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Metro Awards Contract for Environmental Study and Design of Phase I of Rail-to-River Bike Path

The Rail-to-River plan to put a bike path between the Crenshaw Line to the west and the L.A. River to the east just took another step forward. Source: Metro

The Rail-to-River plan to put a bike path along the Slauson corridor (between the Crenshaw Line to the west and the L.A. River to the east) just took another step forward. Source: Metro

As bike month comes to a close, we have some good news for South L.A. cyclists. At yesterday’s Metro Board meeting, a $2 million contract was awarded to Cityworks Design to begin working on plans for a 6.4 mile segment of the Rail-to-River bike path project (segments A-1, A-2, and A-3, above).

The Rail-to-River bike path, as County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas described it last October, is an important opportunity to turn an 8-mile stretch of a “dormant” and “blighted” rail right-of-way (ROW) in a “historically distressed area” into a biking and walking path that could more efficiently connect people to transit while also bettering the local economy, health outcomes for residents, and the local environment.

Running between the Crenshaw/LAX Line station at Fairview Heights station to just east of the Blue Line station at Slauson and, in subsequent phases, to the river, the path will not only help connect cycling commuters to transit but offer the local residents of a neglected industrial corridor much-needed green space and a place to safely stretch their legs.

Yesterday’s development doesn’t mean the project is about to break ground, unfortunately. Instead, Cityworks Design has been tasked with undertaking environmental review, clearance, and design work for the project. Supporting documents describe Cityworks as specialists in environmental clearance and able to work within the time constraints of the project. Which is a good thing, as the TIGER grant requires the funds be obligated by September of 2017 and expended by 2022.

The project has been a few years in the making. Read more…

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Metro Approves New College Student Transit Pass Pilot Program

Students line up to make public comment in favor of Metro's student bus pass improvements. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At yesterday’s Metro board meeting, Luz Juan, East Los Angeles College student giving public testimony. Students lined up to make public comment in favor of Metro’s student bus pass improvements. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At yesterday morning’s Metro board meeting the proposed pilot college student pass program was passed with resounding unanimous approval. Board members and students representing a broad coalition of L.A. County colleges expressed excitement and optimism for the approved pilot program, which intends to expand ridership and increase program accessibility through partnerships with colleges.

The aptly titled “Universal College Student Transit Pass (U-Pass) Pilot Program” will start this fall and is approved for a two-year pilot period. The U-Pass pilot intends to expand reduced fare college pass enrollment through improving pass accessibility and administrative processing.

To streamline program participation and administration, the approved pilot program includes two key accessibility modifications from the current I-TAP college pass program to ensure student discount passes are easier to understand and administer for participating schools and students.

Under the U-Pass pilot, participating schools are responsible for payment to Metro through a pay-per-boarding model capped off at a fee of $43 per month per participant. Participating schools are also encouraged to streamline the U-Pass program through existing class and activity fee registration processes, similar to the Santa Monica City College’s “Any Line / Any Time” program. Until yesterday, student pass programs involved a lengthy and backlogged mail-order application process. Metro reported students undergo a 4-6 week wait period from their application submission to receiving reduced-fare cards. Under the U-Pass program colleges can bypass Metro’s administrative approval through a TAP-enabled sticker, easing the administrative application process for interested students.

A second key change reduces the student pass required credit minimum from 12 to 8 per semester in an effort to include part-time students in the U- Pass program. After six months the unit requirement may be further reduced to 6 units following a revenue impact review. Part-time students taking 8 or more credits will continue to only have to pay a maximum fee of $43 (the current Metro monthly student pass rate, discounted from the regular Metro monthly pass cost of $100.)

These initial Metro student pass changes focus on expanding ridership numbers. Under the existing 12-credit requirement for undergraduate students, only 3 percent of total eligible public school students participate in reduced price college transit programs. For the newly approved U-Pass Pilot program, Metro established a goal of increasing student participation by 10 percent over existing discount-pass levels. Metro data from Pasadena City College and Rio Hondo College’s participation in the now discontinued I-TAP college discount program inspires hope to the U-Pass pilot: PCC and Rio Hondo increased full-student ridership by 30 percent and 37 percent respectively under a 5 year I-Tap program period.  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Funding California Rail With Cap-and-Trade Revenue Hits a Snag

California’s cap-and-trade program is one of the boldest state-level climate change policies in the U.S. By capping statewide carbon pollution and then auctioning off emissions allowances, the state hopes to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate about $10.6 billion for projects to improve energy efficiency. Among other things, that money would support various rail and transit projects, including the state’s high-speed rail line.

