Potential future ballot measure discussed at Move LA conference today

I spent the morning at Move LA’s annual conference, held this year at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The activist group led by Denny Zane, the former Santa Monica mayor, this year focused on Measure R 2, an interesting choice given that the Metro Board has yet to decide whether to put an extension of the existing Measure R or a new sales tax on any ballot.

That said, some Board members have certainly voiced support and Metro is in the process of collecting transportation wish lists from cities across Los Angeles County for a potential ballot measure that likely wouldn’t happen until November 2016.

Four Metro Board Members spoke at the conference:

•Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he wants to pursue more regional transportation solutions and that he wants to lead a more humble city of Los Angeles that can work with other cities, both following their advice and taking the lead when appropriate (perhaps in that spirit he indicated his support earlier this week for extending the Gold Line to Claremont). He indicated he was open to a ballot measure but didn’t dwell on it.

Garcetti also said he wants to get a rail connection in our lifetimes to Los Angeles International Airport and that he supports the LAX Connect proposal by the airport to bring Metro Rail into a facility where passengers could check their bags and then transfer to a people mover that would run every two minutes and stop at each terminal. 

•Metro Board Chair and Lakewood Councilmember Diane DuBois said any new ballot measure would be on the 2016 ballot in order to give time to build a consensus across the country. She said she wanted a process that was transparent, inclusive and followed a bottoms-up approach focusing on the needs of neighborhoods. Any potential measure, she said, must include subregional mobility projects.

Chairwoman DuBois also urged a note of caution, saying it’s appropriate to consider the impact of higher sales taxes and how they might impact retail sales and where businesses decide to locate. “Please don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I’m not opposed to asking if the voters of L.A. County to decide. However, I do believe that we should fully consider the impacts of increased taxation.”

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Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 27

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Community hopes to cut down tree plan (Park La Brea News/Beverly Press)

A story about Metro’s plans to eventually remove about 135 trees along Wilshire Boulevard as part of the construction of the first phase of the Purple Line Extension. Here’s our post about the plan that includes this key detail: Metro also plans to plant two trees for every one that is removed. Still, some community members in the Miracle Mile aren’t happy, pointing to many years of effort to beautify Wilshire Boulevard and unhappy that adult trees may be replaced with younger, smaller ones.

El Sereno’s Soto Street bridge may not have a historic leg to stand on (The Eastsider) 

The bridge once carried Pacific Electric streetcars over the intersection of Huntington and Mission. City of Los Angeles officials don’t think the 80-year-old structure is very distinctive architecturally; others think otherwise. My three cents: to my eyes the bridge doesn’t look much different than other highway-type bridges.

Will women every feel completely safe on transit? (The Atlantic Cities) 

Very interesting post that seems to conclude the answer to the question in the headline is ‘no’ — at least not until society does a better job of decreasing instances of sexism. It’s also worth noting that women tend to ride transit more than men. Excerpt:

Women who aren’t bound to the bus by economic necessity cite reliability and convenience as reasons they choose to stick with their cars. That’s more or less what men say. But women, regardless of income, tend to have an additional factor: safety. In a 2007 survey, 63 percent of New York City subway riders said they’d been harassed on a train, and 10 percent reported having been assaulted. It seems safe to assume that most of those riders were women. Among those who merely witnessed harassment or assault on public transit, 93 percent reported that the victim was female.

It’s no wonder there’s a gender gap when it comes to transit riders’ concerns. But there’s also a gender-class gap, between the women who can simply refuse to ride because of those concerns and those who have to get on the bus anyway. “Women tend to be more fearful in public environments like the bus stop than when they’re on the bus or on the train,” says Loukaitou-Sideris. This makes sense: on the bus there are often other travelers, but at the bus stop you might be alone. Even then there are exceptions; late at night, a woman might find herself on the train with only one other passenger she doesn’t trust, just the two of them in an enclosed space.

 

The writer lives in our area and says that while she is willing to ride Metro during the day, she’s much less apt to take the agency’s transit at night when there are far fewer riders on many routes and a greater chance of her being isolated with other riders she doesn’t trust. Your thoughts, women riders?

