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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Transportation headlines, Monday, May 20

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.

Mayor candidates on transportation: innovation versus tried and true (L.A. Times)

With Election Day tomorrow in Los Angeles, the Times tries to tease apart the differences on transportation policy between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel. If not much difference on the issues, there may be an issue in style, says one of the academics who is quoted.

As the article points out, the biggest source of influence for the next mayor will be the four seats on the Metro Board of Directors directly under their control (the mayor gets one seat and then can appoint three others). I think perhaps the most interesting revelation, however, was this:

Among likely L.A. city voters in Tuesday’s election, nearly half said they thought policymakers should focus on public transportation, compared with 35% who favored spending on roads and freeways, according to a new poll by the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and the Los Angeles Times.

 

I think that’s pretty interesting given the car-centric reputation of the area and, of course, interesting if there’s another Measure R or Measure J down the road.

 L.A.’s next mayor to have a regional impact (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

Of course, you can say that about any mayoral election in Los Angeles because of the mayor’s voting bloc on the Metro Board. This article makes two points pertinent to the San Gabriel Valley: the next mayor could play a big role in deciding who manages Ontario’s airport in the future (it’s currently run by L.A. but locals want control) and the next mayor plays a big role in decisions made by the Port of Los Angeles, a major driver of freight traffic on roads and rails in the region.
The most provocative part of the article — at least the part in which my coffee almost ended up in my lap — comes from a Montclair council member who says that money for the Purple Line Extension would be better spent on a Gold Line extension to Montclair, a small city in western San Bernardino County. I think a smarter quote would have been to argue that L.A. County needs a transit network that spans almost the entire width of the county; I think that’s something voters get while pols tend to focus only on projects in their district. Shocking, I know.
The Los Angeles Mayor says he has worked closely with the City Council to find $40 million the city could contribute toward a Leimert Park station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, although it will cost more than that. As part of the bidding process, Metro is seeking a construction firm that can build the optional station within the project’s $1.76-billion budget.
The Metro staff recommendation is supposed to be released soon and the contract could possibly be voted on at the June meeting of the Metro Board — which will also be Villaraigosa’s last Metro Board meeting as mayor. If a vote occurs, it’s a pretty dramatic way for Mayor V to end his eight-year tenure in office. If the issue isn’t decided in June, then Eric Garcetti or Wendy Greuel will confront a big vote early in their term — and they’ve also made some interesting statements about not just adding a station, but also undergrounding the line through Park Mesa Heights, an expensive proposition.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 9

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.

Delays, costs build up for 405 project (L.A. Times) 

A good look at the various issues that have delayed completion of the project that is adding a northbound carpool lane to the 405 between the 10 and 101 as well as widening bridges and rebuilding the on- and off-ramps to/from Wilshire Boulevard. Excerpt:

The 405 project is being built under a speedier-than-typical process. State lawmakers fast-tracked the construction by choosing the so-called “design-build” method over the more traditional “design-bid-build.”

Design-build puts a single contractor in charge of final design and construction, in theory enabling projects to run more smoothly and to be completed at lower cost.

Shaving years off the project “saves hundreds of millions of dollars in construction impacts, costs and travel delays for the public,” said Dave Sotero, a Metro spokesman.

But there can be downsides to this approach.

Some tasks that normally would be completed before the bulldozers and pile drivers move in — such as relocating utility lines — must be completed while construction is underway. Nasty surprises can derail plans.

In addition to the utility relocations, other problems have involved retaining walls and securing a property easement to build ramps from Getty Center Drive. The project is scheduled to be completed by mid-2014 with some parts of it opening prior. That’s a year behind the original schedule but seven years ahead of the 2021 completion date if design-build had not been used.

Crenshaw Subway Coalition gets ready for Leimert Park station showdown (Los Angeles Wave) 

A rendering from the Crenshaw/LAX Line's final environmental document showing the light rail running at grade between 48th and 59th.

A rendering from the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s final environmental document showing the light rail running at grade between 48th and 59th.

