As summer winds down, just wanted to post a few notes from Source Planetary & Universe Headquarters, conveniently located next to Union Station and the county jail:
•The International Olympic Committee on Saturday picked Tokyo to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, spurning Istanbul (again) and Madrid. In 2017, the IOC will select the site of the 2024 Summer Olympics, with Los Angeles possibly in the running.
The above video was part of Tokyo's bid for the games. I think it's interesting for a couple of reasons. One, it emphasizes the walkability to many of the Olympic venues in Tokyo. Two, it doesn't emphasize transit, perhaps because Tokyo's subway is notoriously crowded.
With that thought in mind, allow me to backtrack for a few paragraphs.
In a rare foray into the Wild West that is reddit, I was asked recently when Metro might take a Measure R extension back to voters. An extension failed at the polls in November despite receiving 66.1 percent approval — just shy of the two-thirds necessary for a victory.
Short answer: no decision to go back to voters has been made by the Metro Board, the ultimate decider on such matters.
Long answer: In June, the Metro Board adopted an acceleration strategy. Part of that strategy was asking Metro staff for a report on when it would be best to return to voters — either 2014 or 2016. It's fair to say that's an acknowledgment that it will be difficult to accelerate anything without extending Measure R past its current 2039 expiration date. Why? There's likely not enough federal funding otherwise without a big local match.
I could be wrong, but my sense is that one factor in any future acceleration decision is whether the Los Angeles region seriously pursues the 2024 Summer Olympics. Earlier this year, then-Mayor Villaraigosa wrote the U.S. Olympic Committee, saying L.A. is interested. On his first day in office in July, Mayor Garcetti wrote USOC, saying much the same thing. (More info on the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games website)
If so, pursuing transit upgrades could become part of an overall infrastructure upgrade. Cities almost always promise key infrastructure upgrades as part of their Olympic bids. And there are a couple of Measure R projects that I'm guessing Olympic officials might be interested in: the Purple Line Extension to Westwood and the Airport Metro Connector, currently scheduled to be done in 2036 and 2028, respectively.
UCLA sits at the end of the third phase of the Purple Line Extension and some of the school's facilities could be used as an Olympic venue. Pauley Pavilion hosted gymnastics in 1984, back in the pre-Staple Center days.
The Airport Metro Connector seeks to connect the LAX terminals to the Crenshaw/LAX line via bus rapid transit, people mover, light rail or some combination of those three. If L.A. is going to compete for an Olympics, L.A. also needs to realize that many other metro areas across the globe have managed to breach the gap between their airport and their transit systems.
Of course, there is also the matter of Olympic politics. Tokyo also hosted the 1964 Summer Games. Who knows if the IOC would want to put the next Olympics in a city such as L.A. that has already twice hosted them. On the other hand, the U.S. last hosted a Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta.
The hope here is that L.A. will be a strong contender because so many facilities are already here, assuming the Coliseum or Rose Bowl could be retrofitted with a running track.
Even without Measure R projects being accelerated, our region can still boast of a serious transit expansion since the 1984 Olympics — when there was no Metro Rail or Metrolink. Metro now runs 87.7 miles of rail and Metrolink service spans six counties. Even without acceleration, Metro is still planning to open five projects in the next decade: the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension, the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Regional Connector and the first phase of the Purple Line Extension before 2024. That would make it far easier to travel around to different events.
•After years of evasive action, I was selected for a jury earlier this year. As the judge said at the outset of the trial, many reluctant jurors end up finding it a rewarding experience — and she was absolutely right.
It was great to see how the wheels of justice really work and also provide a measure of fairness to defendants entitled to a fair trial and victims who deserve justice. Plus, the criminal courts building in downtown L.A. has pretty decent wi-fi to help get things done when outside the courtroom.
All that said, I was surprised at how many of my fellow jurors drove to the courthouse, which is one block from the Red/Purple Line Civic Center station. In fact, many of the courthouses in L.A. County are close to Metro Rail and Metro bus lines: Pasadena and East L.A. are near the Gold Line and the Compton courthouse is across the street from the Compton Blue Line station.
Perhaps one day a jury summons will arrive in the mail with a shiny new TAP card inside imprinted with a special scales of justice logo. If the idea is to lower the annoyances of jury duty, then giving prospective jurors an alternative to sitting in traffic may be a good idea.
•I'd like to remind everyone that Metro has an increasingly active presence on Twitter — after a gentle (read: very slow) start the past couple of years, we're finding that Twitter is 1) a great way to converse with the taxpaying public in real-time, and; 2) an equally great way to give boring old government a little — GASP — personality.
Government for too long has been too unwilling to crack a smile, tell a joke, apologize or flagellate itself. Well, we're going to try a different approach on our Twitter feed. And while I don't expect it to persuade everyone that Metro is crazy awesome, I do hope it lends a little bit of humanity to an agency that you're paying for.
Just FYI, there's a parallel effort at Metro to beef up staff in order to get service alerts to riders more quickly via Twitter and electronic signs. More on that soon, I hope.
•Speaking of social media, Metro has debuted on Instagram. If you ever wondered what government-issued egg salad look like, here's your big chance. Hint: It somehow manages to look worse than it tastes.
•And, finally, I'm pleased that The Source will soon be entering the world of podcasting. I think it will be a fun way to hear from people in the world of transportation and planning, both inside and outside of Metro. If you have an idea for someone who may be a good guest, email me.