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Photo Essay: Pacoima’s Opening Celebration For Bradley Plaza

Ribbon-cutting

L.A. City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes (left in light blue shirt) along with many others, including LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds, cut the ribbon to open Bradley Plaza. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, the community of Pacoima celebrated the opening of the city of L.A.’s latest car-free space: Bradley Plaza. The plaza closes to cars one block of Bradley Avenue immediately east of Van Nuys Boulevard in the north San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Pacoima. The plaza is a product of the city Transportation Department’s (LADOT) innovative community-driven People St program. Through the People St program, community groups can apply for and receive local plazas, parklets, and bike corrals.

And, as with Leimert Park Village’s plaza, community groups are key in siting, designing, programming, and generally making these projects a success. The non-profit Pacoima Beautiful has been key in making Bradley Plaza happen, in raising funds for street furniture there, and is already looking toward additional seating and shading for the site.

Enjoy these photos that tell the story of yesterday’s celebrations, and give a small sense of how the plaza is already being embraced by the surrounding community.

xxx

Two young girls share the durable lounge furniture.

Read more…

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A Peek Into Metro’s Frequent Bus Network Proposal

Metro's APTA review makes a lot of recommendations can balance the agency ... Photo via Wikimedia

Metro is proposing major bus network changes, and they might be a good thing. Photo via Wikimedia

Metro is currently considering some pretty big bus service changes. Basically Metro is considering a cost-neutral scheme that would eliminate multiple relatively low-performing bus lines and would add more frequent service on a core network. More details below. Overall it looks like a step in a positive direction, though the devil may be in the details.

And the details are few and far between.

Though Metro has released a very basic presentation [PDF] with some maps and lists, the proposal seems to be in flux. Metro’s maps and lists don’t match. There are a lot of questions left unanswered.

How Metro’s Proposal Came About:

In March, Metro received the recommendations from an American Public Transit Association (APTA) review by a national panel of transit experts. On the operations end, the APTA review recommended more frequent bus service on a sparser network. The review also recommended more space between bus stops and a greater “load factor” (more people per bus) on somewhat crowded peak-commute-hour bus service.

The APTA recommendations dovetailed with changes that were already being considered. Metro convened a “Blue Ribbon Committee” (BRC) which reviewed Metro staff’s development of a bus service reorganization plan, called Metro’s “Draft Transit Service Policy” [PDF].

What’s In Metro’s Proposal:

To date, no full thorough documentation of Metro’s proposal has been made available, so the public has to read between the lines of Metro’s slideshow summary [PDF]. Calwatch posted a good summary of the proposal at Reddit.

On balance, the overall proposal has “no additional hours” of bus service. So where Metro would add more frequent service on many lines, it would subtract the same amount of service from other lines.

To evaluate how well bus lines are doing, Metro developed a metric it calls Route Performance Index (RPI.) The higher the RPI, the better the line is performing. RPI combines three measurements:

  • how many people use a line (passengers/service hour)
  • how far people travel on a line (passengers/seat mile)
  • overall operational cost (net cost/passenger)

These values are normalized so that a score of 1.0 matches the overall average. Better Institutions obtained a full RPI listing for Metro’s 140 transit lines (though the list does not include rail or BRT, and buses on Wilshire Blvd are now considered BRT). Metro’s highest ridership line, the 254 on Vermont Avenue, scores an RPI of 1.69, while the agency’s worst line, the 607 in Windsor Hills-Inglewood, scores an RPI of 0.27. According to Metro, lines with an RPI less than 0.6 “are subject to remedial action.”

Metro's proposed frequent bus network. Image from Metro presentation

Metro’s proposed frequent bus network. Image from Metro [PDF]

Where Bus Service Would Be Improved:

According to Metro’s “BRC Recommended Network” map, the following bus lines would run more frequently. Read more…

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Metro Board July Updates: Joint Development, Bike-Share, and More

Today’s monthly Metro Board of Directors meeting saw the chair transition from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Incoming Chair Ridley-Thomas expounded on his priorities for the current fiscal year. The July board meeting did not feature any major controversies, but there are a number of items likely to be of interest to SBLA readers.

Expo phase 2 test train. Photo via Santa Monica Next

Expo phase 2 test train. Photo via Santa Monica Next

Rail Lines Opening 2016: Metro CEO Phil Washington gave a brief update on the status of the extensions of the Gold and Expo Lines. Both of these projects are nearing completion. They are both being built by Construction Authorities, who will finish their work, then turn the project over to Metro for testing and, then, operation. Washington reported that Gold Line Foothill Extension construction is expected to be complete in September, while Expo Phase 2 construction is expected to be complete in mid- to late-October.

Bike-Share: With bike-share opening in Santa Monica, downtown L.A. and Long Beach this fiscal year, and other places interested, Metro is still working out if and how the agency needs to enforce or incentivize interoperability. Differences were evident in the debate at last month’s board meeting.

