Skip to content

Posts from the Agency Watch Category

34 Comments

New Caltrans Video Claims Widening 5 Freeway Is Good for Air, Congestion

In this new promotional video, Caltrans District 7 inexplicably proclaims that widening a stretch of the 5 freeway in southeast L.A. County will “reduce congestion” and “improve air quality.” The video, shown at Metro’s board and committee meetings recently, further boasts about “better safety” and how outsized new bridges over the freeway will each “dwarf the original bridge.” It goes on to herald Caltrans’ $1.9 billion project (funded by Metro’s Measure R) as a “21st-century transformation.”

What it really resembles are all of those dreadful 20th-century transformations that gave L.A. County its current congestion and foul air, plus plenty of child asthma, noise, disconnected neighborhoods, obesity, and other problems. These are all accompanied by budget-breaking infrastructure maintenance costs passed along to our children’s generation.

Keep an eye on your transportation tax dollars going down the I-5 at Caltrans website

Keep an eye on your transportation tax dollars going down the I-5 at Caltrans project promo website

The flaws inherent in Caltrans’ outdated thinking are summarized well by UCLA professor Michael Manville, in what he calls “Transportation Economics 101”:

We’ve known for a very long time that simply adding capacity doesn’t reduce traffic congestion. This was first pointed out in very clear language in the the 1960s by an economist named Anthony Downs in what he called the fundamental law of road congestion, which basically said that whenever you add road capacity to the road all you are doing is essentially lowering the price of driving.

Read more…

16 Comments

New Map Shows Metro’s 20,000+ Parking Spaces, Mostly Free

Metro Rail and BRT parking map - by Mehmet Berker

Metro Rail and BRT parking map created by Mehmet Berker. Click for higher resolution PDF

Earlier this year, a Seattle transit parking infographic map made the rounds. Created by Zach Shaner at Seattle Transit Blog, the map is helpful for visualizing the urban to suburban mix of station uses, and understanding the investments that Seattle’s transit agency is planning.

Inspired by Shaner’s Seattle example, friend of the blog Mehmet Berker created an analogous map for L.A. County. The map above includes, as of this month, all of Metro’s current rail and BRT station parking, plus Crenshaw/LAX rail line parking currently under construction. Mercifully, neither of the under-construction subways – the Regional Connector and the Purple Line – include parking. The parking data is from Metro’s Park and Ride web page.

Similar to the Seattle map, the core of the Metro system (where most boarding occurs) has very little parking. The rest of the system, though, has lots and lots of parking (pun intended.) Including a couple hundred Crenshaw/LAX line spaces, Metro has 24,121 parking spaces. Only 1,596 of them (6.6 percent) are paid for by drivers. The remaining 22,267 (92.3 percent) are free, which is to say that they are paid for by taxpayers and transit riders, whether they drive or not.  Read more…

7 Comments

Streetsblog L.A. Endorses Measure M

There is a lot to like about Measure M, the Los Angeles County sales tax that would fund a mix of transit and other transportation projects throughout the county. For all of the transit, mobility, walkability, bikeability benefits – not to mention health, environmental, and job benefits – across the region, Streetsblog Los Angeles endorses Measure M.

Measure M rail and BRT network. Image by xxx

Measure M rail and BRT network. Map by Adam Linder

Start by taking a look at the fully-built-out transit map that SBLA reader Adam Linder created based on Measure M’s expenditure plan. This is huge. This rail and rapid bus network would change the way that L.A. County moves. Frequent, high quality transit would extend to the San Fernando Valley, Pomona, the South Bay, the Sepulveda Pass, West Hollywood, Glendale, and to the edges of San Bernardino and Orange Counties.

There is plenty more for livability in Measure M’s expenditure plan: bicycling and walking especially for the first/last mile connection to transit, Metrolink, complete streets, fare subsidies for those in need, ADA paratransit, and hard-to-come-by maintenance funding to keep Metro’s facilities in a state of good repair.

