Transportation headlines, Monday, April 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! 

Editor’s note: I’m blogging this week (again) from Cincinnati, where I’m attending to some unexpected family business. I hope to soon be back in L.A. assuming I don’t tumble into a giant pothole or drown in a four-way. 

Mayor calls delayed 710 report a significant setback (Pasadena Now) 

Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard says that he believes that a tunnel to close the 710 gap is still under consideration despite the announcement last week that the draft environmental study for the project will be delayed to accommodate new computer modeling. The mayor has in the past said that he’s against a tunnel. Other alternatives under consideration include light rail, bus rapid transit, intersection and traffic signal improvements and no build.

11 simple ways to speed up your city’s buses (Streetsblog USA)

The headline could have easily been 11 common sense things to do to speed up buses. Among the suggestions: moving stops to the far sides of intersections (so buses don’t stop twice — once for passengers and again for a red light), consolidating stops, streamlining routes, using more bus lanes and using more traffic signal priority. It’s a smart post and I hope that it’s read by the many cities that are served by Metro and muni buses in Los Angeles County — as they have a big say in this.

Train nearly takes out elected official at press event promoting train safety (San Francisco Examiner) 

Bottom line: don’t stand on the yellow line at the edge of the platform, even if you’re deemed an important person.

How to travel the West on $10,000 per day (High Country News) 

One idea: the “Earthroamer” a 10-ton RV complete with its own array of solar panels that probably don’t help prevent it from being a greenhouse gas machine.

Cincinnati streetcar foes have a new target: bus lanes (Streetsblog USA)

An attempt to stop the city’s streetcar project failed. The new enemy of the public: a proposed bike lane in downtown on Central Parkway, which could rob businesses of free employee parking, so says Cincinnati’s mayor. Semi-irony: Spending money on the bike lane was previously approved and underneath Central Parkway is a subway that was partially built in the 1920s but never completed. Construction of a streetcar along the Parkway was halted and almost suspended last winter but work has resumed. Hey Cincy: try finishing what you started!

Not really related but for those who didn’t understand the above reference, below is what a “four-way” plate of Cincy chili looks like. Four way as in cheese on top of chili, onions and spaghetti. Chili John’s on Burbank Boulevard and Keystone in Burbank serves a very similar and tasty dish and Metro’s 154 bus stops right in front for the culinarily curious and adventurous.

photo (5)

 

 

Update on release of SR-710 North study environmental documents announced

Here is the statement from Metro:

Metro today announced that release of the draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS) for the State Route 710 North Study will be delayed. Metro is working with Caltrans on a revised schedule and will make an announcement as soon as it is confirmed.

Metro had hoped to release the draft environmental documents this spring but the work was delayed while the latest Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) regional travel demand computer model for analyzing the alternatives was calibrated and applied.

Metro was one of the first agencies to use the new 2012 model in a major project. Calibration and validation of the model was not completed until last year and the associated travel demand forecasting for all of the alternatives was not completed until February of this year. However, it has become apparent that additional time is required to complete the technical studies, which means that the release of the Draft EIR/EIS must be delayed in order to preserve the integrity of the environmental process.

Metro has been working with the community, technical consultants and Caltrans on various alternatives for addressing traffic and environmental impacts within east/northeast Los Angeles, the western San Gabriel Valley and the region generated by a 4 ½ mile gap in the original 710 Freeway design that exists between Alhambra and Pasadena.

The draft EIR/EIS will thoroughly analyze five alternatives – Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit, Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management, a freeway tunnel, and a No Build option.

Metro, Caltrans, local cities and private developers all are required to use the SCAG regional travel demand model as a basis for project planning. It predicts future (2035) traffic through a thorough analysis of projected travel patterns considering such factors as population and employment growth, goods movement, land use changes and other variables. Other critical analysis including air quality, a health risk assessment, noise and energy effects also depend on travel demand computer modeling.

Metro and Caltrans are fully committed to ensure that the public has a voice in the process. Detailed analysis for each alternative will be incorporated in the SR 710 North Study draft EIR/EIS. For updates on the revised schedule and project background, go to metro.net/sr710study or facebook.com/sr710study or follow on Twitter @sr710study.

