing rail expansion and proximity to the Rockies.

And let me toss one other thought out there: given that the last two Winter Olympics took place in temperate climates (Vancouver and Sochi) along the coast, why not put the Winter Games in L.A. with the alpine events in the Sierra? (I’m not sure betting on big snow at the local resorts is a good idea given what happened to Vancouver). It would be different and challenging in that the Sierra ski resorts tend not to have the kind of terrain suited to modern alpine ski courses. But could it be done….

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 19

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A CyclingSavvy instructor explains her objections to bike lanes (Biking in LA)

Karen Karabell, of St. Louis, makes a thoughtful, cogent argument against bike lanes, saying that she believes it’s safer for cyclists to be in traffic lanes — where motorists see them sooner and better — than in a narrow lane that is often ignored by many motorists. I agree with her on the issue of sight lines. But I still don’t want to ride in traffic lanes unless I must — I see this as a post for bigger, wider and better designed bike lanes.

Newsom changes mind on high-speed rail (CBS) 

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom says he’s just voicing an opinion privately shared by many Democrats. Although he was ardently backed the bullet train project between Los Angeles and San Francisco, he said that too little federal or private funds have emerged to build a project with an estimated $68 billion price tag. The money, Newsom said, would be better spent on other infrastructure needs.

Obama orders new efficiencies for big rigs (New York Times) 

The President on Tuesday order the EPA to develop tougher new fuel standards for trucks, with a goal of implementing them by 2018. While trucks comprise just four percent of traffic on the nation’s roads, President Obama said they are responsible for 20 percent of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Transportation headlines, Friday, January 17

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LukensRoadJan2014-8799

ART OF TRANSIT: The Angeles Crest Highway, at left, starts its journey into the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains above La Canada Flintridge. The view is a reminder of how wild and rugged our local mountains are. Click to see larger version. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Union Station eases policy on homeless seating in the waiting area (L.A. Times)

Metro officials told the Metro Board this week that they are working to restore seating in Union Station for Metro customers. In December, the seating area was set aside for Metrolink and Amtrak customers because of concerns about homeless people taking too many seats and causing other problems. It’s a tough issue for Metro as the agency purchased the station in 2011 for $75 million and obviously wants somewhere for its own customers to sit.

Orange Line’s dismal fare findings (ZevWeb) 

Coverage on Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website of the recent fare checks on the Orange Line that found on one occasion that 22 percent of riders hadn’t paid a fare and another nine percent had valid TAP cards but weren’t tapping. The Sheriff’s Deputies have responded with more fare patrols along the line, say Metro officials. Of course, that raises the obvious question: where were they before? Here’s the Metro staff report on the issue.

Who birthed ‘Jamzilla’ on the Sepulveda Pass? (KPCC)

The segment posted the question: who comes up with names for traffic jams? Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky gets the credit for “Carmageddon” and this time around, “Jamzilla” was coined by a colleague of mine on the Metro P.R. staff. Which I love. I also saw a couple of good suggestions on Twitter the other day, among them “The Slow and the Furious” and “Carchella.” Listen here

BTW, if you haven’t heard…avoid the 405 on Presidents’ Day Weekend, Feb. 14-18, when northbound lanes will either be entirely closed overnight or mostly closed during the day for repaving. More details here.

California Congressional delegation is split on high-speed rail (KPCC)

Well, that’s hardly news. But the article makes one observation worth noting: legislators from other states — Republicans and Democrats — are surprised and perhaps delighted that California may spurn federal dollars for the state bullet train project. Most states, it seems, are attracted to federal money like lint is attracted to belly buttons. Or something like that (it’s Friday).