Public transportation ridership is growing — here are the facts (APTA)

In response to recent criticism over its recent claim that transit ridership in the U.S. is at the highest since 1956, the American Public Transportation Assn. has put out a subsequent release. Much of the criticism centered on the fact that a far greater percentage of Americans used transit in 1956 than currently. Excerpt from the release:

On March 10, 2014 the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reported that public transportation use in the United States in 2013 rose to 10.7 billion trips – the highest number in 57 years.  APTA and its predecessor organizations have collected ridership information since 1917. The highest U.S. public transit ridership number in history was 23.5 billion trips in 1946, a decade when many Americans did not own a car.  The ownership of cars en masse came later and led to suburbs designed for car use and subsequent sprawl.

This ridership increase isn’t a one-year blip on the radar.  If you look at the 18 year period from 1995-2013, public transportation ridership grew 37.2 percent, almost double the amount of the population growth at 20.3 percent.  This is a long-term trend that shows that more and more Americans are using public transportation.  APTA has used the 1995 number because after that year, ridership increased due to the passage of the landmark ISTEA legislation and other surface transportation bills which increased funding for public transportation.

More recent shifts in trends point to the growing demand for public transportation.  Our analysis shows that the 2005 gas price shock, when prices first went to $3 for a gallon of gasoline, combined with demographic shifts including the Millennials’ desire for travel options and the Baby Boomers’ return to urban areas, have established consistent travel behaviors that led to the highest public transportation ridership since 1956.

My three cents: both sides have a point. I’ve never found quite understood the point of comparing contemporary transit ridership to that in the 1950s, when there were far fewer Americans. On the other hand, I do think it’s worth noting that in recent times transit ridership has been healthy in many quarters and worthy of further investment.

From the Department of Reader Complaints….

I finally, and inevitably, received a complaint about the occasional postings of Bruce Springsteen videos — despite the fact that “Thunder Road” is at its core a song about the importance of mobility in escaping loser towns. In the spirit of diversity, today’s musical interlude is more transit specific….

About 135 trees to eventually be removed for Purple Line Extension

BevHillsFanPalms

Mexican fan palms to be removed near the future Wilshire/La Cienega station in Beverly Hills.

CityofLAtrees

Plane trees in the city of Los Angeles to be removed for subway construction.

As we move deeper into the era of construction for Measure R projects, we’re also going to be writing more about the inevitable work impacts of building transit and road projects.

And thus today’s news: about 135 trees — about 34 in Beverly Hills and 101 in the city of Los Angeles — will eventually have to be removed and later replaced along Wilshire Boulevard to accommodate work on the first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway.

Most of the trees to be removed are in the area where three new stations will be excavated: Wilshire and La Brea, Wilshire and Fairfax and Wilshire and La Cienega. Metro says it will plant two trees for every one that is removed.

The bulk of the tree removals are still about a year away and will be managed by the future contractor. However, in the next month or so, Metro is seeking to remove two Mexican fan palms from the median of Wilshire just east of Detroit (near the Wilshire/La Brea station site) for pre-construction work — specifically, fiber optic utility relocation. The agency has also submitted draft Master Tree Removal Plans to both Beverly Hills and Los Angeles and will work with both cities toward agreement on a final plan.

Of the trees to be removed, many are not in good shape and Metro officials say likely would not survive transplanting. None of the trees are protected, historically significant or belong to threatened species, although some of the Mexican fan palms to be removed are taller than 50 feet (Mexican Fan palms are a very common tree planted in cities in warm weather locales in the U.S.).

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Transportation headlines, Monday, March 24

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Cool pic of March gloom.

O’Hare CTA station closed for foreseeable future because of considerable damage from crash (Chicago Tribune) 

A Chicago Transit Authority train failed to stop at the end-of-the-line station at O’Hare International Airport early Sunday morning and jumped the track and came to rest on an escalator. About 30 people aboard the train were injured and none of the injuries are life threatening, officials said. Excerpt:

The cause of the accident remains under investigation. The train was traveling at a high rate of speed while pulling into the station and officials are trying to determine why, Steele said.

“We don’t know yet what led to this incident,” Steele said. “We will be looking at everything — equipment, signals, the human factor, any extenuating circumstances.”

The National Transportation Safety Board also will investigate the crash.

The train operator suffered an injury to a leg. She is being tested for drugs and alcohol as is standard procedure after such an incident. Thankfully the crash happened at 3 a.m. when there were very few people around the platform.

Miracle Mile freaking out over possible 24-hour subway work (Curbed LA)

Some residents aren’t too pleased with the prospect of round-the-clock work on the Purple Line Extension, but Curbed LA says that Metro’s proposals thus far only involve 24-hour work for parts of 2015 and again in parts of 2021 — not nine continuous years of work.

