Other actions taken by the Board of Directors today, including motion on Orange Line upgrades

Other actions taken by the Metro Board at their meeting today:

•The Board approved a motion by Board Members Paul Krekorian, Eric Garcetti, Michael Antonovich, Zev Yaroslavsky, John Fasana and Ara Najarian directing Metro staff to study potential upgrades to the Orange Line, including adding more articulated buses, grade-separated crossings, improved traffic signal priority and rail conversion. The motion also calls for the study of extending the Orange Line to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, where it would connect or offer a transfer to the Gold Line.

As I’ve noted before, this is an unfunded project and that converting the Orange Line to rail is not in Metro’s short- or long-range plans at this time.Metro Board Member Paul Krekorian noted that only two of Metro’s 80 rail stations are in the San Fernando Valley, where nearly 20 percent of county residents live. He said that the Orange Line’s ridership demonstrates that Valley residents are willing to take transit. Metro staff said they will return to the Board this fall with more details on how they plan to proceed with the Orange Line study. Motion

An amendment to the motion by Board Members Pam O’Connor and Don Knabe directs Metro staff to develop protocols for adding unfunded projects to the long-range plan — a need brought in part by Metro studying future ballot measure that could potentially fund new projects. As the amendment notes, some Measure R road and transit projects remain underfunded or are facing higher expenses to build, adding to the difficulty of building projects that are not set to receive Measure R funds. Amendment

•A separate motion by Board Members Michael Antonovich, Ara Najarian, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Ara Najarian directs Metro to continue the planning process for expanding bus rapid transit to eligible corridors, including Vermont Avenue and a line connecting the Orange Line to the Gold Line. The motion asks for a report from Metro staff this fall with a staffing, funding and implementation plan on expanding BRT. Motion

In an amendment to that motion by Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti, Metro was directed to make such BRT projects the first priority when Metro pursues federal Small Starts or Very Small Starts funding. The amendment also asked for a center-running alternative where feasible in the study of the Vermont and Burbank-Pasadena BRT.

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Cafe Crepe coming to Union Station

The Metro Board earlier today approved a lease agreement with Cafe Crepe to take over the former Union Bagel space in Union Station (the Metro staff report is above). This is the space directly across from Traxx that has been vacant for quite some time.

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This is not a small space. There will be interior seating and this should be a very nice spot for bus and train travelers to stop and grab a meal at pretty agreeable prices.

Check out Cafe Crepe’s menu here — they already have locations in Santa Monica, Vancouver (B.C.) and Toronto and the plan is to be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Union Station location. The word ‘crepe’ may be in the name, but there’s a variety of things on the menu including burgers, salads, other sandwiches and desserts.

When will it open? The short answer: it’s going to be a while. The space has to be completely renovated and equipped — and all the necessary permits must be obtained from the city of Los Angeles. We’ll provide updates as the work proceeds!

Metro Board of Directors July meeting about to begin

Good morning, readers and riders! The gavel will shortly drop on the July meeting of the Metro Board of Directors. This will be the first full Board meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti serving as the Board Chair; he assumed the role on July 1 and will be the Chair through next June. The Chairmanship is filled on a rotating basis among the 13 Board Members.

The agenda for today’s meeting is above. Among the items scheduled to be discussed are a $1.6-billion contract to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, motions to study upgrading the Orange Line and installing ExpressLanes on part of the 105 freeway and Metro’s short-range transportation plan, among others.

You can listen to the meeting live stream here. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. You can also listen over the phone by dialing 213-922-6045 although capacity is limited.

As per usual I’ll update the blog and Metro’s general Twitter account with any interestingness as it occurs.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, July 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! 

Reward to be offered in fatal beating at Blue Line station (L.A. Times)

TEMPLATE Board

The Board of Supervisors has approved a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of two women who assaulted artist John Whitmore at the Blue Line’s Willowbrook station early in the afternoon of Friday, June 13. Whitmore, 65, died one week later of his injuries. Anyone with information regarding the slaying is asked to call detectives at (323) 890-5500.

