With air quality tanking, transit agencies in Bay Area offer free rides; HWR, Nov. 16

Dept. of Local Governmenting

The deadly Camp Fire has also caused brutal air conditions in Northern California. Some transit agencies in the Bay Area responded wisely:

Here is how bad it looked:

Our region wasn’t doing much better last Saturday when the scene looked like this from Debs Park near DTLA at about 2 p.m.:

It’s interesting to see agencies offering freebies at the pace they have. Many, including Metro, went free on Election Day. We also had free rides on this past Earth Day. Now air quality is added to the list.

Let’s look at some of the other news…

Metro announced yesterday that the Crenshaw/LAX Line would likely open in mid-2020; the agency had been targeting a fall 2019 opening. Here’s our blog post. Some  commenters expressed disagreement with our word choice. Media coverage at Streetsblog LA and Curbed LA.

As Streetsblog explains, Metro’s Board is also scheduled on Dec. 6 to vote for an operating plan for the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line, whose tracks are tied together. There are two choices: C1, the Metro staff recommendation, and C3, which has the support thus far of six Board Members. I’ll write more before the next Board meeting.

The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority’s Board voted 5-0 on Tuesday to build the Gold Line Extension 2B project in two phases due to construction bids being far higher than the project’s budget (the Authority says high tariffs were a factor). The first phase will go to Glendora, San Dimas and La Verne. A second phase to Claremont and Montclair would later be built if at least $570 million in funding can be secured. As Steve Scauzillo explains in the SGV Tribune, state cap-and-trade and SB 1 funds are possible sources of money, but as with all state or federal grants, those always come with challenges. The Gold Line project was one of six Metro projects awarded about $1.1 billion in state funding this spring.

Click to see larger.

Metro’s Board of Directors Executive Management Committee tackled the line renaming issue yesterday. For the most part, the Board liked the plan floated by Metro staff to use Letters and Colors to signify rail and bus rapid transit lines. However, concerns were raised about using the letter ‘F’ for the Orange Line due to that letter also serving as locomotive for a certain word currently outlawed on Government Blogs. There were a concern voiced about riding a future Brown Line. FWIW, New York has an ‘F’ Line (I used to ride it from Brooklyn) and Chicago has a Brown Line. The full Metro Board gets to mull the issue on Dec. 6. Bring some popcorn and a dictionary!

The New York MTA is eyeing fare increases in 2019 that could bring the base fare to $3 per subway ride from the current $2.75. The problem: a growing budget deficit and looming maintenance and upgrade costs for the system, which has been beset by service issues in recent times.

Key graphs from the NYT story:

The latest deficits were caused in part by declining ridership, which has led to lower revenue projections, officials said. The decline is worrisome because it is happening as the city’s population is increasing and tourism is booming.

Officials blamed the drop on competition from Uber and other ride-hail apps, and on night and weekend closings for construction work that are needed to fix the system. Some riders, fed up with constant delays, have simply abandoned the subway.

On our end of the continent, Metro officials have talked about the need to raise fares at some point in the future as part of periodic financial forecasts to the Board. Costs do rise as the years go by and Metro’s base fare of $1.75 — last increased in 2014 — remains below most other large metro area fares around the U.S.

The Summer Olympics and Paralympics are coming to Los Angeles in 2028 — and Metro’s Board last year adopted a ‘Twenty-Eight by ’28 Initiative‘ to try to build 28 major projects by then. The Olympics are coming here, of course, because L.A. already has many of the facilities needed. Elsewhere, the Olympics are a tough sell because of the cost. Calgary officials pushed for the 2026 Winter Olympics, for example. Calgary voters pushed back and said ‘no thanks’ earlier this week.

Things to read whilst transiting: Excellent NYT interactive story on how climate change is changing Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area. Spoiler: probably not for the better. Idea: generally speaking, taking transit instead of driving alone is one way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Things to listen to whilst transiting: As usual, I’m late to the party but season 3 of the ‘Serial’ podcast is beyond excellent. The reporters detail the inner workings of the Cleveland criminal court system and some of the people who pass through it and/or get stuck in the cogs of justice. All in all, a great way of explaining how a vital part of government works, for worse and for better.

