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.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 14

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! 

Hines repealed (Santa Monica Daily Press)

The development approvals for a massive residential and commercial project near the future Expo Line were rescinded by the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday — just three months after narrowly approving the plan. Excerpt:

Councilmember Bob Holbrook, who criticized the vitriolic nature of the public discourse, opted to abstain, as did Mayor Pam O’Connor. Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day cast the lone vote in opposition to the project’s repeal, lauding the residents’ referendum drive but noting that he believes in the policy of the plan.

The Hines project consists of five roughly 80-foot-tall building and 765,000 square feet of office, housing, retail, and restaurants.

Opponents point first to the estimated 7,000 daily car trips that the project could add to an already congested area. They say, among many other things, the project was ill conceived and needs more housing.

Advocates point to the $32 million in community benefits over 55 years and the city’s current shortage of creative office space. They note that the land is private and that the developer could simply choose to reoccupy the space. The proposed project, they say, is better for the city.

It will be interesting to see what happens as there is certainly room for development in Santa Monica and, in particular, near the second phase of the Expo Line that will have three stations in the city (the project is current forecast to open in early 2016). The city surely could use more housing — the big westbound traffic jams on the Santa Monica Freeway each morning are due, in part, to a big workforce descending on the city that has built relatively few residential units over the past several decades and has seen rents for new units and home prices skyrocket.

5 things to know about cash-free toll roads (OC Register) 

Goodbye cash payments on The Toll Roads in Orange County. As of this week, all vehicles using the toll roads need a FasTrak transponder. If you have a transponder issued through Metro’s ExpressLanes account, it will work on the Toll Roads in the OC.

Biking to work increases 60 percent over last decade, Census Bureau reports (U.S. Census Bureau news release) 

In raw numbers, the number of people riding bikes to work has gone from 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 in 2012. Some highlights from the Census Bureau:

  • The West had the highest rate of biking to work at 1.1 percent, and the South had the lowest rate at 0.3 percent.
  • Among large cities, Portland, Ore., had the highest bicycle-commuting rate at 6.1 percent.
  • The median commute time for those who bike to work was about 19.3 minutes.
  • Men were more likely to bike to work than women were. The rate of bicycle commuting for men was more than double that of women, 0.8 percent compared with 0.3 percent.
  • Those with a graduate or professional degree or higher and those with less than a high school degree had the highest rates of biking to work, at 0.9 and 0.7 percent, respectively.
  • 1.5 percent of those with an income of $10,000 or less commuted to work by bicycle, the highest rate of bicycle commuting by any income category.
  • African-Americans had the lowest rate of biking to work at 0.3 percent, compared with some other race or two or more races who had the highest rate at 0.8 percent.

LAX Transit Plan Part 2 — people mover and ground access (Let’s Go L.A.)

This blog post looks at the ongoing studies by Los Angeles World Airports for the people mover at the airport and how it will connect with the future Crenshaw/LAX Line, which will have a station at the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards. The blog doesn’t believe the connection problem has yet been solved and is particularly critical of one alternative that would build an addition to the Crenshaw/LAX Line that would connect with the people mover at a planned transit hub. The complaints: it would slow trains, dead-end the Green Line at the transit hub, split the Crenshaw/LAX Line between two routes and require expensive modifications to the Crenshaw/LAX Line under construction.

Obviously, not everyone agrees. Proponents say the transit hub would offer an easier and more seamless connection to Metro Rail. While LAWA continues to study people mover routes, Metro and LAWA continue to work together on studies for the ongoing Airport Metro Connector project, which will determine the best way to connect Metro Rail to the LAX terminals.

Houston: transit, reimagined (Human Transit)

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker writes about a plan that he helped produce. Without adding operating costs, it would dramatically increase the number of bus lines that have frequent service. It would also cut down on bus lines that are duplicative and routes that are expensive to run but serve few people. In other words, Walker suggests, transit planners in the Houston region have been willing to make some hard choices.

Excerpt:

The huge no-cost expansion of useful service may remind you of a plan I worked on two years ago for Auckland, New Zealand, where it was also possible to massively expand the frequent network by redeploying duplicative services.   Not all  transit agencies have this much waste, so your city’s mileage may vary.  But if you suspect that transit could be doing more in your city, read all about the Houston plan.  You’ll be amazed, as we were, about how much is sometimes possible.

 

Metro CEO Art Leahy has certainly spoken about the issue of better integrating the rail and bus system to create a more efficient and useful system for customers. Click here to read his message to riders from this past January.

To stave off transit cuts, Seattle plans to go at it alone (Streetsblog Network) 

And the battle between cities and the ‘burbs continues. A recent regional transit measure failed at the polls. It received enough support to pass in Seattle, but lost in the suburbs. City officials in Seattle are now prepping another measure that would only go to city voters to spare cuts from happening in Seattle while starting a fund to help preserve routes that cross city lines.

Free metro travel spreads the peak load (Railway Gazette) 

Travelers who exit the transit system in Singapore ride for free, which has encouraged seven percent of riders to shift their commutes to an earlier hour. That has reduced crowds during the peak morning rush after 8 a.m.

OCTA gears up for Bike to Work day

Photo from Metrolink Official Facebook

Photo from Metrolink Official Facebook

Metro has a few great events coming up for Bike Week L.A., but the Orange County Transportion Authority has some plans of their own. Commuters in Orange County are invited to join OCTA for a bike rally on May 16, Bike to Work Day.