Funding feud means end of the line for four Metrolink trains between L.A. and San Bernardino (Mass Transit) 

After the San Bernardino Assn. of Governments refused to provide the full funding request from Metrolink, the commuter rail agency has cut four trains between Union Station and San Bernardino. They’re all off-peak hours and include the 11 p.m. train from L.A. Metrolink says they targeted low-ridership trains. Each of the five counties served by Metrolink — Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura — contribute funds to the agency each year.

Metro Committee OKs dismal walk/bike plan now, funding report later (StreetsblogLA)

I missed this post last week, when it was first published. The Metro Board’s Planning Committee moved a draft of the agency’s short-range transportation plan (which covers the next decade) to the full Board for its consideration on Thursday. Advocates for active transportation — i.e. walking and biking — partially filled the Board room and protested that the short-range plan lacks a dedicated funding stream specifically for active transportation.

Members of the committee were sympathetic and Mike Bonin introduced a motion calling for Metro to develop an active transportation funding strategy by Jan. 2015. The issue here is that Metro does supply funding for pedestrian and bike projects — but this is mostly done on a discretionary basis. For example, 15 percent of Measure R receipts are returned to local cities for use on transportation-related projects, which may include active transportation. It’s obviously an important issue, given that Metro recently released a first-mile/last-mile strategy that places emphasis on better connecting transit stations to surrounding neighborhoods.

Uber takes credit for drop in drunk driving, but police are skeptical (KPCC)

Interesting story. The ride-sharing service cherrypicks some statistics — including the number of times patrons vomited in their cars — to argue that drunk driving has been cut as Uber has grown more popular. The police say that’s a very hard thing to prove and some of the drops in DUIs in places such as Seattle may be attributed more to concerted crackdowns by law enforcement. Excerpt:

In Los Angeles, KPCC found DUI citations over the last five years issued by the California Highway Patrol peaked the year before Uber arrived and have fallen both years the company has been on the roads here. (Uber started operating in Los Angeles in April 2012. The low-cost UberX expanded here a year after that, along with competitor Lyft.)

Interesting, but anecdotal. The drop roughly coincides with Metro also offering more light night rail service on weekends — but I don’t think you can draw any firm conclusions from that. I suspect some of this also involves the fact that young people are driving less, according to numerous studies and statistics.

Perhaps what matters most is that there are viable options — taxis, ride-sharing and transit — for those who are too tipsy to drive. Metro Rail and the Orange Line operates until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights; timetables are here.

 

Motion proposes further study of ExpressLanes for part of the 105 freeway

The above motion is scheduled to be considered by the Metro Board of Directors this month — the motion seeks to launch environmental studies of adding ExpressLanes to the 105 freeway, with an initial segment between the 405 and 605 freeways. To be perfectly clear: the motion concerns more studies of the concept. A decision to go forward with such a project would come much later.

The 105 freeway, as you likely know, intersects with the existing ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway. The 110-105 junction includes exclusive on-ramps and off-ramps between the 110 ExpressLanes and the HOV lanes presently on the 105 — i.e. there’s no need for motorists to exit the ExpressLanes or HOV lanes when going between the two freeways.

The idea, at this time, would be to have two ExpressLanes in each direction. That would be done mostly by re-striping the freeway with some spot widening. Adding those extra lanes would require approvals from Caltrans, the state agency that oversees freeway operations.

Some background: the Metro Board in 2010 had asked Metro staff to study the possibility of adding ExpressLanes to the 405 freeway between the Orange County border and Los Angeles International Airport. At the time, Orange County was considering adding HOT lanes to the 405 but Orange County Transportation Authority officials have since rejected that notion and want to add a general lane instead to their portion of the 405. This Metro staff report explains the issues.

As a result, Metro has studied other alternatives and determined that adding ExpressLanes to the 105 and eventually the 605 would help provide an ExpressLanes corridor between Orange County and LAX. If that happens, it would be a phased approach and the Board is being asked to consider an initial segment on the 105 between the 405 and 605.

Metro staff recommend contractors to build Purple Line Extension’s first phase

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This another step forward for the 3.9-mile Purple Line Extension project and puts the subway addition closer to construction. Utility relocations and some other prep work have are already underway.

