Potential future ballot measure discussed at Move LA conference today

I spent the morning at Move LA’s annual conference, held this year at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The activist group led by Denny Zane, the former Santa Monica mayor, this year focused on Measure R 2, an interesting choice given that the Metro Board has yet to decide whether to put an extension of the existing Measure R or a new sales tax on any ballot.

That said, some Board members have certainly voiced support and Metro is in the process of collecting transportation wish lists from cities across Los Angeles County for a potential ballot measure that likely wouldn’t happen until November 2016.

Four Metro Board Members spoke at the conference:

•Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he wants to pursue more regional transportation solutions and that he wants to lead a more humble city of Los Angeles that can work with other cities, both following their advice and taking the lead when appropriate (perhaps in that spirit he indicated his support earlier this week for extending the Gold Line to Claremont). He indicated he was open to a ballot measure but didn’t dwell on it.

Garcetti also said he wants to get a rail connection in our lifetimes to Los Angeles International Airport and that he supports the LAX Connect proposal by the airport to bring Metro Rail into a facility where passengers could check their bags and then transfer to a people mover that would run every two minutes and stop at each terminal. 

•Metro Board Chair and Lakewood Councilmember Diane DuBois said any new ballot measure would be on the 2016 ballot in order to give time to build a consensus across the country. She said she wanted a process that was transparent, inclusive and followed a bottoms-up approach focusing on the needs of neighborhoods. Any potential measure, she said, must include subregional mobility projects.

Chairwoman DuBois also urged a note of caution, saying it’s appropriate to consider the impact of higher sales taxes and how they might impact retail sales and where businesses decide to locate. “Please don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I’m not opposed to asking if the voters of L.A. County to decide. However, I do believe that we should fully consider the impacts of increased taxation.”

Continue reading

How Metro is studying the Rail-to-River proposal

In 2013, Supervisors and Metro Board Members Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina began promoting a proposal to build an 8.3-mile pedestrian and bike path that would connect the future Crenshaw/LAX Line to the Los Angeles River.

The path would follow the old Harbor Subdivision rail right-of-way that Metro owns and that runs through Vernon and then along Slauson Avenue.

It’s certainly a very interesting proposal similar in some respects to other urban rails-to-trails that have been built across the United States. Such a path would serve an area where bikes are commonly used to reach jobs and run errands and the path would connect the existing Blue Line, Silver Line and future Crenhsaw/LAX Line — all important north-south corridors.

Because this is an issue that involves Metro, I wanted to explain the process involved in evaluating the proposal:

•Prompted by a motion by Board Members Molina and Ridley-Thomas, Metro last year initiated a feasibility study of building an intermediate “active transportation corridor” along the eastern portion of the Harbor Subdivision. The study is expected to be presented to the Metro Board of Directors this September. The above fact sheet explains the scope of the feasibility study.

•Depending on the results of the Study the Metro Board will ultimately decide whether to initiate a project. The Board would also have to decide how such a project would be funded.

•Metro purchased the Harbor Subdivision ROW in the early 1990s and does own the land along the tracks. However, as part of the purchase deal, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad owns easements that allow it to run trains along the eastern portion of the Harbor Subdivision.

BNSF rarely runs trains on that section of tracks. But Metro would have to deal with those easements in order to make any improvements to the existing transportation corridor, whether it be for an intermediate active transportation use, or to facilitate major transit such as Bus Rapid or Light Rail Transit along the tracks.

•Metro owns several old rights-of-way (ROW) in Los Angeles County that could one day be used for rail or busway projects. Metro also has a policy about altering rail right-of-ways that it owns; the policy is posted below. The policy seeks to find a balance between allowing some uses of the ROWs while preserving them for future transportation needs.

To help give you a better idea of the lay of the land, here is a video that shows the right-of-way between its intersection with 25th Street running for 8.3 miles to Crenshaw Boulevard and 67th Street. The video was made by Metro using a shoulder mounted boom with camera attached and walking the entire 8.3 miles followed by editing to speed up the footage and give one the feeling of traveling at a higher speed.

Finally, there is a meeting for stakeholders on Feb. 26 at the Los Angeles Academy Middle School’s multi-purpose room, 644 E. 56th Street, Los Angeles, CA, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The meeting notice is below:

image002

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.

Continue reading

Motion seeks to restore two Airport Metro Connector alternatives that would bring light rail into LAX terminal area

c3

 

c4

 

We posted earlier about a new Metro staff report that narrows down the alternatives to be further studied for the Airport Metro Connector. Specifically, the report proposes eliminating alternatives that would build light rail directly to the LAX terminals in favor of four alternatives that would connect the Crenshaw/LAX and/or Green Line to a people mover east of the terminals.

