Participate in Metrolink’s online Strategic Plan survey

Metrolink is inviting rail commuters to take part in a web-based survey and provide input on the future of Metrolink and regional rail service.

The survey is short and only takes a few minutes. Your feedback will help as Metrolink works to develop a Strategic Plan that will be implemented over the next ten years. As an added bonus, participants of the survey who provide email contact information will be entered into a drawing for a monthly Metrolink pass!

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.

 

Go Dodger Stadium Express to Opening Day!

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The Dodgers are off to a hot start at 4-1 and now face the Giants for their home opener at 1:10 p.m. Friday. As usual, the game is sold out and a huge crowd is expected.

If you don’t want to hassle with driving, the Dodger Stadium Express bus runs between Union Station and two stops at the stadium, as the map above shows. Union Station is served by the Red/Purple Line, the Gold Line, Metrolink, Amtrak and many bus lines. Maps and timetables here. For those wishing to park at Union Station, the cost is $6. Information on parking at other Metro Rail stations is here.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

More info:

  • Board the Dodger Stadium Express at Bus Bay 3 of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza at Union Station.
  • Service leaves Union Station every 5-10 minutes, starting 90 minutes before game time through the 3rd inning for all home games. We recommend arriving early; crowds are heaviest near game time.
  • Your Dodger ticket is good on gameday for the Dodger Stadium Express fare*; otherwise, regular Metro fares apply.
  • NEW for 2014: You can exit inside Dodger Stadium at one of two stops – behind Center Field and at the Top Deck. Service will pick up at the same stops after the game.
  • Return service runs until 45 minutes after the final out.
  • Driving to Union Station to connect with the Dodger Stadium Express? Beat traffic on the 10 and 110 freeways with Metro ExpressLanes. They’re toll-free for carpools, vanpools and motorcycles; solo drivers can use them too, by paying a toll. All users except motorcycles need a Fastrak® transponder. Learn more at metroexpresslanes.net

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, April 3

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! 

South L.A. needs trees (L.A. Times) 

The editorial despairs the loss of about 135 trees along Crenshaw Boulevard to accommodate construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line but also says the train is an important project. A city of Los Angeles streetscape plan to follow construction is vital, says the editorial.

Westside subway survives legal challenge from Beverly Hills (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of yesterday’s Superior Court ruling in favor of Metro in a pair of state lawsuits brought by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District against the Purple Line Extension. Reporter Laura Nelson this morning tweeted an update: the Beverly Hills City Attorney said a decision whether to appeal is still to come. Here’s our post with the ruling, links to the complaints and background on the issue.

UPDATE: LAT reporter Laura Nelson on Boston radio and on KPCC. And CurbedLA on the news.

Beverly Hills City Council approves two permits for Metro (Beverly Hills Weekly)

Outside of court, life goes on and the City Council on Tuesday approved two permits for Metro to conduct utility relocation work near the future Wilshire/La Cienega station. The city and Metro continue to work on a master agreement that will govern when and how construction is done in the city, according to the Weekly.

Watch the Wilshire bus lane stretching westward to Highland (Curbed LA)

And, speaking of Wilshire Boulevard, city of Los Angeles workers are making progress on the construction of the peak hour bus lane that will operate on parts of Wilshire between the Santa Monica-Los Angeles border and just west of downtown. Rebuilt lanes should hopefully make for a smoother ride for the 20 and 720 buses instead of the sometimes kidney-rattling journey of present.

Metrolink, Metro propose more express trains for busy San Bernardino County line (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

Studies are underway to add more express trains — although it would require double-tracking some parts of the alignment. The project is still unfunded. There is currently one express train in each direction between San Bernardino and L.A. with a 65-minute run time compared to the usual one hour, 50 minute run time. The downtowns of the two cities are about 60 miles apart, btw.

Is effective transit possible in a transit-hostile city (Transport Politic)

The city is Nashville, where a big and nasty dispute has erupted over a 7.1-mile bus rapid transit project. Among the fears: the loss of regular traffic lanes. No word yet on where Reyna James, ex-hubby Mayor Teddy and Juliet Barnes stand on the matter.

Go Metrolink to Angels versus Dodgers this weekend

Metrolink passengers, of course, can take the Dodger Stadium Express bus from Union Station to Dodger Stadium, meaning no hassles with parking.