Three rail projects that are receiving Measure R funding are already under construction — the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Regional Connector is ramping up for construction after the awarding of a construction contract earlier this year.

There will be more details on the Purple Line Extension contract later in the month when the staff report is released. The Metro Board is scheduled to consider the contract at its meeting later this month.

The news release from Metro:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) staff today recommended awarding a $1.636 billion contract to design and build a 3.9-mile extension of the Metro Purple Line subway from Wilshire and Western to Wilshire and La Cienega to a joint venture composed of three of the world’s top construction companies.

At its July 24 meeting the Metro Board will consider the recommendation to award a contract to the firms of Skanska, Traylor Bros. and J.F. Shea, a Joint Venture (STS). The Metro Board’s Construction Committee will first review staff’s recommendation on July 17.

The procurement process has been extensive and altogether has taken nearly two years to reach the point where the Metro Board this month will consider a contract award for the first phase of the subway extension.

The contract calls for building twin subway tunnels on a 3.92-mile alignment that includes three new underground stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. It also includes train control and signals, communications, traction power supply and distribution, and fare collection systems that will be integrated with the existing Metro Rail system. Construction activities could begin later this year depending on when the contract is awarded. The contract requires completion in October 2024. The contractors have proposed an early completion schedule saving 300 calendar days.

Combined, these three construction firms have more than 300 years of experience.    Traylor Bros., Inc. has a track record that features more than 110 tunneling projects including the Metro Gold Line Eastside project that connects downtown Los Angeles with Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. That project was completed in 2009 on time and within budget, and Traylor Bros. achieved 4.5 million work hours without incident and zero ground loss during construction.

Skanska is building the extension of the Expo light rail project from Culver City to Santa Monica, scheduled to open in early 2016. The project is on time and within budget.  The company also worked on the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa, also scheduled to open in 2016 and is on time and within budget.

Skanska and Traylor Bros. are the team building the Regional Connector, a 1.9-mile underground light rail project in downtown Los Angeles that will connect the Metro Blue, Gold and Expo lines.

Shea is part of a joint venture building the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, which will connect the Metro Expo and Green light rail lines in the Crenshaw and Inglewood corridors.

Shea and Traylor worked on the large City of Los Angeles Northeast Interceptor Sewer tunnel.  

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, July 1

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! 

Boo!

Boo!

Hello Metro riders and readers. I was on vacation for a couple of days, so I’m catching up. As usual, please bear with me.

Train station to connect Metro rail lines with LAX approved (L.A. Times) 

The Times neatly and succinctly summarizes the Metro Board’s decision last Thursday to go forward with environmentally clearing an additional station on the Crenshaw/LAX Line that would connect with a people mover to be built by Los Angeles World Airports. Excerpt:

Officials say the new station will speed up airport access and could include check-in counters, flight information boards and currency exchange locations. The board also asked for a review of baggage check facilities at similar airport transportation hubs in other cities to determine whether that service could be added.

In an early Metro concept sketch, the station is depicted as a glass, multi-story building with covered rail platforms and a passenger drop-off area.

The 96th Street station still must go through a final design process, environmental review and cost analysis. Additions such as ticketing areas and concessions would increase the $200-million cost.

 

MTA predicts less than one percent of LAX passengers will take train to LAX (LA Weekly) 

Gene Maddeus dives into the Metro staff report and focuses on ridership estimates that show that the majority of LAX passengers in the future will likely travel to and from the airport by car — and that the FlyAway bus may attract significantly more passengers than a light rail-people mover connection. Excerpt:

The station approved Thursday is a much cheaper alternative, which probably won’t have all the bells and whistles that Garcetti had envisioned. Nevertheless, it is a rail connection to LAX, and Garcetti heralded it as a key step in the direction of building a world-class airport.

Assuming that LAX and MTA can continue to cooperate on this, the rail link could open around 2022. That leaves one big unanswered question: Will anybody use it?

As the saying goes, predictions are hard, especially about the future. Nevertheless, MTA has made its best effort to guess how many people will take the train to the airport. The answer:

0.8%.

