The Metro 2018 year-in-review blog post

As per usual around these parts, there were no shortage of happenings in 2018. Without further ado, below are some of the more notable nuggets from the past year as harvested by yours truly.

If I missed anything or you see things differently, please comment. I focused on Metro projects and programs, whereas there were plenty of other things afoot in ’18, including lots of news involving electric scooters, road safety, high-speed rail and more.

And, of course, Happy New Year! — Steve

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A decade ago, there was no such thing as CicLAvia — the first one didn’t happen until 2010. Yet…in 2018 Open Streets events were common, courtesy of funding from Metro’s Open Streets grants program.

CicLAvia Heart of the Foothills in La Verne last spring.

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Metro CEO Phil Washington announced last February that there would be significant Blue Line rail closures in 2019 to modernize the line and make it more reliable. The work begins Jan. 26 — the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station will also be closed for eight months for a total overhaul. The work began in August — see below. There’s no way of denying that ridership on the Blue Line is down significantly in recent times and this work should benefit current riders and hopefully lure new ones.

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Metro made a television commercial that debuted in early November. The ad is part of a broader marketing campaign called “Join the Movement.” More here.

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The tunnel boring machine on the Regional Connector completed its work in January, arriving at 4th and Flower after digging the second 1.1-mile tunnel. Much work remains, including building the stations (which have been excavated) and connecting the Connector to the Eastside Gold Line and Blue and Expo Line.

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The five westernmost stations on the Green Line were closed for 71 days early in 2018 to finish building the junction that connects the Green Line tracks to the new Crenshaw/LAX Line tracks. There will be a two-week closure of the six western stations in January on the Green Line to complete the work.

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In January, the Metro Board approved the Twenty-Eight by ’28 Plan to get 28 major road, transit, rideshare and bike projects done in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Twenty projects were already scheduled to be completed by 2028, and about $26 billion would need to be advanced to finish the other eight projects.

Where could that money come from? Among other sources, Metro CEO Phil Washington said implementing congestion pricing could provide enough money to greatly expand transit and also make riding transit free going forward. See this presentation for more. A financial plan will go to the Board in early 2019 — and this will certainly be one of Metro’s most-watched items of the new year.

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A young woman was videotaped being removed from a Red Line train in January after police asked her to remove her feet from the seats. Metro’s statement on the incident netted 125 comments (many from our loyal readers) on The Source with some people saying they want to see rules enforced more on buses and trains and others saying the police should have taken a more restrained approach.

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On the subject of rider etiquette, Metro’s second set of Superkind videos were released in the fall. Here’s one targeted at loud music, the bane of many a transiter.

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LAFC opened their new stadium in April — a short stroll from the Expo Line. We partnered with the team on the cool promo video below.

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In May, Metro got the word from Sacramento that it would receive almost $1.8 billion in state grants for various projects and programs. The funding includes 26 percent of Senate Bill 1 gas tax and vehicle fee funding. Metro breathed a sigh of relief, as did many other agencies, when voters in California rejected a ballot measure that would have repealed SB 1.

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Metro unveiled a new program called ‘LIFE’ in January that offers discounted fares and passes for low income riders.

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Light rail was chosen by the Metro Board for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor in June. See the map below. One big to-do for the project: figuring out how/where people will transfer or connect to the Sepulveda Transit Corridor rail project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Speaking of, staff unveiled some early concepts and potential routes for the Sepulveda project in June — including heavy rail, light rail, monorail and rubber wheel train alternatives.

That project will run between the Expo Line and the above rail line. Another round of community meetings, btw, are on the horizon and we’ll have more details soon.

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A groundbreaking ceremony was held in Century City in February for the second section of the Purple Line Extension, which will run between Wilshire/La Cienega, downtown Beverly Hills and Century City. All the big wigs and their shovels were there — see below.

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After decades of talk, talk and more yammering and stalling and failed plans, tunneling began in October on the first section of the Purple Line subway extension, which will run between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega with stops at Wilshire/La Brea and Wilshire/Fairfax. Section 1 is scheduled to open in late 2023.

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Metro released its latest customer survey in February. Numbers didn’t change much from previous versions but are always interesting to see.

