Transportation headlines, Friday, July 18

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: A Metro bus rolls down a very quiet Spring Street shortly after rush hour on Thursday evening. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A Metro bus rolls down a very quiet Spring Street shortly after rush hour on Thursday evening. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Dodger Stadium Express: Metro nightmare or game day savior? (Neon Tommy) 

One reporter boards the free shuttle bus from Union Station to the ballpark. The other reporter drives. Who gets there faster? The reporter on the bus, who along the way apologizes to a couple from Iowa about the poor state of public transit in L.A. only to have them respond that they think transit here is “fine” and they use it during their visits to L.A. Always fun when the source doesn’t take the bait, eh? :)

Click here for more info on the Dodger Stadium Express.

Good start at Metro LA: call for active transportation funding strategy (SM Spoke) 

Santa Monica Spoke is pleased with a new motion before the Metro Board that could potentially create a steady funding stream for active transportation projects — i.e. projects that would benefit pedestrians and cyclists. There was a big activist turnout at the Metro Board’s Planning Committee on Wednesday, prompted by the Board’s consideration of a short-range plan that activists say does not supply enough funding for walking and biking.

Metro considering rail link from Valley to Bob Hope to Pas (Curbed LA)

Coverage of the the motion before the Metro Board of Directors asking for study of improving the Orange Line, including a possible rail conversion and an extension of some sort — presumably rail or bus rapid transit — to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena.

The full Board is scheduled to vote on the motion at its meeting this coming Thursday. The motion also asks for study of using more articulated buses on the line, improving traffic signal priority and grade separations. Important to know: converting the Orange Line to rail is not funded by Measure R, nor is it in Metro’s long-range plan although an undefined project linking the Orange Line to the Gold Line’s Del Mar station in Pasadena is a tier 2 unfunded project. The new motion included an amendment on creating a process to add projects to the long-range plan. Read the motion here.

San Francisco sets bond vote for aging transportation system (Bloomberg) 

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors — i.e. their City Council — voted to send the $500-million bond measure to voters in November. The money, which would be borrowed, would be used to pay for upgrades to the local transit system that will be used, in part, to speed buses and trains. The measure needs two-thirds approval to pass even though it doesn’t involve raising taxes.

Proposal to allow state tolls on interstates hits roadblock (NPR)

With lawmakers pretty much refusing to consider raising the federal gas tax to keep the Highway Trust Fund in the black, President Obama is proposing to allow states to collect tolls on federal interstates to raise funds for road maintenance and other transportation projects. But there’s pushback, including from an array of corporations who say that tolls + gas tax = double taxation.

New York can’t afford to build the Second Avenue Subway, and it can’t afford not to (CityLab)

The problem is that the subway is costing more than $2 billion per mile to build, including three new stations. The two-mile first phase is due to be completed in 2016, but the remaining three phases aren’t funded and in total the project could reach a $20-billion price tag. The current subway line serving Manhattan’s Eastside is running at capacity, traffic is at its worst on the Eastside and New York is expected to add one million residents. FWIW, the 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension — including three new stations has a budget of $2.77 billion. The Metro Board is expected to vote on a $1.6-billion construction contract at its meeting this coming Thursday.

Uber, Lfyt and a road map for reinventing the ride (New York Times)

Interesting piece in the Sunday Review section from last week about Uber dropping the cost of a ride in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles to try to encourage more volume and get more people in the habit of using Uber. The key quote:

“The whole point of price cuts is to get UberX pricing below the cost of owning a car,” Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, told me. “Let’s say you take three or four trips a day on average. If we can get the price of UberX low enough, we can get to where it’s cheaper to take Uber than to own a car.”

The article also mentions transit with the author pointing out that Uber may cost more than taking a train or bus for a routine errand, but would be faster and more convenient. My three cents: I don’t see Uber or similar services as much of a threat to transit, although they could certainly harm the existing taxi or car service industry. As for denting the sale of cars…maybe, although the costs of using Uber all the time could certainly rack up fast.

Perhaps it’s something in which a family could forgo a second car if living in a city with a variety of Uber-like services, a good transit system and neighborhoods that are walkable and bike-friendly. All those choices could mean — emphasis on could — families with fewer second cars.