OCTA will be hosting a bike rally from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. Participants will meet at the Metrolink Orange Depot at 7:30 a.m. and join more than 50 cyclists for a 3-mile ride to OCTA Headquarters. In addition, Metrolink will be offering free train rides on May 16 to Southern California commuters who bring their bicycles on board Metrolink trains.

“Biking is an inexpensive and healthy alternative to driving and with more than 1,000 miles of bikeways and 700 more planned, Orange County is an ideal environment for biking,” said OCTA Chairman Greg Winterbottom. “We encourage the public to grab their helmets and join the bike movement.”

Groundbreaking held for another project to widen I-5 freeway between 605 and Orange County border

Public officials at the groundbreaking this morning including Metro Board Members Diane DuBois and Don Knabe in the center of the frame. Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro.

Public officials at the groundbreaking this morning including Metro Board Members Diane DuBois and Don Knabe in the center of the frame. Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro.

The project that broke ground this morning will widen the 5 freeway for 1.2 miles between Shoemaker and Silverbow avenues by adding a general purpose lane and HOV lane in both directions. The project will also widen three bridges over the freeway — at Shoemaker, Rosecrans and Bloomfield. Metro is contributing $42 million of the $214 million cost of the project, with Metro’s money coming from Prop C (1990) and Measure R (2008) sales tax increases approved by county voters.

This is one of six projects that will add a general purpose lane and a carpool lane to the 5 freeway for seven miles in both directions from the 605 freeway junction to the border between L.A. and Orange counties. That border is a well-known bottleneck — Orange County has widened the 5 and added a carpool lane whereas the 5 remains three or four lanes north of the county line. The completion date for all of the projects is 2016.

Below is the program from today’s ceremony and a project map. The news release from Caltrans is posted after the jump.

groundbreaking program I5

Click above to see larger image.

Click above to see larger image.

Click above to see larger image.

And here’s a project map:

SouthProjects_Rosecrans-OverviewDetails1203

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Transportation headlines, Monday, April 9

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

 

A view of Southern California that sums it up: subdivisions, Lake Elsinore, mountains and sunset, as seen Saturday evening from Highway 74. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

No high-speed rail to Anaheim (L.A. Times)

The revised business plan for the bullet train project released one week ago glossed over this not-so-small point: high-speed rail tracks will not be built between Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim in order to save the $6 billion. The media didn’t catch this — I didn’t either. Excerpt:

It is unclear under the new proposal if or when bullet train service would be extended to Anaheim. The $68-billion project is supposed to be completed by 2028.

It was partly the elimination of service from downtown’s Union Station to Orange County that helped slash the project’s price tag by $30 billion, said Lance Simmens, a spokesman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Until the recent revisions, the estimated cost of linking the Bay Area to Anaheim was nearly $100 billion.

The politically sensitive change had not been immediately evident Monday when the new plan was unveiled because the report did not explicitly state it. But a series of passages makes clear that the reduced budget would not cover costs of dedicated high speed tracks or electrical systems needed to operate bullet trains between Los Angeles and Anaheim. Other language in the plan suggests that an expanded future project or a second phase could reach Anaheim.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact this has on the new rail station proposed for Anaheim that comes with a $200-million price tag. It may also be a smart move. Bullet trains weren’t going to be that much faster in the L.A.-to-Anaheim corridor than regular trains and the tracks were going to dead-end at Anaheim with the bullet train route between L.A. and San Diego going through the Inland Empire to Riverside before turning south.

Sunday letters: changing our car culture (New York Times)

Fun and fascinating back-and-forth between Times readers on Americans’ driving habits and whether we should be driving less. Some favor a gas tax to help prompt more transit and discourage ‘let’s-drive-everywhere’ behavior. Others say cars are the only practical way to get around modern America.

What should I do with my old bike helmet? (Grist)

Advice columnist Umbra has several suggestions for using helmets whose noggin-protecting days may be over. Turn a helmet upside down and hang it from a beam and it makes a pretty nice flower pot, for example.

Hitch a free ride on Metrolink to Chinatown this Chinese New Year

For those living in Orange County, Metrolink is providing an easy way to travel to the Golden Dragon Parade in Chinatown. The first 100 people to arrive at the Irvine Station at 8 a.m. on January 28 will get a free roundtrip Metrolink ticket to Union Station. From there, it’s a short walk or a one-stop ride on the Metro Gold Line to Chinatown.

Free food and entertainment will be provided at Irvine Station for those waiting to hop on a train to downtown Los Angeles. After the parade, feel free to stay for the Lunar New Year festivities, or take the opportunity to Metro somewhere else and make a weekend of it.

The Metrolink ticket will be good on the Gold Line to Chinatown, but if you want to pick up a free gift at the Chinatown BID event info booth, you’ll have to show a valid Metro Pass or Rail ticket. Follow the link for more information on Metrolink’s offer and train schedule, and I look forward to seeing you OC-ers there!

Groundbreaking held this morning for I-5/Carmenita Road interchange project


View Larger Map

Public officials held a groundbreaking on Wednesday morning for a project to improve the Carmenita/I-5 interchange. As the Google satellite view above shows, the bridge is two lanes wide at present. A new bridge will widen it to 10 lanes, according to Caltrans, with a scheduled completion date of 2015.

This is a key Measure R road project that is one of six projects that seek to widen the 5 freeway between the 605 and the Orange County line. As many motorists know, this stretch of the 5 in Los Angeles County south of downtown is often three lanes in each direction and then widens considerably in the OC. The Carmenita bridge has to be replaced in order for widening to take palce.

It’s good news that the project is getting started. But readers should also know this: if a state budget isn’t adopted soon, then it’s possible that a state bond sale scheduled for this fall won’t take place. Those bonds would help fund this project.

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