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A project to make several improvements to the southern half of the 710 freeway was approved in February by the Metro Board, who also deferred making a decision whether to widen the road, which sees heavy traffic from the ports.

That’s interesting as the default historical position in So Cal has been to widen the road — something many urbanists say will only invite more traffic.

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Following Metro on Instagram? If not, you should be. My colleague Anna Chen curates the pics and posts plenty of video and stories. Such as the following.

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The Metro Board approved a plan in April to begin charging solo motorists in clean air vehicles a 15 percent discounted toll to use the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways. The move was in response to growing congestion in the ExpressLanes during peak hours –and the view that clean vehicles are great, but not helping reduce congestion.

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In April, the Metro Board adopted the Blue Line First/Last Mile Plan that identifies barriers to getting to and from stations and calls for better sidewalks, more and safer crosswalks, more lighting for pedestrians, better and safer bike lanes and facilities, more trees for shade, bus stop improvements, pickup/dropoff locations near stations and landscaping.

The idea is to make the improvements over time as funding is secured. Similar plans are in the works for other projects, including the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Purple Line Extension. I usually fail-to-excite over plans, but  I think this one addresses the fundamental problem of getting to and from rail stations, whether existing or future. 

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A groundbreaking was held in June for a project to improve the 405-110 interchange, one of many local interchanges seen as gumming up the works traffic-wise.

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A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in October for the Orange Line Improvements project, which will add up to 35 railroad-style gates along the busway and build two new bridges over busy Van Nuys and Sepulveda boulevards.

The Measure M-funded project should improve both safety and travel times and prepare the bus line for its future conversion to light rail; a cynic might even argue they should have been built as part of the original project. The scheduled completion date is 2025.

Rendering of a possible gated intersection along the Orange Line.

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The Metro Board approved contracts in April totaling $885,247 to three vendors — RideCo, NoMad Transit and Transdev — to plan and design the agency’s Microtransit pilot project, which is planned to launch in late 2019. The service will provide on-demand, shared rides within defined services areas.

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In the past year, all-door boarding began on the 754 Rapid on Western Avenue and the 720 Rapid on Wilshire Boulevard. The idea is speed up both buses by using all doors and having riders only use TAP cards — instead of lining up at the farebox at the front door. All-door boarding began in 2017 on the Silver Line and transit proponents in L.A. would like to see it keep expanding.

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In July, Metro took delivery of the first of 295 40-foot buses ordered from the manufacturer El Dorado (of Riverside) in 2016. The feature that I’m guessing will most interest you: the buses come equipped with a pair of USB ports between each seats, meaning you can ride while charging your smartphone or tablet.

Look Ma: a USB portal under my bus seat.

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An unsolicited proposal to build a privately-funded and operated 1.25-mile gondola between Union Station (which Metro owns) and Dodger Stadium was received by Metro last spring. Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation liked the proposal enough to announce in December that it was advancing to the negotiation phase.

The private firm wants the gondola up and running for the 2022 baseball season.

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In favor of TAP cards, Metro discontinued sale of tokens in May, thereby signaling the Era of Tokens was winding down.

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Free rides were offered this year to promote civic goodness: on Earth Day in April and Election Day in November. There were also the usual freebies on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

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A contract was approved with a firm to design the L.A. River Bike Path Project, which will close the eight-mile gap in the bike path between Elysian Valley and Vernon. Source post.

An aerial view of the section of the river where a bike path will be built.

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On the Metro bike share front, fares were halved (single rides went from $3.50 to $1.75) and the decision made to expand the system to the Westside in 2018. The city of Pasadena decided to withdraw from the system, citing low ridership. In the fall, Metro Bike began adding electric-assist bikes to its DTLA fleet.

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The Board last spring authorized Metro to proceed with a Memorandum of Understanding with L.A. County for the development of a transit vocational and boarding school. The school, according to the Board report, “plans to recruit youth from the County’s safety net, along with youth from across the County, to a college-preparatory boarding academy that specializes in inspiring and training youth to pursue careers in the transportation and infrastructure sectors.”