Join the CPR Block Party today at 5 Metro Rail stations, help break world record

This week is National CPR Awareness Week and EduLife Institute is offering free hands-only CPR training today at the following Metro stations:

  • Union Station
  • Red Line North Hollywood Station
  • Red Line Universal City Station
  • Red Line Vermont/Sunset Station
  • Gold Line Mariachi Plaza Station

Instructors will be at the stations until 10 p.m. The training takes less than 1 minute and is intended to equip as many people as possible with the skills necessary to save lives.

To make things more interesting, we’re also hoping to break the world record for most people to complete CPR training in 24 hours! Swing by, spend a minute and get a nifty participation card. And if you absolutely cannot make it out today, you can still learn CPR or take other American Heart Association training classes at the Critical Care Center in North Hollywood. Show your TAP card to receive a $10 discount on your selected course.

Metro and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department begin effort to reduce loitering and improve safety at North Hollywood Red Line station

Here’s the news release from Metro:

NORTH HOLLYWOOD – Fulfilling a request from Councilmember Paul Krekorian, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s (LASD) Transit Services Bureau, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) North Hollywood Division and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) have joined in efforts to enhance safety at the North Hollywood station of the Metro Red Line by installing new security cameras and “No Loitering” signs.

Temporary video surveillance cameras have been in place around the ground level plaza while preparations are made for permanent installation of dedicated security monitoring. Metro maintains security cameras and monitoring within the North Hollywood station, at the platform and inside Metro Red Line trains. In addition, “No Loitering” signs have been installed to prevent persons without valid transportation business from remaining in the area for extended periods of time.

“The people of North Hollywood have a fantastic resource in the Metro Red Line subway and we want to make sure it remains safe and easy to use,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. “Metro, the LASD and LAPD have done an excellent job keeping the neighborhood and the North Hollywood station safe and we are always looking for ways to enhance the experience of riders on the subway.”

Constituent feedback to the Council District 2 office has included complaints that there have been people loitering around the plaza and unauthorized vendors setting up shop. If left unaddressed by law enforcement, Metro and the Council office, these things could lead to litter, disruptive public behavior and crime.

Temporary video monitoring is conducted through five trailer-mounted cameras on a telescoping mast that provide high level views of the plaza and parking lot. The “No Loitering” signs comply with Metro’s Code of Customer Conduct prohibiting unnecessary lingering in Metro facilities or vehicles were it interferes with use.

On Valentine’s Day Metro is pleased to present…Speed Dating on the Red Line!

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

All the details are in the above flier and we are certainly glad to help answer any questions for those interested in spicing up their commute, lunch time, rest of their lives, etc.

If you need to see the Code of Conduct, here it is for you ladies and gentlemen out there.

What can happen on the subway romance-wise? Here’s one highly fictionalized account (or maybe not) from a video contest we held a few years back :)

Of course, not our fault if a “Bad Romance” ensues…

At this point I’m obligated to write that the above Metro Code of Conduct prohibits most of what’s in the above video. I’m also guessing I’ll be yelled at for posting that sometime in the next 15 minutes :))

Finally, there’s a rumor that Cupid may be making a live appearance on the Red Line next Friday. This is fine so long as Cupid has a valid Metro fare loaded on his/her TAP card and remembers to tap.

Metro Board to consider motions involving restrooms, parking and paying fares at transit stations

Motions involving bathrooms at transit stations (or lack thereof), parking at transit stations (or lack thereof) and fares on the Orange Line (or lack of people actually paying for them) have all found their way onto the agenda for the Metro Board of Directors meeting this Thursday.

In particular, the bathroom and parking issues are brought up on a regular basis by readers here and, quite frankly, are also core service issues that most large transit agencies grapple with at some time or another.

Let me be blunt. None of these issues are going to be solved at this Board meeting. As you will see below, each motions call for more study and/or reports from Metro staff. That said, motions are sometimes the beginning of a process.

Obviously the motion is keyed to some specific issues that have arisen near the Orange Line’s Pierce College station. But bathrooms and transit stations have a long, tangled history that is still, of course, being written.

Bathrooms at transit stations are in many cities a thing of the past, mostly for reasons involving maintenance and safety, although some BART and New York Subway stations have restrooms. Here’s an excerpt from a 2010 amNewYork story on bathrooms in the subway system:

Of the open bathrooms, a third were frightening caverns of garbage, urine, standing water or unseemly smells. Odors from the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. station on the N caused an amNewYork reporter to feel faint during a recent visit.

