Metro Board to consider motions involving restrooms, parking and paying fares at transit stations

Motions involving bathrooms at transit stations (or lack thereof), parking at transit stations (or lack thereof) and fares on the Orange Line (or lack of people actually paying for them) have all found their way onto the agenda for the Metro Board of Directors meeting this Thursday.

In particular, the bathroom and parking issues are brought up on a regular basis by readers here and, quite frankly, are also core service issues that most large transit agencies grapple with at some time or another.

Let me be blunt. None of these issues are going to be solved at this Board meeting. As you will see below, each motions call for more study and/or reports from Metro staff. That said, motions are sometimes the beginning of a process.

Obviously the motion is keyed to some specific issues that have arisen near the Orange Line’s Pierce College station. But bathrooms and transit stations have a long, tangled history that is still, of course, being written.

Bathrooms at transit stations are in many cities a thing of the past, mostly for reasons involving maintenance and safety, although some BART and New York Subway stations have restrooms. Here’s an excerpt from a 2010 amNewYork story on bathrooms in the subway system:

Of the open bathrooms, a third were frightening caverns of garbage, urine, standing water or unseemly smells. Odors from the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. station on the N caused an amNewYork reporter to feel faint during a recent visit.

“They’re pretty disgusting. People are always cleaning themselves in there and doing other stuff,” said Kelvin Pau, 27, a rider using the 168 St. A station, which reeked.

Don’t expect to find toilet paper or soap, as few of the bathrooms had either. And while graffiti has largely been eliminated from subway stations, it lives on in the bathrooms, as many of the walls and stalls were covered in tags.

Keeping the bathrooms tidy and open is a challenge because they are constantly being vandalized or attract “criminal activity,” Seaton said.

Metro has three transit stations with restrooms: Union Station, El Monte Station and Harbor Gateway. The vast majority do not.

Restrooms in transit stations is a subject that has been written about a lot. Here’s a good article about the issue from the Atlantic Cities blog. It will be interesting to see how Metro staff responds to this one, as building more restrooms and then maintaining and patrolling them would be a major undertaking.

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A pair of nice views from Santa Monica Mountains of the route of the future Purple Line Extension along Wilshire Boulevard

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Click on photo see larger. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

In an attempt to burn some holiday-induced blubber yesterday, I made the short but scenic hike to Temescal Peak in Topanga State Park from the Palisades Highlands. As it happened, there were pretty nice views of the route the Purple Line Extension subway will take between downtown Los Angeles (left) and Westwood (right).

The above photo almost has the entire route beginning with the Federal Building at the far right of the photo, then extending to Westwood Village and then veering south to Century City. At that point, the subway’s route will rejoin Wilshire Boulevard, which is easily seen in the photo as the developed corridor linking Century City to downtown L.A.

Below is a much wider view that shows the entire route. The subway will actually terminate on the western side of the 405 freeway near Wilshire Boulevard and the front of the VA Hospital. (Here’s a narrower view of Century City and downtown L.A.) The first phase between Wilshire and Western and Wilshire and La Cienega is ramping up for construction and is forecast to open in 2023.

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The Santa Ana Winds were blowing yesterday, contributing to the smog. It was still nice to be able to see three major peaks — from left, San Gorgonio (at 11,503 feet the highest peak in Southern California), San Jacinto (at 10,834 the highest peak in Riverside County) and Santiago Peak (at 5,689 feet the highest point in Orange County). 

Although off-topic, the hike also offered a nice view of Reseda Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley (below). That street is a major transit corridor serviced by two Metro bus lines, the 240 Local and the 741 Rapid.

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And the sunset view wasn’t shabby either. That’s Santa Barbara Island, one of the Channel Islands. If you look real hard, I think that’s San Nicolas Island on the horizon on the right side of the photo.