A kickoff ceremony was held at the school’s future site in South L.A. in June. The Metro Board in October approved spending $71 million between  2021 and 2035 to help support the operations of the school with funding also expected to come from from L.A. County, the state and other sources.

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Earlier in the year, the Metro Board approved expanding Metro’s Homeless Outreach Program from two to eight teams — meaning the teams could expand to all Metro Rail lines and Metro’s overnight bus lines. The program’s goal is to help connect homeless to needed social services.

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Metro in August became the first transit agency in the U.S. to purchase an advanced and portable passenger screening system to help detect weapons and explosive devices that could cause mass casualties. The device was tested and approved by the TSA. 

Showing media how the Thruvision TAC-TS4 portable terahertz millimeter wave passenger screening device works.

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The last original rail car from the Blue Line — the P865 model — was decommissioned in September and dispatched to the junk yard (pics below). Metro has been replacing the 865s with new rail cars since June 2017.

Two of the 865s were donated to the Orange Empire Railway Museum. Most of the rest were dismantled for parts and recycled. One remaining P865 rail car, #100, will be donated to the city of Long Beach.

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The “Captain Marvel” trailer was released in September and it included a nice cameo from Metro Rail (go to the 28 second mark). The movie will be out in March.

Metro Rail also popped up in a Taylor Swift video earlier in the year:

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Two potential routes for the Green Line extension to Torrance were approved for further study in September. See the map below. The extension — with funding from Measures R and M — is scheduled to be complete by 2030 unless it can be accelerated.

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The NextGen Bus Study to restructure the agency’s bus system released an update in October that found that Metro could pick up a lot more riders in the short trip market sector  — but service would need to be fast and frequent.

Another round of community meetings is scheduled to begin in late January and recommended service concepts are due for release later in 2019.

This is one part of Metro’s efforts to improve system ridership, which has declined in recent years, as it has at other large transit systems around the U.S. The final 2018 numbers aren’t posted yet, but it looks like ridership will have dipped about three to four percent since 2017.

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New renderings burped forth for the Airport Metro Connector project — i.e. the new rail station at Aviation and 96th that will serve as the transfer point between the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line, the Metro Bus system and the future LAX automated people mover. The goal is to begin major construction in 2020.

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A half-century after the old Harvey House restaurant at Union Station closed, the Imperial Western Beer Company opened in October, making public again an excellent space for a beverage — for both the public and Metro employees alike 🙂

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Late in the year, the Federal Transit Administration approved $100 million in New Starts funding for the third section of the Purple Line Extension between Century City and the Westwood/VA Hospital. Metro wants to finalize the entire $1.3-billion grant for section three in 2019.

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The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority released a plan this fall to build the Gold Line Extension to Montclair in two phases due to the current trend in rising construction costs.

The plan would build the first phase of Gold Line to La Verne at least two years ahead of schedule — 2024 — with new stations in Glendora, San Dimas and La Verne. Funding will be needed to build the line to Pomona, Claremont and Montclair. Metro and the Construction Authority are working to get the first phase to Pomona, where riders could transfer to/from Metrolink.

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The Crenshaw/LAX Line taking shape beneath Crenshaw Boulevard.

Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington announced in November that some elements of work on the Crenshaw/LAX Line are taking longer than expected due to complexities out of Metro’s control, meaning the opening of the line will likely be delayed until mid-2020.

As of the end of the year, the project is about 90 percent complete. In November, the first rail cars were delivered (below) to the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s new Southwestern Yard so that facility testing can begin.

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A plan was approved in December to use colors AND letters to identify Metro rail and bus rapid transit lines in the future. That should help make the growing system easier to navigate for locals and visitors. The changes will be phased in over the next few years — with the Blue Line becoming the A Line after next year’s closures.

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Following the departure of Metro Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins — who took over as Metrolink CEO earlier this month — Nadine Lee was named the Interim Metro Chief of Staff (a new position).

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This new video dropped in December, highlighting the role that women play at Metro.

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Throughout the year, planning for the Artesia-to-DTLA light rail project continued, with a series of refinements made. Below is where things stand as of the end of ’18. :

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In an unusual move, the Metro Board opted to bypass the staff recommendation and choose option C3 as a one-year trial operating plan for the Crenshaw/LAX and Green Lines after the Crenshaw/LAX Line opens.

