Model buses now available from Metro online store!

Model_Bus_Orange_Line_Detail Model_Bus_Detail

Model buses are now available for purchase in Metro’s online store — you can chose between an Orange Line bus or Metro 40-foot buses used on local and rapid routes.

One note: we’re aware of complaints from some readers about shipping fees. This is due to an exclusive contract that Metro’s vendor has with FedEx. Those interested in more than one item in the store should purchase them at the same time to help lower the shipping fee. We appreciate the business from those who have made purchases from the store and hope to bring you additional ways to purchase Metro items in the future!

A look at proposed bus service changes that would better connect the San Fernando Valley and the Westside

As some of you already know, Metro’s Service Councils this month are holding public hearings on proposed bus service changes to take effect in June.

The above staff report details all the changes, including maps of proposed bus routes.

Perhaps the most interesting changes proposed involve bus routes in the San Fernando Valley, including:

•The creation of a new 588 bus that would operate at peak hours that would run between Westwood and Nordhoff Street, mostly along the 405 freeway and Van Nuys Boulevard. This new line still requires funding.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

•Extending the 734 Rapid Bus to Westwood via Sepulveda Boulevard, thereby creating a bus line that would run from Sylmar to Westwood.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

•Combining the 741 and 761 Rapid Bus lines to create a U-shaped Rapid Bus line in the Valley that would run between

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

Of course, better connecting the Valley and the Los Angeles basin has long been a challenge for mass transit in Los Angeles County, owing to the barrier that is the Santa Monica Mountains. The Red Line does run between North Hollywood and Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, but that doesn’t really help connect the Valley to the Westside.

Metrolink also offers two commuter rail lines between the Valley and downtown L.A., but that has two sets of challenges: 1) expense and frequency of service, and; 2) also no service to the Westside.

One of the projects designated for Measure R funding is the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, which aims to connect the Valley and Westside, with a study area that runs from Sylmar all the way to Los Angeles International Airport. A rail tunnel is among the options identified during early studies although that will need more than the $1 billion supplied by Measure R. Also being considered is a public-private partnership to supply more funding.

In the meantime, Metro is trying to find the best way to connect the Valley to the Westside via bus service. The 588 proposal is interesting because it would take advantage of the new northbound HOV lane that is being built on the 405 as part of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project that is scheduled for completion this summer. Metro’s current 761 Rapid Bus doesn’t use the freeway — it only runs along Sepulveda Boulevard.

The SFV Service Council held a public hearing to receive public comments on these proposed bus service modifications last Wednesday, as well as a hearing at the Metro Gateway Building on Saturday.

A total of 26 people provided comments. There will be three more public hearings held this week; tonight at the San Gabriel Valley Service Council in El Monte at 6 p.m., Westside/Central in Beverly Hills at 5 p.m. on Wednesday (Feb. 12) and Gateway Cities in Huntington Park at 6 p.m on Thursday (Feb. 13). More on meeting locations here.

Please check the metro.net for details on the location and public transit options. Interested persons can also provide their comments on these proposed changes thru Friday, February 14 via Metro Customer RelationsThe Metro Board of Directors are scheduled to consider the changes later this spring.

Coldwater Canyon closure announced; no need to completely freak out — there are transit options

This map shows Metro bus and rail service that runs every 15 minutes or less during the day. Click above to see larger.

This map shows Metro bus and rail service that runs every 15 minutes or less during the day. Click above to see larger.

A news conference was held this morning to announce that the road — used heavily by commuters to travel between the San Fernando Valley and Beverly Hills — will be closed for a month. From the LADWP:

From March 23 to about April 26, crews will close Coldwater Canyon Avenue, from Ventura Boulevard to Mulholland Drive, from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. This project is part of a major improvement project to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure. Due to the narrow road conditions of Coldwater Canyon Avenue and the need to use heavy equipment to excavate the road, remove and replace pipe, the thoroughfare must be completely closed to traffic to ensure the safety of the crew and the public.

During overnight hours and on Sundays, one lane in each direction will be open. Details of road closures and alternative routes will be discussed at the press conference.

There are some transit work-arounds for those traveling between the Valley and Beverly Hills, namely using the Red Line to travel between the Valley and Hollywood. During rush hours, trains run every 10 minutes from the Valley headed south to Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. Here’s the timetable.