Maybe transit isn’t surging after all (The Atlantic Cities) 

More pushback against the American Public Transportation Association’s recent press release touting that transit ridership was at its highest point since 1956. As several outlets have noted, the U.S. has almost doubled its population since 1956, meaning that far fewer people overall are using mass transit in America. As the Atlantic Cities notes, since the early 1970s, there is less than one transit trip per week per person in the country.

Of course, APTA does advocate for the transportation industry, including both public agencies and private firms that operate transit and manufacture equipment. With Congress considering a new multi-year transportation funding bill, APTA needs to make the case that transit ridership is up. If looked like in a silo, it is. And that’s good. But, like others, I’d rather see the big view of things in order to figure out the best way to build transit systems that will give people a choice outside of driving.

The death knelling over Citi Bike (Next City)

Reports of the bike rental/sharing program in New York are probably over-stated, says the blog — blaming recent problems on Gotham’s harsh winter and some system software issues that plagued the program when it first started.

I heart M15 (Vimeo)

Fun video from the express bus in New York.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 20

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! 

Just in case anyone needs help with their bracket, here's mine. Copy at your own risk!

Just in case anyone needs help with their bracket, here’s mine. Copy at your own risk!

Construction concerns over LA subway (NBC 4)

The segment on the Purple Line Extension suggests that Metro is seeking to perform work on the subway 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To clarify: Metro has one application currently before the Los Angeles Police Commission for construction work on the first phase of the Purple Line Extension. It asks for a six month extension of a permit that expires April 17 for utility relocation night work from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. with the stipulation that the noisiest work be performed before 11 p.m. The work would be done five nights at week — Monday through Friday at Wilshire/La Brea and Sunday through Thursday for Wilshire/Fairfax.

Metro has also met with the Police Commission to discuss an upcoming application for station box pile drilling work in 2015, which would be done between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. This work will occur after all the utility relocation has been completed.

UPDATE, MORE INFORMATION: In January, Metro submitted three applications to the Police Commission to allow night-time work involving noise at Wishire and Western, Wilshire and LaBrea and Wilshire and Fairfax that would include pile installation, street decking and yard work at those locations beginning in August 2014. Metro has asked the Commission to not act on that request while the agency worked on providing more details. Metro is currently working on resubmitting these applications.

Interested readers may want to review the project’s Construction Fact Sheet for more information on how this will all occur.

The plan that could finally free New York City from traffic congestion (The Atlantic Cities) 

The group Move New York is proposing a congestion pricing plan for Manhattan that toll all bridges and tunnels (some are and some aren’t currently) and impose a toll on motorists heading into Manhattan south of 60th Street. Traffic is always a big issue in New York, but doing anything about it is politically difficult. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg pursued congestion pricing. When that fell through, a federal grant instead went to Metro, which used the funds to start the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways.

LAPD seeking suspects in DASH bus shooting (L.A. Times) 

A woman and boy were wounded either when they were grazed by a bullet or by shattered glass at 42nd and Avalon in South L.A. early Wednesday evening. An accompanying photo shows the boy standing and getting treatment for his injuries.

First poll on L.A. sales tax hike for street and sidewalk repairs (KABC 7)

A proposed half-cent sales tax increase in the city of Los Angeles for street and sidewalk repair was supported by 40 percent of those surveyed by Channel 7 while 55 percent said they would against an increase. Such an increase would need two-thirds support for passage. The City Council has until July to decide whether to put a proposed increase to voters on the November ballot.

California still failing to invest in sustainable transportation choices (NRDC)

The environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council takes a closer look at projects to be considered for funding by the California Transportation Commission. And the group doesn’t like what it sees, with the majority of money going to road projects at a time when walking, biking and transit use in the state has increased.

 

A bird’s eye view of the exploratory shaft for the Purple Line Extension

Above are a collection of photos of the exploratory shaft near the intersection of Wilshire and Odgen that has been built for the Purple Line Extension project. All the photos were taken from a workbox hoisted by the crane being used to lift excavated soil from the shaft; the first photo was taken this morning, the remainder over the last several weeks.

The L.A. Times just posted an interesting story and video about the shaft and the fossils found in it while digging has been underway. And here’s our post from last week about the shaft.

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.