The Dodgers are actually 2-0 already this season but return home from Australia for a pair of exhibition games against the Angels before resuming their regular season next Sunday night at San Diego. I know. Weird way for Major League Baseball to treat the fans that support the Dodgers and Diamondbacks on a regular basis.

In any event, there is extra Metrolink service to the Angels games this week, which usually draw big crowds. At the media event for the Dodger Stadium Express earlier, Dodgers officials said they’ve already sold three million tickets for the upcoming season. Big crowds mean big traffic in the stadium parking lot.

Rail Series rack cards

RailSeriesSpanish

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 26

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! 

Nice infographic from Fixr: L.A. has four of the top 10 steepest streets in the country, they say.

Click the image to enlarge
Top 10 US steepest streets
Via fixr structural engineering cost guide

Metro takes aim at Orange Line fare evaders (Daily News)

Coverage of yesterday’s media event as part of an effort to lower fare evasion on the Orange Line. Excerpt:

“LA Metro is one of the best buys around, with one of the lowest fares in North America,” said Art Leahy, chief executive of Metro, at a Tuesday news conference. “But we have to pay the bills … so we need people to pay their fare.”

The two-pronged plan focuses on educating riders on how to pay for their fare through added signs at stations and public service announcements on on-board televisions as well as stepped-up enforcement through hefty $75 citations at each of the 18 stations between North Hollywood and Chatsworth.

The Orange Line is particularly vulnerable to fare evasion because, unlike many underground stations in the Metro system, there are no access gates and money is not collected by drivers when riders board a bus, officials and riders said. Instead, passengers purchase or reload a reusable card at self-service kiosks and then must tap the card at a separate free-standing collection machine that deducts the amount needed for a one-way ride, a process some riders say is confusing.

Bottom line: it’s good to see enforcement stepping up. Running transit is expensive and lost revenue ultimately costs riders the service improvements they would like to see.

Cycling on the edge: dodging cars and potholes (L.A. Times) 

Smart opinion article by Paul Thornton who puts it on the record: many of the bike lanes striped by the city of Los Angeles in recent times are also riddled with potholes. That gives cyclists a not-so-fun choice: slam into a pothole and possibly wreck or veer into adjacent traffic lanes and potentially wreck. The challenge is that another city department — the Bureau of Street Services — are responsible for paving streets. My three cents: a lot of the bike lanes in the city of L.A. were done in a rush in order to reach mileage goals prior to mid-July 2013 — and that means there wasn’t always attention to detail.

A Los Angeles primer: Union Station (KCET)

Nice essay about Union Station includes this paragraph:

For all its timeless appeal and admirably vigorous upkeep, Union Station nevertheless suffers a faint but persistent underlying sense of dereliction, or at least uncleanliness. (Sometimes I visit and feel it has finally gone, but then I enter the restrooms too far between janitorial shifts.) One recently attempted solution to the most visible affliction of this or any public space — that of lingering indigent — involved removing most of the seating and cordoning off the rest for ticketed passengers, a measure desperate enough to signal a potentially unsolvable problem. But do airports do much better? Located so far from their cities’ centers and subject to such complicated entry procedures, most never have to face this sort of challenge in the first place. One trip through LAX, though, makes you realize the great advantage of Union Station and its predecessors across America, no matter how neglected: when you walk out of them, you walk straight into downtown.

I think the station is mostly clean, but I agree the restrooms could see some improvement. The issue there is there are only two sets of them, neither very large for the crowds the station sees. As for “straight into downtown,” well…sort of. It’s more straight into the edge of downtown — one reason I’d love to see more development in the northern part of downtown and especially the Civic Center area.

Also, shout out to post author Colin Marshall for his black-and-white photographs.

Two major transit projects break ground in San Bernardino (San Bernardino Sun) 

One project will extend Metrolink service to the University of Redlands, the other will construct a new transit center in San Bernardino that serves area bus lines and Metrolink. Officials say the projects are badly needed as traffic in the Inland Empire is a complete mess. In other words, officials are now trying to cope with the consequence of all those sprawling housing developments they have approved over the years.

Utah makes Google Glass app for bus riders (Salt Lake City Tribune)

The Utah Transit Authority has made a version of its bus-and-train schedule app that will work with Google Glass, although there are (thankfully) still few people wearing the geekware around. I still have a hard time believing anyone would be so amazingly stupid or addicted to the internet that they would need to have a screen on their glasses and if I have a vote, I say no Metro apps for these folks. They can check their phones like the rest of us!

