Art of Transit:
VerdeXchange day one highlights: Phil Washington, Earl Blumenauer (Streetsblog LA)
Two announcements from Metro CEO Phil Washington:
•The Expo Line extension to Santa Monica will open in May, although no specific date was provided. Here’s our earlier post on more frequent train testing. The Expo Line Construction Authority has turned over the mainline tracks to Metro, but still must formally hand over the rail car maintenance facility to Metro.
As LAT scribe Laura Nelson ably put it:
The moving target on the opening of the Expo Line to Santa Monica is starting to narrow a bit. Latest info: Sometime in May!
— Laura J. Nelson 🦅 (@laura_nelson) January 26, 2016
And here’s the map in case you need a reminder of the route:
•Phil also said that the Purple Line Extension’s section three — from Century City to Westwood — was accepted in a new Federal Transit Administration pilot program to help accelerate transportation projects.
The FTA’s acceleration program will be retooled because of the passage in December of a new federal transportation spending bill. The FTA has said it will publish information soon about changes to the program. In the meantime, the FTA has also said they will continue to support acceleration of the project — which is good, meaning it’s on their radar — and Metro staff has said it will continue to seek ways to speed up projects.
Speaking of Westwood…
In a move that should surprise no one, the group bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics has said it intends to put the athlete’s village at UCLA and the media village at USC instead of original plans to purchase a Union Pacific rail yard in DTLA, clear the site and then build a new village on it. That plan could have cost up to $2 billion, not to mention the fact that it was unclear if UP was going to sell the land.
UCLA already has plenty of dorm rooms and facilities and officials were planning on holding athletic events there anyway. Does this ramp up pressure to get the Purple Line to Westwood by 2024? Perhaps. L.A. is one of four cities — joining Paris, Rome and Budapest — bidding for the Games. The winner will be selected in Sept. 2017.
In the meantime, the first section of the Purple Line Extension — to Wilshire/La Cienega — is scheduled to open in late 2023. Metro is working, too, on nailing down a federal grant to help pay for the second section to Century City and getting that project underway. The LA24 press release is silent on the issue of getting the Purple Line to Westwood by 2024.
Here’s the video on the LA24 website — complete with a Red/Purple Line cameo under the “reinventing the city” label:
A brief look at something we’ve discussed on the blog: the decline in ridership at Metro and other transit agencies in recent times. As UCLA transportation expert Juan Matute says, it’s not just a local trend, but he adds: “it is a bit concerning that we’re expanding the system at the same time ridership’s declining.”
That’s certainly a fair point. Juan also says that he thinks getting riders on transit will remain challenging until the cost of driving goes up (keep in mind that cost includes more than just gasoline). We’ve previously listed some of the possible reasons for ridership declines (service issues, maintenance, fare increase, fare enforcement, better economy, among others).
I’d like to add one: perhaps expanding the system will better connect transit to jobs and residential neighborhoods and make transit something people are more willing to take.
The Metro Board is scheduled to discuss the ridership issue at their meeting Thursday morning. The latest staff report on the issue is here.
The wreck of Amtrak 188 (NYT)
A detailed recounting of the crash last May in Philadelphia that killed eight and injured more than 200 when an Amtrak train jumped the track after entering a curve at more than twice the posted speed limit. By most accounts, the engineer was as conscientious as they come. He tested negative for drugs and alcohol and was not using his phone.
The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to begin releasing its findings in February. In the meantime, there is only speculation about what caused the crash, with some suggesting that the engineer became disoriented or simply lost his bearings due to an object striking the train or perhaps because of fatigue.
That said, the NTSB has said that one thing absolutely could have prevented the crash: a GPS-based system known as positive train control that would have automatically halted the train. That system wasn’t up and running at the time, due to problems with Amtrak funding and bureaucratic hassles. It now is along some stretches of the busy northeast corridor (Amtrak’s busiest corridor). Other railroads have until 2020 to get positive train control up and running, although Metrolink has already started implementing it.
Metro is one of five county transportation agencies that funds Metrolink commuter rail. Metrolink shares tracks with freight trains and Amtrak.
Would you vote for a Measure R 2 with no dedicated walk/bike funding? (Streetsblog LA)
As Joe Linton points out, Measure R returns 15 percent of its revenues to local cities on a per capita basis. Some of that money — called “local return” — has been used for pedestrian and bike projects.
With Metro working on a potential sales tax increase to take to voters in November, the post reminds Streetsblog readers that Streetsblog will/already is watching closely to see if there is a dedicated funding stream for walk/bike projects. Reader reaction in the comments section is interesting.
Recent How We Rolls:
Jan. 25: new Board motion calls for studying rail line to new Rams stadium in Inglewood.
Jan. 21-22: transit ridership declines, why teens are driving less and seniors more, more gondola talk, active transportation and Metro construction update.
Jan. 16: Expo Line tracks handed over to Metro, four interesting ideas for transpo in our region.
Jan. 15: big cars, electric cars and self-driving cars.
Jan. 14: A look at Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles’ attempt to do something about traffic and more on the Rams move to the Coliseum and then Inglewood.
Categories: Transportation Headlines