An update on a recent community meeting by the group fighting to add a Leimert Park station to the Crenshaw/LAX Line and have the segment between 48th and 59th streets put underground (as approved it will be built at street level). The article also included the Coalition’s update on what the Los Angeles mayoral candidates have written to the Coalition. Excerpt:

“As soon as possible upon taking office as mayor [I commit to directing] staff to review the design options in the [Environmental Impact Report/Statement] as well as funding opportunities for underground portions of Crenshaw Blvd between 48th and 59th streets,” Greuel wrote.

Meanwhile, Garceti declared: “As mayor, I will continue to aggressively fight for the rail stop in Leimert Park to improve safety, create jobs, boost local businesses and provide better access to a transportation option that will help South L.A. residents get where they need to go without a car, which will reduce congestion and pollution for us all.”

Bids to build the project are scheduled to be released soon by Metro, as well as a Metro staff recommendation for who should be awarded the contract. At this point, the earliest the Board would consider that contract is in late June; Garcetti or Greuel will take office on July 1. The Board has already approved adding a Leimert Park station if it could be built within the project’s budget. Putting the segment south of 48th Street underground is a bigger deal because that’s not the project approved that was approved by the Board or put out to bid, nor was it the project approved by the Federal Transit Administration in late 2011. Stay tuned!

L.A. Council approves controversial rail yard for port complex (L.A. Times) 

Cargo ships on the Panama Canal in a 2008 photo. Credit: ThinkPanama, via Flickr creative commons.

Cargo ships on the Panama Canal in a 2008 photo. Credit: ThinkPanama, via Flickr creative commons.

The 153-acre facility in Wilmington would allow more cargo containers to be transfered from trucks to Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains closer to the ports. Proponents say it would vastly reduce truck trips on the nearby 710 freeway and that it will be the greenest facility of its kind. Opponents counter that the yard will spew more pollution into the area and have threatened to sue. Looming over the entire issue is the widening of the Panama Canal, which may or may not (depending on who is doing the predicting) inspire the largest cargo ships from Asia to bypass the West Coast and instead unload at harbors along the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast.

Has high-speed rail been derailed? (Governing) 

A good, balanced article on federal funding of President Obama’s initiative to build high-speed rail lines around the U.S. As the article notes, the $42 billion needed from the feds to build a San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line seems unlikely to come from the current Congress given recent budget cuts. But proponents point to smaller projects around the country that are speeding up existing Amtrak lines and say high-speed rail is much like the interstate highway system — it will be done in increments.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, April 23

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.

Los Angeles mayoral candidates talk transportation at last night’s debate (NBC4)

Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel were asked about public transportation and accelerating Measure R projects at last night’s debate at USC.

In this first video excerpt, the candidates were asked what they would do to increase use of public transportation while working with Metro (sorry about the commercials):

In this second excerpt, the candidates were asked if they would support sacrificing traffic lanes and street parking for dedicated bus lanes:

The questions were good but I’m not sure asking the candidates to squeeze what could be a much longer conversation about transit and transportation into just a couple of minutes is very fair to the audience.

Video interviews: the mayoral candidates (L.A. Times) 

The opinion section of the Times posts 30-minute interviews with both Garcetti and Greuel, including questions about pedestrian safety and transit. The interviews are also posted in segments so viewers can watch the parts that most interest them.

Letters: give the 110 toll lanes more time (L.A. Times) 

Readers opine on the recent story in the Times about the ExpressLanes project on the 110 freeway. Among the letters is one from a USC professor urging residents to give the ExpressLanes more time to change driver behavior (i.e. not use the 110 at its busiest times) and another reader urging Metro to adjust the tolls so that more motorists in the general lanes will want to use the ExpressLanes.

This date in history: April 22, 1964 (Primary Resources) 

It was 40 years ago that a plan was released explaining how the proposed Beverly Hills Freeway would be a tunnel while traveling under Beverly Hills with no exits or entrances, by the way. For those keeping score at home, the freeway lost. Check out the report in the post — fascinating read on the east-west freeway that never came to be.

Transportation headlines, Friday, April 12

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: Bullet trains in China in a 2010 photo. Photo: kwramm, via Flickr creative commons.

