Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From LAWeekly:

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

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

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

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

LRTP1

LRTP2

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

Discuss, please.

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

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

Who gets to buy the properties? Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 24

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Garcetti taps San Francisco official as transportation head (L.A. Times) 

Seleta Reynolds worked on cycling and pedestrian issues in San Francisco and will take over LADOT if Mayor Eric Garcetti’s pick is confirmed by the City Council. LADOT runs the DASH bus system and controls traffic signals in L.A. — yep, the traffic signals that Metro buses and trains must abide by. In L.A., Reynolds will be paying particular attention to the city’s expanding bike lane network and initiatives to put selected portion of some streets on a road diet. The City Council tends to micro-manage these things, making LADOT chief one of the tougher jobs in L.A.

Speaking of San Francisco, a humorous post at Streetsblog on what happened when the city closed the curly part of Lombard Street to car traffic on a trial basis to reduce tourist-driven traffic jams. “Chaos” in the words of one television reporter.

How Denver is becoming the most advanced transit city in the West (CityLab)

The article is mostly about FasTraks, the sales tax increase approved by Denver-area voters in 2004 and that would help fund 10 transit projects. The price-tag has risen from an original $4.7 billion to $7.8 billion and not everything is built. But progress has been made and there will soon be bus rapid transit to Boulder, more light rail and a new commuter train to Denver International Airport, which sits far east of the city.

But….many people say that Denver remains a car town with about six percent of commuters using transit to work — less than in places such as Los Angeles, Calgary and Atlanta. The challenge is classic and familiar: the Denver metro area is big and sprawling and getting people to and from transit stations isn’t always easy, especially when those people already have cars.

Nonetheless, I suspect the region will be well served by its transit expansion in the coming decades as more development eventually finds its way near stations, the downtown resurgence continues (and it’s been going on for quite some time) and there is a realistic transit option that previously didn’t exist.

Tracks on the rail project linking downtown Denver to DIA, which sits on the prairie far east of town. Photo via RTD's Flickr page.

Tracks on the rail project linking downtown Denver to DIA, which sits on the prairie far east of town. Photo via RTD’s Flickr page.

At last the Silver Line is ready; service begins July 26 (Washington Post) 

Not far from the nation’s capitol, suburban Virginia has turned into Sprawlsville USA as the Washington D.C. metro area continues its relentless and pretty much unimpeded march outward. The Silver Line’s first phase takes the rail line to Tysons Corner and the second phase, scheduled to open in 2018, will extend the tracks to Dulles International Airport and beyond. Tysons Corner sounds kind of quaint, doesn’t it? Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps:

TysonsCorner

 

Downtown L.A. like I’ve never seen it (L.A. Register) 

A reporter goes on an “exhaustive” and long walk with DTLA real estate agent and blogger Brigham Yen, who writes the great DTLA Rising blog. The Register article is, however, short and doesn’t really get into any significant issues involving downtown. The Register is being touted as a new daily newspaper covering L.A. but most of the articles I’ve seen are of the very short featurette variety.

Secrets of underground London (PBS)

There’s a lot more down there than just The Underground — Roman ruins, offices, bunkers, tombs, trains and forgotten rivers. Watch the episode to see more.

Free BART school field trip program launches (BART)

The program will supply about 40,000 free rides to students under 18; schools must apply for passes. Metro has a similar program! If you are an educator, please click here for more info on applying to get passes.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 5

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Congress detours from common sense on the Highway Trust Fund (Washington Post) 

The editorial takes a dim view of lack of efforts to keep the Fund funded. Excerpt:

BOTH PARTIES want to do nothing but squabble before this year’s election. Not much will stop them — except, perhaps, this dose of reality: If political point-scoring is all they accomplish over the next several weeks, work on the nation’s roads, bridges and rails will come to a halt.

The federal Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of money this summer. Without a fix, federally backed transportation projects all over the country — not just highways — would be in danger of severe disruption or cancellation. That translates into high costs now to stop and restart projects once funding comes through, higher costs in the future as contractors build the risk of funding holdups into their prices, downward pressure on construction jobs and unnecessary delay for anyone who uses the infrastructure. Failing to shore up the fund in time would be plain legislative malfeasance.

The Post thinks two obvious funding sources would be a higher federal gas tax or a vehicle mileage fee. The current federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and hasn’t been raised since 1993.

America’s invisible trolley system (Newsweek) 

A look at some of the many light rail projects that have been proposed across the U.S. but never built for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most interesting paragraph in the article:

Compared with Europeans, Ross says, ”Americans have much greater interest in sorting out different people of different incomes into different neighborhoods.” When it comes to mass transit, he says, “the classic argument is that it’s gonna bring crime. The fashionable one right now is that it will gentrify our neighborhood and make poor people suffer. I’ve seen people make both of these arguments in the same paragraph.”