[snip]

This is not to say that the train-to-LAX link should not be built. It is to suggest that expectations be kept in check until MTA can plan, fund and build a more comprehensive rail network.

 

The new Aviation/96th station will likely be most convenient to those using the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line. An extension of the Green Line to the south (a Measure R funded project) and extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the north to a connection with the subway (a project in Metro’s long-range plan but without any current funding) would, of course, significantly increase the reach of both lines.

Supervisor Don Knabe on the Aviation/96th station (Supervisor Don Knabe’s website)

LAX is in Don Knabe’s district and the Supervisor and Metro Board Member sent this note to constituents about last week’s vote — the last graph is key:

For years, I’ve said it’s embarrassing that the second largest city in America with the third busiest airport still does not have a direct transit connection. Major airports across the country, as well as internationally, can be accessed by subway, people mover, or air train, yet traveling to LAX requires a car, or a shuttle ride from the Green Line.

We’ve struggled for decades trying to solve this transportation puzzle, but finally, the MTA Board took a giant leap towards creating a solution last week. On a motion by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Mike Bonin, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and me, the Board voted in favor of constructing a rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard as part of the new Crenshaw/LAX rail line. This state-of-the-art station will serve as a “front door” for riders, connecting them to the LAX terminals via airport people mover.

Though this is a major milestone in finally linking the airport to our regional transit system, there are still hurdles to clear. Metro must continue working with Los Angeles World Airports and the Board of Airport Commissioners to ensure that a people mover will be constructed. Without their guarantee, we could end up stuck with a state-of-the-art station to nowhere. As the details surrounding the new rail station and a people mover continue to develop, I will be sure to keep you updated.

 

Metro buses get multi-camera surveillance systems (KABC-7) 

In order to prevent crime and remind riders that law enforcement is watching, Metro is overhauling the video systems on its buses — including monitors showing riders a real-time video feed. The move was prompted, in part, by the 191 assaults on Metro bus operators between 2010 and 2013. “We have every confidence that this is going to increase safety and discourage those who might be inclined to do otherwise,” L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is quoted in the article. Here  is our post from last week announcing the upgrades.

The painful consequences of liking fake subway maps (Los Angeles Review of Books) 

Ben Pack ruminates on transit maps, driving and bike riding in the Los Angeles area, culminating in a cycling accident in Hollywood.

 

 

Other actions taken by Metro Board of Directors today — station names, L.A. River in-channel bike path, promoting discounted fares

Three other actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors at their meeting today that might be of interest:

•The Board approved the following official name changes to Metro Rail stations, although signage will often continue to reflect shorter names:

–The Blue Line’s Grand Station becomes the ‘Grand/Los Angeles Trade-Technical College Station.’

–The Expo Line’s 23rd Street Station becomes the “Los Angeles Trade-Technical College/Orthopaedic Institute for Children Station.”

–The Expo Line’s La Brea station becomes the “Expo/La Brea/Ethel Bradley Station.”

Metro staff were also instructed to implement the changes at minimal cost without using operating funds.

•The Board approved a motion by Board Members Mike Bonin and Gloria Molina instructing Metro to launch a multi-lingual ad campaign to promote fare subsidy programs prior to the fare increase scheduled to take effect Sept. 1 or after.

More information on reduced fares for seniors, disabled/Medicare passengers, K-12 students and college/vocational students and applications in nine languages can be found by clicking here.

•The Board approved a motion by Board Members Mike Bonin, Eric Garcetti and Gloria Molina to take steps needed to launch a study on building a bike path within the Los Angeles River channel between Taylor Yard (just north of downtown Los Angeles) and the city of Maywood, along with bike/pedestrian linkages to roads and sidewalks near the river. Motion

Metro Board approves new station at Aviation/96th as best option to connect to LAX people mover

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The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously approved a new light rail station at Aviation Boulevard and 96th Street along the Crenshaw/LAX Line as the best option to serve as the “gateway” transfer point to an Automated People Mover that would take people to terminals at Los Angeles International Airport. The people mover is being planned by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), which would build the project.

