Mayor Garcetti’s news release on $200 million in federal funding in next year’s budget for Metro projects

Here’s a news release from the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on the good news in President Obama’s recently-announced budget for the next fiscal year:

GARCETTI ANNOUNCES FEDERAL FUNDING IN PRESIDENT’S BUDGET; URGES CONGRESS TO PASS MULTI-YEAR FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION BILL

LOS ANGELES–Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today that President Obama’s FY 14-15 budget contains $200 million for critical Los Angeles transportation projects — $100 million each for the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension. He also urged Congress to take immediate action to pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.

“Especially in these tough economic times, you have to prove to Washington that you’re going to deliver real results,” Mayor Garcetti said. “This funding represents the White House’s recognition that our transit program will spend money wisely, create thousands of jobs, and make a real difference for L.A. commuters. Now, it’s time for Congress to act and pass a multi-year Federal surface transportation bill.”

The President’s proposed budget funding follows Los Angeles’ recent win of a $670 million Federal New Starts Full Funding Agreement Grant for the Downtown Regional Connector, which brings together the city’s various rail lines to make transfers convenient, dramatically improving the rider experience.

The Westside Subway Extension project will extend the subway from the current Wilshire and Western station terminus 3.9 miles to Wilshire and La Cienega. The subway project will create 25,000 jobs.

 

The funding in the budget is from the federal New Starts program, which helps local transit agencies pay for expensive transit projects. The deal for Regional Connector funding from New Starts was finalized last month and the agreement for the Purple Line Extension should be soon completed. New Starts money is awarded by the government over several years, thus the $100 million in next year’s budget for each of the projects.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 5

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Obama’s budget is a populist wish list and an election blueprint (New York Times) 

The $3.9-trillion budget for fiscal year 2015 is designed to draw contrasts with Republicans and gets rid of comprises the President made last year, the Times reports. More than half the budget would go to mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the federal debt) and about $1.2 billion is spending directly controlled by the President and Congress. Excerpt:

Mr. Obama again proposed to overhaul the corporate tax code, by ending various business tax breaks and using the savings to reduce the maximum 35 percent tax rate for corporations. With about $150 billion in additional one-time revenues that businesses would pay in the transition from one tax system to another, Mr. Obama would finance half of a $302 billion, four-year plan for work on highway, bridge, rail and mass transit projects, as he first suggested last summer.

The budget, as we posted yesterday, also includes $100 million apiece in New Starts funding for the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector projects.

And some Twitter commentary from Yonah Freemark of the excellent Transport Politic blog:

Recent trends in bus and rail ridership (Transport Politic) 

Speaking of Yonah, here’s an interesting post about bus service and rail service — and which may contribute more to overall ridership gains by transit agencies around the country. As the post explains, there are limitations to the data, but some number-crunching indicates that rail seems to have a better chance of building ridership than does bus service. “Riders respond when they’re offered better service!,” writes Yonah, who also points out that we don’t know how bus rapid transit would attract more riders because there aren’t that many BRT projects in place.

I think there’s one other issue here: rail is pretty easy for new riders to figure out. Bus service in many metro areas — including ours — can be complicated with dozens of bus lines, each running on multiple streets, with different service frequencies and sometimes different fares and line names that seem to be random numbers. It’s not intuitive, yet overhauling bus service in many areas is a massive chore likely to upset as many riders as attract new ones.

Apple’s CarPlay: the smart car wars are getting serious (Washington Post)

Apple’s operating system will be running the mapping-texting-music playing systems in Volvos, Mercedes and Ferraris — and the hardware/software giant has agreements with other vehicle manufacturers. “Cars have long been pegged as the next major battleground for consumer tech companies looking to bring their smart technologies to more parts of consumers’ lives,” the Post says. Hmm. I remember the Days of Yore when I was excited to get a Subaru with a jack for my iPod.

Transportation headlines, Monday, March 3

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Have bike, will ride train — if only Metro will provide bike lockers (L.A. Times) 

Good opinion piece by Nicolas Goldberg. His dilemma: he wants to bike to the Wilshire/Western Purple Line Extension and take the train from there to work sans bike, which he doesn’t need to bring all the way downtown L.A. But there are only 16 bike lockers at Wilshire/Western and there’s a waiting list to get one. And thus the headline — he argues for more bike lockers at busy stations.