The state plans to borrow against future cap-and-trade revenues to provide a local match for $3.5 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail, according to the LA Times. But Adina Levin at Green Caltrain reports that there’s been a hitch:

Results of the most recent Cap and Trade auction announced yesterday, where only 2% of carbon credits were sold, pose risks to Caltrain electrification funding, the High Speed Rail project, and other state transportation and housing goals. The auction brought in $10 million, compared to $150 million that the state was expecting.

The LA Times reports that the reason for the low auction reports is unclear…

Caltrain is seeking $225 million from state Cap and Trade funds this summer to be able to move ahead with the electrification project, and High Speed Rail’s budget depends on a 25% earmark of Cap and Trade funds. The budget has a $500 million reserve in case of auction shortfalls, but cuts are expected to spending for programs that had been depending on the funds.

Auction revenue may have fallen short because reducing emissions has been easier than expected, or due to uncertainty about the program created by a pending legal challenge, or greater-than-expected trading on the secondary market.

Does this mean the cap-and-trade program is broken? In terms of meeting the state’s emissions-reduction targets, probably not, says the Environmental Defense Fund. But as a revenue source for rail and transit projects, there are now some big question marks.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee reports that Milwaukee County’s decision to make transit free for seniors and disabled people, regardless of income, has not worked out well for the transit system as a whole. And Biking Toronto reports on a Twitter bot tracking where people are getting hit by motorists.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Eyes on the Street: Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero, LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds and Transportation Commission president Eric Eisenberg cut the ribbon on LADOT's new Customer Service Center in the L.A. Mall across from City Hall. Photo: Joe Linton Streetsblog L.A.

    Eyes on the Street: Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero, LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds and Transportation Commission president Eric Eisenberg cut the ribbon on LADOT’s new Customer Service Center located in the L.A. Mall across from City Hall. Photo: Joe Linton Streetsblog L.A.

    Law Enforcement Should Understand Bicycle Traffic Laws (Biking in L.A.)

  • KPCC Explains Metro’s Active Transportation Strategic Plan
  • Starting June 27, All Gold Line Trains Will Serve Foothill Extension (The Source)
  • New UCLA Program Exchanges Bikes For Parking Permits (Daily Bruin)
  • Santa Monica Plans $10M For Walk and Bike Safety Projects (Santa Monica Next)
  • Residential TOD ‘MODA’ Breaks Ground Adjacent to Monrovia Gold Line Station (Urbanize)
  • Three Vehicle Crash Kills Two People On the 10 Freeway in West Covina (LAT)
  • LADOT Takes Bicycling Inspiration From the Netherlands (LADOT LeapLA)
  • Lyft and Uber Ride-Hailing Safer Than Average Driver (LAT)
    …Uber Testing “Upfront Pricing” To Promote Carpooling [not yet in L.A.] (LAT)
  • LADOT Revives Its Speed Hump Program (LAist)
  • Transit Key For Overall Housing Affordability (Urban Edge)
  • The Bicycle Story Podcast Looks At the Prevalence Of Bike Theft
  • Tonight Is Bike Night At Union Station (The Source, Facebook Event)

Get National Headlines At Streetsblog USA
Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA

SBLA will not be publishing Monday in honor of Memorial Day. Enjoy the three-day weekend.

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Metro Not Quite Ready for First/Last Mile Funding for Purple Line Phase 2

Will Metro pay attention to its own Active Transportation Strategic Plan [PDF]?

Will Metro pay attention to its own Active Transportation Strategic Plan [PDF]?

Just when the Metro board was on the verge of adopting a policy to incorporate first/last mile, including bike and walk, connections into “the planning, design, and construction of all [Metro] transit projects,” Metro staff postponed including first/last mile connections to the second phase of Purple Line subway expansion.