The next steps: Metro must environmentally clear the station, design it and identify the funding before anything gets built. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is currently under construction and the new station would be added to that project. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2019; the people mover could be completed as early as 2022 according to the Metro staff report and officials with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office said Thursday that the city will attempt to possibly accelerate that date.

“This is a historic day for LAX and a historic day for our city because we’re finally on the way to bringing rail to LAX,” Garcetti told the Metro Board on Thursday. “I think we’ll be able to fix a historic mistake of our past.” 

The Metro Green Line infamously came up two miles short of LAX and requires a shuttle bus ride to reach airport terminals. The new Aviation/96th station would also serve some Green Line trains; please see the conceptual operating map below.

People movers are a type of train and are used to connect to regional transit systems by large airports in the U.S. and abroad. The chief advantage of the people mover over the existing shuttle bus: the people mover would run on an elevated guideway above traffic while the shuttle bus shares roads with traffic.

The new Aviation/96th station would be about .4 miles north of the station to be built at Aviation and Century boulevards as part of the Crenshaw/LAX Line. The idea, according to Metro, is that the Aviation/96th station would be the gateway for passengers headed to LAX while the Aviation/Century station would connect riders to the many businesses along the Century Boulevard corridor.

Metro Board Members made it clear that the Aviation/96th station needs to be extraordinarily designed to serve as the airport gateway.

“The question before us is can 96th Street do what it needs to do to be a world class experience?,” asked Board Member Mike Bonin who co-authored a motion (posted after the jump) directing Metro to make the station an enclosed facility with a number of amenities including concourse areas, restrooms, LAX airline check-in and public art, among others. The motion was co-authored by Garcetti and Supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas.

LAWA is scheduled to finalize details on the people mover alignment and the number of stations near airport terminals in Dec. 2014. In a presentation to the LAWA Board in May, LAWA staff showed options that included two or four stations for the people mover within the central terminal horseshoe. Should LAWA move the people mover alignment back to 98th Street — as was previously studied — Metro would seek to make the Aviation/Century station as the primary connection point to the people mover.

Metro — in coordination with LAWA — has in the past couple of years looked at a number of options for connecting the airport terminals to the Metro Rail system. Among those was bringing light rail directly to the terminals or building a spur to a new airport transportation hub that is being planned east of LAX.

Ultimately, Metro studies found that a Metro Rail-people mover connection took about the same time and resulted in about the same ridership as having a light rail line run directly into the airport terminals. The Metro Rail-people mover connection also cost billions of dollars less and resulted in speedier train rides for Crenshaw/LAX Line passengers not heading to the airport.

In the future, it’s expected that about 57 percent of airport bound passengers would arrive by private car, 33 percent by shuttles, taxis and limos, eight percent by the Flyaway bus and one to two percent via transit buses and trains, according to the Metro staff report. About 66.6 million passengers used LAX in 2013, meaning even small percentages can add up to a lot of riders.

Metro Board Member Don Knabe raised a salient point several times in recent months: what guarantees are in place that LAWA will actually build the people mover? LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey told the Metro Board on Thursday that traffic has gotten so bad in the airport’s horseshoe — up to 200,000 vehicles a day — that the airport must build the people mover, a consolidated rental car facility and a new ground transportation hub to steer more vehicles away from the terminals.

The Airport Metro Connector is one of the dozen transit projects to receive funding from the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase approved by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

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Please see the motion on the Aviation/96th Street station that is posted after the jump.

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Metro Board approves $3.7 million in grants for ‘Open Streets’ events around L.A. County

The $3.7 million in grants awarded by the Board helps cover the expense of 12 ‘open streets’ type events in the next two fiscal years. These are events in which streets are typically closed to motor traffic and opened, as the name implies, to pedestrians and cyclists. In other words, events similar to the CicLAvia events that have been very popular in L.A. the past few years.

Events in the following cities received funding: Carson, Culver City, Downey, El Monte Huntington Park, Lawndale, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Pasadena, Santa Monica and South Pasadena.

The staff report below shows the 12 cities/jurisdictions that were awarded money. Although advocates for Long Beach asked for funding for a second event, Metro officials noted that guidelines prioritized funding one event per city before funding multiple events in the same city.