Obama turns to light rail to salvage transit legacy (The Hill)

Bad headline — I’m not sure any recent President has a “transit legacy” given the relative paucity of federal dollars available to build transit across the U.S. (about $2 billion a year to be shared by many different agencies). This blog post argues that Republicans have been largely successful at blocking high-speed rail projects touted by the President in his first term. As a result, his Department of Transportation may step up efforts to help fund light rail and streetcar projects around the country.

Why does downtown Los Angeles have parking minimums? (Better Institutions) 

The writer argues, in essence, that a chronic shortage of street parking in L.A. guarantees that developers in downtown will build parking. And, thus, there’s no need for zoning laws that mandate certain amounts of parking get built — instead it would be better for the markets to decide so that those who don’t need parking don’t have to pay to build it for those who do.

Google sets roadblocks to block distracted driver legislation (Reuters) 

The internet giant, Reuters reports, is lobbying against potential laws that would prohibit driving while wearing devices such as glasses embedded with small computer screens. The article doesn’t specify Google’s exact concerns with the laws, although Google already tells customers to comply with existing distracted driving laws. Will be interesting to see who prevails on this one — I’m hoping common sense, but not betting on it.

Both parts of America Fast Forward initiative are in President Obama’s proposal for four-year transportation bill!

Earlier today in Minnesota, President Obama announced his proposal for a four-year transportation spending bill that would include both parts of Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative. If Congress was to vote the bill into law — and that’s a big ‘if’ — that could be a boon to Metro and other transit agencies around the nation that would have new financial tools to use when building big, pricey transportation projects.

Photo: Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Photo: Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

America Fast Forward includes two components. The first is a federally-backed loan program called TIFIA that is designed to give agencies access to loans with interest rates lower than can be found on the open market.

The second part is a bond program described in the graphic below. In a nutshell: those who invest in transportation bonds receive federal tax credits instead of interest, a good way for investors to lower their tax burden and a good way for transportation agencies to save on interest costs.

america-fast-forward-bonds

The hope at Metro is to potentially use a combination of TIFIA loans, America Fast Forward bonds, some federal New Starts money (New Starts is a grant program in which the federal government matches local funds to help build big projects) and Measure R tax revenues to accelerate transit projects — in particular the second- and third-decade Measure R projects. Some of those projects: an extension of the Eastside Gold Line, the Airport Metro Connector, the South Bay Green Line Extension and the second and third phases of the Purple Line Extension.

Of course, it should be noted that President Obama’s bill proposal is just that — a proposal.  Transportation bills are designed to guide spending over several years but they have been contentious in Congress in recent years. A four-year bill that expired in 2009 was temporarily extended more than 10 times before Congress in 2012 voted to approve a new two-year bill, which expires at the end of September.

So we’ll see — getting bills approved by Congress is never an easy task. Nonetheless, the fact that President Obama has included both parts of America Fast Forward into his proposal is good news for Metro and officials I spoke with here today expressed their extreme gratitude for the President’s recognition of the program.

Click here to see the entire bill proposal on the White House website.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 19

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A CyclingSavvy instructor explains her objections to bike lanes (Biking in LA)

Karen Karabell, of St. Louis, makes a thoughtful, cogent argument against bike lanes, saying that she believes it’s safer for cyclists to be in traffic lanes — where motorists see them sooner and better — than in a narrow lane that is often ignored by many motorists. I agree with her on the issue of sight lines. But I still don’t want to ride in traffic lanes unless I must — I see this as a post for bigger, wider and better designed bike lanes.

Newsom changes mind on high-speed rail (CBS) 

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom says he’s just voicing an opinion privately shared by many Democrats. Although he was ardently backed the bullet train project between Los Angeles and San Francisco, he said that too little federal or private funds have emerged to build a project with an estimated $68 billion price tag. The money, Newsom said, would be better spent on other infrastructure needs.

Obama orders new efficiencies for big rigs (New York Times) 

The President on Tuesday order the EPA to develop tougher new fuel standards for trucks, with a goal of implementing them by 2018. While trucks comprise just four percent of traffic on the nation’s roads, President Obama said they are responsible for 20 percent of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

President Obama visit may cause some bus detours on Westside and in Glendale

President Obama is due to arrive in Los Angeles late this
afternoon for a two-day visit. That could possibly mean some very
brief bus detours or delays due to the presidential motorcade.
Exact routes are not released ahead of time for security purposes.
Please follow our Twitter
feed
or visit metro.net for service
updates. Here
is the traffic advisory from the Los Angeles Police
Department
:

