Updates on Surfliner, FlyAway and Metrolink/TAP

Temporary Solutions for Metrolink’s TAP Issue Shelved

The ongoing saga of Metrolink & TAP is apparently not going to end anytime soon. At the Oct. 12th meeting of the Metrolink Board of Directors, the Board decided to not adopt the proposed solution to the connectivity issues between Metrolink and Metro trains caused by the “locking” of the fare gates. The rejected plan involved paper TAP cards being distributed daily by hand to Metrolink patrons to allow them access to gated Red and Purple Line stations starting January 1. Starting in March,  Metrolink would have supplied monthly pass purchasers with a temporary plastic 30-day TAP card each month.

More on everyone's favorite topic: TAP! Photo:##http://thesource.metro.net/2010/08/24/everyones-talking-tap/##The Source##

The Board requested efforts be made to find a more permanent solution and requested that Metro delay the locking of the gates if need be until a more permanent solution can be found.. Scott Johnson, Assistant Public Affairs Officer at Metrolink, characterizes the situation thusly:

This is an ongoing collaboration between the two agencies and their respective boards. No definitive timetable has been established. The issue will continue to be discussed through internal meetings, alongside public committee and board meetings.

Status Update on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner transition to local management

At its meeting on Oct. 15th, the Board of the Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN) adopted a new amended timetable for selecting a managing agency for the Surfliner. The new schedule is markedly less hectic than their original plans, and aimed at commencing early next year:

Overall, member agencies are asked to schedule consideration [of the amended Joint Powers Agreement and bylaws] by their individual governing boards between October 2012 and January 2013, at which time the LOSSAN Board would consider releasing the RFP, with a due date for proposals in early March and potential selection [of a managing agency] by the Board at their April meeting. SANDAG will continue to provide administrative support during this time. The start date of the negotiation period, July 1, 2013, does not change

Considering LOSSAN has nine member agencies, the process of having the amended JPA agreement and bylaws approved by the various governing boards indeed will likely take until early next year.

Metro and the Orange County Transit Authority are thus far the two agencies that have signaled they will be vying to be selected as the managing agency (which will provide office space, administrative support, etc. to the managing director who will be selected by the LOSSAN Board to handle day to day management of the Surfliner along with staff the Director will hire).

The FlyAway

At its Oct. 15th meeting (item #12) the City of Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners (who oversee Los Angeles World Airports, the city department that operates LAX plus Ontario, Van Nuys and Palmdale airports) authorized LAWA’s Executive Director to execute a one-year Right of Entry and Construction Permit to facilitate a Flyaway route serving the Expo La Brea station. As for when the service will start Marshall Lowe, Principal Public Relations Representative for Los Angeles World Airports Public Relations Division, informs me “The La Brea Expo Line service is planned to get underway during the late first quarter of 2013”.

A FlyAway Update dated Sept. 17th contains some tantalizing details about impending additional FlyAway routes:

Orange Line Site

Proposed FlyAway bus bay is in design; staff anticipates late 2013 opening

Santa Monica Site

Big Blue Bus is contemplating the best allocation of their resources prior to providing LAWA with a draft agreement for BBB to operate a FlyAway service

Long Beach Site

Staff met with City of Long Beach staff and discussed possible locations and operational options; subsequent meeting with Long Beach Transit management is expected in October

Lowe tells me “The Orange Line FlyAway is planned to operate as an extension of the Van Nuys FlyAway. It will stop at the Woodley Orange Line Station. Staff is working on getting design plans prepared and approved”.

  • Erik Griswold

    So the FlyAway bus to the Orange Line is just a detour to the VanNuys service, Santa Monica BBB already has a RapidBus operation to the “LAX Bus Center”, a facility without a dedicated shuttle into the airport itself, and Long Beach already has its own airport (which it wants to promote to pay off the bonds that were issued for the new terminal).

    That’s 4 routes that are going to be running any time soon (Union Sta., Van Noys/Woodley, Westwood and Santa Monica), plus the promised Expo Line connector. When are we going to see the other 10 routes that LAWA promised to have up and running by now?

    How about service to that other LAWA property ONT?

    Why no service to connect to the Surfliner/Metrolink/Starlight at the rail station in Van Nuys?

    And how about a dedicated, low floor bus running exclusively to and from the LAX Bus Center in the meantime, so that passengers arriving by air and wishing to connect to the existing bus transit systems do not have to meander about the car storage facilities like 3rd class peasants?

    (How dare they not rent a 2-ton machine from our rental car franchisees!)

  • “When are we going to see the other 10 routes that LAWA promised to have up and running by now?”

    Actually they are committed to having nine FlyAway routes by 2015. And note the Update states “Overall FlyAway network losses are declining, but still unacceptably high”. Which raises the question why in the world they made such an excessive goal?

  • Kymberleigh Richards

    I have no idea how LAWA thinks they are going to fit a bus bay in at Woodley Station.  On the south (busway) side of Victory Blvd. the buffer strip is barely wide enough to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, and on the north side, both corners at Victory/Woodley have commercial development.