Transportation headlines, Friday, February 21

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! 

Metrolink to roll out collision avoidance system (L.A. Times) 

Initial runs by trains using the Positive Train Control system began this week and Metrolink plans to expand it to the rest of their system well before a December 2015 deadline. It’s important because Metrolink trains must share their tracks with freight trains and Amtrak.

Freewaves debuts “Long Live LA” on Transit TV (L.A. Streetsblog) 

Videos by Los Angeles Couty-based artists that tackle a range of health issues will be shown regularly on Transit TV on Metro buses. Damien has posted one of them — if the TVs must be there, sounds like good programming.

Portland: the citizens’ priorities for transportation (Human Transit) 

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker parses the results of what appears to be a thorough survey that asked Portland residents to prioritize their transportation needs. Number one on the list was safer pedestrian crossings. The number one transit priority: more frequent bus service.

Walker sees this as a sign of tension between Portland residents and the regional transit agency that actually runs bus service. Excerpt:

Core cities have higher per capita transit demands than their suburbs [see Chapter 10 of my book Human Transit] so they always tend to be underserved — relative to demand — by regional transit agencies that aim for some concept of “regional equity.”  In many cases, the only solution is for core city voters to step up and vote, for themselves, the additional service that only they know that they need.  This doesn’t have to mean breaking up the regional agency, but it does mean giving up on the idea that any service distribution formula that a suburb-dominated region would agree on will meet the core city’s expectations for transit, based on the core city’s economy and values.

Such tensions certainly exist in sprawling L.A. County, where Metro serves both the urban core and suburban areas — some with and some without their own city bus service. The public policy question is where is it best to put service? Bulk up in the busiest areas ridership-wise? Or try to spread it around in recognition of the fact that folks who are transit dependent live in the ‘burbs, too? I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this one.

Bill would add two members to Metro Board of Directors (California bill tracker) 

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Chris Holden, whose district includes Pasadena, Altadena and other parts of the northern San Gabriel Valley. The bill proposes adding two voting members to the Metro Board of Directors, bringing the total to 15 — and those two members would be appointed respectively by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee.

That’s a radical departure from the current practice with every Board member either being someone who was elected by voters in parts of Los Angeles County or appointed by someone who was elected by voters in our area. In other words, the bill (as written now) could allow elected officials from outside Southern California to choose who sits on the Metro Board, which is the deciding body on many countywide transportation issues.

By law, the Metro Board is comprised of each of the five County Supervisors, the Mayor of Los Angeles and his three appointees and one City Council member or Mayor from four subregions in the county.

So what’s this really about? The very same issue discussed in the above item about tensions between core urban areas and suburbs when it comes to transit service and where to build projects. An example: the proposed Gold Line extension to Montclair that is in Metro’s long-range plan and is currently unfunded (along with other projects), which some in the San Gabriel Valley have alleged is the result of the the Board being too L.A.-centric.

Is it? The city of L.A. has its four members on the Board in addition to representation from the five County Supervisors who all have part of the city of L.A. in their districts. Each of the five supervisors also have other cities in their districts, meaning they have to consider a lot of different and often competing interests.

City of Los Angeles officials have long countered that the current arrangement makes sense, given that Los Angeles tends to be the densest and the part of the county where transit is most used. Others counter back that the city has about 38.5 percent of the county’s population, meaning 62.5 percent of Los Angeles County residents are not living in the nation’s second-largest city but are helping pay for transit service there. (It’s also worth noting that existing law would take away one of Los Angeles’ appointees and give it to another city if L.A.’s population falls under 35 percent of the county’s total).

We’ll see if the bill gets any traction and whether the Metro Board takes a position on it; the issue has come up in the past. I’m guessing the bill will also attract the interest of other transit agencies who have a view one way or the other whether the Legislature should be involved in selecting their Board members. One thing to keep in mind is that transit agency boards don’t just make decisions involving what gets built transportation-wise — they also choose contractors and approve of labor contracts. Under the proposed bill, the Assembly and Senate could potentially gain a say in those matters.