Traffic
Advisory for Presidential Visit
Los Angeles: Los
Angeles Police Department advises Los Angeles motorists to expect
traffic delays during the anticipated visit of the President of the
United States. On Monday, November 25, 2013, President Barack Obama
will arrive in Los Angeles for two days in order to attend several
functions in the area. Although specific details about his
destinations are not available for security reasons, the following
information is provided to assist community members who may have a
need to travel in areas where the President may be traveling. Every
effort to minimize traffic impacts will be employed while the
President travels through the City. It is anticipated that the
following streets may be affected and may experience temporary
closures to facilitate the safe passage of the President. Motorists
are encouraged to review the following information and make
necessary plans to avoid those areas during time periods where
traffic may be stopped or congested due to the Presidential
motorcade. The dates, times and areas on the second page of this
advisory are provided as a general guide and are subject to change
without notice. It is our intent to provide the best possible
information to the public without compromising the safety of the
President. The public’s cooperation is greatly appreciated. Anyone
with questions regarding the travel advisory may contact LAPD Media
Relations Section at 213-486-5910. During non-business hours or on
weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7
(877-527-3247). Date/Time 11/25/13 4:00 – 5 pm Streets Likely To Be
Affected Streets surrounding Los Angeles International (LAX)
Airport 4:45 – 10 pm Streets surrounding Westwood Area and the City
of Beverly Hills: West to East: 405 Freeway to La Cienega Boulevard
North to South: Santa Monica Boulevard to Venice Boulevard Date/
Time 11/26/13 8:00 am – 10:45 am Streets Likely To Be Affected
Streets surrounding the Wilshire Area of Los Angeles: West to East:
Fairfax Avenue to Western Avenue North to South: Beverly Boulevard
to Pico Boulevard 10:30 am – 1:30 pm Streets Surrounding the City
of Glendale: West to East: Riverside Drive, San Fernando Road and
Grandview Avenue to North Pacific Avenue North to South: West
Kenneth Road to Victory Boulevard, San Fernando Road, 5 and 134
Freeway 1:15 – 2 pm Streets surrounding Los Angeles International
(LAX) Airport

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, November 5

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: You don't see too many AMC Pacers around anymore; I saw this one parked on a local street with an ad in the window offering it for film shoots. Smart! I took the photo with my iPhone and used Snapseed's Retrolux feature to make it look like something shot in the 1970s.

ART OF TRANSIT: You don’t see too many AMC Pacers around anymore; the car debuted in 1975 and was popular for a few years. I saw this one parked on a local street with an ad in the window offering it for film shoots. Smart! I took the photo with my iPhone and used Snapseed’s Retrolux feature to make it look like something shot on cheap film in the 1970s.

And speaking of 1975, and because the week is already feeling long, here’s Linda Ronstadt with a song that climbed the charts early that year:

7th Street bike lane update (LADOT Bike Blog) 

A test spin on the new portion of the 7th Street bike lane in DTLA. Photo: LADOT Bike Blog.

A test spin on the new portion of the 7th Street bike lane in DTLA. Photo: LADOT Bike Blog.

The new bike lanes on busy 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles between Figueroa and Main street have been painted and signage is going up. I’m guessing the new lanes will be useful for cyclists coming and going from the busy 7th/Metro Center station that serves the Red, Purple, Blue and Expo lines.

Not really related: Brooke Shields dressed as a New York CitiBike for Halloween.

Councilman Huizar: downtown Los Angeles streetcar moving forward despite cost controversy (KPCC)

At a community meeting last night, Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar and streetcar officials said that recent city cost estimates were a worst case scenario and better numbers should be available by year’s end. They said the cost of the streetcar line would likely be between $153 million and $162 million — more than the $125 million originally touted and less than the $300 million number used by the city if utility relocations are extensive. As we’ve mentioned here before, this project will live-or-die depending on how much money the federal government is willing to spend.

Is it too late to prepare for climate change? (New Yorker) 

A new United Nations report leaked over the weekend; the report, relying on previously published scientific reports, lists the ongoing and likely impacts of climate change. Excerpt from the New Yorker’s excellent Elizabeth Kolbert:

Promoting “preparedness” is doubtless a good idea. As the executive order notes, climate impacts—which include, but are not limited to, heat waves, heavier downpours, and an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires—are “already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation.” However, one of the dangers of this enterprise is that it tends to presuppose, in a Boy Scout-ish sort of way, that “preparedness” is possible.