    Sepulveda Station, with lots of unused parking area that could be repurposed, could accommodate FlyAway much easier.

    LAWA might have known this if they had honored a request by the Metro SFV Service Council to give a presentation before moving forward …

  • “Santa Monica BBB already has a RapidBus operation to the “LAX Bus Center”, a facility without a dedicated shuttle into the airport itself”

    As far as I know, the Lot C shuttle *into* the LAX terminals (which leaves the bus depot immediately adjacent to the LAX City Bus Center) *is* a direct, dedicated service. Never taken it on the inbound leg, however (I usually take the Union Station FlyAway for the return trip).

  • Anonymous

    I sure how the Metrolink/Metro TAP transfer problem gets solved soon, but I’m not holding my breath.  In the meantime, just in case, I’ve purchased a TAP and a day pass to use the next time I ride down to LA. 

  • Erik Griswold

    Niall, the C shuttle is aimed at and dedicated to those storing their cars in the LAWA owned parking lots.  Yes, the walk to the shuttle boarding place is not that far, and the shuttles do leave directly for the terminals, but the walk requires a crossing of a the kid of crosswalk over the busway that El Monte Station was expensively engineered to avoid.  Let us hope there is never what the road engineers like to call, a “conflict”, although I am sure there have been plenty already since transit buses were origianally exiled from World Way by LAWA.

    Then the return shuttle goes first into the parking lot meandering about for many minutes to deliver the precious LAWA car storing customers to their individual cars before arriving back at the place where the bus rider can then make the relatively short walk across the crosswalk to the LAX Bus Center plaza.

    The Saavy SMBBB bus rider knows to ask the C shuttle driver to exit the bus just before it enters the gated parking lot and walk to a poorly maintained and unlit stop near the intersection of Sepulveda and W. 96th.  Hopefully the driver is willing, because once the C shuttle enters the LAWA car storage facility, a gate slams shut preventing any pedestrians from leaving except by way of the crossing to the LAX Bus Center; bus transit users are, after all, 3rd class peasants leeching off of LAWA’s shuttle system.

    (P.S. If arriving at Terminals 1 or 2 is almost always quicker to walk out to Sepulveda and Century and then walk up to Sepulveda and 96th.)

  • Erik Griswold

    Sorry, thought it was 15 total.

  • Erik Griswold

    Why not run the bus on to the Busway and us the existing platforms.  I thought this kind of flexibility is one of the primary reasons “BRT is better cheaper, stronger and faster than Rail”™ 

  • Anonymous

    Erik, You’re wrong on this. There is a direct LAX shuttle from the bus center that BBB serves. I’ve taken it. It’s low floor.

  • Erik Griswold

    Sorry CarltonGlub,

    Yes it may be “direct” in that it is a single seat, but as you can clearly see from this Google Aerial View:http://goo.gl/maps/9wWDA
    and this one:
    The C shuttles first go to drop off the paying car-storage customers and then eventually get over to where one can walk easily and relatively safely to the LAX Bus Center.

    Transit users are an afterthought at LAWA.

  • Irwinc

    Why they made such an excessive goal? Because they didn’t… the 10 routes by 2015 plan was a court mandated “solution” to settle the lawsuit brought by LAX NIMBYs that demanded a quixotic “regional” airport plan. LAWA decided it was cheaper to take the judge’s offer of “10 express bus routes” as traffic mitigation plan than actually fighting the lawsuit that tried to force LAWA to begin moving passenger operations to Palmdale.

    This is what happens when we turn transit planning to NIMBYs and judges who have no experience in transit operations. The arbitrary number of services made no sense but it was the price LAWA had to pay to ensure Southern California has a functional international airport.

    But to be fair… LAWA should have been thinking about express bus service even without court order. The fact that LAX had no express bus service at terminal curb side to city center(s) well into the 21st century was an international embarrassment.

  • “Then the return shuttle goes first into the parking lot meandering about for many minutes to deliver the precious LAWA car storing customers to their individual cars before arriving back at the place where the bus rider can then make the relatively short walk across the crosswalk to the LAX Bus Center plaza.”

    Ew. I’m definitely never taking the Lot C shuttle after an inbound flight to LAX. Bad enough that I’d have to make a couple of transfers when buses are running on long headways (I usually fly in on Sunday evenings); plodding through the parking lot would only make it worse. Coming by Metro bus toward LAX, OTOH, isn’t so bad on a weekday morning, and cheaper and faster than FlyAway + Metro from my place in Mid-Wilshire.

  • calwatch

    Irwinc, to let LAWA off the hook for a settlement that they voluntarily signed is absurd. It’s like MTA apologists whining about the years of the Consent Decree. MTA staffers vetted it, and MTA’s CEO signed it. At least MTA had the excuse that the “load factor” limitation was unprecedented. 

    The airport bus system was used in the 1970’s with SCRTD, and is still used to this day at Denver. SkyRide has six routes for a metro area one fifth the size of Los Angeles. I’m sure LA could come up with at least ten routes. LAWA had experience with Van Nuys FlyAway, and so they had done their due diligence prior to agreeing with the court. LAWA could have bought out existing airporter operators, like Antelope Express or Santa Barbara Airbus, and seriously beefed up service for these routes. They didn’t. 