6 replies

  1. About the ‘F’ line — New York has an F subway line, LA Railway and (I think) LA Transit Lines had an F line that was later converted to bus, and SF Muni had an F line that was converted to bus.

  2. Hi Steve, could you please make a post on the 710 North projects and why highway-only projects seem to be going to the Board when this should not be Metro’s priorities anymore? Thanks!

    • Hi TransitNerd;

      I’ll try to get a post together. In the meantime, I encourage you to read the staff report along with attachments: https://boardagendas.metro.net/board-report/2018-0513/

      The shortish answer to the question about highway projects is this: Metro is the transportation planning agency for Los Angeles County and therefore the agency funds road, transit and active transportation projects (walking and biking, in plain English).

      Both Measures R and M contain funding for numerous road projects. The agency also returns a portion of all four of its sales tax measures to local cities and unincorporated areas on a per capita basis for local transportation projects — which are often road projects. Metro also runs the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways and has plans for expanding the ExpressLanes network.

      In other words, Metro is not just a transit agency although that’s probably how we’re best known. Although I’m sure some people may believe we should not be in the road business, the fact is we are and no vote has ever been taken trying to change the agency’s scope or mission, which is to improve mobility — including roads.

      As for the 710 North project, it received funding as part of the Measure R package approved by voters in 2008. Although the Board decided not to pursue a freeway tunnel option, it did decide to fund other local road improvements to help mitigate traffic that flows onto local streets in the area around the 710 gap between Alhambra and Pasadena.

      As you are surely aware, the freeway tunnel was a highly contentious project and there was considerable opposition to it — although some people also thought it had merit. I am not taking sides in that issue but I do think it is undeniable that there are traffic impacts due to the 710 gap and I don’t believe trying to mitigate some of that traffic is a bad thing. As the project’s long environmental studies showed, transit projects in the area around the gap may attract some riders but they likely would not mitigate for the traffic in that area.

      Hope that helps provide some context for this particular issue.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. I can agree with the metro boards “WTF” motion. Southern California has a really bad trend of redlining the region with invisible boundaries. Some of these are just due to zoning and engineering like industrial areas that insulate cities, however places like the south bay and orange county also coincidentally have a particular demographic and economic status.

    To me, the alternative to turn the Redondo end of the green line to a small stub was another step in isolating these bubble areas like El Segundo. It is really passive, and it happens in Orange County, but many people are either forced to take an additional transfer, or have to pay a premium fee to make it to a destination. Personally, it feels like mitigation, and I really don’t like it. I understand that demand generates supply, but its hard not to look at this from a cynical perspective or through the eyes of a NIMBY.

    In short, Metro needs to just use the infrastructure the way it was promised to us. Maybe I’m unaware, but is there some type of equipment shortage, or engineering challenge to where trains cant just go all the way to each end?

    • Hi Real Transit Rider;

      I’ll write about this when I can do a post on the operating plan but the short answer is yes. The issue is traction power along the Green Line and the amount of electricity available to power trains.

      In plan C3, trains would run between Norwalk and Expo/Crenshaw and between Redondo and Willowbrook/Rosa Parks. There would only be enough power for two-car trains on the Green Line at the frequencies that Metro wants to run for both segments. That would mean running two-car trains between Norwalk and Expo/Crenshaw — even though along the new Crenshaw/LAX Line there is enough power for three-car trains every 10 minutes. Staff’s concern is that running two car trains on the new Crenshaw/LAX trains may not be enough to handle ridership on that segment.

      Your concerns are obviously shared by others. The motion to try the C3 plan is signed by six of the 13 Board Members, as Streetsblog LA noted. We’ll see how it shakes out on Dec. 6.

      Here’s the staff report with more on traction power issue: https://boardagendas.metro.net/event/operations-safety-and-customer-experience-f5e4590e08ce/ — see the bottom of page 9.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. That Serial podcast covering youth of color dealing with the “justice system” is excellent – eye-opening, gripping, sad, and sometimes Kafkaesque