However, in the Metro Board’s Construction Committee this morning, a motion from Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe seeks to restore two of those alternatives, shown above, for further analysis as part of a draft environmental study.

The five members of the Construction Committee moved the motion to the full Board of Directors without recommendation. The full Board will likely take up the issue at their meeting on Thursday, Jan. 23. Board Member Pam O’Connor objected to the motion, saying it was time to eliminate the above alternatives because of their expense and complexity and the difficulty in accessing all the terminals from rail stations.

In remarks, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the region deserves a world-class transit system and that it was too early in the Airport Metro Connector to eliminate options that would bring rail directly into the terminal area. Metro staff said there are several issues with those options, including a cost of $3 billion or more, a complex tangle of utilities under the terminals and runway areas and concerns from LAX about tunneling under critical facilities.

Here is the motion:

photo 2 (1)

photo 1

Transportation headlines, Monday, the 6th of January

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!

Hello and a belated Happy New Years to everyone. We took some time off during the holiday and also worked on some longer-term things, so we’re still in a bit of catch-up mode. And into 2014 we go….

Review: Tentative signs of progress in Metro’s transit network design (L.A. Times) 

Over the holidays, the Times published a news story on Metro’s new “kit of parts” approach to designing Metro Rail stations. The idea is to standardize station design to help provide the future system with a more consistent look, make it easier to maintain and help control costs. (The Gold Line Foothill Extension and the Expo Line Phase 2 will have station designs consistent with both lines’ current look).

Following on the news story, Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne’s well-written review can be boiled down to three words: be bold, Metro. Excerpt:

Meanwhile, the kit of parts has already faced enough challenges inside Metro to suggest how politically complicated it can be to pursue bold design at an agency of its size. To pick just one example, Sussman/Prejza suggested giant Ms, appearing to be partially sunk into the pavement, to mark the entrance to every station.

The letter would have been split into two parts, allowing it to operate as a sort of alphabetical gate. But some Metro officials balked, according to Welborne, fearing exiting passengers might have their view of cars and moving trains blocked by the giant signs.

The loss of the oversized M is emblematic of the various ways in which the kit-of-parts design risks being diluted before we see it in built form. The new stations, after all, don’t need less color or verve. They need a good deal more.

Christopher also touches on an interesting subject by suggesting that stations should reflect local architecture. The question is this: what exactly is L.A. architecture? There’s such a mishmash out here ranging from adobe houses to art deco to Craftsman.

If I was the king — and judging by my cubicle, I’m clearly not — I think rail stations deeply reminiscent of the old Spanish missions would be kind of cool.

A greenbelt future for South L.A. (L.A. Times) 

The Times’ editorial board looks at a proposal by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina: to transform 8.3 miles of the old Harbor Subdivision rail right-of-way into a pedestrian and bike path between the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Los Angeles River.

The editorial praises the idea while noting that a lot of work remains to be done — among them securing funding. Metro currently has a feasibility study underway of the proposal. The study is scheduled to be released this spring.

Bringing the underworld to light (New York Times)

A photo of work on the Second Avenue Subway from 2009. Photo by Patrick Cashin/MTA.

A photo of work on the Second Avenue Subway from 2009. Photo by Patrick Cashin/MTA.

Nice photo essay on New York MTA photographer Patrick Cashin, who has been chronicling the agency’s projects, including construction of the Second Avenue Subway.

The photos are just a small slice of the images that the New York MTA publishes on its excellent Flickr page.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, October 31

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: Nice throwback costume!

More transportation fixes in the works for Southern California (Daily News) 

Missed this one yesterday. The article reports on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s video at the Mobility 21 conference and his statement that another transportation ballot measure for the county may be in the works. The key excerpt:

Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said the mayor’s remarks at the Mobility conference were not an indication of support for an extension of Measure R, the voter-approved half-cent sales tax that’s currently paying for an array of rail, bus and highway projects.

[snip]

Robb said Garcetti was simply referencing recent actions taken by Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who also sits on the MTA board. Antonovich has been talking to local communities about what projects they want to see built under another ballot initiative. Antonovich, along with County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky also authored a motion approved by the MTA board on Tuesday to allocate $500,000 to help the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments develop a “Mobility Matrix” that would identify some of the Valley’s transportation needs.

“Cutting traffic is a priority for Mayor Garcetti and he is currently exploring all options to ease congestion for Angelenos,” Robb said.