On the Valley side, the 750 Rapid Bus serves Ventura Boulevard — with stops at Coldwater — and the Universal City Red Line station. The Orange Line busway also stops at Valley College and Laurel Canyon Boulevard (both near Coldwater Canyon) and serves the North Hollywood Red Line station.

On the Los Angeles side, it’s easy to use the subway to access several Rapid Bus lines that travel east-west across the basin:

•The 780 Rapid Bus stop at the Red Line’s Hollywood/Highland station and travels west on Hollywood Boulevard and then south on Fairfax Avenue through Beverly Hills to the Washington/Fairfax Transit Hub in Los Angeles.

•The 704 Rapid Bus stops at the Red Line’s Santa Monica Boulevard station and travels west on Santa Monica Boulevard all the way to downtown Santa Monica.

•The Purple Line subway travels west from a shared station with the Red Line at Wilshire/Vermont. The Purple Line terminates at Western Avenue and Wilshire, a major stop for the 720 Rapid Bus on Wilshire. The 720 travels west to downtown Santa Monica, with stops at major cross streets.

Metro Bus 218 provides a direct route from Beverly Hills to Studio City via Laurel Canyon. (Thanks for the tip, Source reader!)

Here’s another link to see the 15-minute map above.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Feb. 26: art of transit, does light rail stop people from driving?, raising the gas tax?

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 Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: A bus on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A bus on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. There’s a color version after the jump — I like the photo but can’t decide which version I like better. You decide! Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Does light rail really stop people from driving (The Atlantic Cities) 

A new study in the UK showed little evidence that four different light rail lines (all in Britain) made much of any difference on car ownership rates or the amount of driving. Rail ridership in the light rail corridors did go up, but that mostly seemed to come at the expense of bus ridership. Excerpt:

With that in mind, the work still underscores some important lessons. For starters, it offers a sound piece of advice: cities considering a light rail system should strongly consider whether improving the local bus system would be cheaper and just as effective. It also provides yet another reminder of the irrational love people have for their cars; getting city residents to give up driving often requires more than just offering them a ride.

LA Observed: Traffic, bikes and the 405 (KCRW)

LA Observed Kevin Roderick’s weekly radio segment focuses on the lack of talk about traffic during the mayoral campaign. Voters seem interested, Roderick says, but it’s hard for any prospective mayor to credibly say they can fix traffic — thus the talk instead of providing alternatives to it, i.e. bikes and transit. Good segment.

The case for a higher gas tax (New York Times) 

Valerie J. Karplus, a research scientist in the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at M.I.T., uses this op-ed piece to make the case that the only thing that will get Americans to drive less is more expensive gasoline. And by expensive she means a lot more than the current national average of $3.72. Excerpts:

But if our goal is to get Americans to drive less and use more fuel-efficient vehicles, and to reduce air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases, gas prices need to be even higher. The current federal gasoline tax, 18.4 cents a gallon, has been essentially stable since 1993; in inflation-adjusted terms, it’s fallen by 40 percent since then.

Politicians of both parties understandably fear that raising the gas tax would enrage voters. It certainly wouldn’t make lives easier for struggling families. But the gasoline tax is a tool of energy and transportation policy, not social policy, like the minimum wage.

She argues that President Obama took the easier path by greatly raising the fuel efficiency requirements of new vehicles — something that won’t reduce driving much or raise much money for infrastructure improvements. I do think the new standards, however, have a good chance of greatly reducing air pollution in our region. But if driving greatly increases, then those gains could be for naught.

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How do they do that?

A Metro Rapid bus. Photo by Waltrrrr, via Flickr creative commons.

How do they do that? is a new series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How do the street signal lights know to stay green a little longer or turn from red to green a little sooner when Metro Rapid and Metro Orange Line buses are approaching?

The process — called transit priority technology — causes traffic signals to hold green lights longer or shorten red lights to reduce the amount of time buses have to wait at intersections. Buses do still need to stop at red lights, just fewer of them or for shorter time periods.

All Rapid and Orange Line buses are equipped with special transponders that emit signals to a series of wired loops embedded in streets in the city of Los Angeles. As a bus passes from one loop to the next, the data is sent to a centralized computer in downtown L.A. This data is then used to determine the bus speed and location.

