Transportation headlines, Day of Earth, April 22

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Linking the Los Angeles airport (New York Times)

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PublicTransportationsRoleInRespondingToClimateChange2010

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

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

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

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

Gentrification in Cincinnati includes parking. Photo by Steve Hymon.

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

 

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

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! 

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.

And here’s the FTA news release on the funding agreements for the Regional Connector

Public officials with a rendering of the Full-Funding Grant Agreement for the Regional Connector. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

From left: Former Metro Board Member Richard Katz, Rep. Xavier Becerra, Santa Monica Mayor and Metro Board Member Pam O’Connor, L.A. Councilmember and Metro Board Member Paul Krekorian, Metro Board Member Jackie Dupont-Walker, FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, Duarte Councilmember and Metro Board Member John Fasana, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti, Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas, Lakewood Councilmember and Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois, Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles Councilmember and Metro Board Member Mike Bonin and Metro CEO Art Leahy. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

From our friends at the Federal Transit Administration:

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today celebrated the signing of a $670 million construction grant agreement to help build the Regional Connector light rail transit line in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The two-mile rail segment will connect three existing transit lines, offering thousands of area residents more efficient and convenient access to jobs, education, and other ladders of opportunity. FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan took part in the signing event along with Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Xavier Becerra, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other state and local officials.

“LA’s Regional Connector will help make this city and region a better place for tens of thousands of Angelenos by ensuring that public transit not only works for everyone, but that it works better than ever,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This Administration is committed to ensuring that every American has access to ladders of opportunity that lead to success—and access to public transportation is essential to making that happen.”

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) will use FTA’s grant funds to build an underground connection between the existing Metro Gold line in Little Tokyo and the Exposition and Blue light rail lines, which currently terminate at Flower and 7th Streets. The grant also includes four new light rail vehicles to augment the existing fleet. The project will reconfigure Metro’s three existing LRT lines into two lines, one primarily running north to south, and one east to west. The project reconfiguration will eliminate the need for riders to make cumbersome transfers from light rail to the Metro Red or Purple Line subway system, and then back onto light rail, to reach their destinations.

“The Regional Connector will improve the quality of LA’s light rail service by offering a one-seat ride that cuts travel times from Long Beach to Azusa and from East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley to Santa Monica,” said FTA Deputy Administrator McMillan. “The traffic gridlock of Los Angeles has been the roadblock for many residents who need better, more reliable access to the jobs and educational opportunities offered across the metropolitan area, which is why we are proud to be a partner in the greater transit vision for the future of the Los Angeles region.”

LACMTA estimates the Regional Connector will open in 2020 and initially handle roughly 60,000 trips or more each weekday. In addition to the $670 million that FTA has committed to the project through its Capital Investment Grant (New Starts) Program, LACMTA will receive $64 million in other U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funds and a loan of up to $160 million from the DOT’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovative Action (TIFIA) loan program. The remainder of the roughly $1.4 billion project will be funded with state and local resources.

In addition to the Regional Connector, the FTA is advancing two other major transit expansion projects in the Los Angeles metropolitan area: the Crenshaw/LAX light rail transit corridor project and Section I of the Westside Purple Line Extension. The $2 billion Crenshaw project, which broke ground in January, is funded in part with a $545.9 million TIFIA loan and approximately $130 million in other FTA and DOT funds. DOT has approved a TIFIA loan of up to $856 million for the Westside project, which is also in line to receive funding through FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program later this year.

Extra tasty new aerial photos of Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension construction as project surpasses 50 percent complete milestone!

The 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension is now 50 percent complete, according to the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, which is building the Pasadena-to-Azusa/Glendora border project.

Below are an awesome collection of aerial photos taken in recent days by the Construction Authority. The news release — with a lot of good info — follows the photographs.

We’ll go from west to east with the pics, starting in eastern Pasadena — click on any of the photos to see them larger:

210_Freeway_-_Tie-In_Area_Near_Sierra_Madre_Villa_Stations

Photos: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Above is the work being done to extend the Gold Line’s tracks beyond the current terminus at Sierra Madre Villa in Pasadena.