As we merrily roll along, radically altering the planet, we are, as the leaked I.P.C.C. report makes clear, increasingly in danger of committing ourselves to outcomes that will simply overwhelm societies’ ability to adapt. Certainly they will overwhelm the abilities of frogs and trees and birds to adapt. Thus, any genuine “preparedness” strategy must include averting those eventualities for which preparation is impossible. This is not something that the President can do by executive order, but it’s something he ought to be pursuing with every other tool. As Obama himself put it in a speech this past spring, “Those of us in positions of responsibility, we’ll need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of posterity. Because you and your children, and your children’s children, will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.

For those interested in reducing their carbon footprint, please consider taking transit instead of driving alone or biking or walking. More on that subject is on the Federal Transit Administration’s website, including this document. On The Source: New UCLA study finds Gold Line and Orange Line produce less smog and greenhouse gas emissions in near- and far-term.

Related: President Obama on Friday issued an Executive Order on increasing preparations for climate change. As part of that, the President created a new task force that includes Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Gov. Jerry Brown. The 26-member task force will be looking to improve cooperation between the federal government and communities when it comes to preparing for and mitigating against climate change impacts.

Los Angeles: neighborhood stereotypes (Mapurbane) 

Perhaps not the most politically correct map of all time. I like how Venice has been redubbed “weird people” and Malibu as “expensive traffic accidents.”

Portland’s multi-modal nexus, with a giant bike valet (Streetfilms) 

Wow! I visited the neighborhood in 2009 when it was still emerging and pretty quiet. Looks like it’s getting better and better.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, October 30

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!

A Metro local near the intersection of 7th & Hoover in Los Angeles. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Metro local near the intersection of 7th & Hoover in Los Angeles. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

L.A. Mayor meets with President Obama, lobbies for federal funding (Daily Breeze) 

Two Metro Board Members — Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin — were in Washington D.C. earlier this week to push for federal support for a couple of big projects: connecting Metro Rail to LAX and revitalization of parts of the Los Angeles River. Garcetti and Bonin are pushing for a plan that would connect the Crenshaw/LAX and Green lines to a new airport Intermodal Transportation Facility, where passengers could transfer to a people mover to airport terminals.

A couple of related posts: In a video shown at the Mobility 21 conference yesterday, Garcetti mentioned the possibility of a new transportation ballot measure in L.A. County and said the airport connection was among his highest transit priorities. Also, here is a post from earlier this month that explains the many issues involved with the Airport Metro Connector project.

L.A. Airspace – the Los Angeles Newspaper Group blog on aviation – also has a new article on the project, noting some of the challenges for Metro and LAX.

Does downtown L.A. need a streetcar? (L.A. Times) 

The Times’ editorial page says the streetcar project proposed in downtown Los Angeles could be an attractive addition to the area. But the editorial also says it is concerned about potential cost over-runs and calls the streetcar a “novelty” that is not as important as a subway line or freeway.

One question maybe a reader can answer: the city says that utility relocations could cost up to $165.8 million for the project. Huh? What exactly has to be moved to build a four-mile rail line that runs entirely at street level?

Amid debate, Turkey opens rail tunnel under Bospurus (New York Times)

A view of the Bospurus. Photo by  Aschevogel, via Flickr creative commons.

A view of the Bospurus. Photo by Aschevogel, via Flickr creative commons.

The 8.5-mile, $4-billion rail tunnel runs under the Bospurus, the waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara — also the waterway considered as the divide between Europe and Asia. While the tunnel should speed commutes into Istanbul, some critics say it won’t be seismically sound and that the tunnel faces security threats. Officials say the tunnel was built to withstand a magnitude 9 earthquake and that it will be the safest place to be during a temblor.

Reverse commutes now often a daily slog, too (NPR)

Suburban job growth coupled with an increasing number of people who want to live in the city proper has resulted in outbound commutes that can rival the ‘burbs-to-downtown commutes that have long been congested. In Chicago, for example, more people are choosing to live near rail lines that head to the ‘burbs, according to the Census Bureau and NPR. This phenomenon can certainly be seen in L.A. County: try the westbound Santa Monica Freeway any given morning!

Hey — the new Arcade Fire album is out today! Woot woot! In the meantime, here’s some of Arcade Fire plus Bruce Springsteen tackling a track from his “Nebraska” album. Sweet.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, September 12

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 Transportation Headlines online newspaper, which you can also access via email subscription (visit the newspaper site) or RSS feed. Have a transportation-related article you want included in headlines? Drop me an email!

And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

Bill expanding carpool lanes on 210 and 134 freeways heads to Governor’s desk (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

The bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) would allow vehicles with just one occupant to use the lanes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at night and all weekends — although the exact times will be determined by Caltrans.

