Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Oct. 21: to park or not to park at Metro stations?

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Lack of parking drives many away from mass transit (L.A. Times) 

Parking at the Expo Line's Culver City Station. Photo by Metro.

Parking at the Expo Line’s Culver City Station. Photo by Metro.

An updated look at a long-debated issue in transit circles: how much, if any, lack of parking at transit stations. Forty of Metro’s 80 stations have parking — and parking at some of the most popular stations is often gobbled up early on weekday mornings (Norwalk, NoHo, Universal City and Culver City are a few examples).

On the other hand, Metro has thousands of free spaces — as well as some paid ones — and I can definitely point to places where parking is relatively easy. This interactive map gives you an idea where the parking is located.

Excerpt from the Times article:

“Today I got lucky,” said Ashley Scott, 30, as she waited for her train to Hollywood on a recent Thursday morning. “I was this close to just getting on the 101.”

Scott’s daily dilemma illustrates an often overlooked but significant choke point in the ambitious growth of L.A.’s light-rail system. Metro’s six-line network, which has seen steady ridership gains over the last five years, now carries about 350,000 people on work days. Parking shortages could complicate Metro’s goal of shifting hundreds of thousands more drivers to public transit in coming decades.

Planners say it’s impractical, perhaps impossible, to build enough free parking. Train station lots have low turnover because most commuters leave their cars all day. To meet demand, Metro lots would have to sprawl far beyond the station—or, in dense urban areas, rise several stories.

It’s a tough issue as many planners believe that it’s far wiser in the long-term to build developments with more jobs and/or residences near transit. Their belief is that promoting density near transit will ultimately produce more riders than sprawling parking lots and also lead to building cities with a higher quality-of-life.

On the other hand, it’s undeniable that — at least for now — parking is the carrot that makes taking transit possible for some of our riders.

And then there’s the issue of expense and space. For example, there is no parking planned along the Purple Line Extension subway, which largely follows densely developed Wilshire Boulevard. On the other hand, the Gold Line Foothill Extension — in the more suburban San Gabriel Valley — will eventually have parking at each of its six new stations.

As it happens, I just got off the phone with Andrew Young, who recently co-authored a study with David Levinson at the University of Minnesota that ranked Metro areas according to their transit accessibility to jobs. The Los Angeles area ranked third, so I asked Andrew what he thought about the parking conundrum.

“You can build parking lots that makes transit useful to those who live some distance away from stations or you can build housing and destination adjacent to that station that will be used by those in future who will work and live there,” he said. “The question is: do you want to build for an existing constituency or do you want to build for a currently nonexistent constituency that one day will live next to the station. In many places, building for the future is hard for current politicians….people like the status quo and people in the status quo are the ones who vote and it’s always hard to change that.”

Well said.

Of course, there’s a related issue here, too — whether parking, where it exists, should be free? Streetsblog L.A. has written about that, criticizing Metro for offering free subsidies for auto users that it doesn’t necessarily offer for those who get to stations on foot, bikes or even transit.

Personal disclosure on this item: I often pay $2 to park at the Gold Line’s Del Mar station, where there is always plenty of parking to be had. I could ride my bike, walk or try to snare a ride from the Domestic Partner (when not working herself), but I’ve found driving to be quicker.

More headline funtivitity after the jump! 

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Transportation headlines, Oct. 8: L.A. ranks 3rd on jobs near transit, study says

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University of Minnesota ranks accessibility to jobs by transit in the U.S. (news release)

MinnesotaStudyMap

The study finds that Los Angeles ranks third behind New York and San Francisco when it comes to the number of jobs near transit, according to the study that crunched the numbers on 46 of the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S. That puts the L.A. area ahead of some older and more established transit cities such as Chicago, Washington, Boston and Philly. The list:

Top 10 metro areas: job accessibility by transit (January 2014)

  1. New York
  2. San Francisco
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Washington
  5. Chicago
  6. Boston
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Seattle
  9. Denver
  10. San Jose

 

I don’t think the above map is exactly shocking news to those who live here and know our area — but the map still makes a pretty visual argument for better connecting transit to downtown Los Angeles and the Westside. The map also suggests that the Measure R-funded transit projects that Metro is building or plans to build are serving a real purpose. The short list:

•The Purple Line Extension will directly connect downtown Los Angeles to Westwood via the Wilshire Corridor with a short detour to Century City. The project also provides a direct link between our region’s largest transit hub — Los Angeles Union Station — and the Westside.