Transportation headlines, Monday, July 22

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 Transportation Headlines online newspaper, which you can also access via email subscription (visit the newspaper site) or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: Visitors take a ride at Descano Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge on Saturday. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Visitors take a ride at Descano Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge on Saturday. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Freeway fighters protest before Metro meeting on SR-710 North study (Pasadena Star News)

Opponents of the tunnel alternative in the ongoing study held a rally before Metro officials convened a community meeting on the project. The five alternatives under study to improve traffic congestion in the area around the 710 gap are the required no build option, traffic signal and intersection improvements, light rail between East L.A. and Pasadena, bus rapid transit between East L.A. and Pasadena and a tunnel directly between the 710 terminus at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra and the 710 stub south of the 210 freeway in Pasadena.

Below is a video Metro released earlier this year on the project.

Avoid eminent domain at Regional Connector site (Downtown News)

The DN editorial urges Metro and property owner Robert Davies Volk to somehow, someway find a way to negotiate the sale of a key parcel at 1st and Central needed to build the new Little Tokyo underground station. Metro has made an offer that Volk says isn't enough. The Metro Board in June voted to purse eminent domain proceedings if necessary.

Man steals bus, takes for long ride (Fox News)

A shirtless man in San Francisco somehow broke into a locked bus and then drove it 100 miles before a CHP spike strip flattened the vehicle's tires. The bus was outfitted with a GPS system so authorities could find it. The short article doesn't say what the thief was planning to do with the bus.

 

Reminder: why Election Day matters in Los Angeles if you care about transportation

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Click above to find your polling place.

As you may have heard, there’s a runoff Tuesday in Los Angeles to elect the next mayor of the second-largest city in the nation — a city with about 3.8 million inhabitants and some well-known transportation challenges.

I ran the following post on March 4, the day before the primary election in Los Angeles. I’m running it again today as a reminder to vote in tomorrow’s mayoral election between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel because whichever succeeds Antonio Villaraigosa will likely have a hand in many important transportation decisions, including project acceleration, the future of congestion pricing projects, the construction of five rail projects and possible changes in Metro’s fare structure in the future.

Look up your polling place here.

Metro is a county agency and is overseen by a 13 member Board of Directors who serve as the deciders on most significant issues. The Mayor of Los Angeles gets a seat on that board and gets to fill three other seats with his appointees.

A majority of the Metro Board — i.e. seven votes — is required to approve most items. Four of those seven votes are controlled by the Los Angeles mayor. That means that the mayor controls more than half the votes needed to approve items that have impacts across Los Angeles County and the region.

Here are some items that are likely to confront the Metro Board in the next four or so years, meaning they’re items likely to confront the lucky soul (if luck is the right word) who becomes the next mayor of the City of Angels and/or Parking Lots:

•There is the not-so-tiny issue of whether to accelerate the building of Measure R projects and, if so, how best to pay for it and which transit and road projects are included. The next mayor may also choose to use their bully pulpit to persuade Congress to adopt the full America Fast Forward program, which would greatly expand funding for transportation projects.

•Although Metro CEO Art Leahy has already said there will be no changes to Metro’s fares in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1, he also said it’s an issue that will likely have to be revisited sooner rather than later in order to help Metro keep up with its expenses.

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Reminder: why Election Day in Los Angeles matters if you care about transportation

Click above to find your polling place if you live in the city of Los Angeles.

Click above to find your polling place if you live in the city of Los Angeles.

As you may have heard, there’s a primary election Tuesday in Los Angeles to elect the next mayor of the second-largest city in the nation — a city with about 3.8 million inhabitants and some well-known transportation challenges.

So even if you get all scratchy and/or break out in hives during campaign season, I’m here to kindly remind you to vote because there’s a lot at stake. Strike that. There’s tons at stake. Look up your polling place here.

Here’s why. Metro is a county agency and is overseen by a 13 member Board of Directors who serve as the deciders on most significant issues. The Mayor of Los Angeles gets a seat on that board and gets to fill three other seats with his appointees.

So let’s do some math! A majority of the Metro Board — i.e. seven votes — is required to approve most items. Four of those seven votes are controlled by the Los Angeles mayor. That means that the mayor controls more than half the votes needed to approve items that have impacts (hopefully always very positive!) across Los Angeles County.

Here are some items that are likely to confront the Metro Board in the next four or so years, meaning they’re items likely to confront the lucky soul (if luck is the right word) who becomes the next mayor of the City of Angels and/or Parking Lots:

•Although there’s nothing currently on the table, there will likely be a discussion in the next four years about Metro’s fare structure — all large transit agencies have to confront the fare issue at regular intervals. If you’re one of the readers who has left countless comments on this blog calling for distance-based fares, then this might interest you.