ART OF TRANSIT: Bullet trains in China in a 2010 photo. Photo: kwramm, via Flickr creative commons.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants China aboard California’s bullet train (L.A. Times) 

The Governor also talked to the Chinese about possibly investing in the California high-speed rail project, which is about $55 billion short of funds needed to complete the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles segment. “People here do stuff,” the governor said. “They don’t sit around and mope and process and navel-gaze. The rest of the world is moving at Mach speed.” There’s a short video — the Chinese trains are certainly sleek looking.

Garcetti, Greuel are positive, specific in their first debate of runoff (L.A. Times) 

KABC-TV showed the debate live but good luck finding the video on their cluttered website. I tuned in and the candidates got the “what will you do about traffic?” as the second question of the night. Both were supportive of more mass transit, with Garcetti in particular calling for a Sepulveda Pass rail tunnel to connect the San Fernando Valley to the Westside.

Some quick background: A transit project spanning the Sepulveda Pass was included in the list of projects to receive Measure R funding. The Sepulveda Pass project is due to get about $1 billion but under Metro’s long-range plan would not be finished until the late 2030s. For that reason, Metro is exploring public-private financing that would both fully fund the project and possibly allow it to be built faster. Here is a post from last year about the concepts being studied; a rail tunnel is among them.

Transforming L.A. into a world-class place to live (LA 2050) 

The activist group Angelenos Against Gridlock is competing for one of the 10 $100,000 grants to be handed out by the Goodhirsh Foundation as part of its LA 2050 plan initiative to help make the region a better place. The group is seeking money to build a campaign to persuade the region to build out its rail system. From their proposal:

The biggest challenge to building the housing supply that will meet demand and lower costs, and to making areas with affordable housing accessible, is our traffic and lack of adequate mobility options, which causes citizens to block new housing construction.

Can’t argue with that. The reason that so many developments become big battles is the fear — sometimes well-founded, and often not — they will bring unbearable traffic to neighborhoods where driving is the only option.

BART extension to San Jose; heavy lifting about to begin (San Jose Mercury News)

Heavy construction of a 10-mile segment of BART from Frement to downtown San Jose is expected to begin. The project has a scheduled completion date of 2018 but officials are trying to beat that goal by a year. When done, the BART line will mean that San Jose is connected to San Francisco directly by the existing Caltrain and will also have a rail connection to the many cities in the East Bay.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 10

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 Metro local bus on Broadway passes the entrances to Grand Park in downtown L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A Metro local bus on Broadway passes the entrances to Grand Park in downtown L.A. Click above to see larger; looks better larger! Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Traffic zips in toll lanes but slows in free lanes (L.A. Times)

The Times kicks the tires of the ExpressLanes project and looks at the preliminary data released last month for the project on the 110 freeway. The gist of it: speeds are up in the ExpressLanes, down in the general lanes and some motorists are happy and others are very not happy. Transportation experts continue to back the project, saying it’s the best way to potentially add capacity to the freeway and it will take time for the public to get used to the lanes.

LADOT lays the ground for functional car share with Hertz; goodbye Zipcar? (L.A. Streetsblog)

The city of L.A. is considering switching its car-share vendor to Hertz from the current Zipcar. The issue is there are very few Zipcars in L.A. — just 40 (yikes!), mostly around UCLA and USC — and Hertz is seemingly offering the city a better deal by paying for exclusive parking spots and revenue sharing. My three cents: too bad it has to be one car share firm over another; it would be great if consumers had a choice.

Semi-related: As we posted recently, there are now four Zipcars available for rental at Los Angeles Union Station. More info here.

Mayoral candidates miss the train (LAObserved) 

Bill Boyarsky attends a community meeting over a proposed apartment complex at the future Expo Line’s Sepulveda station. Residents are worried about traffic and meanwhile, Boyarsky writes, neither of the candidates to be the next mayor of Los Angeles — Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel — are saying much about transit and what it will do to the city in the future. Excerpt:

What was missing here and in other city policy discussions was an examination of what these train lines would do for—and to—the city. In the Valley, there is talk of converting the popular Orange Line express bus to light rail, better able to handle the growing patronage. A Crenshaw rail line will be built and light rail is changing East L.A. The subway extension will remake the neighborhoods in the Wilshire corridor.

It’s definitely something for Greuel and Garcetti to discuss. But the subject deals too much with Los Angeles’ future to attract attention in a campaign where both candidates are worried about a short-term gain of votes in an election less than two months away.