“They’re pretty disgusting. People are always cleaning themselves in there and doing other stuff,” said Kelvin Pau, 27, a rider using the 168 St. A station, which reeked.

Don’t expect to find toilet paper or soap, as few of the bathrooms had either. And while graffiti has largely been eliminated from subway stations, it lives on in the bathrooms, as many of the walls and stalls were covered in tags.

Keeping the bathrooms tidy and open is a challenge because they are constantly being vandalized or attract “criminal activity,” Seaton said.

Metro has three transit stations with restrooms: Union Station, El Monte Station and Harbor Gateway. The vast majority do not.

Restrooms in transit stations is a subject that has been written about a lot. Here’s a good article about the issue from the Atlantic Cities blog. It will be interesting to see how Metro staff responds to this one, as building more restrooms and then maintaining and patrolling them would be a major undertaking.

Continue reading

Go Metro to Lit Crawl LA: NoHo debut Wednesday, Oct 23

6499_481646595246889_322238561_n

Get ready for SoCal’s first Lit Crawl LA, taking place in North Hollywood on Wednesday, October 23. 23 free literary events are scheduled to take place at 12 NoHo locations from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Enjoy an evening of thrilling readings with the best of LA’s writers.

Don’t let hunger distract you from any of the readings. Fuel up at the following Lit Crawl LA: NoHo venues, and show your TAP card to save!

All venues of Lit Crawl LA: NoHo are walkable from the North Hollywood Station off the Metro Red or Orange Line. You can also take Metro Bus 183 to Magnolia/Lankershim or Lankershim/Chandler. Some venues may be 21+ only. For more routes and connections, use Trip Planner.

Metro begins restoration of historic Southern Pacific Lankershim/North Hollywood train depot

Metro held a media event this morning in North Hollywood to announce the impending restoration of the station that is next to the Orange Line terminus. The first two photos in the above gallery were taken this morning — the station was recently painted. The rest of the photos were taken in 2005 when work on the Orange Line was wrapping up.

To answer the obvious question I know you’ll have: the station is being rehabilitated so that it can be leased to a future tenant. We don’t know yet who may be interested; please feel free to post a comment with your suggestions.

Below is the news release and a short video of the news event taken on my iPhone (sorry about the vertical orientation!):

Metro announced today that major restoration work on the Historic Southern Pacific Lankershim/North Hollywood train depot is set to begin as construction crews work to rehab the facility over the coming year.

From left: Murthy, Metro Board of Directors Chairwoman Diane DuBois, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge and Metro CEO Art Leahy. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro.

From left: Aspet Davidian, Metro’s construction manager on station rehab program; K.N. Murthy, Metro’s Executive Director Transit Project Delivery; Metro Board of Directors Chairwoman Diane DuBois; Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge, and; Metro CEO Art Leahy. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro.

“Metro is redefining mobility and enhancing the quality of life by implementing the Measure R projects throughout the county. The preservation and integration of historic structures into new mobility is important so we are preserving our past and advancing into the future with this project,” said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois.

Metro is taking the lead in performing restoration work on the train depot located adjacent to the Metro Orange and Red Lines in North Hollywood by funding a major portion of the $3.6 million project. The second phase of restoration work is expected to take 10 months to complete. Funding is made possible through Metro by using $2.5 million in Prop. C half cent sales tax monies and $1.1 million from the City of Los Angeles. Phase II restoration work is being done by DRP National Incorporated based in West Covina under contract to Metro.

“Today, we kick off the restoration construction work on this historic train depot, and this major undertaking has been a long time coming,” said LA County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky. “But once we complete the work, the public will have an opportunity to step back in time to the 19th century and revisit a vanished era in our transportation history.”

The first phase of the work has already been completed that included the removal of contaminated soils, roofing and lead-based paint throughout the structure along with the stabilization of the historic exterior woodwork with the vibrant Pacific Electric original yellow paint colors.

The current Phase II reconstruction work will include the seismic strengthening of the structure, new electric and plumbing systems, restoration of the platforms and signage as well as rehabilitation of the damaged siding, eaves, windows and doors. The project will complete the basic building leaving the structure ready for leasing to future tenants.

Additional work will be performed to include the restoration of the corner historic park and railroad tracks adjacent to the station building along with general landscaping to restore the historic context of the site.

