Transportation headlines, Wednesday, September 17

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! 

Union ploy may throw Kinkisharyo off track (Antelope Valley Press)

The firm hired by Metro to build new rail cars wants to build an assembly plant in Palmdale. This editorial chastises the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 and other Antelope Valley residents for using legal tactics to try to force Kinkisharyo to hire union workers or do a full blown environmental impact report for the facility — which may mean the facility has to be located elsewhere. The new light rail vehicles are needed sooner rather than later for the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and as replacement cars for the Blue Line.

Kuehl, Shriver square off in L.A. County Supervisor debate (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of last night’s debate in the race for the third district, currently held by Zev Yaroslavsky. The Purple Line Extension was one issue discussed.

An eye in the sky, accessible to the hobbyist (New York Times)

A new drone with camera attached sells for about $1,300 — meaning these things are just going to get more popular. I recently watched a photographer use a drone at CalTech to photograph wedding pics and I’m curious how long it will be when drones are used to either photograph transit and/or the transportation industry.

On the hunt for fireflies in Utah (High Country News)

Not a transportation article, but a good read for those interested in or fascinated by the American West. Scientists have known for 30 years that fireflies — most often seen in the Midwest — were in Utah, but it wasn’t until recently that they secured proof.

Transportation headlines, Monday, September 15

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! 

MTA bus and train fares to rise on Monday (L.A. Times)

Transportation reporter Laura Nelson does a good job of breaking down the new fare structure that went into effect earlier today — with the regular fares rising to $1.75 (with two hours of free transfers) and weekly passes now $25 and monthly passes now $100. Please click here for charts showing the new fares as well as a useful Frequently Asked Questions on the fares.

The article also offers useful context about the finances and politics that drove the fare hike. Two key graphs:

Metro staff members estimate that ridership will drop by 3% to 4% during the first six months of the increase, but that fare revenue will grow by $21 million this fiscal year and $28 million in subsequent years.

That will not be enough to correct the agency’s long-term financial problems. Metro analysts have pushed for a series of three fare increases over eight years, saying more income is needed to offset an expected cumulative deficit of $225 million over the next decade. Agency directors approved the fare hike that begins Monday but postponed two subsequent increases proposed for 2017 and 2020, saying they needed more information about the agency’s financial outlook.

The Metro Board earlier this year asked staff to report back on other sources of revenue — so that’s something to keep an eye on. The other question looming over the issue of fares is a possible ballot measure in 2016 and what it may or may not include (no decision has yet been made on the ballot measure or its contents). Measure R did include a temporary fare freeze.

As for the basics on the fare increase, the $1.50 regular fare went up to $1.75 today but now includes two hours of free transfers.

Poll: 68 percent want more transit spending (The Hill)

Speaking of transportation funding, the Mineta Transportation Institute’s poll for the American Public Transportation Assn. shows slightly more Americans want more spent on public transit. Putting aside the not-so-small issue that both groups benefit from more dollars spent on transit, I’m guessing there is significant support in most metropolitan areas in the U.S. for transit. In Los Angeles County, 68 percent is a key number as 66.6 percent of voters are needed to approve transportation ballot measures. Measure R in 2008 was approved with 67.9 percent of the vote and Measure J in 2012 failed with 66.1 percent approval.

LAWA’s Gina Marie Lindsey: investments in LAX continue (The Planning Report) 

The general manager of Los Angeles World Airports — a city of Los Angeles agency — talks about the challenges and difficulties of installing remote baggage check-in at LAX and the automated people mover that will take passengers from the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the airport terminals. While the people mover’s route is pretty much settled outside the terminal horseshoe, Lindsey says the important matter of deciding its route and station locations should be decided within the next few months. Earlier this year, LAX was looking at configurations that included two stations or four stations.

Perris Valley Line taking shape (Press-Enterprise)

Nice to see some progress on the 24-mile extension of the Metrolink line from Riverside into the Perris Valley. Officials say the line is forecast to open near the end of 2015. It’s the first major Metrolink expansion in more than a decade, reports the Press-Enterprise.