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Notice: geotechnical tests for SR-710 Study begins Monday, Feb. 25

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

Here’s the link to the project home page and here’s the link to the recently-released Alternatives Analysis for the project. Five alternatives are under study: the usual no-build option, traffic signal and intersection improvements, bus rapid transit (East L.A. to Pasadena), light rail (East L.A. to Pasadena) and a tunnel to link the 710 from its terminus at Valley Boulevard to the 210/134 junction in Pasadena.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Jan. 31

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: Well, I've become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I’ve become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines’ Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

My apologies for the somewhat sporadic posting in the past few weeks — personal stuff.

FTA to streamline environmental review process (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that for the first time in a quarter century, the Federal Transit Administration is taking steps to speed its review of transportation projects to ensure they comply with federal law. For example, projects in existing transportation corridors will no longer require the same high level of review as projects breaking new ground.

This is welcome news. I hope it works. I’ve certainly chirped in the past about the need to cut red tape and get studies done quicker — proposing to build a busway or light rail line along an existing street should not require five years of study to determine impacts are slight or beneficial. One reason studies take so long is that the FTA, by law, must constantly review them.

Exploring the course of the future Metro Expo Line (KCET) 

Eric Brightwell has a nice write-up with plenty of photos of the stations and surrounding environs of the six-mile second phase that will extend the train from Culver City to Santa Monica. Tip of the cap to Eric for including one of my fave Mexican food joints in the area, Gilbert’s El Indio, which is in Santa Monica at Pico and 26th and is a bike ride or stroll from the future 26th/Olympic Station. Carnitas plate: I salute you!

A tale of competing Century City high-rises (Curbed LA)

JP Morgan Chase has hired a lobbyist to create a group — “Save the Westside” — to prevent a 37-story high-rise office tower from being built next to the future Century City Purple Line subway station. The issue? JP Morgan Chase trying to save its bottom line; the firm is a property owner in Century City and apparently doesn’t welcome any more competition, according to the office of Councilman Paul Koretz.

A subway’s birthday: Happy 20th, Metro Red Line! (Militant Angeleno) 

Great post by the militant one on the subway’s opening in 1993 and what it was like to ride the train back in 1993 — when it was only seven minutes from end to end. He also makes an outstanding point about how dull and lifeless downtown Los Angeles was back in ’93 — and how the subway impacted one business in Westlake:

Within a few months, thousands of Downtown workers suddenly discovered that they were just 25 cents and a couple minutes away from the best pastrami in town, and injected new life into a once-floundering Westlake delicatessen, right across the street from the subway’s western terminus.

He speaks, of course, of Langers. In the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words:

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

710 freeway coalition faces growing efforts against linking the route to 210 (Pasadena Sun)

Interesting article looking at groups for and against filling the gap in the 710 with a tunnel. Generally speaking, southern San Gabe Valley cities support the effort while those in the north oppose it. Metro is about to launch a draft environmental study for the project that is considering five alternatives: no-build, transportation systems improvements (i.e. signals and intersections), bus rapid transit, light rail and a freeway tunnel that would directly link the two ends of the 710.

 

CTA website offers ‘why things go wrong’ explanations (Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Transit Authority has a new feature on its website: a lengthy feature story trying to explain why buses and trains are sometimes delayed. But the Trib’s transportation columnist is not entirely impressed and doesn’t buy the CTA’s assertion that many service delays are entirely beyond its control.

My three cents (inflation!): Explanations are nice but never an excuse for poor service. That said, I thought the CTA page was thoughtful in trying to answer some very common questions about delays and this is something we should probably do here at Metro, where we have another equally important task: improving the speed that service alerts are communicated to riders.

Judge the CTA page for yourself. Here’s their take on bus bunching:

We know—bunching is frustrating. It frustrates us too, both as people who are charged with providing service, and people who use that same service to get around town. Bunching is the bane of bus systems around the world and there is no easy fix to it—particularly in places where there’s lots of traffic and where frequent bus service is required.

So how does it happen? Here’s a scenario:

Imagine a busy route that has buses running about every 5 minutes on a busy street, right at the morning peak, and all is right on time. Then, one bus gets delayed—let’s say a minor accident between two cars happens, and a lane is temporarily blocked while drivers exchange info, and this creates a backup that adds just two and a half minutes to the bus’s trip.

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Transportation headlines, Monday, Jan. 28

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.