•The Expo Line’s second phase connects Santa Monica, West L.A. and downtown L.A. via Culver City, the northern part of South L.A. and Exposition Park.

•The Regional Connector will link the Gold Line, Blue Line and Expo Line in downtown L.A. and allow easier and faster access to and through downtown L.A. for riders on all three lines.

•The Gold Line Foothill Extension extends the Gold Line to the Azusa/Glendora border, making for easier and faster access to jobs in the Pasadena area, downtown L.A. and beyond (i.e. the Westside). Meanwhile, the second phase of the Eastside Gold Line is being studied and would connect either South El Monte or Whittier to downtown L.A. via this project and the Regional Connector.

•The Crenshaw/LAX Line will serve a north-south corridor starting at the Green Line’s Redondo Beach Station and extending north to the Expo Line, including the job-rich area around the airport. The Expo Line, in turn, offers east-west access to jobs. The map also suggests that extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line north — a project in Metro’s long-range plan but unfunded at this time — would connect people to more jobs to the east and west via the Purple Line. A South Bay Green Line Extension, a project also to be funded by Measure R, could extend the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line deeper into the South Bay.

•The map also suggests that connecting the San Fernando Valley to the Westside via the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor makes sense and that the area along Van Nuys Boulevard — to be served by the East San Fernando Transit Corridor — is also a wise proposition in the short-term. The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor is a long-term project not scheduled for completion until the 2030s unless funding is found to build and accelerate it, but the project could eventually connect to the bus rapid transit or light rail built as part of the East San Fernando Valley Transit project along Van Nuys Boulevard.

•The map also shows that the Warner Center area is one of the more job rich areas in the Valley, thereby suggesting that it makes sense for Metro to pursue improvements to the Orange Line. See this recent Source post for more about that.

Here is the page about Los Angeles in the University of Minnesota study:

Los Angeles

More headlines after the jump!

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Actions taken today by the Metro Board of Directors

A gastropub is coming to the Fred Harvey Room at Union Station thanks to a lease approved today by the Metro Board of Directors. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A gastropub is coming to the Fred Harvey Room at Union Station thanks to a lease approved today by the Metro Board of Directors. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A few highlights from the meeting (agenda here) of the Metro Board of Directors on Oct. 2, 2014:

•Item 7: The Board approved a lease with Eric Needleman and Cedd Moses for a new gastropub for the Fred Harvey Room at Union Station. Staff report and earlier Source post.

•Items 5 and 6: The Board also approved leases for two kiosks in Union Station’s East Portal. One will serve bento boxes and the other kiosk will offer coffee.

•Item 23: The Board approved moving ahead with the design and environmental review of a new portal and pedestrian passageway between 7th/Metro Center Station and the shopping center across 7th Street now known as The Bloc. In plain English, this project will add an entrance to the busy 7th/Metro Center from the south side of 7th Street. Staff report

•Item 20: The Board approved a budget of $1.4 million to add approximately 200 parking spaces at the Red Line’s North Hollywood Station using “temporary parking surface material” in order to lower the cost and make the project more feasible. Staff report

•Item 77: The Board approved calling the new 788 Rapid Bus between the San Fernando Valley and Westwood the “Valley Westside Express” — the bus will use the HOV lanes on the 405 freeway to get across the Sepulveda Pass. Please see this earlier Source post for a map of the service, which begins Dec. 15.

•Items 74 and 75: The Board approved motions by Members Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor calling for Metro to incorporate the names of two Board Members — Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina — into the names of the North Hollywood and East Los Angeles Civic Center stations, respectively. Item 74, Item 75 and earlier Source post.

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Zocalo Public Square tackles the can-we-fix-traffic question at last night’s event

From left, UCLA's Brian Taylor, FAST's Hilary Norton, Metro CEO Art Leahy and KCRW's Kajon Cermac. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

From left, UCLA’s Brian Taylor, FAST’s Hilary Norton, Metro CEO Art Leahy and KCRW’s Kajon Cermac. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Zocalo Public Square and Metro held a panel discussion Monday night at the Petersen Automotive Museum with an appropriate topic for the venue: what, if anything, can be done to speed up traffic in our region?

A podcast of the discussion is above. KCRW traffic reporter Kajon Cermac served as the moderator with the panel including Metro CEO Art Leahy, UCLA Director of Transportation Studies’ Brian Taylor and Hilary Norton, executive director of Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic.