Aerial_Shot_looking_east_from_Gold_Line_Bridge

A view looking east and south of the Gold Line’s right-of-way leaving the median of the 210 freeway and headed toward downtown Arcadia via the new Basket Bridge over the 210′s eastbound lanes.

Santa_Anita_Bridge_-_aerial

The new bridge carrying the Gold Line tracks over busy Santa Anita Avenue. The old tracks were at street level.

Arcadia_Station,_Parking_and_Transit_Plaza_-_aerial

The Arcadia station and parking lot taking shape. The station is right behind the popular REI store with the rest of downtown Arcadia a short walk south on First Street, which runs along the bottom of this photo.

Continue reading

Watch construction work on Gold Line Foothill Extension and ‘Get Lucky’ at the same time!

Seven minutes of awesomeness from our friends at the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency building the 11.5-mile project between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border.

I’ll be touring the project next week — I’m looking forward to seeing all the work done. The project is about half complete and is forecast for an early 2016 opening at this point. The project also includes a large maintenance campus in Monrovia for light rail vehicles — it’s the large construction site just west of the Home Depot on the south side of the 210 freeway

Sign up for e-updates from the Construction Authority here.

Foothill_Ext_Map

RELATED POSTS:

Gold Line Foothill Extension project continues to take shape; check out the photos of the bridges and canopies

Another big bridge rising for Gold Line Foothill Extension

Gold Line bridge over eastbound 210 freeway is complete! Check out the slideshow

Agenda for Thursday’s Metro Board meeting: it’s going to be a long one, folks

UPDATE: The gavel has dropped on the meeting and it’s now underway.

This is a big meeting, folks, with tons of interestingness (relatively speaking) and a lot of important items. For those attending and media: might be a good idea to have a few Red Bulls along with your coffee for breakfast.

Red_bull_1

Three of the tall ones, please!

You can also view the agenda with hyperlinks on metro.net or view or download it as a pdf. The meeting is, as always, open to the public and begins at 9:30 a.m. at Metro headquarters adjacent to Los Angeles Union Station. To listen to the meeting on the phone, please call 213-922-6045.

Some of the more interesting items on the agenda:

•Item 76, asking the Board to set a public hearing on March 29 to review two fare restructuring proposals released by Metro staff on Friday. Important to note: THE BOARD IS ONLY CONSIDERING SETTING A PUBLIC HEARING; THEY ARE NOT VOTING ON THE FARE CHANGES. At this point, the Board is scheduled to vote on the changes at its meeting on May 22. Source post including charts and staff report.

•Item 15, asking the Board to narrow the list of options to four for the Airport Metro Connector, the project that seeks to connect Metro Rail to the airport terminals via a combination of light rail and people mover. A motion by Board Members Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas seeks to restore two options that Metro staff wanted to eliminate that would build light rail directly to the airport terminals. Staff report and earlier Source post with the four proposals favored by Metro staff and another Source post on the Knabe-Ridley-Thomas motion.

•Item 6, a motion by Board Members Paul Krekorian and Zev Yaroslavsky directing Metro to investigate adding gates or partial gates to the Orange Line to reduce fare evasion. Motion and Source post with staff report on two December crackdowns on fare evasion on the Orange Line.

•Item 67, asking the Board to approve the development of two options for ballot measures to take to voters in 2016 to accelerate existing Measure R projects — either an extension of Measure R or a new sales tax, which may also include new projects. Staff report and earlier Source post.

•Item 39, establishing a $33.4-million budget to refurbish Blue Line stations, including new canopies. Staff report.

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Video of this morning’s groundbreaking event for the Crenshaw/LAX Line

And here is video of this morning’s groundbreaking for the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

There are nice comments about mobility — and the need for more of it — from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Metro would like to extend a special thank you to Secretary Foxx and Senator Boxer for making the trip to Los Angeles on Tuesday and for their help — and they were both personally involved — in getting this project off the ground.

RELATED POSTS:

And so it begins: ground is broken for the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line

Social media roundup for Crenshaw/LAX Line groundbreaking