Measure M is not perfect.

State law makes it nearly impossible to pass a ballot measure with any sort of tax except a sales tax. This means that despite the best intentions of the authors of the initiative, the funding mechanism for this revolutionary proposal is still a regressive sales tax. Distressingly, it offers the least promise to the lower-income residents of L.A. who will be disproportionately impacted by the sales tax and who rely on bus service the most.

Measure M would also fund outdated freeway and road projects. We can look past this spending as a pragmatic move to appease the voting public to get the measure passed. Among the early opposition to Measure M, though, are groups that find the measure’s highway funding to be insufficient. These backward-looking interests want to see more freeway widening sooner, no doubt continuing Southern California’s sad expensive spiral of more widening and more congestion.

Outdated highway projects are unsustainable in many ways, including fiscally. With state and federal gas tax revenues failing to cover ongoing transportation expenditures, it is a critical time for Los Angeles County to continue to step up and fund our own transportation future. Measure M would create an indefinite funding stream that gives L.A. County control of our future spending. Local control helps ensure that spending prioritizes local needs, even as those needs change and grow.

In 2008 and 2012, Streetsblog L.A. and our parent non-profit the Southern California Streets Initiative did not formally endorse or oppose Measure R or Measure J. Measure M is significantly better and more holistic than either of those prior propositions.

Lastly, the leadership of Metro CEO Phil Washington at the helm gives us greater confidence in supporting Measure M. Washington, his team, and plenty of continuing dedicated Metro staff, are taking strides to ensure that Metro is well-managed, fiscally prudent, and responsive to its riders and their communities. With the significant changes that transit and transit-oriented development are already bringing to many areas, Washington’s Metro will need to prioritize building stronger relationships with affected communities as it continues to build its networks. Metro needs be proactive in ensuring that all communities benefit from this growth, especially lower-income communities of color that continue to be the core of Metro’s ridership.

Streetsblog strongly endorses Measure M, and urges all our readers to vote yes on M on November 8.

20 Comments

Ideas On How Metro and the Rams Can Expand Fan Transportation Choices

Expo Line platform crowding after Rams game. Photo via Metro

Expo Line platform crowding after this week’s Rams game. Photo via Metro

You may have heard that the National Football League’s Rams are back in Los Angeles. The football is no doubt exciting, but the team’s presence has also elevated Southern California conversations about parking, congestion, transit, and traffic.

Now through 2018, the Rams play home games at the Coliseum in Exposition Park, a stone’s throw from the Metro Expo Line. In the future, the Rams will be playing at a new stadium under construction in Inglewood. The new stadium, expected to be completed by 2019, will be just over a mile from Metro’s under-construction Crenshaw/LAX light rail line.

At the Rams first regular season home game, the Los Angeles Times reported parking prices surging well over $100. Rather than proclaiming parking doom, the paper interviewed parking expert Don Shoup, explained congestion pricing, and declared high prices to be “good news for mass transit backers.” Metro’s The Source reported that 26 percent of Rams attendees, 21,000 of the 80,000, took transit to the game. This is nearly quadruple transit’s 7 percent share of L.A. County commute trips.

Though SBLA will offer some advice after the jump, first a couple of caveats: Read more…

5 Comments

Metro Moving Forward With $4 Million For 17 Open Streets

xxx

CicLAvia open streets event participants. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee approved $4.04 million for 17 L.A. County open streets events to take place through December 2018. The full Metro board of directors is expected to approve the open streets program funding at its meeting next Thursday.

This is the second round of Metro open street event funding, with the agency budgeting $2 million per fiscal year. Metro support has resulted in extending open streets, including CicLAvia, to take place in a diverse range of L.A. County jurisdictions from Downey to Santa Monica to Long Beach. In addition to fostering bicycling and walking, Metro staff reported that past open streets events have shown increased Metro rail ridership (10 percent greater along the route corridor) and system-wide increased sales of Metro day passes.