The Board didn’t like the forced transfer for South Bay riders heading east in the C1 plan. Here’s a page from the staff report:

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The Board approved several contract modifications to restart work on the draft enviro studies for an extension of the Eastside Gold Line. The project will ultimately extend the Gold Line from East LA to both South El Monte and Whittier but the Metro Board still must select which route to build first. Staff report

Here’s what the project looks like as of now:

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The Metro Vision 2028 Plan was approved by the Board in June. This is the agency’s big picture plan to improve mobility in L.A. County and explains what the public can expect from Metro over the next decade. Click here to read the plan.

Among some of the highlights, the plan seeks to:

•Shift Metro’s focus from just the system Metro operates to the mobility ecosystem as a whole. We are not just a transit agency – we are a mobility agency.

•Improve average speeds on the bus network by 30 percent;

•Implement a larger network of ExpressLanes by 2028.

•Pilot congestion pricing strategies to manage demand in the most traffic-clogged parts of LA County.

•Focus on improving the customer experience and putting the customer at the heart of the journey.

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Metro entered into a funding agreement with the city of Los Angeles for the formal environmental study of an Arts District/6th Street station for the Red/Purple Line. Money would still need to be secured to actually build the station. Staff report and Source post.

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A Transit Oriented Community Policy was approved to help local cities and unincorporated areas build new housing and preserve existing housing and businesses near transit. Staff report and the TOC Policy.

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A new equity framework was approved for the agency. The gist of it: Metro seeks to improve its planning, community outreach and mobility outcomes to improve access and economic opportunities for everyone in Los Angeles County. Especially communities that have historically been left behind.  

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The new Warner Center Shuttle began running in June, replacing the lone Orange Line stop in the W.C. area with 10 new stops. The shuttle connects with the Orange Line at Canoga Station.

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The Board approved a list of projects and $550 million in funding to improve traffic and mobility in the area near the 710 freeway gap between Alhambra and Pasadena. This is the alternative to building a freeway tunnel.

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Planning continued on several Measure M bus rapid transit projects — the Vermont Transit Corridor, the North San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor and the Pasadena to North Hollywood Transit Corridor.

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And that’s all she wrote, folks. If you made it this far, let me what brand of coffee you’re drinking — I want to go to there.

Again, please comment if you feel I left something out or you see the year through a different lens. As for 2019, attentive readers know my policy: guessing the future is hard…

 

 

 

 

 

10 replies

  1. I want to see a future Purple Line stop using side platforms (maybe base UCLA station something like SDMTS’s SDSU trolley station).

    Add a L Line between Redondo Beach and Aviation/Airport Transit Center (96th) when completed

    Also, I still like the idea of a monorail route through the Sepulveda Pass with platform doors.

    Would be nice to switch up style y’know.

    • Hi Jonathan —

      Here’s the latest on the 710 front — a bill has been introduced in the State Assembly to remove the 710 from the state freeway code in the area of the gap. https://a41.asmdc.org/press-releases/20181203-legislation-introduced-remove-710-north-project-area-freeway-code. I understand why that is being done but for all intents and purposes, the tunnel is a non-starter at this time. There is not enough funding secured to build it, nor is there the political support. As noted in the post, $550 million was approved in 2018 by the Metro Board for a variety of road improvements in that area to help traffic flow in the areas near/within the gap.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Steve,
    Any word on when clean air vehicles will only get the 15% discount on the ExpressLanes versus free travel?

    Nice job on the end of year rundown. Amazing how much progress has been made and so quickly!

    Robert

    • Robert — here’s the info:

      The clean air vehicle discount will go into effect starting March 1. Within the next 10 days the Metro ExpressLanes website will have updated info about the discount. Hope that helps!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. Mr. Hymon and team – thank you for providing a great service. There are so many projects and programs going on it can be hard to keep track of them and stay up to date. Having everything (or close to it) it one place and linked to past posts really helps and it’s nice to see what other folks have to say about transit issues. Happy New Year and I look forward to future posts.

    • Hi Thomas —

      Thank you very much! We really appreciate the kind words and Happy New Year’s right back at you!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source