The history of the train depot dates back to the late 1800′s. The Lankershim/North Hollywood Depot is a one -story prefabricated wood frame structure at the corner of Lankershim and Chandler in North Hollywood that was brought to the site on rail cars and assembled by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1896. It is one of the oldest unmodified railroad structures in Southern California and is located in the heart of the North Hollywood Arts District. The depot started out as a high platform station for loading trains from a local packing plant and cannery industries and farms. Later it was used as the North Hollywood Red Car pedestrian station until the demise of the Pacific Electric in 1952.

Instagram collage by Anna Chen/Metro. Follow Metro on Instagram!

Car-Free and Car-Lite in LA: where to live

Bumper to bumper traffic towards LAX, Los Angeles County, Southern California, United States of America

Go car-free and avoid this. (Photo: Pranav Bhatt/Flickr)

In light of recent U.S. Census Data that suggests car-lite and car-free households are on the rise in Los Angeles, we’ve compiled a list of the best locations in the region where minimal car use (car-lite) or never needing a car at all (car-free) is possible. Though there are many subtle lifestyle adjustments to reduce car dependency which don’t require packing up and moving, by far the best opportunity to make a significant change is when selecting a new place to live or work.

Whether you’re a new or future resident unfamiliar with the lay of the land or a longtime Angeleno looking to escape a grueling commute, keep reading. For our regular readers, please don’t forget to tell us what neighborhoods you think should make the list by commenting — this is a post we want to be helpful to those who already live here and those moving to our region.

The list is by no means scientific and we recognize that no neighborhood will be a one-size-that-fits-all. We made our choices by taking into account factors such as access to transit, pedestrian-friendliness and bike access (using scores from walkscore.com), local amenities and connectivity to other neighborhoods. Give it a few years and this list may very well change as Metro continues to build the transit system with funding from Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by local voters in 2008.

5. Culver City

Culver Hotel (Photo: Joseph Lemon / Metro)

Photo: Culver Hotel

Culver City wouldn’t have appeared on this list prior to 2012, but thanks to the opening of the Expo Line last year, the city has joined the ranks of one of regions top transit-oriented locations.

Its appeal to the car-free crowd will only increase when the Expo Line is extended to Santa Monica, which is expected to open in 2016. For now, Culver’s transit options work best for those who work or go to school in the east, where the Expo Line currently connects them to the University of Southern California and Downtown Los Angeles.

To the west, Metro Rapid Line 733 connects Culver to Venice and the beach and Santa Monica; alternatively a bike lane on Venice Bouelvard does the same for two-wheelers. The Ballona Creek Bike Path also runs on the outskirts of Culver, leading bicyclists to Marina Del Rey and the beach bike path that runs south to Hermosa Beach and north to Santa Monica and Will Rogers Beach. The city’s proximity to other Westside neighborhoods makes on-demand transit like Lyft or Uber reasonable options for an evening out, and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus and Culver City Bus serve the city and surrounding areas.

Downtown Culver isn’t lacking things to do either: gastropubs, restaurants, a movie theater and historic landmarks are all within at most a 10 to 15 minute walk from downtown, along with adjacent residential neighborhoods. Grocery stores and smaller markets are scattered around the the central district and are fairly accessible by walking and biking, depending on your exact location.

The factor hindering Culver City from becoming a true car-free city is its lack of north-south bus routes connecting it to nearby work and entertainment centers like Beverly Hills, Century City and West Hollywood. There are a few options, but they’re not as convenient as they should be.

Culver2

Transit Score: N/A*

Walk Score: 84, Very Walkable

Bike Score: N/A*

* scores unavailable.

4. Pasadena

Old Town Pasadena

Photo: Old Town Pasadena

The city of Pasadena is located about 11 miles northeast of downtown LA. For its residents it provides a functional mix of both urban and suburban. The city has six Gold Line stations, three located in the median of Interstate 210 and three south and near Old Pasadena and it’s an 18-minute to 29-minute ride to Union Station from those stations.

Although the city has been very slow to develop a decent bike plan — much less implement it — there are plentiful cycling opportunities in the area, including many of them on quiet residential streets. With better bike connections to Gold Line stations, Pasadena may have been even higher on our list. To the city’s credit, it has given away bike vouchers.

If you’re an apartment dweller, there are plenty of options here as well — the city has been on an apartment and condo building boom since the Gold Line opened.