Metro’s 17 upcoming open streets events include seven multi-jurisdictional events, and 11 cities hosting their first open streets event.

After the jump is the full list the Metro recommended open streets events, listed in Metro’s ranking order:  Read more…

18 Comments

Proterra Unveils 350-Mile Range Electric Buses at APTA Conference in L.A.

xxx

Proterra’s new Catalyst E2 electric bus parked outside the APTA conference. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At the American Public Transit Association’s annual meeting in downtown Los Angeles, electric bus maker Proterra unveiled its new Catalyst E2 transit bus. The Catalyst E2 electric bus is “named for its unprecedented Efficient Energy (E2) storage capacity.” According to Proterra:

[A]n E2 series vehicle achieved a new milestone at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds where it logged more than 600 miles on a single charge under test conditions. Its nominal range of 194 – 350 miles means the Catalyst E2 series is capable of serving the full daily mileage needs of nearly every U.S. mass transit route on a single charge and offers the transit industry the first direct replacement for fossil-fueled transit vehicles.

Proterra manufactures these buses at plants in L.A. County’s City of Industry and in Greenville, South Carolina.

Los Angeles County’s Foothill Transit is among the nation’s early adopters of electric bus technology, with a planned all-electric bus fleet by 2030. According to Doran Barnes, Executive Director at Foothill Transit and new APTA board chair:

We just surpassed one million miles of revenue service with our battery-electric Proterra fleet, and we’re looking forward to many more miles to come. Since our first EV bus procurement with Proterra in 2010, we knew that zero-emission buses were the future of mass transit. Now, with the new Catalyst E2, this vision is a reality. We’re excited by the possibilities of an all-electric future.

Read more…

No Comments

Scoping Meeting to Explore Impacts of Update to Boyle Heights Community Plan to be Held Tuesday

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tuesday night, from 6 – 8:30 p.m., the Department of City Planning will be holding a Scoping Meeting to gather feedback from the community regarding the potential impacts the policies and goals contained within Boyle Heights Community Plan might have on the area’s environment, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The meeting will not be, as I am guessing some in the community might be hoping, a genuine opportunity to directly address gentrification concerns. The Environmental Impact Report planners will be drafting focuses on categories that focus on the impact of physical infrastructure on things like aesthetics, air quality, noise, transportation/circulation, and greenhouse gas emissions (see full list here, p. 3). To the extent that it can address population/housing/employment or cultural resources questions, it is more in terms of whether a policy or program will have a direct impact on an existing entity (e.g. direct displacement of people or cultural structures to make way for something new).

Which means that if you do have concerns about the kinds of changes slated for the community, you will have to approach them through some of the goals and policies planners are drafting to guide development.

The Boyle Heights Community Plan (BHCP) has been in the works for ten years now. It is one of 35 Community Plans contained within the Land Use Element of the City’s General Plan. And it is intended to serve as a blueprint for growth and development in the area by delineating goals, policies, and specific development standards for the residential, commercial, and industrial zones within the community for the next 20 to 25 years. It was last updated in 1998 and was intended to govern growth and change in Boyle Heights through 2010.

Outreach efforts begun back in 2006 worked to nail down the community’s larger vision and goals for the area that planners would then try to build into the policies established for the plan. The planning process unfortunately had to be put on hold in 2009, and was not picked up again until 2012.

At an open house in 2014, planners presented attending community members with the following draft vision statement:

This community is built on generations of immigrants and prides itself in their hard work ethic, rich cultural identities, and community activism. Boyle Heights is a historical and cultural treasure with a diverse local economy that has a potential to continue prospering. Building upon its pedestrian-oriented and unique neighborhood character, this community envisions policy programs that are supportive of environmental quality, economic vitality, and urban design that promotes safe and walkable neighborhoods.