The issue before the board was Metro’s new Active Transportation Strategic Plan [PDF]. The ATSP theoretically builds on a number of Metro bike-and-walk-friendly policies, including the agency’s First/Last Mile Strategic Plan and Complete Streets Policy. Livability advocates, with champions on the Metro board prominently including Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, have pushed for Metro to follow up these good-sounding policies with Metro funding commitments to truly get first/last mile facilities on the ground. After the 2014 passage of the Metro Complete Streets Policy, Bonin pushed the agency to follow up with a walk/bike funding plan.

Metro dragged its heels on the funding plan, publishing schedules designed to complete the funding document right after the November sales tax ballot measure. So Metro would finally have a walk/bike funding plan right after it sets the course for the next 50 years of Metro funding.

Pressure from Bonin and others accelerated the schedule for the funding plan, now called the ATSP. Today the Metro board approved its ATSP, a month in advance of June’s planned approval of a sales tax expenditure plan.

The ATSP, similar to the plans that preceded it, also sounds good. There are plenty of graphs and diagrams about how great walking and bicycling are. What is new in the ATSP (page 59) is overall cost estimates for building out a Los Angeles County Active Transportation Network. There is no commitment on Metro’s part to pay these costs, but at least there is an official agency estimate for how much someone should pay to support active transportation.

Accompanying today’s adoption of the ATSP were two multi-part motions regarding Metro implementation:  Read more…

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L.A. City Already Looking At How To Carve Up $4B Local Return

Metro's Measure R2 draft expenditure plan pie chart. Image via Metro

16 percent of Metro’s Measure R2 draft would go to local return. The L.A. City Council is already looking at how to spend $4 billion in potential funding. Image via Metro

Metro has not yet decided whether to have a Measure R2 sales tax on the November ballot; that will come next month. The voting public has not yet passed the measure by two-thirds; that would hopefully come in November. But the L.A. City Council is already trying to decide how to spend their chunk of the future funds.

At yesterday’s council Transportation Committee, members considered a pair of motions that would carve up the city’s anticipated $4 billion in “local return” funds:

  • Councilmembers Bob Blumenfeld and Paul Koretz’ motion 16-0187 would divide up local return “by region and Council District” in order to “ensure that the San Fernando Valley and all regions receive their fair share.”
  • Councilemembers Joe Buscaino, Mitch Englander, Herb Wesson and Mike Bonin’s motion 16-0395 would set aside a “minimum allocation of two-thirds of the City’s share of potential Local Return funding for a capital improvement program for street reconstruction and rehabilitation.” To a large extent this echoes Buscaino and Englander’s 2012-2013 efforts toward a road bond.

As in the overall Metro expenditure plan, there is a delicate balance to be struck on these sorts of advance allocations. If the funding direction is too vague, or if it is too specific, voters may find reasons to not support Measure R2.

There are competing ways to divide the money, and as Transportation Committee Chair Bonin stated, “equality is not equity.” Valley interests urged equality: ensuring all regions get an equal allocation. South L.A. speakers urged equity: ensuring that investment remedies historic deficiencies for underserved communities.

Livability advocates, including Investing in Place, were critical of the Buscaino-Englander motion as currently written. If the city spends the majority of its funding to merely repave streets and restore them as is, it would be a missed opportunity to implement Mobility Plan 2035, Vision Zero, and/or green infrastructure improvements. In addition, that motion currently ignores sidewalks, whether repairing or adding new sidewalks where they are missing.

This delicate balance was not resolved yesterday. Bonin instead proposed, and the committee affirmed, a series of requests that city departments report back to the Transportation Committee for further discussion.

Bonin’s direction to staff follows after the jump.  Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Moneyball for Transit

Laurel Paget-Seekins joins the podcast this week to talk about her days as a transit activist in Atlanta, what Santiago, Chile, taught her about transit networks, and her current work on data collection and dissemination as the director of strategic initiatives at the MBTA in Boston.

We discuss the MBTA’s data blog and dashboard, how the agency collects information, and the way it makes data available for people outside the agency to use it. Laurel is also the co-editor, along with Juan Carlos Munoz, of the recently published Restructuring Public Transport through Bus Rapid Transit. She shares her thoughts on BRT and its role in urban transportation networks.

It’s a can’t-miss episode for all you transit lovers out there.

