Metro July Meeting Re-Cap: Subway, SRTP, Active Transpo, and More

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (at podium) leads San Fernando Valley rail supporters rally this morning for Orange Line upgrades. Yesterday the Metro Board approved a motion that directs the agency to take a closer look at converting the Orange Line from BRT to light rail. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (at podium) leads a San Fernando Valley rail supporters press event this morning. Yesterday, Metro approved a motion to take a closer look at converting the Orange Line from BRT to light rail. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s July Board of Directors meeting took place yesterday. As usual, it was four-plus hours long, with plenty of implications for the future of livability and transportation for the region. SBLA re-caps the meeting below.

Mayor Garcetti Assumes Board Chair

Yesterday’s meeting was Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first as the new chair of Metro’s Board of Directors. Garcetti opened with some remarks outlining his priorities for his Metro chair tenure. After giving the obligatory nod to disliking L.A. traffic, Garcetti assured that his transportation priorities are regional, not ending at L.A. City borders. His greatest enthusiasm is for innovation, especially using technology to make our transportation systems smarter. He affirmed that Los Angeles’ transportation future will be multi-modal.

More on Garcetti’s Metro vision: The Source, Daily News

Contract Approved for Purple Line Subway Construction

The biggest and most contentious item on the agenda was approval of the $1.6 billion contract for 3.9 miles of Purple Line subway construction under Wilshire Boulevard from Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard. As recommended by Metro staff, the board awarded the contract to the “STS” contractor team of Skanska, Traylor and Shea. The STS bid was nearly $200 million more expensive than a competing bid by Dragados, leading some board members to question the selection process. Construction will likely begin this year, and the line is anticipated to open in 2023.

More on the Subway Contract: L.A. Times, The Source

Short Range Transportation Plan Approved

Metro approved its 10-year, $88 billion Short Range Transportation Plan more-or-less as initially proposed. Metro staff asserted that the SRTP is less a new plan and more a sort of progress report on the agency’s Long Range Transportation Plan. The perception is, though, that the SRTP is a sort of early casting call for projects to get in line for a possible 2016 transportation funding ballot measure. Speakers before the board urged more funding for active transportation, building the 710 Freeway tunnel, converting the Orange Line from BRT to rail, and extending the Gold Line eastward.

SRTP Follow-On Motion 1: Active Transportation Funding that Isn’t Quite Funded

Proponents of active transportation — walking and bicycling — did not get more funding in the SRTP. They were somewhat buoyed by the passage of Councilmember Mike Bonin’s motion directing Metro to report on an “Active Transportation Financing Strategy.” The report is due in October 2014.

SRTP Follow-On Motion 2: Metro Orange Line Study that Isn’t Quite a Study

The Metro board approved an Orange Line motion that The Source summarizes as follows:

[Motion directs] Metro staff to study potential upgrades to the Orange Line, including adding more articulated buses, grade-separated crossings, improved traffic signal priority and rail conversion. The motion also calls for the study of extending the Orange Line to Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena, where it would connect or offer a transfer to the Gold Line.

In the absence of funding, Metro staff were reluctant to call this a full-on feasibility study. Nonetheless, with changes to state law and renewed interest in Valley rail, San Fernando Valley interests are clamoring for their fair share of future transit investments. Led by Councilmember Paul Krekorian, Orange Line supporters rallied in North Hollywood this morning to show their enthusiasm for rail conversion. 

More on the Metro Orange Line: The Source, Daily News; also see SBLA guest articles for and against conversion.

SRTP Follow-On Motion 3: Bus Rapid Transit Wasn’t Quite Ignored

The Metro board also approved a motion that could get Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects ready for future funding streams. The motion directs Metro to study BRT countywide with priority given to two routes: Vermont Avenue and North Hollywood-Burbank Airport-Pasadena. Mayor Garcetti expressed that, for these BRT projects, he would like to see Metro evaluate center-running BRT, and seek federal small starts funding.

More on the BRT Motion: The Source

ExpressLanes Toll Revenue Project Funding Approved

As previewed in this SBLA article, Metro approved ExpressLane revenue funding for various transportation projects along the 10 and 110 Freeway corridors. 40 percent of the funding went to active transportation, including implementation of bike share in downtown Los Angeles.