Sparks fly at open house on 710 extension study (Pasadena Star News)

Some folks protested the study, others found the open house informative. Those who attended the meeting had the chance to visit different ‘stations’ and ask Metro and consultants questions about the ongoing study that is considering alternatives to improve traffic in the area around the 710 gap between Alhambra and Pasadena. Five alternatives are under study: the usual no build option, traffic signal and intersection improvements, bus rapid transit, light rail and a freeway tunnel. No decision has been made to build or not build anything yet — and there are no formal designs yet for any of the alternatives.

Newton: The city that could be (L.A. Times)

Editorial chief Jim Newton asks the four leading mayoral candidates — (in alphabetical order) Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, Kevin James and Jan Perry — what the nation’s second-largest city would look like if they win the mayor’s job and hold it for eight years. Transportation is a frequent topic.

I especially like this kicker from Newton:

 

It may be tempting to dismiss the importance of a mayor’s physical vision for Los Angeles. But imagination matters, as L.A.’s history well attests. Rear Adm. John Walker recommended placing a port in San Pedro, and L.A. officials tethered it to the city by annexation; the port is still the region’s most important economic force. William Mulholland eyeballed an aqueduct from the Owens Valley, and it still supplies our water. Tom Bradley imagined a center of commerce on Bunker Hill, and there it is. Richard Riordan could not bear the unfinished parking lot on Grand Avenue and, together with Eli Broad and others, raised the money that paid for architect Frank Gehry’s building of genius.

Where would we be without those?

Metro and Metrolink find solution to rider transfer issue (KPCC)

This brief article looks at the paper TAP tickets that Metro and Metrolink are developing to get Metrolink riders through the turnstiles when Metro begins latching them later this year. Here’s last week’s post with a look at the ticket prototypes.

Cubic buys Nextbus (Transit Wire)

Always interesting when one Metro contractor buys another Metro contractor. In this case, it’s Cubic — the contractor that installed the TAP system — purchasing Nextbus — the contractor that supplies real-time bus arrival info for smartphones.

Motion by Board Member Richard Katz asks for more info on project costs for SR-710 Study alternatives

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

 

UPDATE, 3 P.M. WEDNESDAY: The motion was withdrawn and will not be considered at Thursday's Board meeting.

We posted the newly released Alternatives Analysis (AA) yesterday for the SR-710 project that aims to improve traffic in the area near the gap in the 710 between Alhambra and Pasadena. Above is a related item: a motion by Metro Board Member Richard Katz that will be considered at Thursday's meeting of the full Board.

The AA has limited information on project costs — found below in Appendix X of the AA (pdf).

Metro staff have recommended five alternatives for further study in the next step, a draft environmental impact statement/report and the appendix has cost estimates for each: traffic system management improvements ($120 million), bus rapid transit alternative 6 ($50 million), light rail alternatives 4a and 4b ($2.425 billion and $2.6 billion) and freeway tunnel alternative 7 ($5.425 billion).

The Measure R sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 allocates $780 million for the SR-710 project. Funding would need to be secured for any costs above that amount. As for the Katz motion, I expect there will be a discussion at the Board meeting on Thursday, which we'll report here on The Source.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Jan. 22

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.

What’s Los Angeles like eight years from now, mayoral candidates? (L.A. Times) 

The Times asks five candidates for the mayor of Los Angeles for their vision for the nation’s longest city in the year 2021 — after, presumably, eight years of their leadership. Here are videos of their answers, which include frequent mentions of traffic and transit although specifics are missing (the videos are less than two minutes each). The mayor of Los Angeles gets an automatic seat on the Metro Board of Directors along with three appointees. That, of course, gives the mayor a nice measure of influence, the reason that voters in the city of L.A. who care about Metro should also care about who is the next mayor.

Open thread: big dig alternatives analysis released (L.A. Streetsblog) 

The Alternatives Analysis was released late Friday afternoon for the SR-710 project, which proposes to improve traffic in the area around the 710 gap between Alhambra and Pasadena. Streetsblog looks at the five options: no build, transportation systems management improvements, a bus rapid transit line between downtown L.A. and Pasadena, a light rail line from East L.A. to Pasadena and a freeway tunnel that would close the existing gap.

By the gallon or by the mile? States look for new highway revenue (KCET) 

D.J. Waldie looks at the idea of charging motorists taxes based on the number of miles they drive versus the gas tax. The problem is that tax revenues are declining or have flat-lined because vehicles are getting better fuel mileage. The by-the-mile tax has been talked about for quite some time and probably makes sense. But I think this will happen about the same time the federal government gets rid of the mortgage interest deduction — which is to say it’s an extreme longshot.