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If you want to download full-size versions of any of these photos, please visit our Flickr page. Click on the photo you want, then click on the “…” at bottom right, click “view all sizes” and then choose “original” on the next screen and then download.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, November 7

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

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ART OF TRANSIT: The old streetcar depot on the VA campus in West Los Angeles. It was built in 1900 — and looks like it was last painted around that time — and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Here is a story that ran in the L.A. Times today about a new study alleging that the VA is putting hundreds of historic properties at risk of demolition by failing to maintain them. It’s not really related, but the Purple Line Extension’s station at the VA Hospital will be near the trolley stop, but on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard.

Will Los Angeles ever get a bike share program? (Downtown News)

Metro’s Board of Directors in October voted to begin exploring a countywide bike share program — in effect, ending the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to start a program through BikeNation, a private firm. The Downtown News reports that problem with the city’s effort, and one that could plague the countywide effort, is a contract the city of L.A. has with two outdoor advertising firms that gives them exclusive rights through 2021 to the kind of ads that would presumably be used to help fund a bike share program. Other cities aren’t encumbered with these kind of deals, allowing them to seek exclusive advertisers for their programs — for example, the CitiBikes in Gotham.

What does it take to map an earthquake fault? (KPCC)

A very well-written explanation of how earthquake faults are mapped in California and the efforts underway to better map the Hollywood Fault. The issue in Hollywood involves development: two skyscrapers are proposed for a site that critics say is on top of the fault. The bigger issue is that due to state budget cuts, many fault maps need updating, the reason Metro had to perform its own set of tests to determine the location of the Santa Monica Fault and the West Beverly Hills Lineament when planning the Purple Line Extension.

Purple Line project gets Maryland approval to seek public-private partnership (Washington Post)

The $2.2-billion project would build 21 miles of light rail through the busy D.C. suburbs in Maryland, providing connections to Washington Metro rail lines and commuter rail. The deal would involve getting $900 million in federal funds and then have a private firm or firms provide up to $900 million of the cost in exchange for receiving $100 million to $200 million annually for 30 to 35 years to operate and maintain the line. It will be interesting to see if they can make it work. These deals always sound plausible on paper but often prove difficult to engineer in the real world.

Do bike lanes fuel gentrification? (Utne Reader)

A very interesting article about efforts to install protected bike lanes on Chicago’s South Side and the somewhat mixed reaction by African-American churches in the area who feared loss of parking. But the Utne Reader dives deeper and looks at the views by some that bike lanes — sometimes known as ‘white lanes’ — are the prelude to the kind of gentrification that could change their neighborhoods in profound ways, and not all of them for the better.

A really fascinating and fair piece of journalism. Read it.

Cincinnati streetcar in jeopardy as new mayor threatens to stop it (Next City)

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Photo by David Cole

The mayor-elect of the Queen City doesn’t like Cincy’s effort to build a downtown streetcar. Construction has begun and a half-mile of track may be built by the time he takes office — and the cost of stopping it may be more than building it. One of the often heard complaints about the project (one of many similar projects around the country) is that the money would be better spent on improving bus service in town.

Here is the latest presentation on the Purple Line Extension’s first phase, including a construction timeline

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Above is the presentation given at a meeting Tuesday night of the Purple Line Extension’s Section I Advisory Group.

There isn’t anything dramatically new in the presentation, but it does provide a nice summary of various activities taking place as the project gets ready to start construction next year for its first phase between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega.

One slide I’ll pull out because it’s bound to get the most attention:

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I’ve already heard from a few people with similar questions along the lines of “any chance it will be done before 2023?”

There’s always a chance. That said, Metro is still in the midst of choosing a contractor to build the project, which is in itself a formidable task. The agency still, too, must lock down a federal funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration to help pay for part of the project (Measure R is also a big contributor). The project is looking to get that squared away in early 2014.

The good news is that while those administrative tasks are being done, utility relocations have begun along the alignment and Metro is also doing further work to evaluate soil conditions and look for other obstructions that may be found underground. The point of this preparatory work is to gather as much information possible to avoid surprises and/or obstacles that could delay work. (Here is a recent post about the search for tiebacks near the Wilshire/La Cienega station).

