Transportation headlines, Thursday, Sept. 11

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Gov. Brown signs bills allowing three-bike racks on transit buses (StreetsblogLA) 

“This new law allows 40-foot-long buses to be equipped with folding bike racks that can carry up to three bikes,” reports Streetsblog, in a bit of good news for some Metro bus riders. A few agencies had previously been using the triple racks due either to loopholes or exemptions in the law.

Efforts to change the law, however, had run into various roadblocks in recent years — including resistance from unions representing bus operators. The bill was authored by Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) and pushed heavily by Metro.

About half of Metro’s bus fleet is comprised of 40-foot buses, so hopefully this will help accommodate cyclists using those buses. As the article explains, there are still hurdles to converting to triple racks on longer buses.

Santa Monica Council picks Worthe as developer for Bergamot Station (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

The City Council on a 5 to 1 vote on Tuesday night selected the developer to pursue adding 44,000-square-feet of “creative space” and possibly a boutique hotel to the Bergamot Station arts complex in Santa Monica. The vote followed four hours of public comment that made it clear there was still considerable opposition from gallery owners and residents to further developing the site, where an Expo Line station is under construction (the line is forecast to open in early 2016).

I caught some of the meeting on KCRW on Tuesday night and among the concerns I heard were lack of parking, traffic and rising rents that could eventually squeeze out the galleries. It’s certainly an interesting story, given that the arts complex will include an Expo Line station with relatively easy connections to downtown Santa Monica and points east. The current complex is a very nice public space, although I’ve never been crazy about the big parking lot in the middle of the complex that occupies about half the space.

Bill Boyarsky also offers commentary on the Council vote at LAObserved.

Metrolink goes for animal attraction (L.A. Register) 

Why four farm animals took a ride from Union Station to the Los Angeles County Fair. Hint: it was a promotion to boost ridership! As promotions go, I like it.

Major changes discusses to expand, renew Union Station (Chicago Sun Times)

Chicago's Union Station is a little more workmanlike than Union Station here in L.A. Photo by Jeramey Jannene, via Flickr creative commons.

Chicago’s Union Station is a little more workmanlike than Union Station here in L.A. Photo by Jeramey Jannene, via Flickr creative commons.

I didn’t realize the Sun Times was still around (I worked at the rival Trib many, many moons ago)! Chicago is looking at big changes to its primary downtown rail station — expanding platforms, public space, etc. Denver already updated its Union Station and, of course, Metro is putting the finishing touches on its Union Station Master Plan. I believe there are some other similar efforts underway around the country — nice to see train stations being revived and prepped for a hopefully busy future.

 

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

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

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

Transportation headlines, Monday, August 25

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ART OF TRANSIT: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gold Line Eastside project environmental document released (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Coverage of the release on Friday of the Eastside Gold Line Phase 2 environmental study.  As the article notes, the two light rail alternatives would extend the Eastside Gold Line from East L.A. to either South El Monte or Whittier. Metro staff at this time has not selected a preferred alternative — that will happen in November. Under Measure R, the project is not scheduled to be complete until 2035, but Metro is trying to accelerate funding for the project, including possibly through a sales tax ballot measure in 2016. Here’s our post about the study, with links to the document.

L.A. County Supervisor’s alternate bullet train route gaining traction (L.A. Times)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority seems to be considering a tunnel under the San Gabriel Mountains on equal footing with two earlier proposed routes along the 14 freeway — neither of which is very popular with communities such as Action, Agua Ducle and Santa Clarita. Bullet train officials say the tunnel-only option advocated by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich — which would require 18 to 20 miles — of tunnels may actually prove cheaper than the 14 freeway routes, which also require extensive tunneling anyway. If you want to dream about traveling from Palmdale to Burbank in 15 minutes, read the article. The usual bullet train caveat: securing funding for the project — which aims to eventually connect L.A. and San Francisco — remains a huge hurdle.

Fault lines in L.A. over new subway construction (Breitbart News) 

The city and school district in Beverly Hills are touting a new study from their consultants that claims that there are not any earthquake faults that would prohibit a subway station under Santa Monica Boulevard. Metro is sticking by its stance that active faults make building a station under Santa Monica Boulevard unsafe and it’s better from a safety and planning viewpoint to put the Purple Line Extension station in the center of Century City, under the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation boulevard. Beverly Hills officials want the station under Santa Monica Boulevard because it would not require tunneling under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. As you likely know, Beverly Hills has challenged the project’s environmental studies with a pair of state and federal lawsuits. The Superior Courts ruled in favor of Metro in the state case and Beverly Hills appealed. The federal suit is ongoing.