San Francisco transit workers call in sick for a third day (San Francisco Chronicle) 

About 70 percent of the San Francisco Muni’s bus and rail service was running Wednesday — an improvement over the previous two days. Union workers rejected a new contract last Friday that they said would result in a pay cut. At this time, the union isn’t allowed to strike but members are allowed to call in sick.

 

February 2015 release of SR-710 North draft environmental documents announced

Here is the news release from Metro and Caltrans:

The draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS) for the State Route 710 North Study will be released for public comment in February 2015, Metro and Caltrans announced today. 

In response to community stakeholders who asked for additional time to consider the draft documents, the public review period also will be doubled from 45 to 90 days. Metro and Caltrans want to give the public ample opportunity to study and comment on the series of complex documents for addressing traffic and environmental impacts within east/northeast Los Angeles, the western San Gabriel Valley and the region generated by a 4 ½ mile gap in the original 710 Freeway design that exists between Alhambra and Pasadena.

The draft EIR/EIS will thoroughly analyze five alternatives – Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit, Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management, a freeway tunnel, and a No Build option. Altogether, approximately  50 technical documents will thoroughly analyze traffic, noise, air quality, a health risk assessment, energy effects and other variables.

The data is being processed through a regional travel demand model that predicts future (2035) traffic through analysis of projected travel patterns considering such factors as population and employment growth, goods movement, land use changes and other variables.

Metro and Caltrans are fully committed to ensure that the public has a voice in the process. Detailed analysis for each alternative will be incorporated in the SR 710 North Study draft EIR/EIS. For updates on the revised schedule and project background, go to metro.net/sr710study or facebook.com/sr710study or follow on Twitter @sr710study.

RELATED

Zocalo Public Square to host forum Wednesday on 710 gap and regional mobility        

Update on release of SR-710 environmental documents

SR-710: What’s on the table and what’s off the table

Metro Board approves $927-million contract for construction of Regional Connector project

map_corridor_reg_conn_eng (1)

A $927.2-million contract to build the Regional Connector light rail project was awarded to Connector Constructors (a Joint Venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc., and Traylor Bros. Inc.) by the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday.

The 1.9-mile underground rail line, forecast to be complete in 2020, will connect the Gold Line to the Blue and Expo lines and allow trains to travel directly from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica. This should speed trips through downtown and reduce the number of transfers for most riders.

The Board also approved a motion by Board Member Don Knabe authorizing Metro CEO Art Leahy to add an upper level and pedestrian bridge at the Connector’s 2nd/Hope Street Station to better connect the station to Grand Avenue (2nd/Hope is down hill from Grand) and to secure funding for it, including an elevator and/or escalator. The motion asks for the upper level and bridge be incorporated into scope and project budget. Here is an earlier Source post with more renderings of what a second level and bridge may look like.

Reg3

This is the 2nd/Hope Station as originally planned.

Reg81

This is a Metro rendering of a possible upper level and pedestrian bridge to the new Broad Museum that the Metro Board wants added to the project. The idea is to bring the station up to the level of Grand Avenue.

The $1.42-billion project is partially funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The Regional Connector is also being funded by a $670-million federal New Starts grant and $160-million federally-backed TIFIA loan.

The Board also approved Item 77C in closed session today involving a property acquisition from the Los Angeles Times at Broadway and Spring. Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois said terms of the agreement will be released after the deal is finalized.

The Regional Connector will be the fourth rail project now under construction, joining the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Purple Line Extension contract is expected to be awarded this summer and it will be the fifth rail project in Los Angeles under construction because of Measure R. In addition, Metro has begun receiving the first of 550 new state-of-the-art buses and is spending $1.2 billion to overhaul the Metro Blue Line, including the purchase of new light rail vehicles.

Here is the Metro staff report on the contract:

The news release from Metro is after the jump:

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Day of Earth, April 22

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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.

 

Update on release of SR-710 North study environmental documents announced

Here is the statement from Metro:

Metro today announced that release of the draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS) for the State Route 710 North Study will be delayed. Metro is working with Caltrans on a revised schedule and will make an announcement as soon as it is confirmed.

Metro had hoped to release the draft environmental documents this spring but the work was delayed while the latest Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) regional travel demand computer model for analyzing the alternatives was calibrated and applied.