Another issue that will impact the construction timeline is safety. It is — as it should be — the highest priority for Metro.

One other item that bears discussing: Metro has had a “Master Cooperative Agreement” with the city of Los Angeles for several years and is in the midst of hammering one out with the city of Beverly Hills.  These agreements lay out how Metro and the city will work together during construction, including each parties’ responsibilities, timelines, and how Metro will reimburse the cities for their time.

Metro also wants permission to work longer hours — peak periods, nights and holidays — in order to get street level work done as quickly as possible and move construction underground — because underground work has far less impacts on traffic and quality of life. Please see this earlier post for more information about permits and work hours for the Purple Line Extension, the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Regional Connector.

RELATED:

Purple Line Extension home page

Purple Line Extension on Facebook

Purple Line Extension on Twitter

Previous Source posts about the Purple Line Extension

Purple Line Extension: searching for tiebacks under Wilshire Boulevard

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As part of the prep work for building the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, Metro contractors began exploratory work last week looking for tiebacks under Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Tiebacks are underground anchors that help support buildings and other structures. (Here’s the work notice).

The photo above was taken Sunday in Beverly Hills near Wilshire and Le Doux Road — one block west of La Cienega.

Utility relocation work is underway at the site of the future La Brea Station and is expected to begin in 2014 at the Fairfax station area.  You can find copies of work notices on the project web site (metro.net/purplelineext).  Click on the “Field Work” tab.

The first phase of the subway project will extend the Purple Line for 3.9 miles from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/La Cienega. It is forecast to open in 2023. Reminder: There is a Section I Advisory Group Meeting tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. at the Petersen Automotive Museum; project updates will be provided for area residents, business owners and anyone else who is interested! Details here.

Transportation headlines, Monday, October 28

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: Great pic from our always-lively Instagram feed.

Traffic fears guide Bergamot development debate (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

Planning commissioners take a look at the proposed Hines development — 471 residences, 374,000 square feet of office space, 14,000 square feet of retail — and debate whether that mix is right. Some commissioners fear too little housing and too much office space will just exacerbate an existing problem: too many people commuting into Santa Monica to work because they can’t afford to live there.

The Expo Line will have a station right across the street so the good news is residents or workers will have access to transit. Perhaps the real debate here should be this: what are other cities and Santa Monica doing about putting more of everything near other future and existing Expo Line stations?

Tar pits’ microfossils stir big interest from Page Museum scientists (L.A. Times) 

The Harlan's Ground Sloth was one of the so-called megafauna that lived in L.A. during the Pleistocene. Scientists are still piecing together the smaller members of the ecosystem that thrived here more than 11,000 years ago. Drawing: Page Museum.

The Harlan’s Ground Sloth was one of the so-called megafauna that lived in L.A. during the Pleistocene. Scientists are still piecing together the smaller members of the ecosystem that thrived here more than 11,000 years ago. Drawing: Page Museum.

Very interesting. These small fossils help show the insect and other small critters and climate– i.e. lizards — during the Pleistocene Epoch ecosystem in the area around the Tar Pits. Although not mentioned, it is going to be very interesting to see what kind of fossils turn up during tunneling and excavation for the Purple Line Extension, which will have a station just west of the Tar Pits.

Urban surgery: how Wilshire Boulevard was extended into downtown L.A. (KCET)

Fascinating! Once upon a time — that time being the 1920s — Wilshire Boulevard only existed west of MacArthur Park. City officials then decided it really need to run into downtown and spent a lot of money (at least for those days) demolishing buildings between Figueroa and Grand in downtown proper and along the course of Orange Street between Fig and the park. And when money supplies went south, the city then built Wilshire across the park’s lake on a causeway. It took many years for lots along the street to fill, reports KCET, perhaps explaining why Wilshire feels so vigorous west of the park and so…kind of lacking in the area between the park and the 110 freeway overpass.