After earthquake near Napa, up to 100 homes labeled as unfit to enter (L.A. Times) 

The 6.0-magnitude temblor that struck early Sunday didn’t do much damage to major transportation infrastructure throughout the Bay Area — although there was certainly damage to homes and businesses and other key infrastructure.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Have Americans really fallen out of love with driving? (Fortune)

Consumer spending has risen steadily over most of the last decade — with a brief dip due to the Great Recession. But the number of miles driven by Americans has remained flat since late 2007 — even as the number of those with jobs has increased in recent years. What gives? The independent research firm Behind the Numbers suggests that driving less is a trend here to stay and is a combination of several factors including high gas prices, baby boomers growing older, millennials gaining in numbers (millennials are less interested in driving), more interest in transit and more desire by many to live in urban settings. Fortune is a little skeptical, saying that gas prices adjusted for inflation are not outrageous and millennials still don’t play much of a role in the overall economy.

My three cents: I’m certainly not a millennial (I’m 48) but I certainly don’t want to drive more or purchase more gasoline than is absolutely necessary. Nor do I like spending money on cars, which notoriously lose value very quickly. I think with good transit, biking and housing options in cities with good public spaces, driving will remain flat in America as along as it remains relatively expensive.

Here’s how easy it is to hack a traffic light with a laptop (Vox)

With permission from local authorities, hackers in Michigan were able to disrupt timing of traffic lights in an un-named city rather easily. Vox suggests that this is a security concern — and it is certainly illegal to tamper with lights. That said, in my neck of the woods (Pasadena), I’m not sure that the timing of traffic lights could be much worse, the reason other computer hacker targets inspire a little more fear.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, August 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! 

Hello, Source readers. I was away for a few days doing the active transportation thing: backpacking into the Hoover Wilderness of the Eastern Sierra. It’s one of the great bargains in California: wilderness permits are free, as are the campsites. Okay, not entirely active transportation as getting to the trailhead requires a long, CO2-emitting drive from L.A., but such are the tradeoffs in life. Interesting factoid: California has 14.9 million acres of designated wilderness (14 percent of the state’s land area) where the only way of getting around is walking or by horse. That’s mighty cool, IMO. Quick Source contest: any Source reader who correctly identifies the lake in the photo below will be hailed as the Most Geographically Adept Source Reader of All-Time in tomorrow’s headlines and on Metro’s social media.

Hint: the lake shares the name of a former resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Hint: the lake shares the name of a former resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Guest editorial: dreaming big about rail lines, grand boulevards, bus rapid transit and Measure R2 (StreetsblogLA)

The activist group MoveLA’s Denny Zane and Gloria Ohland opine in favor of a new half-cent transportation sales tax increase being put to Los Angeles County voters in 2016 to fund transportation improvements. While they say that rail expansion should be the centerpiece of any such ballot measure, they also propose that five to 10 percent of the funds be used for a grand boulevards program “to invest in reviving and reinventing several-mile, multi-community-long stretches of maybe 15-20 arterials around L.A. County as transit-oriented boulevards that promote economic development as they pass through more than one community.”

Zane and Ohland also propose that some of the grand boulevards money be used as a competitive grant program for cities that want to build housing along these streets. The idea, in short, is to bump up bus service on these streets while also adding housing and potential transit riders. Obviously not as sexy as a rail line, but an intriguing idea because it’s a way to bring better transit into more corners of the county — including neighborhoods and communities that may be beyond the reach of rail.

As regular readers know, Metro staff is exploring the possibility of a 2016 ballot measure that could possibly extend the half-cent Measure R sales tax (which expires in mid-2039) or another half-cent sales tax that would help fund new projects. Metro has also asked cities in L.A. County for a wish list of projects they would want funded by such a ballot measure. As Metro CEO Art Leahy has already said publicly, the list of projects is a long one and not everything could be funded. It will be very extremely super interesting to see how this evolves.

An underwhelming sidewalk repair day at L.A. City Hall (StreetsblogLA)

Joe Linton’s take on the sidewalk summit held at City Hall can be boiled down to one word: “yawn.” The gist of it: city staff is working to figure out how to spend $27 million in this year’s budget to fix bad sidewalks around the city of Los Angeles while also exploring long-term options for sidewalk repair.

