Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 17

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House passes interim fix for Highway Trust Fund (New York Times) 

The U.S. House voted on Tuesday for a short-term fix to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent and to avoid a massive cut in federal construction funding. Instead of relying on a gas tax increase (politically unpopular for the past 21 years), the House is relying on some budgetary maneuvers (“pension smoothing”) to keep the Fund going — and the Senate and President Obama are likely to go along with it. The fate of the President’s four-year, $302-billion transportation bill proposed this year remains unknown, but things aren’t looking good.

Jon Stewart and the Daily Show took on the Highway Trust Fund last night — as usual he offers a good (and funny) primer for those who don’t know much about the subject. Warning: mildly adult language. Meanwhile, the L.A. Times editorial page says that Congress should just bite the bullet and raise the gas tax.

Over at the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, President Obama gets two Pinnochios for his repeated claim that 700,000 jobs are at risk if Congress doesn’t take action on the Highway Trust Fund. The Post says the number of jobs truly at risk is far lower and that it would be more accurate to say the Highway Trust Fund helps support 700,000 jobs.

And here’s our explanation of why all this matters to agencies such as Metro.

Halted Figueroa bike lane project riles cyclists (L.A. Times) 

A plan by the city of Los Angeles to install three miles of bike lanes to Figueroa through Highland Park has hit a bump-in-the-road in the form of Councilman Gil Cedillo, who says the lanes will impact traffic and slow emergency response times. Activists counter that the lanes will make Figueroa safer (reducing the number of emergencies) and will have little impact on vehicle travel times. Making the debate more interesting: Cedillo said that he supported the lanes during his campaign and has used campaign-style tactics to get more people to public meetings to help counter views of bike activists who don’t live in the 1st district.

Beverly Hills battles Metro over Purple Line Extension (Neon Tommy) 

The article provides a basic review of Beverly Hills’ legal fight against Metro over tunneling under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. A Superior Court judge earlier this year ruled that Metro adequately studied the issue in the environmental documents for the project. The Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city of Beverly Hills have appealed.

Meet Seleta Reynolds, the new head of LADOT (Downtown News) 

A brief interview with the new general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation; Reynolds was hired by Mayor Eric Garcetti earlier this summer. Reynolds talks a little about the differences between L.A. and San Francisco, where she formerly worked on a number of active transportation projects. She has never lived in L.A., but accurately notes how the politics of transportation work here (or don’t work depending on your POV) — they’re divided up between a number of agencies and elected officials.

L.A. and S.F. dogfight over transport visions (Cal WatchDog.com)

The headline doesn’t really describe the post which briefly — but interestingly — makes some comparisons and contrasts between the two cities. The focus of the piece is on the “Great Streets” initiative in L.A. versus the difficulty of getting a bus rapid transit project completed on busy, and often congested, Van Ness Street in San Francisco. I thought this description of L.A. was worth excerpting:

Los Angeles, in other words, is relatively distinct among America’s largest cities. Rather than an industrial-age city planned out block by block, constrained by geography, contemporary L.A. is a post-modern patchwork — a veritable network of villages that lacks a single core where residents routinely cluster on foot.

 

Metro staff recommend contractors to build Purple Line Extension’s first phase

project_map

This another step forward for the 3.9-mile Purple Line Extension project and puts the subway addition closer to construction. Utility relocations and some other prep work have are already underway.

Three rail projects that are receiving Measure R funding are already under construction — the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Regional Connector is ramping up for construction after the awarding of a construction contract earlier this year.

There will be more details on the Purple Line Extension contract later in the month when the staff report is released. The Metro Board is scheduled to consider the contract at its meeting later this month.

The news release from Metro:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) staff today recommended awarding a $1.636 billion contract to design and build a 3.9-mile extension of the Metro Purple Line subway from Wilshire and Western to Wilshire and La Cienega to a joint venture composed of three of the world’s top construction companies.