Streetsblog.net
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No, Seattle Isn’t Waging a “War on Cars”

The most efficient way to move people in a crowded city simply isn't cars that are three-quarters empty. Graphic: Fehr & Peers via The Urbanist

The most efficient way to move people in a crowded city simply isn’t cars that are three-quarters empty. Graphic: Fehr & Peers via The Urbanist

It’s cliché at this point for newspapers to label any effort to improve walking, biking, or transit as a “war on cars.” The latest in this proud tradition is Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley, who wrote recently that the city is waging “a shock-and-awe campaign targeting anyone who dares to drive in, through or around Seattle.” What was it exactly that set him off?

The offense Seattle committed was to shift away from measuring streets using “Level of Service,” which prioritizes the movement of vehicles. Instead the city will measure how many people are moving on streets, regardless of the mode they’ve chosen, writes Scott Bonjukian at the Urbanist:

This is indeed a novel approach to measuring the performance of local streets. The traditional Level of Service (LOS) tool ranks roadways based on how fast cars move; free flowing traffic gets an A, and gridlock gets an F. As demonstrated by over 60 years of post-WWII sprawl, the problem with this is it leads to an infinite loop of congestion, construction, and poor urban environments. Cities set a high standard for LOS, see that traffic is congested, widen roads or build new ones, see that the roads fill up with more cars due to induced demand, and repeat ad nauseam. This is also results in limited, if any, consideration for other users of the street: people walking, bicycling, and riding transit.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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7 Steps to Phase Out Carbon Emissions From American Transportation

Eliminating carbon emissions from the American transportation system can be done, according to a new report from the Frontier Group [PDF]. The tools to reduce energy use from cars and light trucks at least 90 percent are at our disposal or in advanced stages of development. The remaining 10 percent could be supplied by renewables like wind power.

The U.S. transportation sector produces about 28 percent of domestic GHG emissions and 4 percent of total global emissions. Here's how we compare to other nations right now. Graph: Frontier Group

The U.S. transportation sector produces about 28 percent of domestic GHG emissions and 4 percent of total global emissions. No other nation produces more transportation emissions per capita. Chart: Frontier Group

“We have the technical capacity to do all of these things,” Frontier’s Tony Dutzik told Streetsblog. Here’s how it would work, if we can muster the will.

The first step is to reduce driving. Frontier Group estimates that the following four strategies could cut miles driven per capita by 28 to 42 percent, which amounts to a 10 percent total decline by 2050 when accounting for population growth.

1. Walkable Development: We have to build more walkable places where people don’t have to hop in a car for every trip. People living in compact neighborhoods drive 20 to 40 percent less than people living in spread out areas. If 60 to 90 percent of new construction between now and 2050 is walkable development with good transit connections, it could reduce total GHG emissions from transportation 9 to 15 percent.

To accomplish that, Frontier says big coastal cities like New York and San Francisco need to “build up” and make room for more people. Meanwhile, sprawling places like Atlanta and Houston need to seize opportunities to redevelop existing space — parking lots or closed malls, for example — in a compact form.

2. Pricing Roads: Pricing parking alone could reduce total vehicle miles traveled by up to 3 percent. A blanket vehicle miles traveled tax, meanwhile, could reduce mileage by 10 to 12 percent. Congestion pricing, which puts a higher price on road use where and when traffic is most intense, is another avenue to cut mileage. London’s congestion pricing system, which only covers the central city, has helped reduce driving 10 percent even as the population has grown, Frontier reports.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • BUSted Interviews NELA Cycling Leader Josef Bray-Ali (YouTube)
  • Cyclist Cautioned By Sheriff In “Bikes OK” Wilshire Bus-Only Lane (YouTube)
  • Metro Bike-Share Coming To L.A. On July 7 (LAT)
  • Early Ridership On the Metro Expo Line (KPCC)
  • Southern California Commutes Animated (Curbed)
  • When Can A Bicyclist Take the Lane? (CiclaValley, KPCC)
  • CHP Officer Injured In Topanga Canyon Hit-and-Run (LAT)
  • Quarterly Cap-and-Trade Auction Revenue Falls Short (LAT)
  • Legislation Mandates Denver RTD Lose Millions On Free Park-and-Ride (SB Denver)
  • Zoning Laws Would Have Killed Off America’s Great Cities (Forbes)

Get National Headlines At Streetsblog USA
Get State Headlines At Streetsblog CA