UCLA’s Donald Shoup also penned an op-ed in the L.A. Times arguing that a point-of-sale program that requires homeowners to fix sidewalks at the time they sell their properties would be a good way to get thousands of miles of L.A. sidewalks fixed. The reason: properties tend to turn over on average once every dozen years, meaning that such a program could result in quicker gains than waiting for the city to have funding available.

Road and sidewalk repair has been an ongoing issue at L.A. City Hall for years. I recall writing a very short sidewalk repair story for the Times back seven or eight years ago that got buried even deeper in the print edition than most of my articles and I still got more readers response than most other stories. So it’s a big issue — and another item that could surface in discussions about Measure R2.

The 10 commandments of transit (transitcommandments.com)

These are great. My favorite: “thy shall keep their shoes on.” There are also helpful suggestions about giving up a seat for those in need and about the appropriate place to break bread (or some drippy mess from Carls Jr.). That place, in case you haven’t guessed, is at home and not the bus or train.

Supporters of closing Santa Monica Airport lose round in court (L.A. Times)

A Superior Court judge upheld a ballot measure that would require voter approval to close the controversial airport. But is this really a loss? I suspect a vote in Santa Monica on closing the airport would be close. I suspect that anyone who lives near the airport would rather it be gone (disclosure: I lived under the flight path for seven years and really disliked the frequent jet noise), but I also could see people voting to keep the airport out of fear that closing it would result in more commercial and/or residential development taking the airport’s place. FYI: the airport is about one mile south of the future Expo Line station at Exposition Boulevard and Bundy Drive. The Expo Line extension, funded by Measure R, is scheduled to open in early 2016.

Why your LA-to-Vegas commute just got slower (vegas seven)

A Caltrans project is underway to improve the 15-215 interchange at the base of the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County. It includes widening the 15 and a truck bypass. But until the project is done, expect delays. Of course, some of you may have no interest in taking the 15 to Unlucky Town, but may have their sights set on other joys further up the 15, such as Zion National Park.

Wires up on the Expo Line Phase 2!

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Photo courtesy Ron Miller

Nice view of the new overhead wires that will deliver power to trains along Expo Line Phase 2. The photo was taken on the stretch of track between the 10 freeway and Overland Avenue.

The six-mile rail project will extend the Expo Line from Culver City to downtown Santa Monica with seven new stations. The project is forecast to open in early 2016 and is funded primarily by the Measure R half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Two-week closure of 14th Street/Colorado in SaMo begins tonight for Expo rail installation

Here is the construction notice from the Expo Line Construction Authority, the agency building the Measure R-funded extension between downtown Santa Monica and Culver City:

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Exciting new video: work on joining Expo Line Phase 1 to Expo Line Phase 2

It may not quite be the Golden Spike, but it’s still a nice sign of progress: above is a short video taken this week from the Culver City Station platform showing welding work where tracks from the existing Expo Line meet tracks from the second phase of the Expo Line. There is a lot more to be done to truly join the two projects — work is expected to be completed late this year — but it’s still exciting to see the present meet the future.

Below are a couple of nice photos in West L.A. of the Expo Line alignment taken by Darrell Clarke (who founded Friends4Expo and currently advocates for transit on behalf of the Sierra Club) from the top of the parking garage for Bed, Bath & Beyond in West L.A. The top photo is looking west toward the Bundy Station and the bottom photo is looking east toward the Expo Line bridge over Pico Boulevard and the undercrossing of the 405 freeway.

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The second phase of the Expo Line will extend the tracks for six miles from Culver City to downtown Santa Monica with seven new stations. The Measure R-funded project is currently scheduled to open in early 2016.

Many more construction photos can be found on Expo Line Fan’s photo page.

And speaking of photos, an important public service announcement: Metro is very happy folks are excited about the many transportation projects under construction around Los Angeles County. And we’re happy that people want to take photographs. Our one request: please, please, please take those photos from vantage points outside the construction work zone. We don’t want anyone to get hurt and we don’t want to expose contractors and/or Metro to unnecessary litigation that will ultimately cost taxpayers. Work zones are covered by all sorts of laws and rules to keep workers safe. We really appreciate everyone’s cooperation especially with an unprecedented four Metro Rail projects currently under construction and a fifth on its way. Thank you!