MTA Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy, who also attended the conference, struck a skeptical tone when addressing a possible extension. “We will evaluate whether we do a Measure J again,” Leahy told the Daily News. “I don’t know if we will. It’s possible that would happen in either 2014 or 2016.”

As we wrote the other day, nothing is currently on the table. But there certainly seems to be discussions on how projects could be accelerated or new projects funded.

Metro construction boom brings opportunities (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ website) 

A look at the business opportunity summit held at the African-American Museum on Monday. As the article shows, there is clearly an appetite for jobs among those who live near the upcoming Crenshaw/LAX Line. Excerpt:

Opportunity is exactly what Erika Bennett is seeking. She is hoping her company, Total Transportation Services Inc., a trucking company that transports cement and dirt to construction sites, will become one of the sub-consultants for the large firm that was awarded the Crenshaw contract, Walsh Shea Corridor Constructors.

“This is a good meet and greet,” she said, as she walked up to the Walsh Shea table and introduced herself to the executives for the company.

Other attendees, such as Matsimela McMorris, were simply looking for a job. McMorris, who has been unemployed for more than a year, applied for a position as a custodian with Metro. But at the event, McMorris saw other possibilities, including becoming a bus operator.

“It is really good to be able to come here and meet people,” he said. “Online, you can’t really tell people your story.”

 

Mayor’s office: top transportation department executive to resign (L.A. Times) 

The city’s Department of Transportation will be getting a new general manager. LADOT runs a large bus system and, of course, manages the thousands of miles of roadway (including the traffic signals) in the city of L.A.

It’s time to treat bike share as mass transit (The Atlantic Cities) 

The blog post argues that bike share fees should be tax deductible in the same way that commuter fringe benefits are.

Expo Line Phase 2 reaches the halfway point (Culver City Observer) 

A look at the announcement earlier this month that the six-mile extension between Culver City and downtown Santa Monica is halfway done. Next up: more track work!

Two options to purchase new rail cars approved by Metro Board and other actions taken today

Drawings of the exterior of the new light rail vehicles prepared by Metro’s Creative Service department and formally submitted to Kinkisharyo.

Drawings of the exterior of the new light rail vehicles prepared by Metro’s Creative Service department and formally submitted to Kinkisharyo.

The meeting today was mostly a quiet one — the agenda was thin — but here are a few highlights:

•The Board voted to approve two options to a contract with Kinkisharyo International for 97 new light rail vehicles to be used on the Crenshaw/LAX Line and to replace older vehicles in Metro’s rail car fleet. The cost of the options is $396,650,000.

The initial contract — including an order for 78 light rail vehicles — with Kinkisharyo was approved by the Board in April 2012.

As a result of its contract with Metro, Kinkisharyo is moving their U.S. headquarters from Boston to El Segundo. Kinkisharyo will also be assembling the light rail vehicles in Palmdale, which is expected to create about 250 full-time jobs. according to Metro. 

Staff report on the contract options

•The Board also approved the motion below by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for Metro to explore a small business mitigation program to help merchants during construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

20130725rbmitem19.1

•The Board approved an amendment to the current year’s budget to add 38 employees to the Metro staff to work on the TAP call center and reduced fare applications. This is work that was being done by Xerox, a Metro contractor, and is being moved in-house as a result of an arbitration decision in a grievance against Metro filed by the Transportation Communications Union. Staff report

Metro Board votes to fully fund Leimert Park Village and Hindry stations for Crenshaw/LAX Line

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas explains his motion to the Metro Board on Wednesday. Photo: Los Angeles County.

 

Stations at Leimert Park Village and at Hindry and Florence avenues near Westchester for the Crenshaw/LAX Line light rail project were funded today by the Metro Board of Directors, ending a two-year long controversy over whether the stops would be built.

The vote was 10 to 1. The motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas included five other co-signers — including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Supervisor/Metro Board Chair Mike Antonovich — meaning supporters only needed to drum up one more vote to secure approval from a majority of the Metro Board.

Voting for were Ridley-Thomas, Villaraigosa, Antonovich, John Fasana, Jose Huizar, Ara Najarian, Pam O'Connor, Don Knabe, Richard Katz and Mel Wilson. The vote against was from Diane DuBois, who expressed concerns about taking reserve fund money from Metro that may be needed later for other purposes.

To read the entire motion, please see this post from earlier today.

The Los Angeles City Council voted on Wednesday to use $55 million in Measure R local return money to help build the two stations — $40 million for Leimert Park Village and $15 million for Hindry.