The Gold Line, of course, serves the region’s transit hub at Union Station and also continues to East Los Angeles. The Gold Line is also being extended 11.5 miles east to Azusa (the Gold Line Foothill Extension project, forecast to open in 2016) and a separate project will allow Gold Line trains to run through downtown L.A. (the Regional Connector project, forecast to open in 2020). Pasadena is also served by several Metro bus lines, Foothill Transit and the Pasadena ARTS bus, which focuses on connecting neighborhoods to the Gold Line and commercial areas. The Metro Local Line 180/181 and Metro Rapid Line 780 buses run west from Pasadena to Eagle Rock, Glendale, Los Feliz and Hollywood

By far the city’s most car-free friendly business and entertainment district is Old Town Pasadena (Del Mar and Memorial Park Gold Line stations), with a secondary nod to the Lake Avenue business district; there is also the Hastings Ranch area in eastern Pasadena, which is more of a traditional suburban environment and has its share of big box stores. With an array of stores, coffee shops and restaurants with outdoor seating, pubs, movie theaters, parks and the occasional parade or event, you’ll pretty much be set for an afternoon or an evening out. When it comes to filling your refrigerators and cupboards, Pasadena has a handful of major grocery stores and at least three are within a block or two of a Gold Line station, including the giant two-story Whole Foods on Arroyo Parkway.

Pasadena2

Transit Score: N/A*

Walk Score: 68, but most of the city is easily walkable

Bike Score: 71, Very Bikeable

Continue reading

What’s better than dinner and the Dodgers?

And if you're still hungry after dinner, there are Dodger Dogs. Photo by Sam Howzit via Flickr Creative Commons

And if you’re still hungry after dinner, there are Dodger Dogs. Photo by Sam Howzit via Flickr Creative Commons

Dinner and the Dodgers with discounts! Go Metro to dine at any of the following four restaurants before a game and get a special offer on the house.

Bow & Truss – located in the NoHo Arts District, dinner service begins at 5 p.m. daily. Get fancy with some cheese and charcuterie or tuck into a flat iron steak. For dessert, try the delectable tres leches cake. Show your valid TAP card and save 15% on your bill. (Metro Red Line to North Hollywood Station, walk 2 blocks south on Lankershim Blvd)

Kings Row Gastropub – located in Old Pasadena, opens at 11:30 a.m. on weekdays, 10:30 a.m. on weekends. Chow down on the signature King’s burger or try the falafel burger if you’re vegetarian. Show your valid TAP card and save $5 on all food. (Metro Gold Line to Memorial Park Station, Metro Rapid 780 to Colorado/Fair Oaks)

Far Bar – located in downtown Little Tokyo, opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. on weekends. Start your meal with garlic butter edamame or wasabi fries, then load up on their sushi rolls. Show your valid TAP card and receive 10% off on all food. (Metro Gold Line to Little Tokyo/Arts District Station, Metro Bus 30 or 40 to Judge John Aiso/1st)

The Lab Gastropub – located at the edge of USC, open from noon to 8 p.m. Mon – Sat, closed Sundays. Order up a plate of chipotle chicken nachos or Korean short ribs. For lighter fare, try the Green Goddess wrap. Show your valid TAP card and save 10% on your bill. (Metro Expo Line to Jefferson/USC Station, Metro Bus 81 to Figueroa/USC-McCarthy Way)

After eating, head to Union Station and hop on the free Dodger Stadium Express to the game!

First phase of Metro Red Line celebrates 20-year anniversary

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“This day is here…”

On January 29, 1993, former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley stood among a swarm of public officials and transit agency staffers on the cramped Pershing Square subway platform. Standing shoulders above everyone else, including then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, Bradley proudly inaugurated the opening of the first modern subway in Los Angeles.

“Twenty years is a long time. That’s how long we have been pushing on this dream, this vision of what we should do in Los Angeles County,” Bradley said, referring to the subway’s quixotic path to reality in ‘93. “I made a promise when I ran for mayor in 1973 that in 18 months, we’d deliver by breaking ground for rapid transit. Well, I missed by only a few months…”

Today, Metro marks the 20th anniversary of the Metro Red Line’s first phase from Union Station to MacArthur Park, a nearly 4.5-mile construction milestone that began a brand new chapter in regional rail construction and placing L.A. among other major cities across the globe with high-speed, high-capacity subways.

Continue reading