At its July 24 meeting the Metro Board will consider the recommendation to award a contract to the firms of Skanska, Traylor Bros. and J.F. Shea, a Joint Venture (STS). The Metro Board’s Construction Committee will first review staff’s recommendation on July 17.

The procurement process has been extensive and altogether has taken nearly two years to reach the point where the Metro Board this month will consider a contract award for the first phase of the subway extension.

The contract calls for building twin subway tunnels on a 3.92-mile alignment that includes three new underground stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. It also includes train control and signals, communications, traction power supply and distribution, and fare collection systems that will be integrated with the existing Metro Rail system. Construction activities could begin later this year depending on when the contract is awarded. The contract requires completion in October 2024. The contractors have proposed an early completion schedule saving 300 calendar days.

Combined, these three construction firms have more than 300 years of experience.    Traylor Bros., Inc. has a track record that features more than 110 tunneling projects including the Metro Gold Line Eastside project that connects downtown Los Angeles with Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. That project was completed in 2009 on time and within budget, and Traylor Bros. achieved 4.5 million work hours without incident and zero ground loss during construction.

Skanska is building the extension of the Expo light rail project from Culver City to Santa Monica, scheduled to open in early 2016. The project is on time and within budget.  The company also worked on the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa, also scheduled to open in 2016 and is on time and within budget.

Skanska and Traylor Bros. are the team building the Regional Connector, a 1.9-mile underground light rail project in downtown Los Angeles that will connect the Metro Blue, Gold and Expo lines.

Shea is part of a joint venture building the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, which will connect the Metro Expo and Green light rail lines in the Crenshaw and Inglewood corridors.

Shea and Traylor worked on the large City of Los Angeles Northeast Interceptor Sewer tunnel.  

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 25

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New LACMA design spans Wilshire (ZevWeb) 

An expansion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art might include a bridge over Wilshire Boulevard to a new structure on both the north and south side of the street — the south side to be built on the museum’s parking lot. If it gets approved, funded and built, the new building would be a couple of blocks east of the entrance to the Wilshire/Fairfax Purple Line station that will be located at Wilshire and Orange Grove.

From the Purple Line Extension’s fact sheet on station locations:

mpl_station_factsheet

Click above to see larger version.

S.F. Central Subway’s big dig done (Chronicle) 

The excavation of 8,300 feet of tunnels from south of Market Street to North Beach has been completed on time and on budget. Excerpt:

After several months of gnawing twin tunnels beneath San Francisco’s densest districts, tunnel-boring machines Big Alma and Mom Chung have arrived at the former home of thePagoda Palace Theater in North Beach. They’ll be dismembered at the bottom of a giant pit and then yanked, piece by piece, from the ground and hauled away.

It’s an unceremonious end to a big dig – excavating and building 8,300 linear feet of concrete-lined tunnels running from South of Market beneath Union Square and Chinatown to North Beach. But the excavation passed unnoticed by people on the surface, who didn’t even feel vibrations.

Big Alma and Mom Chung, each weighing 750 tons and stretching longer than a football field, even passed 7 feet beneath the BART tracks below Market Street without requiring the transit system to stop, or even slow, its trains.

“Isn’t it amazing that we can build a tunnel underneath the most congested part of San Francisco without making the front page of The Chronicle?” said John Funghi, project manager for the subway.

There’s a ton of work to be done, including station construction, the laying of tracks and the installation of sophisticated electronic systems. Test trains are scheduled to be up and running in 2018 with an opening of the new subway in 2019.

Foothill Transit: design your transit system (Foothill Transit) 

A very cool new survey by our compadres at Foothill Transit, which provides bus service across the San Gabriel Valley. The survey allows users to pick amenities that they would like to see the agency add — and keeps score of associated costs so that people can’t just pick everything under the sun. Very cool.

No, you can’t auction public parking spaces in San Francisco (Time)

Apparently this is not legal:

Imagine that you snag a parking spot on a busy downtown street where finding a slot is generally the equivalent of winning the lottery. Once your car is in the spot, Dorsey says, the app allows you to “sell” that space to the highest bidder. The winner gets to slide their car in as yours pulls out, paying you perhaps $25 in addition to the actual meter fees. The problem is that those parking spaces, unlike driveways, are clearly public assets that private citizens are forbidden to sell.