Metro was one of the first agencies to use the new 2012 model in a major project. Calibration and validation of the model was not completed until last year and the associated travel demand forecasting for all of the alternatives was not completed until February of this year. However, it has become apparent that additional time is required to complete the technical studies, which means that the release of the Draft EIR/EIS must be delayed in order to preserve the integrity of the environmental process.

Metro has been working with the community, technical consultants and Caltrans on various alternatives for addressing traffic and environmental impacts within east/northeast Los Angeles, the western San Gabriel Valley and the region generated by a 4 ½ mile gap in the original 710 Freeway design that exists between Alhambra and Pasadena.

The draft EIR/EIS will thoroughly analyze five alternatives – Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit, Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management, a freeway tunnel, and a No Build option.

Metro, Caltrans, local cities and private developers all are required to use the SCAG regional travel demand model as a basis for project planning. It predicts future (2035) traffic through a thorough analysis of projected travel patterns considering such factors as population and employment growth, goods movement, land use changes and other variables. Other critical analysis including air quality, a health risk assessment, noise and energy effects also depend on travel demand computer modeling.

Metro and Caltrans are fully committed to ensure that the public has a voice in the process. Detailed analysis for each alternative will be incorporated in the SR 710 North Study draft EIR/EIS. For updates on the revised schedule and project background, go to metro.net/sr710study or facebook.com/sr710study or follow on Twitter @sr710study.

Transportation headlines, Friday, April 11

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Garcetti offers back to the basics in first State of the City speech (L.A. Times) 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the new carpool lane on the northbound 405 over the Sepulveda Pass would open next month (Metro said there’s no date set yet), reiterated a pledge to build a rail connection to LAX (the project is still in the study phase) and offered more details on the city’s Great Streets Initiative, saying Reseda Boulevard, Gaffey Street and Crenshaw Boulevard would be among those on the list. Of course, work just started earlier this year on the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will run both along and under parts of Crenshaw between Exposition Boulevard and 67th Street.

Some thoughts on near roadway pollution and L.A.’s future (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Interesting post based on a forum held this week about pollution from roads that spills over into neighborhoods and cities. Streetsblog’s Joe Linton:

As I was listening to all this, I felt like there was too much emphasis on dealing with our car-centric system as a given. Car-choked freeways are just part of the way god made our cities. We, health professionals, are just doing our best to adjust to the system we find ourselves stuck in. The discussion was all about how to keep people out of the way of pollution, but not to look at reducing or eliminating that pollution at its source. It’s as if health professionals looking at the tobacco problem just assumed that smoking happens everywhere, and then spent a lot of effort studying gas-masks for non-smokers. Taking on tobacco is a great public health success – because health professionals were able to ban tobacco from many places, and to stigmatize tobacco based on its threat to health.

(I also think that an overly narrow focus on near-roadway-air-pollution makes us miss other huge health risks associated with cars. Every year, driving kills 30,000+ people in the U.S.1.5 million worldwide. There are greenhouse gases, water pollution, noise pollution, obesity, and plenty more issues.)

I was glad to hear Occidental College’s Mark Vallianatos, commenting from the floor microphone, suggest an important alternative. Instead of moving people away from roads, let’s change our roads to be safe for people. If we have schools, playgrounds, housing, etc. adjacent to a road, then, for the sake of health, let’s design and regulate that road to limit vehicle emissions to safe levels. Let’s traffic-calm and road diet our arterials, downgrade our freeways, hopefully get rid of, at least, some of them.

 

Good post, tough issue.

Have U.S. light rail lines been worth the investment? (The Atlantic Cities)

The reporter, Yonah Freemark, says the overall answer is ‘yes.’ But he also offers sobering news about five light rail systems built in the 1980s in five different cities, four of which are on the West Coast — San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Portland and Buffalo.

The bottom line: none of the systems increased transit use in their regions, although they have shifted more people from buses to trains. In addition, only San Jose saw a slight growth in its central city population. What to make of this?

Even this relatively positive outcome doesn’t compensate for the fact that regions that invested in light rail in the 1980s largely failed to increase the share of workers commuting by transit, or to increase the vitality of their center cities with respect to the surrounding regions. Does this mean we should cease investment in new light rail lines? Certainly not; in many cases, rail has provided the essential boost to reinvigorate communities, and in some cases it has also resulted in higher ridership than before: just look at Rosslyn-Ballston in the D.C. region or Kendall Square in the Boston region.

But spending on new lines is not enough. Increases in transit use are only possible when the low costs of driving and parking are addressed, and when government and private partners work together to develop more densely near transit stations. None of the cities that built new light rail lines in the 1980s understood this reality sufficiently. Each region also built free highways during the period (I-990 in Buffalo, I-205 in Portland, US 50 in Sacramento, CA 54 in San Diego, and CA 237 in San Jose), and each continued to sprawl (including Portland, despite its urban growth boundary). These conflicting policies had as much to do with light rail’s mediocre outcomes as the trains themselves — if not more.