    Instead, LAWA and their supporters are whining about something that they agreed to. When 2015 rolls around, they will need to have service for all ten routes that is equivalent to that provided by the Union Station Flyaway (as Van Nuys runs at a higher level of service than when the settlement was reached.) If not, the neighborhood associations should win, and the excess trips over the cap diverted to Ontario. Oh that’s right, LAWA has been intentionally kneecapping Ontario for the past five years. Well, maybe Ontario will actually become a real airport with multiple destinations then, instead of being something more suited for the end of Long Island.

  • calwatch

    I agree with Erik, you can walk to the bus stop on 96th/Sepulveda or Century/Sepulveda faster if you are flying Southwest or any other airline on the north side of the terminal. 

    The LAWA fans are bitching about how LAX must remain as a hub airport. Well, with a functional LAX-ONT connection, that won’t be necessary. You can divert people flying from Dallas, or Salt Lake City into ONT, catch a Flyaway bus, and then continue on to Bangkok or Tokyo. Yes, it will take an additional 90 minutes, but if the price is right, people will do it.

  • Irwinc

    calwatch, you undermine your credibility by name calling. I’m not a LAWA supporter let alone an apologist, whatever that means. Your incoherent argument about ONT flies in the face of common sense. LA is not a big transit hub due to our geography so most people leaving airports in Southern California live here or are visiting here. Using your example of Dallas, there are not a lot of people flying from Dallas to LAX in order to get to New York or Asia. Dallas has direct flights to all those places. The people flying from Dallas are mostly visiting Southern California. Because out transit traffic is low, we can really only support one major international airport given our population. ONT has many issues but forcing people to shuttle between ONT and LAX is not going to solve any of it. Airlines focus their service at LAX because the people in Southern California prefers using it. There may be some people in SGV or Inland Empire that perfers ONT but so are there people who prefer SNA and BUR or LGB. ONT is the one that is located furthest away from population centers and that’s not going to change no matter who owns the airport.

    Now to address the real issue in this article… the FlyAway bus. I’m not sure what you mean by “let LAWA off the hook”? My comment was on the absurdity that LAWA had to wait for a court order to implement express bus service when transit to the airport should have been one of their priority. I also took issue with the arbitrary number of routes (why 10?) as opposed to other more meaningful metrics (like total passengers). As someone who appears to have some understanding of transit issue, I’m sure you understand what I mean by “turning transit planning to NIMBYs”. You were so quick to try to paint me as a LAWA apologist, I don’t think you read what I wrote, which was critical of LAWA.

  • calwatch

    Irwinc, you are defending LAWA when you say “Why they made such an excessive goal? Because they didn’t… the 10 routes by 2015 plan was a court mandated “solution” to settle the lawsuit brought by LAX NIMBYs that demanded a quixotic “regional” airport plan.” 

    That implies that you think that adding more Flyaways was not a reasonable solution. I strongly disagree. The number 10 was no different than any of the other numbers or commitments in the settlement agreement. It is objectively measurable, and does not allow for much fudging (as, for instance, a passenger count could, since LAWA could simply call the Lot G shuttle a “Flyaway” and be done with it – the agreement specifically calls for a similar service to Van Nuys Flyaway, with available parking, high frequency, and dedicated over the road coaches).

    Why 153 gates, for instance. It’s not “turning over transit planning to NIMBYs” if LAWA, its staff, chief, and board all agreed to it. They had a choice to suggest something akin to what you chose. They failed to get it past the judge, and made a business decision to accept eight additional (for a total of ten) Flyaway services of the same type as Van Nuys. (Here’s the settlement: http://www.ourlax.org/stakeholder/pdf/Signed_Stipulated_Settlement.pdf)

    If they fail to provide for this, the plaintiffs will go back and force LAWA to provide these services: I can assure you that the County, since Antonovich and Knabe remain on the Board of Supervisors in 2016, will do so. 

    While LAX is the biggest origin/destination airport in the world, there are still tremendous amounts of people connecting. LAX is a gateway city for American and United’s overseas operations, as well as the multiple international airlines which codeshare with the various airline alliances. No one from Dallas is flying back to New York, but they certainly connect through LAX to places like Bangkok and Tokyo which have infrequent, or no, non stop service. With expanded Flyaway, ONT can now be a virtual extension of LAX for the long distance passenger, provide options when LAX is closed down due to various events, and provide added domestic service for the millions that live east of the 710.

    But, LAX, by saddling high overhead on ONT, is not letting ONT take off. General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee has twice has many passengers as ONT and serves a third of the population ONT serves. This is the model that ONT should emulate.

  • cph

    Here’s how Sounder in Seattle uses their version of the TAP Card (called ORCA) on its trains….http://www.soundtransit.org/fares-and-passes/orca-card.xml

  • Thanks for confirming my suspicion about Woodley not being an optimal location. And meanwhile Metro is in the midst of seeking proposals for developments for where the Sepulveda surface lots now are. is this another case of the left and right hands not coordinating?