A Los Angeles primer: the subway (KCET)

Fun and well-written post by Colin Marshall looks at the phenomenon that many Angelenos have never set foot or tushie upon the subway here — a subway system that Colin thinks is quite pleasant albeit somewhat limited. Excerpt:

Yet on the whole, those I introduce to our subway emerge impressed. Say what you will about their limited reach; the Red and Purple Lines surely must rank among the cleanest, most comfortable, least urine-smelling systems in America. You may lose twenty minutes waiting on platforms, but you’ll have taken a subway — in Los Angeles! Some transit observers regard this town as a child who, having broken a leg on the playground, started school only after a considerable delay: perhaps he hasn’t caught up with his peers yet, but you should’ve seen how far behind he was a year ago. This sense of Los Angeles in the remedial class intersects with the notion, correct or not, that transportation just works differently here: differently when we didn’t have a subway, and a different kind of subway now that we have one.

Read the whole thing. Colin makes some very cogent points about the region and its attitudes toward transportation and, more specifically, the changing attitudes of some younger residents toward the concept of automobile ownership.

It’s Tulsa versus Milwaukee in Parking Madness title game! (D.C. Streetsblog)

The funny-but-sad tournament is trying to determine which American city did the best job of turning its downtown area into a giant parking lot, i.e. a parking crater, to serve whatever buildings were allowed to remain. Check out the photos of Tulsa, which appears to have leveled a big chunk of its downtown since the 1970s to accommodate more cars. Geesh. If you’re just turning in, L.A. surprisingly got bounced in the tourney’s first round by Dallas. Speaking of L.A.-Dallas….that was a sour third period last night, Kings. 

Transportation headlines, Wed., March 6: mayoral election thoughts, subway map for pedestrians, LaHood wants new bikeway standards

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.

Garcetti and Greuel head to runoff (L.A. Times) 

As some polls had predicted, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel qualified for the runoff election in May for the job of mayor of Los Angeles — and automatic seat plus three appointments to the Metro Board of Directors. This interactive map from the Times breaks down the geography of the voting totals.

It’s pretty obvious from the map that the San Fernando Valley will be competitive. So will South Los Angeles, which mostly voted for Councilwoman Jan Perry. Traffic and transit remain big issues in both the Valley and South L.A. and there are several big projects planned for both areas — the Sepulveda Pass project in the Valley and the Crenshaw/LAX Line in South L.A. So it will be interesting to see if transportation gets a bigger role in the 10-week runoff.

Turnout was a miserable 16 percent. I blame the increasingly long presidential election cycles and the saturation media coverage they generate in the preceding year; it’s little wonder that the average person has little interest in hearing more campaign-speak by the time the city elections roll around the following winter and spring. The city of Los Angeles could move its elections to November, but I have 100 percent confidence they won’t. Why fix a long-standing problem, eh? Over at LAObserved, Mark Lacter blames candidates for not embracing an issue most people care about — traffic.

Unrelated: in the spirit of constructive criticism, may I suggest the Daily News hire a web designer?

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Sources: AEG’s downtown football stadium a no-go for the NFL (Yahoo Sports) 

This headline is from yesterday. The most interesting part is found in the bottom of the story — with one bidder for AEG proposing to put a baseball stadium instead next to L.A. Live. I’ve long said bringing baseball into downtown proper would be a good move for the city. But I doubt that will happen anytime soon, especially now that the Dodgers have (to their credit) pumped a lot of money into rehabbing the current ballpark.

A subway map for pedestrians (The Atlantic Cities) 

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Cool map from the Spanish city of Pontevedra. It looks like a subway map but is actually a map showing walking distances. I could see that being useful for some of our region’s transit hubs.

LaHood announces safety summits to shape new bikeway standards (L.A. Streetsblog) 

With cyclist deaths rising in 2011, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants experts to come up with designs that make for safer bike lanes and other bike corridors. Good move. Just because it’s a bike lane, doesn’t mean it’s safe and too many cities — I’m talking to you, Pasadena — have thrown up ‘bike route’ signs on busy streets over the years without doing one single thing otherwise to help cyclists.