Can traffic be fixed or seriously improved? The short answer: probably not much can be done unless the region embraces drastic and politically unpopular measures such as heavier tolling across all lanes on freeways to reduce peak hour traffic, passing laws to greatly restrict driving, building many billions of dollars of new freeways (which includes the challenge of finding places to put them) or going the Detroit route by shedding jobs, residents and the local economy.

In other words, as UCLA’s Taylor put it, the status quo of traffic congestion is the least bad option for the politicians who frequently ask him how to fix traffic.

Which is not to say that things can’t be done to improve mobility and even some traffic.

Taylor praised the congestion pricing projects on freeways in our region (which Metro’s ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110) and said they are improving capacity and speeds in the toll lanes, as well as Metro’s Rapid Buses and the Orange Line. Norton pointed to the increasing number of people taking transit to big events.

And Leahy noted that thanks to Measure R, Metro is currently in the midst of the largest transit building boom in the nation (one that will include a subway station next door to both the Petersen and LACMA on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile). He said the goal is to keep expanding the transit network and making it work better so that people can use it travel far and wide and get out of their cars.

The conversation covered a lot of ground and I’m interested in feedback and comments from those who listened or attended the event.

My three cents: I felt like it was a good, albeit brief, adult conversation about traffic and urban planning — and the fact that traffic is not something easily “fixed” without serious consequences. I also thought UCLA’s Brian Taylor did a good job pointing to the fact that a lot of the traffic stereotypes about our region are total bunk and that concentrating density around transit and high activity centers may not fix traffic — but often makes places nicer, happier places to live and visit.

 

 

Metro staff seeks approval to secure federal funding for Phase 2 of Purple Line Extension subway

Pre-construction is already underway on the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, which will stretch the subway from its current terminus at Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard with new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. Earlier this year, Metro received $2.1 billion in federal grants and loans for the first phase and the agency this summer picked a contractor to build the project.

In the meantime, Metro is beginning to turn its gaze toward the project’s second phase, which will extend the tracks to a downtown Beverly Hills station and a station at Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Boulevard Century City. In the above report, Metro staff are asking the Metro Board for approval to seek federal funding for phase two in the form of a $1.1-billion grant from the federal New Starts program and a $307 million low-interest loan from the federal TIFIA program.

The target date for completion, with the federal funding, would be 2025. That’s one year earlier than the original target date for the second phase (the first phase to La Cienega Boulevard is forecast to open in 2023). Pursuing more federal funding as quickly as possible has other advantages — offsetting a higher cost estimate for the project, as the report explains.

The Purple Line Extension is also funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The full Metro Board of Directors will consider the staff proposal for Phase 2 funding at its Oct. 2 meeting.

project_map

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, September 17

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Union ploy may throw Kinkisharyo off track (Antelope Valley Press)

The firm hired by Metro to build new rail cars wants to build an assembly plant in Palmdale. This editorial chastises the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 and other Antelope Valley residents for using legal tactics to try to force Kinkisharyo to hire union workers or do a full blown environmental impact report for the facility — which may mean the facility has to be located elsewhere. The new light rail vehicles are needed sooner rather than later for the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and as replacement cars for the Blue Line.

Kuehl, Shriver square off in L.A. County Supervisor debate (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of last night’s debate in the race for the third district, currently held by Zev Yaroslavsky. The Purple Line Extension was one issue discussed.

An eye in the sky, accessible to the hobbyist (New York Times)

A new drone with camera attached sells for about $1,300 — meaning these things are just going to get more popular. I recently watched a photographer use a drone at CalTech to photograph wedding pics and I’m curious how long it will be when drones are used to either photograph transit and/or the transportation industry.

On the hunt for fireflies in Utah (High Country News)

Not a transportation article, but a good read for those interested in or fascinated by the American West. Scientists have known for 30 years that fireflies — most often seen in the Midwest — were in Utah, but it wasn’t until recently that they secured proof.

New station canopy being built at Wilshire/Western Purple Line Station

Subway riders will no doubt notice a brand new subway portal canopy now being built over the Purple Line’s Wilshire/Western Station.

The new canopy will feature new components from Metro’s “kit of parts” station design concepts that’s seeking to keep Metro structures consistent in their appearance and easier and more affordable to maintain. More importantly, the canopy should shield Metro customers from the elements and help prevent weather-related damage to escalators and other station facilities.

Construction of the canopy is expected to be completed by October of this year and will give the Wilshire/Western station a look similar to that of future stations for the Metro Purple Line Extension Project now in pre-construction.