There are really people stupid enough to spend $25 plus the cost of a meter for a parking space?

Wilshire/La Brea Customer Center closes today, will reopen at new location July 1

The Wilshire/La Brea Customer Center is closing today. It will reopen at Wilshire/Vermont on July 1.

The Wilshire/La Brea Customer Center is closing today. It will reopen at Wilshire/Vermont on July 1.

Due to future Purple Line Extension construction, the Wilshire/La Brea Customer Center is closing today. The customer center will reopen at the Red/Purple Line’s Wilshire/Vermont station on Tuesday, July 1. The Lost and Found will relocate and be near the Gold Line’s Heritage Square Station. It will also open on July 1.

The new addresses are as follows:

  • Wilshire/Vermont Customer Center: 3183 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 174, Los Angeles, CA, 90010
  • Heritage Square Station Lost and Found: 3571 Pasadena Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 90031

Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 19

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Do all roads to Century City’s future lead to more traffic? (L.A. Times) 

Very interesting story — easily could have been longer and there’s some fascinating video of the old 20th Century Fox backlot being demolished to make way for the Century City development.

The original vision for Century City was a place where Westsiders could work, live and play (my words, no theirs). But it didn’t turn out that way. The number of workers is double original projections and the number of residents is nowhere close to what was expected. Without mass transit or the Beverly Hills Freeway being built, the result has been twofold: lots of traffic and a lot of office space that competes directly with real estate downtown Los Angeles. In fact, vacancy rates in Century City are lower than in DTLA, which is served by transit.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is quoted as saying that such a large development would never be allowed today without transit being built alongside it. That’s probably right and the article, unfortunately, needed more space to explain the delays in getting transit to Century City. On the upside, the Purple Line Extension subway is scheduled to arrive at the center of Century City in 2026.

Muffler shops or cafes? East L.A. plans for the future (Eastsider LA)

A new zoning plan for East L.A. is working its way through the process. As proposed, it would allow for more transit-oriented development along the past of the Gold Line on 3rd Street and other commercial corridors in the area. It would be great to see more new development along 3rd Street, in particular.

LAX to expand FlyAway service to Santa Monica and Hollywood (L.A. Times) 

Good news for those looking for an alternative to driving to the airport. The fares will be $8 for a one-way trip and the new locations will join existing FlyAway service between LAX and four locations: Union Station, Westwood, Van Nuys and Expo/La Brea.

San Gabriel Valley business leaders urge Metro to build promised Gold Line extension to Claremont (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

The biz leaders say they want funding for an Azusa-to-Claremont for the Gold Line Foothill Extension segment in Metro’s Short-Range plan, which details funding for transit projects in the next decade. At present, the only projects listed in the plan are projects already receiving Measure R funding; the Azusa-Claremont segment is outside the bounds of Measure R, along with other unfunded projects in Metro’s long-range plan. The Pasadena-to-Azusa segment is under construction and is scheduled to open in early 2016.

Senators Murphy (D) and Corker (R) propose 12 cents gas tax increase (Streetsblog Network) 

In an attempt to stave off the Highway Trust Fund going broke, a bipartisan proposal to raise the current 18.4 cents a gallon by 12 cents over the next two years. The federal gas tax hasn’t been raised in 20 years.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 17

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Report urges new light rail station, circulator for LAX travel (L.A. Times)

Good coverage of the Metro staff report released yesterday recommending a new light rail station at Aviation and 96th that would connect with a people mover the airport would build to connect to LAX terminals and a few ground transportation hub. The new rail station would serve the Crenshaw/LAX Line trains and some Green Line trains. Please see our post for the staff report, maps and charts.

