Five things I'm thinking about transportation

This is a new feature for The Source in which I express actual opinions while working for government. Members of the media: please take any of these ideas and run with them — we could use the coverage!

1. Like many readers, I was pleased to read in a recent Metro staff report that the so-called “stored value” for TAP cards is finally planned to roll out in the second quarter of next year. I think that this could have a huge impact in attracting discretionary riders. This would allow Metro riders to put, for example, $20 on their card and simply have the cost of a ride deducted when they take them. My domestic partner is one of those discretionary riders who takes Metro once or twice a week — meaning that once or twice a week I get to hear how she missed a train while fiddling with a ticket vending machine. And that’s the whole point of “stored value” — no one should have to visit the ticket machines twice a day.

2. I think the flyover ramps being built for the 405 freeway-Wilshire Boulevard interchange aren’t getting the attention they deserve as part of the 405 Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project. Of course, the carpool lane for the northbound 405 is the main attraction, but flyover lanes are a great idea, separating traffic trying to exit the freeway from traffic trying to enter the road. Across the region are entrance and exit ramps built too close to one another decades ago and those shortsighted designs are responsible for daily tie-ups across the region.

3. I agree with LA Observed’s Kevin Roderick that the prospect of a downtown L.A. football stadium will be one of the most interesting local political stories of the year. I still have a hard time getting my head wrapped around the fact that the region needs three giant football stadiums for USC, UCLA and a possible NFL team, respectively. That said, if the downtown stadium happens, at least all three would be accessible by rail — the Coliseum by the Expo Line, the Rose Bowl via the Gold Line and shuttle bus and the NFL stadium via the Blue Line and Expo Line.

4. I still find it quite a bit unbelievable that elected officials in Ohio and Wisconsin would surrender $1.2 billion in federal money for high-speed rail — more than $600 million went to California for its bullet train project. Even if the projects in those states were a bit pie-in-the-sky or ultimately too costly for the states to carry the rest of the costs, couldn’t the plans have been revised? Political deals can always be cut and I highly doubt the Obama Administration was eager to steer funds away from two states that will likely loom large in the 2012 elections.

5. I liked Steve Lopez’ recent column opining that the Westside Subway Extension should go all the way to the ocean in Santa Monica. And I agree in a perfect world that would be great. That said, I ask readers to consider two points: 1) It is still possible to greatly enhance bus service between the subway terminus at the VA Hospital in Westwood and downtown Santa Monica on Wilshire to help passengers reach Santa Monica, and; 2) even Measure R funds not going directly to the Westside project are still building projects that will help people get to the subway. The Gold Line Foothill Extension is a good example — allowing someone to board a train in Monrovia and get to Westwood with one transfer in downtown L.A. If someone in Monrovia in the future opts for the train instead of driving, that’s a 25-mile car journey that has been eliminated. Not bad.

7 replies

  1. So speaking of TAP stored value function… will Metro work with Cubic to make sure the maximum value deducted during a 24-hour period is $6? The same value as a day pass… It seems too easy and too straight forward so that’s why I’m worried Metro will screw this one up.

  2. Walk over to Montebello Bus Lines or Foothill Transit’s El Monte Station and you can add TAP fare credit. The frustrating thing is although you can buy day passes from TAP stored value from a rail ticket machine it is impossible to do so on a bus. Since I am a Commuter Check customer this means I still have to buy bags of tokens to add day passes onto my TAP card. Way to go Metro – keeping us stuck in the 19th century.

  3. Prop R was promoted as funding the Subway-to-the-Sea – the line should be completed to Santa Monica as was implied, no hand-wringing, please.

    The decision to terminate at the VA is unwise versus Bundy or Barrington – as buses on Wilshire will sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic, adding 30-60 minutes to what is supposed to be a 25 minute trip, before reaching the VA.

    As for Ohio and Wisconsin – bravo! Glad to see someone has the guts to stand up to “Free” money and say NO when it doesn’t make sense. If only such wisdom had prevailed in the valley when we started sinking $2B into the Orange Line, or when OC started their bankrupt takeover of El Toro.

  4. What is the hold up with the stored value on TAP cards? I used TAP stored value to pay for a ride from Transit Mall to Union Station back in January of this year, my seldom-used TAP still has $1.25 on it (yeah, I don’t get out to LA often…), and the machines won’t let me re-charge it. Why did Metro roll it out, then take it away?

  5. Regarding your point on “greatly enhancing” bus service west of the VA Hospital, this is something that should be done RIGHT NOW.

    The most obvious location for this would be a “bus bridge” between the Green Line terminus in Norwalk and the Metrolink station two miles to the east. A shuttle type service should be running there, at the same times and frequencies as the Green Line trains, especially during rush hours. Have it stop only at major aterials (I think there are only two). Demand may not be great at certain times of the day, so small buses could be used at those times.

    Another obvious service of this type would be connecting the North Hollywood Red Line station to Burbank Airport. Burbank Bus runs a service like this now, but it is very infrequent, and doesn’t run nights at all. This service should run as long as the Red Line is open, and just as frequently, to “extend” the Red Line service to the airport. Another connection would be NoHo Red Line station directly to downtown Burbank and the Metrolink station there. Burbank Bus does not run a line at all like this. This should run whenever Metrolink trains are running, with the last bus half an hour after the last Metrolink train.

  6. Regarding Steve Lopez’s column, I understand the reasons for stopping short of the sea. It does seem too bad that we couldn’t get it to Bundy, since the mile in between there and the VA is so crowded. A stop there might get people out of there cars and onto buses in order to connect to the subway.

  7. Steve, I totally agree on the importance of reworking the Wilshire on/off ramps. When the Santa Monica Blvd. and Wilshire ramps on the Southbound side were reconfigured a few years back when the Southbound HOV lane was added, the southbound morning back up no longer extended to Santa Monica Blvd. It moved “back” to Sunset, which was not reworked. This was not due to the carpool lane, it was a direct result of the ramp redesign. Having said that, it really makes me shake my head when I see all the work that is going into once again reconfiguring the Wilshire SB ramps. I presume this is to somehow aid in adding the northbound HOV lane. Someone could have saved a lot of money if they had done it “right” the first time.