Transportation headlines, Monday, October 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!

ART OF TRANSIT: Passengers exiting the Expo Line from our Instagram feed.

Campaign to map earthquake faults has slowed to a crawl (L.A. Times) 

After the Sylmar quake in 1971, 534 faults in the state were mapped. Since 1991, only 21 have been drawn because of budget cuts and none since 2004. Key paragraph:

Many earthquake faults have already been extensively researched by scientists at places such as USC, Caltech and the University of California. When creating a map, the state reviews all this outside research and draws a roughly quarter-mile zone around the fault. Under the state’s Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning act, developers in that zone must prove their structure does not sit on top of the active faults.

The article doesn’t really get into the thorny and difficult issue of why mapping wasn’t funded or pursued more vigorously. But I don’t recall hearing developers and some of their political supporters calling for more scrutiny of new buildings and where they are located.

As for Metro, the story is relevant because when faced with older maps, the agency made an effort to map the Santa Monica Fault and the West Beverly Hills Lineament in the Century City area when planning for the Purple Line Extension subway.

405 freeway work delayed by faulty retaining walls (Daily News) 

A look back at one major reason the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project is running behind schedule. That said, key parts of the project have been opening as they are completed, including a three-mile stretch of the new northbound car lane from the 10 freeway to just north of Wilshire Boulevard. If the current schedule holds, the Mulholland, Skirball and Sunset bridges and all the Wilshire and Sunset ramps will open. While the entire project won’t be complete until 2014 — 15 months behind schedule — many elements of the project have not suffered those kind of delays.

The Leimert station, while welcome, brings uncertainty to the World Stage (L.A. Streetsblog) 

Following news last spring that the Leimert Park station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line would be funded and built, the World Stage — the performance and education center — learned its lease may be at risk (not from Metro). This good article by Sahra Sulaiman provides some history and context for the World Stage and some of the issues in Leimert Park and nearby Crenshaw Boulevard. Here’s a nice video about the place from 2011:

N.Y. MTA launches ‘pop up’ pilot stores in the subway (METRO)

The agency that runs the New York subway system will lease small spaces that are temporarily vacant in some stations on a month-to-month basis to small entrepreneurs. Great idea.

Next Purple Line Extension advisory group meeting scheduled for October 29

Metro advisory meeting for Purple Line Extension Project

Metro advisory group meeting for Purple Line Extension Project.

Metro will be holding its next advisory group meeting for the first segment of the Metro Purple Line Extension Project on Tuesday, October 29, 2013.  Members of the public are invited to observe the advisory group meeting as local stakeholders discuss construction-related issues for the first nearly four-mile subway segment between Wilshire/Western and La Cienega.  Construction is expected to begin next year.

During the meeting, the Metro project team will provide updates on the project’s status, activities and anticipated construction schedule.

Meeting details are as follows:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd – 4th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90036

This location is served by Metro lines 20, 720, 217, 780.  Validated parking is available in the structure behind the museum.  Motorists should enter the parking structure from Fairfax and bring their parking ticket with them.

The advisory group consists of individuals representing the residents, businesses, property owners and key institutions around the La Brea, Fairfax and La Cienega stations. City staff are also been invited to attend the meeting, listen to the discussion and answer questions.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, October 3

em>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!

And now they’re too lazy to fly!

ART OF TRANSIT: Union Station platform 12 from our growing Instagram feed.

LACMA and Grove owner collaborating on trolley plans (Curbed LA)

Grove developer Rick Caruso earlier this year said he would like to extend the shopping complex’s short trolley line to LACMA, the Beverly Center and presumably the future Purple Line Extension’s Wilshire/Fairfax station. Now LACMA is joining him to do a feasibility study of the project and two local L.A. Councilmen say they support the idea. This is old school, people — private interests studying a transit project that would likely have to run on city of L.A. streets. It’s about a 3/4 mile to one-mile walk from Wilshire/Fairfax to the Grove, depending on where you’re going. Metro bus lines 217 and 780 also traverse that stretch of Fairfax.