Valley coalition formed to advocate for rail (Post-Periodical)

The Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., a group representing business interests, has formed a group called “Valley on Track” to push for conversion of the Orange Line to light rail and using rail on two Measure R projects, the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor (bus rapid is also being considered) and the Sepulveda Pass Corridor. Of the trio, the Orange Line conversion is perhaps the toughest one. There is a pending state bill to lift the restriction on using rail in the corridor, but it’s a project with no funding presently in Metro’s long-range plans.

Bergamot Station’s tenants at odds over its future as Expo Line arrives (L.A. Times)

Many of the smaller art galleries at Bergamot Station are concerned that the three development proposals being reviewed by the city of Santa Monica — which owns the site — could lead to them being squeezed out. The most expensive of the proposals would cost $92 million and keep some of the old warehouses but also add non-art retail, a new hotel and underground parking. I like the present station but a lot of the land is under-utilized — it’s basically a series of galleries with a big parking lot in the middle. As for the Expo Line, a new station will sit on the northern part of the site next to Olympic Boulevard.

Editorial: a three-phase purple money eater (L.A. Register) 

They say the Purple Line Extension will cost too much and not fix traffic. They forget to mention the part about it serving as an alternative to traffic and that 68 percent of voters in 2008 voted for a package of transit projects, including the Purple Line Extension, as part of the Measure R sales tax increase. They also forget to mention that transit hasn’t “fixed” traffic in places such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, etc.

20 before-and-after Google Street views show downtown L.A.’s dramatic changes (LA Weekly)

Great idea for a post using a new feature on Google Maps that lets you see past street views. It’s nice to see some of the buildings that were virtually abandoned get a new lease on life.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 10

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There are many reasons that the Los Angeles Kings are up three games to none over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. One big reason is that the Rangers don’t know how to defensively cover the most dangerous part of the ice in terms of allowing opponents to take shots. Top photo is Jeff Carter’s first goal in last night’s game and the bottom photo is Justin Williams taking the overtime winner in Game 1. Notice any similarities?!!! Game Four is Wednesday night in New York and Game Five, if necessary, Friday afternoon at Staples Center, located conveniently near the Pico Station served by the Blue Line and Expo Line and a pleasant stroll from the Red/Purple Line station at 7th/Metro Center.

House rejects cuts to Amtrak (The Hill)

Perhaps the source of the cuts — an outgoing Georgia politician — were the issue. Still pretty amazing, given the un-love that some Congress members have heaped on Amtrak in the past.

Why Chicago’s botched privatization of parking meters is bad for the environment (Next City) 

A while back, Chicago leased its parking meters to a private firm for $1 billion for 75 years. The idea was that the city would get an instant cash shot-in-the-arm in exchange for the revenue stream from its meters. The deal has had its critics and this article certainly takes a dim view of it — including examples of how the deal is getting in the way of other goals. Example: installing bus lanes is now more difficult as it’s more difficult to remove meters.

Eric Garcetti endorses funding mass transit with cap-and-trade revenues (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the media event held at Metro’s Division 13 last week about pending state legislation to use revenue from California’s cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions to help fund mass transit. In related news, the New York Time’s Thomas Friedman published an interesting interview with President Obama about climate change, with the president saying that putting “a price on carbon” is crucially important.

More on the Westwood Boulevard bike lane issue (Biking in LA)

Some interesting background on the bike lanes that the city of Los Angeles is not going to install of Westwood Boulevard. I mention it here because two future Metro Rail projects will have stations on the street: the Expo Line will stop just south of the Westside Pavilion and the Purple Line Extension will stop at Wilshire and Westwood. Bike connections from both stations could help with first mile/last mile issues, I suppose.

No longer for punks, skateboards cater to yuppie commuters (Wall Street Journal) 

Speaking of first mile/last mile…here is how a few people are solving the problem — by riding. The private sector is responding with electrified skateboards to tackle hills, skateboards with fat tires to handle bumpy and rocky city pavement and other contraptions that are skateboard-like. I don’t see a ton of commuters on skateboards but I’ve definitely see more skateboards in bike lanes than in the past.