Paid parking fees coming to Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink lots (Daily Bulletin) 

The city wants to impose a $4.50 daily fee or monthly charge of $25 to $30 to off-set maintenance costs for the two lots. The San Bernardino Association of Governments isn’t thrilled — it worries that the move may drive people away from transit — but approved the city’s request. Others are concerned that riders will instead drive to nearby Upland and park in the free lots there.

 

Mayor Garcetti’s news release on $200 million in federal funding in next year’s budget for Metro projects

Here’s a news release from the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on the good news in President Obama’s recently-announced budget for the next fiscal year:

GARCETTI ANNOUNCES FEDERAL FUNDING IN PRESIDENT’S BUDGET; URGES CONGRESS TO PASS MULTI-YEAR FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION BILL

LOS ANGELES–Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today that President Obama’s FY 14-15 budget contains $200 million for critical Los Angeles transportation projects — $100 million each for the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension. He also urged Congress to take immediate action to pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.

“Especially in these tough economic times, you have to prove to Washington that you’re going to deliver real results,” Mayor Garcetti said. “This funding represents the White House’s recognition that our transit program will spend money wisely, create thousands of jobs, and make a real difference for L.A. commuters. Now, it’s time for Congress to act and pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.”

The President’s proposed budget funding follows Los Angeles’ recent win of a $670 million Federal New Starts Full Funding Agreement Grant for the Downtown Regional Connector, which brings together the city’s various rail lines to make transfers convenient, dramatically improving the rider experience.

The Westside Subway Extension project will extend the subway from the current Wilshire and Western station terminus 3.9 miles to Wilshire and La Cienega. The subway project will create 25,000 jobs.

 

The funding in the budget is from the federal New Starts program, which helps local transit agencies pay for expensive transit projects. The deal for Regional Connector funding from New Starts was finalized last month and the agreement for the Purple Line Extension should be soon completed. New Starts money is awarded by the government over several years, thus the $100 million in next year’s budget for each of the projects.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, February 20.5

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: Mid-day traffic constipation on the 101. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Mid-day traffic constipation on the 101. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Metro to connect $670 million for downtown rail connector (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of today’s announcement that after years of negotiations, Metro and the Federal Transit Administration have signed a grant for $670 million in New Starts money and a federally-backed $160-million loan for the Regional Connector project. The Times reports that wi-fi may be available in the Connector’s stations — which is nice to hear given the project’s $1.37-billion price tag :)

Free wi-fi now available on the Sprinter, in addition to the Coaster (Mass Transit Magazine)

Speaking of wi-fi, it’s now available on trains in north San Diego County. Before you email me the Obvious Big Relevant Question: Metro is working in the next two years to install equipment that will allow our customers to get a cell phone signal in underground Metro Rail stations.

Is California’s Congestion Management Program at the end of the road? (The Planning Report) 

This is a wonky but important article. The gist of it: Metro has studied replacing the current state program — which many see as bureaucratic and ineffective — with a program that would impose fees on new development to pay for transportation improvements. Twenty-two cities in L.A. County already have the impact fees (and they’re common elsewhere in the country), but they’re controversial nonetheless, with opponents arguing that such a fee would greatly harm the local economy and are redundant. Still, the issue is likely to return to the forefront soon and Metro will be involved, as we’re the agency that would collect the fees.

Elon Musk: autonomous driving just a few years away (Bloomberg News) 

The Tesla founder says his company will be a pioneer in self-driving cars and we’re only a decade away from widespread adoption of cars that can largely (and safely, say proponents) guide themselves. In other words, Musk will be able to go online and complain about the 405 project and hype his hyperloop thingy while his Tesla drives itself blissfully through West L.A. traffic.

Houston Metro rail line ridership exceeds expectations (Metro Magazine)

The 4,200 daily boardings on the 5.3-mile extension of the Red Line are ahead of the 2,600 boardings that were expected. So here’s the lesson for any Younglings out there thinking of spending some of their parents hard-earned dollars on a degree in transportation planning: when your ridership model burps out expected ridership numbers, always choose the low one in order to earn an “exceeds expectations” article. Now, go take the $20,000 I just saved you in college tuition and spend the money instead on backpacking Europe and falling in love with a Estonian boy/girl who can’t understand a damn thing you’re saying but will provide you with free snowboarding lessons and tasty pizza.