The motion directs Metro to add another $80 million to that from Metro's general fund for the coming year's fiscal budget. The motion says that it will cost up to $120 million to build the undergroud Leimert Park Village station and $15 million for the street-level Hindry station.

Continue reading

Notes from today’s Metro Board of Director’s meeting; Director Diane DuBois calls for staff report on fare restructuring

A few notes from today’s mostly uneventful meeting of the Metro Board:

•Board Member Vice Chair Diane DuBois offered a motion — approved by the Board — that Metro staff produce a report for the April meetings that looks at fare restructuring. She asked that the report include a variety of possible scenarios, including time-based fares, low cash fares, premium fares for premium services and other ideas that would fully utilitze the capabilities of TAP cards.

DuBois wants the report as part of the item to be heard next month on issuing a public notice to change the Measure R expenditure plan to accommodate a future project acceleration plan. “As we move forward with acceleration plans we have to make sure we are financial stable,” she said. “I know this is a very sensitive subject, but I also know we have to pay for what we do.”

As regular Source readers know, this is a subject debated frequently by readers on our comment board. I want to emphasize that the motion calls only for a report by staff next month; no action will be taken to actually restructure fares.

•Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas complained about lack of diversity on the workforce performing utility relocation work for the Crenshaw/LAX Line. “The public comment this morning is not without basis,” he said, referring to speakers who complained about lack of opportunities to find work.

Metro staff said the contractor handling utility work has not fully complied with federal diversity law and that staff is meeting with the contractor to fix that. Metro is also trying to comply with federal rules that place limits on local hiring. In following public comment, longtime civil rights leader Pastor James M. Lawson, Jr., offered a strong rebuke of the Board and urged them to do more to create jobs for the black community.

•Glendale Ara Najarian announced that he was successfully re-appointed to the Metro Board of Directors. He said that he and fellow Board Member John Fasana have spoken and pledged to work together on the many issues they share and agree on.

•The Board voted to authorize Metro to enter into an exclusive negotiation agreement with the nonprofit A Community of Friends to develop 53 units of affordable housing — including some supportive housing — on vacant Metro property at 1st and Lorena in Boyle Heights. Supportive housing is providing apartments for people who have been homeless or others who need help living independently; there will be services staff to help provide for tenants.

Board Member and Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar complained there was not adequate public outreach for the project and that the development had substantially changed with a reduction in retail space. Board Member and Supervisors Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas both said that the developer has done good work in their districts.

A Huizar motion to deny the project and begin with a new RFP failed.

Here’s the staff report on the project.

Officials hold event for ExpressLanes opening on 10 freeway tonight

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at this morning's event. At right is Duarte Councilman and Metro Board Member John Fasana, who served as M.C. for the event. From left that's Metro CEO Art Leahy, Assemblyman Ed Chau, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez and Rep. Judy Chu. Also present for the event but not in this photo were L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Grace Napolitano. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at this morning’s event. At right is Duarte Councilman and Metro Board Member John Fasana, who served as M.C. for the event. From left that’s Metro CEO Art Leahy, Assemblyman Ed Chau, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez and Rep. Judy Chu. Also present for the event but not in this photo were L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Grace Napolitano. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

A look at the soon-to-be ExpressLanes on the eastbound 10 freeway. Photo by Anna Chen/Metro.

A look at the soon-to-be ExpressLanes on the eastbound 10 freeway. Photo by Anna Chen/Metro.

With clear skies above and a sound weather forecast, everything looks like a go for the ExpressLanes on the I-10 to officially begin at 12:01 a.m. tonight.

Or to put it another way, if you want to use the lanes after midnight tonight, you need to have a transponder in your vehicle — unless you’re on a motorcycle with a standard California license plate. Many more details about the ExpressLanes can be found on our earlier post.

As for the press event today at El Monte Station, the many public officials on hand ran through those details and said repeatedly that they believe the new ExpressLanes will add capacity to the 10 freeway and speed up trips for motorists. Rep. Judy Chu pointed out the new lanes on the 10 will help carpoolers, transit users, single motorists who are willing to pay a toll and even those who would use the general lanes.

Perhaps the boldest prediction came from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “We’re going to take advantage of the fact that this region is willing to try new things,” he said. “…One day we’re going to have HOT lanes throughout the region.”

Obviously, the future is not written in stone and the ExpressLanes are a one-year experiment, largely funded by the federal government. As the year proceeds, Metro officials say they are going to keep tinkering with the program to give the ExpressLanes the best chance to succeed.