It’s a 10-month trial project that Caltrans can choose to end or expand. There was only one vote against in the entire Legislature, indicating that this is an extremely easy thing to do from a political standpoint while generating some pleasant PR.

Whether it accomplishes anything remains to be seen. It could, hypothetically, better spread out traffic during non-peak hours. Or it could just ensure that all freeway lanes are clogged no matter the hour. Thoughts, readers?

The President and the pipeline (New Yorker) 

Map: TransCanada.

Map: TransCanada.

Great article about President Obama and the impending decision on whether to approve the Keystone pipeline to bring oil from Alberta’s oil fields to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Most importantly, the article ponders the question of whether the pipeline really will have an impact one way or the other on climate change.

San Diego pilots mobile ticketing (Transit Wire) 

mTicket-3-passes_001

Those riding the San Diego Trolley (a light rail line) can now buy day passes with their phone and skip waiting in line at ticket machines. It’s just a pilot program and only in effect during Chargers and San Diego State football games and other special events. One thing to note: there are no turnstiles on the trolley system — it’s an honor system. More info on the MTS website.

Beijing subway installs plastic recycling machines (cctv.com)

Photo cctv.com.

Photo cctv.com.

Users can have their recyclables crushed and get a little money that is applied to their transit fares. Brilliant! If this existed here, I could have an entirely Diet Coke-powered commute.

With federal transit funds at risk, Moody’s considers downgrading credit rating of some California transit agencies

Many of you are probably aware of this ongoing issue: Unions representing transit workers have complained to the U.S. Department of Labor that pension reform in California violates their collective bargaining rights. Thus far, President Obama’s Labor Secretary — Thomas Perez — has agreed and said that Metro and other agencies are violating federal transportation law. If the issue isn’t resolved soon, Metro is at risk of losing more than two billion dollars in federal transit grants.

Here’s the latest news from Metro’s government relations team:

Moody’s Investor Service Places Credit Ratings for Transit Agencies Under Review for Downgrade Due to PEPRA/13C Issue

Moments ago, Moody’s Investor Service issued a notice that it has placed the ratings for our agency and other transportation agencies in the State of California under review for downgrade due to the ongoing PEPRA/13C dispute. The Moody’s notice cites the U.S. Department of Labor’s potential delay in certifying federal transportation grants (capital and operations) as the rationale for placing the transportation agencies under review for downgrade. Our staff is currently assessing the additional costs that would be incurred by our agency should Moody’s downgrade our current ratings which stand at “double-A”. The Moody’s review will be conducted over the next 90 days. We are continuing our ongoing effort to favorably resolve the PERPA/13C matter with key stakeholders in Sacramento and Washington, DC. Please find here a copy of Moody’s notice.

 

For those who want more background on the issue, here is an item from yesterday’s transportation headlines:

Billions in federal transportation funds riding on California’s pension laws (Sacramento Bee) 

Best story yet on the conflict between the state of California and the U.S. Department of Labor that could cost Metro more than $2 billion in federal transportation funds. Excerpt:

In a copy of a recent letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and obtained by The Sacramento Bee, U.S. Labor Department Secretary Thomas E. Perez warned that California’s new pension law likely runs afoul of a federal mass transit grant rule that requires transportation agencies to preserve their employees’ collective representation rights.

The Labor Department must certify that a mass transit provider is following the rules as the final step in the federal grant process. If the department decertifies an agency, the federal money isn’t released until the agency is recertified.

A California pension law that took effect Jan. 1 is testing the federal rule. Over union objections, the law hikes state, local and regional government employees’ pension contributions and offers less generous retirement formulas for employees who join a public pension fund Jan. 1 and later.

[snip]

In February, Brown’s Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern defended the new pension law, telling federal officials that the statute doesn’t diminish mass transit workers’ collective bargaining rights.

[snip]

The U.S. labor secretary plainly disagrees.

“We are concerned that (the pension law) diminishes both the substantive rights of transit employees under current collective bargaining agreements,” Perez wrote Aug. 1 to Brown, “and narrows the future scope of collective bargaining over pensions. … I write to urge California to act immediately to develop a solution to this issue.”

The letter says a formal federal decision on funding will start Friday with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has $268 million at risk so far. Orange County’s transit agency, which is next in the federal grant queue, would lose grant money next.

In other words, this is dispute between Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama Administration and several large California transit agencies are stuck in the middle.

How will it be solved? The Bee says that most remedies revolve around the Legislature passing a bill that would either permanently or temporarily exempt certain transit workers from the state pension reform while the state and Department of Labor resolved the issue.