Metrolink puts anti-collision technology into service

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A train equipped with PTC technology leaves Union Station on Thursday afternoon bound for Orange County. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A Metrolink media event just wrapped at Union Station to announce that Positive Train Control — a technology used to prevent trains colliding — will start being used on some of the commuter’s railroad trains in Southern California.

Here is the news release from Metrolink:

LOS ANGELES – Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Adam Schiff today joined other dignitaries at Los Angeles Union Station as Metrolink launched Positive Train Control (PTC) in revenue service demonstration (RSD) under the authority of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad. Other dignitaries in attendance included California State Transportation Agency Deputy Secretary Chad Edison, California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales, Metrolink Board Chair Pat Morris and former Metrolink Board Chair Richard Katz, along with representatives from the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) and the BNSF.

“I have spent my entire life around the rail, but this is unequivocally the most instrumental piece of technology ever implemented for train safety,” said Morris, who worked his way through Stanford Law School at the ATSF Railway. “PTC will undoubtedly make Metrolink the safest commuter rail system in the country; the invaluable partnership between Metrolink and the BNSF has made today a reality.”

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 12

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! 

How to pass time on the train (Imgur) 

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By turning people in Ewoks if you’re Twitter user October Jones. And Spiderman. And Waldo. Check out the entire series at the link above.

LADOT announces first demonstration of mobile ticketing in Southern California (LADOT news release)

Riders on DASH and Commuter Express buses will be able to purchase fares — including single rides — directly from their mobile phones with the new app made by GlobeSherpa. The demonstration program is scheduled to begin this summer.

Metrolink to Bob Hope Airport gains steam (Santa Clarita Signal)

A station on the Antelope Valley Line broke ground last year and heavy construction is expected to start “within the next few months,” according to the Signal. The new platform is expected to make its service debut next year, with buses shuttling rail passengers to the airport terminals.

The end of snow? (New York Times) 

A good look at the impact of climate change on alpine sports, specifically skiing. Excerpt:

The planet has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s, and as a result, snow is melting. In the last 47 years, a million square miles of spring snow cover has disappeared from the Northern Hemisphere. Europe has lost half of its Alpine glacial ice since the 1850s, and if climate change is not reined in, two-thirds of European ski resorts will be likely to close by 2100.

The same could happen in the United States, where in the Northeast, more than half of the 103 ski resorts may no longer be viable in 30 years because of warmer winters. As far for the Western part of the country, it will lose an estimated 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed — reducing the snowpack in Park City, Utah, to zero and relegating skiing to the top quarter of Ajax Mountain in Aspen.

The facts are straightforward: The planet is getting hotter. Snow melts above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The Alps are warming two to three times faster than the worldwide average, possibly because of global circulation patterns. Since 1970, the rate of winter warming per decade in the United States has been triple the rate of the previous 75 years, with the strongest trends in the Northern regions of the country. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, and this winter is already looking to be one of the driest on record — with California at just 12 percent of its average snowpack in January, and the Pacific Northwest at around 50 percent.

A storm this weekend brought three to five feet of snow to Mammoth Mountain and the resorts at Lake Tahoe, all of which had been lacking snow big-time. It was a reprieve of sorts, as President’s Day is usually one of the busiest ski weekends of the year.

Concerned about climate change? You can help reduce your carbon footprint by walking, biking, taking transit, using less electricity at home and encouraging your local utility to use more renewable sources of power, in particular solar and wind.

Here’s a look at Half Dome at 7:51 a.m. thanks to one of Yosemite’s webcams:

sentinel

Ice blankets south as thousands lose power (New York Times)

About 2,200 canceled flights at Atlanta’s airport thus far, the most in recent memory, says a spokesperson. A rough winter continues in the Eastern U.S., while the Western U.S. is still dealing with drought, even with recent snow in the Sierra and Rockies.

 

Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 gets ready to make its journey east

Union Pacific Railroad is undertaking the movement and restoration of one of the world’s largest steam locomotives – the Big Boy No. 4014.

The Big Boy has called the RailGiants Train Museum at the L.A. County Fairgrounds home for the past 50 years. However, during the past few weeks the locomotive has been inching its way across the Fairgrounds parking lot to meet the tracks that will eventually take it to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where it will undergo restoration.

The above video shows the Big Boy’s slow move through the parking lot. Rail fans will have a chance to see the locomotive on working train tracks at the Metrolink Covina Station on Sunday, Jan. 26.