The community’s responses to the above statement and a variety of themes including affordable housing, employment, preserving and enhancing the social, artistic, cultural, and historic characteristics of the community, and, interestingly, strengthening the community’s connection to the L.A. River, among many other things (see the full list here) were supposed to give planners a better sense of how to formulate their goals and policies.

One only need take a look at the input received on a variety of land-use topics at prior sessions to see that

Proposed zoning for Boyle Heights. Click to enlarge. Source: Dept. of City Planning

Proposed zoning for Boyle Heights. Click to enlarge. Source: Dept. of City Planning

that was likely not always an easy task. Parking seemed to be one of the few things that united everyone – all could agree there was not enough of it. Otherwise, clear divides seemed to run between renters and homeowners: Bring in businesses like Target and Trader Joe’s! Don’t allow big box stores that will displace local businesses! Tienditas (small corner markets often embedded within residential areas) are a great resource and could, with aid, be able to provide locals with access to healthier food! Tienditas are the devil and a gateway to substance abuse! Build more housing! Preserve neighborhood character and height! (see the full list here and feedback from focus groups over the years, here.)

The policies and protections many in the community would like to see put in place to limit the dismantling and displacement of the human infrastructure that makes the community so unique don’t fit easily into a planning framework designed to address questions of physical infrastructure.

Policies could, for example, require that commercial districts reflect a particular architectural history and support street vending, as explained here. But there are fewer safeguards available to support the existing businesses occupying those locations or ensure that it is the long-time paletero who is ultimately able to vend there, not Paleta People. Read more…

1 Comment

Court Rules For Metro’s Measure M, Against Lawsuit Filed By Seven Cities

Metro's sales tax proposal as it will appear on the November 2016 ballot.

Metro’s sales tax proposal as it will appear on the November 2016 ballot.

Metro’s Measure M will still need approval from two-thirds of L.A. County voters in November, but the transportation sales tax got a little good news today. A superior court judge rejected a lawsuit filed by the cities of Carson, Commerce, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes, and Signal Hill. The lawsuit alleged that Measure M’s ballot summary language is incomplete and therefore misleading. These cities also claimed that Measure M would shortchange the southern portion of L.A. County.

According to City News Service (via My News L.A.) today:

A judge today rejected a petition filed on behalf of South Bay-area cities seeking significant changes in the ballot language for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed half-cent county sales tax measure, saying there was no evidence the wording was confusing to voters.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel said Measure M is not an initiative and therefore did not require the ballot language specifics sought in the action filed last week by the cities of Carson, Commerce, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes and Signal Hill. The petition alleged that the ballot label for Measure M did not include the actual 1 percent total rate of the tax to be imposed. The petitioners also claimed the ballot label for Measure M does not state that the proposed tax would be permanent.

Carson Mayor Albert Robles said after the hearing that he and the other coalition members were disappointed with the ruling and are considering an appeal. He said Metro’s argument that the coalition was required to seek help from the Legislature was not an option because it would have been too late to do so in time for the November election.

Yusef Robb of Yes on Measure M reacted to the victory with this statement:

Measure M is clear on what it will do: ease congestion and make transportation improvements Countywide and in each of L.A. County’s 88 cities. The plaintiffs attempted to mislead the voters with a politically motivated lawsuit, but the court ruled today that there was no evidence the wording is confusing to voters. The plaintiffs should stop interfering with the voters’ right to make their own judgment on Measure M.

8 Comments

Metro Explores Alternative Rail-to-River Routes Through Southeast Cities

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 between the Crenshaw Line to the west and the Blue Line to the east, along with the four options that could eventually connect the path with (or very close to) the L.A. River. Source: Metro

In thinking about the potential routes the eastern segment (B) of the Rail-to-River (R2R) active transportation corridor might take, stressed Mark Lopez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, it was important that the needs of workers, youth, and community members of the Southeast Cities be put front and center. Connectivity to job centers and schools should therefore be the first priority.