Meet Seleta Reynolds, the safe streets advocate running LADOT (Streetsblog LA)

Damien Newton interviews the new general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which manages traffic signals and the city’s DASH and Commuter Express buses, among other things. A lot of the conversation focuses on bike policy and Reynolds is mindful to (correctly) remind everyone that the City Council has pretty much the final say in everything.

Guest editorial: urban change in L.A., too little too slow (Streetsblog LA)

Thoughtful article by architect and urban designer Gerhard Mayer. His main point: while L.A. is certainly changing, it’s changing a lot more slowly than other cities and far too much of the city is devoted to roads and/or parking lots. The key paragraph:

L.A.’s land use imbalance is acute. In a “normal” city, only approx. one-fifth of the city’s land is dedicated to transportation. Four-fifths of that city is used for buildings that generate revenue – or for open space. Not in LA; here, as much as 60 percent of our land – three-fifths – is used to accommodate our automobiles. Only two-fifths of LA has buildings that generates revenue to maintain, renew and expand our public services.

Of course, it’s hard to come up with averages like that on such a sprawling city but the statistics sound about right for some parts of the city. I just drove to Oregon and back and L.A. is hardly alone. Driving through Klamath Falls I was struck with a downtown that appeared to be on life support while outside of town, the usual shopping malls with the usual big box stores were surrounded by vast parking lots and a lot of traffic.

Coming to the rescue of riders who drop treasures on the tracks (New York Times) 

Interesting article about the transit workers in the New York subway who use a variety of tools to scoop up belongings that riders have dropped on tracks below the platforms. This includes a bag of blood, a variety of artificial limbs, engagement rings and stuffed animals. Of course, we implore all riders to NEVER try to retrieve such items themselves on our transit system or any other. If you drop something valuable, please contact our Customer Relations department.

Regulator slow to respond to deadly vehicle defects (New York Times) 

A long and deeply reported article that is extremely critical of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The nut graphs:

An investigation by The New York Times into the agency’s handling of major safety defects over the past decade found that it frequently has been slow to identify problems, tentative to act and reluctant to employ its full legal powers against companies.

The Times analyzed agency correspondence, regulatory documents and public databases and interviewed congressional and executive branch investigators, former agency employees and auto safety experts. It found that in many of the major vehicle safety issues of recent years — including unintended acceleration in Toyotas, fires in Jeep fuel tanks and air bag ruptures in Hondas, as well as the G.M. ignition defect — the agency did not take a leading role until well after the problems had reached a crisis level, safety advocates had sounded alarms and motorists were injured or died.

Not only does the agency spend about as much money rating new cars — a favorite marketing tool for automakers — as it does investigating potentially deadly manufacturing defects, but it also has been so deferential to automakers that it made a key question it poses about fatal accidents optional — a policy it is only now changing after inquiries from The Times.

 

The article includes many anecdotes and examples. Perhaps the hardest thing to stomach: the agency declines to directly answer many of the Times’ questions, none of which seem unreasonable to ask.

Two full street closures this weekend on Crenshaw Boulevard for construction of Crenshaw/LAX Line

Crenshaw map

Here’s the news release from Metro:

Walsh/Shea Corridor Contractors (WSCC) today postponed one of three street closures scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 12-13 on Crenshaw Boulevard for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project.

Traffic reconfiguration on the future underground Crenshaw/Vernon station between Stocker Street and Vernon Avenue has been postponed until further notice. Two other closures will take place:

Crenshaw/Expo Station:

One of the two closures that will take place this weekend is on Crenshaw Boulevard between Exposition Boulevard and Coliseum Street at 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12 until 6 a.m. Monday, Sept. 15. Also closures will continue the weekends of Sept. 19-22 and Oct. 24-27 with the same work-hours.

Work will consist of building south and north underground walls and install steel pile beams across the street at Crenshaw Boulevard and Rodeo Place and also on Crenshaw Boulevard and Exposition Boulevard.