High-rise enclave planned for downtown L.A. (L.A. Times)

The development firm Mack Urban has purchased six parcels in the South Park area — now mostly parking lots — and plans to build high-rise apartments intended to appeal to Gen Y. The properties are certainly transit friendly — it’s a short walk to the current Blue and Expo Line Pico Station and many bus lines run nearby. This is a great thing for downtown but goodbye $5 parking for Kings games!

Meanwhile, on the other end of downtown, work has begun on a 320-unit apartment building on the site of the old Mega-Toy warehouse, according to the Downtown News. The building on 2nd Street is near the existing Gold Line Little Tokyo station and will be close to the future Regional Connection underground station.

Cooling it on ‘drivers vs. cyclists’ in L.A. (L.A. Times) 

Here’s your laugher of the day. The Times’ editorial page asked readers to answer whether Los Angeles can ever be a bike town? What followed was (surprise!) a few good points surrounded by a lot of Internet blather, some of it stupid, some of it racist and much of it highly-charged with opinion and little fact. The newspaper now says that despite the tone of the comments, cyclists and motorists often do get along. Still to be seen is whether the Times follows through with its promise to better cover bike issues on the editorial pages.

Daughter of L.A. County Sheriff battling life-threatening disease (KCBS)

Deputy Richard Zorich — who helps keep the Metro system safe — has already lost two children and now his seven-year-old daughter is battling a rare hereditary disease that effects the brain. While fighting for her life, the medical bills are mounting and the Sheriff’s Department is doing what they can to help their colleague and his family.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, October 1

em>Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

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Happy 123rd Birthday, Yosemite National Park! Too bad you’re closed because of the federal government shutdown. And too bad a lot of people who dutifully pay their taxes won’t be able to see what they’re helping fund.

As for Metro, the two obvious impacts of the federal government shutdown: The Federal Transit Administration has to halt the long process of approving Metro’s grant application for roughly $2 billion in federal funding for the Regional Connector and the first phase of the Purple Line Extension, which is also being funded with Measure R funds (i.e. local sales taxes you pay). Metro also must wait to receive other federal grants it was supposed to get earlier this year — before the funds got held up in the state-federal dispute over California pension reform.

Finding L.A.’s fault lines before they fail (L.A. Times)

The editorial pushes for the city of L.A. to require more geotechnical work identifying the location of active earthquake faults before developments near faults are approved. Metro gets a mention because the agency did exactly that in planning for the Purple Line Extension.

Should Santa Monica Airport be closed? (Curbed LA)

Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, whose 11th district abuts the airport, says that the jet crash Sunday is another reason to close the airport for good. My three cents — and I used to live under the takeoff path at Marine & Highland in Santa Monica: Completely agree.

It’s a huge chunk of land that could serve other purposes: namely, housing and park land. Of course, let’s face it: some residents opposed to the airport would surely oppose any kind of development on the site, even though it’s relatively close to the future Expo Line and Santa Monica’s excellent network of bike lanes.

City and county officials ask for changes to Grand Avenue project (Daily News)

The developer Related Co. is given until Jan. 20 to improve designs for the residential and commercial towers and structures planned to be built across the street from Disney Hall. The rendering included in the article does look like a fancy shopping mall. Whatever gets built — if anything — will be close to stations for the Regional Connector and the Red/Purple Line subway, not to mention many bus lines, including the Silver Line.

Sharing the road: can L.A. be a biker’s town? (L.A. Times)

This editorial says the Times’ editorial staff is generally supportive of cycling and that the editorial page will be delving deeper into bike issues around town. That’s a good thing because, to date, the editorial page has only toed the water. There is a lot of bike infrastructure either being built or being proposed around town and having a media voice question what works and what doesn’t could be useful.