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Ride review: Big Blue Bus Rapid 7 to Wilshire/Western

The new 60-foot Rapid 7 bus turning left from Wilshire onto Western in front of the Wiltern Theater.

As we noted in May, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus had plans to shake up its service to improve connections with Metro Rail. Well those changes — detailed here [PDF] — went live on Sunday and there’s some good news for Metro riders.

The BBB has extended the eastern terminus of its Rapid 7 line from Rimpau Terminal to the Wilshire/Western Metro Rail station. And to help boost capacity on the popular line, Big Blue Bus has added 16 60-foot articulated buses to the fleet. They’re the same sort that you can find on the busier Metro Rapid lines, but clad in striking royal blue.

So with that in mind, I decided to try out the new service yesterday morning en route to Metro headquarters from my apartment just south of Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica. Continue reading

With some reservations, L.A. Council OKs 7.7-mile option for Wilshire bus lanes

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved a 7.7-mile option for rush hour bus lanes for Wilshire Boulevard, clearing a key hurdle needed for the project to begin its design phase and then construction.

But the Council provided a wrinkle: adding language asking the Metro Board of Directors to restore a one-mile segment of bus lanes through the Condo Canyon part of Westwood to help workers reach their jobs faster.

Ultimately, the decision by the council, on an 11 to 1 vote, was the same one made by the Metro Board of Directors last month. The Council vote should allow the project to be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration before a mid-July deadline for a $23-million federal grant to help cover the estimated $31.5-million cost of the lanes. (Here’s a post from yesterday with a map of the 7.7-mile option).

The County Board of Supervisors still must vote on the project — which includes a slice of county land along Wilshire. That vote likely will be uneventful, given that Supervisors already voted on the project as members of the Metro Board.

As would be expected, a talkative City Council made today’s vote interesting. Essentially, the Council had to choose between 5.4, 7.7 or 8.7 miles of bus lanes in the city’s portion of Wilshire Boulevard. The city began studying bus lanes on its share of Wilshire back in the 1990s and that essentially was the project proposal that was ready in time to apply for federal funding.

A recommendation by Councilman Bill Rosendahl to have 5.4 miles of bus lanes only east of Beverly Hills was quickly dismissed by his colleagues. Rosendahl has argued that the project only makes sense if Santa Monica and Beverly Hills were included and he predicted that the part of Wilshire nearest the 405 freeway would be choked by traffic as the result of converting the curb lane to a bus lane between Centinela and Barrington.
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Metro Board approves 7.7 miles of peak hour bus lanes for Wilshire Boulevard

Click above to see a larger map.

The Metro Board of Directors approved a 7.7-mile route for the Wilshire peak hour bus lane project. The approval came as part of voting to adopt the final environmental impact report for the project and followed the Metro staff recommendation for the project.

The vote was 10 to 0 11 to 0 with two absences and one abstention from Board Member Jose Huizar.

The route would include 5.4 miles of peak hour lanes on Wilshire immediately east of Beverly Hills — between San Vicente Boulevard and Park View Street, which is just west of downtown L.A. The other 2.3 miles would be in several segments between Centinela and the western border of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.

The map above shows the route and various improvements to be made along Wilshire, which is the heaviest traveled bus corridor in Los Angeles County with about 80,000 boardings on the average weekday.

A segment of about one-mile between Comstock and Selby avenues in Westwood was not included in the project. The area was originally planned to have peak hour lanes. But the Metro Board decided to exempt it because of community concerns that the loss of a traffic lane in that area would severely impact traffic.

Construction could begin later this year. The bus lanes are scheduled to open in 2013 at an estimated cost of $31.5 million, which also includes rebuilt curb lanes to accommodate heavier buses and improved traffic signal priority.

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The art of transit

photo by Downtowgal, via submission

This is a nice shot. There’s some blur to convey movement — but not too much. The framing gives viewer an idea how large the articulated buses are. And the bright red looks good offset against the washed out sky. The photo was taken near Metro headquarters in downtown L.A. with a Canon G-10 point-and-shoot.

To submit a photo for the Art of Transit, post it to Metro’s Flickr group, email it to sourcemetro@gmail.com or Tweet it to @metrolosangeles with an #artoftransit hashtag. Many of the photos we’ve featured can be seen in these galleries on Flickr.