Crenshaw/MLK Station:

Work on the future underground Crenshaw/MLK light rail station between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Stocker Street will be done by the Department of Water & Power to relocate water lines from 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12 to 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 13.

Metro CEO Art Leahy letter to stakeholders on SR 710 North study

The letter from Metro Art Leahy was sent to stakeholders on Friday morning:

Dear Stakeholder,

As we approach the fall season, I wanted to provide you with an update on the release of the draft environmental impact document for the State Route 710 North Study.

Using Measure R funds, Caltrans and Metro are studying mobility and traffic congestion relief in the area between east/northeast Los Angeles and the western San Gabriel Valley.

Five alternatives are being equally evaluated: bus rapid transit, freeway tunnel, light rail transit, no build, and local street and intersection improvements.

Altogether, approximately 26 detailed technical studies are included in the draft environmental document that will be released in February 2015. The studies analyze traffic, noise, air quality, cost-benefit, health risk assessments, and other variables.

To provide the public with correct information on the Study, Metro has posted two new documents, Frequently Asked Questions and Fact vs. Fiction on the Metro website.

Caltrans and Metro are fully committed to an open and transparent process. To date, Metro has conducted 92 community meetings, participated in six city-sponsored community forums, and held over 200 briefings with community stakeholders — and we are not done.

In the next several months, Metro will continue to go out into neighborhoods and communities to talk to residents and businesses about the need to address traffic congestion in the area and about the alternatives being considered.

You can help us spread the word and raise awareness by talking to your neighbors, co-workers and fellow students, and by discussing the Study at your club and association meetings. These conversations will help increase public participation in the process and ensure that more people have a voice in this regional issue.

Thank you for your continued partnership in our effort to address traffic congestion. For continuous updates go to metro.net/sr710study, facebook.com/sr710study, or follow us on Twitter @sr710study.

Sincerely,

Arthur T. Leahy
Chief Executive Officer

City of Monrovia breaks ground on Gold Line Station Square Transit Village

The City of Monrovia and local elected officials broke ground this morning on the Station Square Transit Village. The project is located adjacent to the Historic Santa Fe Depot and the future Metro Gold Line Monrovia Station. The Station Square is the largest public works project in the city’s history. Monrovia is utilizing $25 million in federal funds, state grants, Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority money and Metro Measure R funds for the project. Plans include a transit plaza, neighborhood park, transit depot promenade and some off-street improvements to benefit the community and complement the opening of the new Metro Gold Line station in 2016.

Project renderings and the press release from the City of Monrovia after the jump. Continue reading

Upcoming construction closure: 19th Street at Expo Line intersection in Santa Monica

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Above is the good word from the Expo Line Construction Authority, the agency building the six-mile project that will extend tracks from Culver City to downtown Santa Monica with seven new stations.

The project is funded mostly by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. It is currently forecast to open in early 2016.

Reconstructed Alondra Boulevard Bridge now open

 Photos: Mark Arroyo/Metro

Earlier today, Caltrans, Metro and the Federal Highway Administration opened the newly reconstructed Alondra Boulevard Bridge. It is the largest of three bridges rebuilt as part of the $110 million Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project.

The 57-year-old Alondra Bridge was completely demolished in June 2013 and rebuilt within 14 months. The new structure meets modern design standards and has been expanded from four to six lanes. This will increase bridge capacity and improve safety and efficiency, eliminating northbound bottlenecks and improving access to regional transit and HOV facilities. The project is a significant milestone in the I-5 South Corridor Improvement Projects and will improve connections within Santa Fe Springs and to the cities of Norwalk, Cerritos and La Mirada.

The Santa Ana Freeway/Alondra Boulevard Bridge Project is funded by federal, state and local monies, including $72 million from Prop 1B, $14.5 million from state transportation funds, and $23.7 million from Metro’s Prop C and Measure R.

The press release from Caltrans is after the jump.

Continue reading