Through that lens, Lopez said, the bike path project could offer momentum for the creation of other potential “job trails” EYCEJ had already been thinking about, including connections to Vernon, and Commerce, a path along Slauson that would facilitate connections across the L.A. River and the 710 Freeway to the Bell Cheli Industrial area, and routes enhancing greater access to the river and green spaces like Riverfront Park.

A snapshot of Randolph street from above (center, running left to right). The ROW runs down the middle of the street, and could be made into a protected bikeway and pedestrian path. Source: Google maps.

A rail right-of-way runs down the middle of Randolph Street and could be made into a protected bikeway and pedestrian path. Source: Google maps. Click to enlarge.

I had reached out to Lopez for feedback after attending Metro’s mid-afternoon session on the R2R project held last Wednesday in Huntington Park. The R2R project – a dedicated bike and pedestrian path that will stretch between the Crenshaw and Blue Lines, and to (or through) the Southeast cities to the east – is much-needed in the park-poor and truck-dominated corridors of the communities of South Central and Southeast Los Angeles.

Class i bike facilities. Source: Feasibility Study

Class I bike facilities separate and protect cyclists from cars. Source: Feasibility Study

But many of the participants, I realized as we gathered around the tables to decide how to serve Southeast residents’ needs best, were not from the area and/or not very familiar with where people worked or how they got there. All of which made speaking to Metro’s purpose for the meeting – discussing and ranking the four alternatives for Segment B of the active transportation corridor – somewhat difficult.

Metro’s own 2014 feasibility study had determined that the Randolph Street option should be prioritized. It would not necessarily be the easiest choice – the rail right-of-way (ROW) is owned by Union Pacific, meaning that the cost of acquisition could be quite high and the negotiations involved in acquiring the ROW could take some time. But factors in its favor included the length the route would cover (4.34 miles), user experience, connectivity, safety, transit connections, ease of implementation (see p. 76), and the fact that it would allow cyclists to continue on a dedicated Class I bike path (a separated and protected path, at right). And because the ROW is as wide as 60′ in some sections, it would allow for the inclusion of many or more of the amenities present on the western and central segments of the path.

Users would not have to move back and forth between busy streets and dedicated Class I facilities or lose the bike and pedestrian paths altogether, as they would with the Utility Corridor or Slauson routes. It would also offer users a safe, protected, and lengthy east-west connection through a densely populated and semi-industrial section of Los Angeles usually dominated by heavy traffic and large trucks.

Although, like Randolph Street, the Malabar route would be able to provide users with a dedicated and protected path, it narrows considerably (which would push pedestrians aside) as it makes its way north toward Washington Blvd. It would also move users through less secure industrial areas with fewer connections to transit, residential neighborhoods, commercial corridors, or educational centers. Also, as in the case of Randolph Street, the use of the Malabar Yards ROW would require negotiations with BNSF to get it to abandon its rights to the ROW east of Santa Fe Ave.

The Malabar route would move users north toward (but not reaching) the river through Vernon. Source: Feasibility Study

The Malabar route would move users north toward (but not reaching) the river through Vernon. Source: Feasibility Study

All that said, it was still not 100 per cent clear to me which route would better connect residents with their jobs. Read more…

12 Comments

A Visual Representation of L.A.’s Rail Growth Under Measure M

Los Angeles MetroRail - Comparrison

We’re working on a couple of larger stories for later in the week, but in the meantime we thought readers would appreciate this map by Adam Linder.

Linder’s map shows how Metro Rail and Metro Rapid Bus will grow in the coming years from where it is now (including lines under construction) to where it would be, assuming a Measure M build-out.

The Southern California Streets Initiative has not taken a position on Measure M. SCSI publishes not just the three California-based Streetsblogs, but also LongBeachize and Santa Monica Next.

If you like Adam’s map feel free to drop him a line at Infinite3Ent@gmail.com or find him on Instagram at adamglinder.