County Supervisor Don Knabe strung together multiple apt cliches urging Metro not enforce bike-share vendor conformity in a “my way or the highway” approach because “one size does not fit all.” Garcetti, on the other hand, asserted that a single countywide system “funds well,” meaning that it could attract lucrative countywide advertising sponsorship. Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana expressed “misgivings” over the current two-vendor implementation underway, suggesting that he thought it might be better for Metro to “buy out” systems being implemented by Long Beach and Santa Monica.

Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian pointedly asked Metro staff how cities like his should approach implementing bike-share, asking if Glendale should “refrain from an RFP (Request for Proposals)?” Staff recommended cities contact Metro, pursue funding together, and work things out on a case-by-case basis.  Read more…

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Bike-Share Round-Up: Multiple Motions At Tomorrow’s Metro Board Meeting

Metro bike-share vendor Bicycle Transit Systems has a new L.A. webpage. Image via http://www.bicycletransit.com/los-angeles/

Metro bike-share vendor Bicycle Transit Systems has a new L.A. webpage. Image via http://www.bicycletransit.com/los-angeles/

Last month, after a fairly lengthy debate, the Metro Board of Directors approved an $11 million contract to bring bike-share to downtown Los Angeles. Though there is a lot of interest in bike-share on the Metro board, there is not a lot of agreement on exactly how to move forward.

Though Metro bike-share, run by vendor Bicycle Transit Systems (BTS), will begin in Downtown Los Angeles, multiple future phases are planned, but not yet fully approved nor funded. Elected officials are doing their job, jockeying to make sure future bike-share phases will serve areas they represent. Santa Monica and Long Beach already moving ahead under contracts with a different vendor, Cyclehop, so there are also questions about inter-operability.

Below is a brief run down of the latest in the multi-faceted world of L.A. County bike-share systems. There are already a lot of moving pieces, and there is yet to be any live bike-share bikes on the ground. Bike-share may get less complicated when the bikes arrive and Angelenos can see and experience how bike-share really works:

> In Metro bike-share news: Metro’s full board of directors will meet tomorrow and decide on a handful of follow-on motions Read more…

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Some Thoughts On Metro’s Modest New Parking Policy Proposal

Should Metro parking policies

Metro is voting on a proposed update to its parking policies this Thursday. Metro Gold Line Atlantic Station parking structure. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At this Thursday’s meeting, Metro’s Board of Directors will be voting on modest changes to the way the agency manages parking. Theoretically, these changes are expected to set the stage for increased parking revenue, which has positives for walkability and livability, but the devil may be in the details.

According to the staff presentation [PDF], Metro currently manages more than 70 parking facilities with more than 22,000 parking spaces. In 2016, with new Gold and Expo Line extension parking lots opening, this will rise to more than 25,000 spaces. 330 more spaces are added when the Crenshaw/LAX line parking lots open in 2019.

Metro Boardmember and Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana, at last week’s Executive Committee meeting, remarked that parking spaces cost Metro “$40,000 a pop.” And that’s just up-front costs, without ongoing maintenance and operations. Metro’s overall 25,000 space parking portfolio, assuming parking expert Don Shoup’s industry standard of $24,000 per space instead of Fasana’s higher number for above ground structures (some spaces cost a lot more than this, probably some cost less), cost the agency at least $600,000,000.

So, even under conservative estimates, Metro has spent more than half a billion dollars on parking spaces. Metro gives more than 93 percent those spaces away for free. Metro CEO Phil Washington and other Metro leaders increasingly frequently speak about budget shortfalls and the need for increased revenue, cost-cutting, and likely fare increases.

I’ve often written critically about Metro’s free parking as a massive unfair loss leader for the agency. What might be given more weight is analysis by transportation experts. Metro’s recent peer review by a panel of American Public Transportation Association (APTA) experts made the following recommendations that bear repeating here: (full APTA review coverage here)

  • Station parking is expensive to build and maintain, so parking costs should be [at least] partially recovered.
  • Easy parking encourages driving that first last mile; it’s better to re-direct parking resources to instead fund convenient, frequent bus service.
  • Free park-and-ride subsidizes higher income riders and decreases transit’s air quality benefits.

So… with looming deficits and expert recommendations, Metro is retooling the way it does parking.

Not quite.

The new Metro parking ordinance is unfortunately not so different from current practices. Read more…

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Reps Pelosi and Lieu Tout ‘Grow America’ Transportation Bill

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi speaking on federal transportation funding at this morning's event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi speaking on federal transportation funding at this morning’s event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Elected officials, labor leaders, and Metro’s CEO assembled this morning to call on Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill. In order to highlight the ways that transportation infrastructure funding benefits communities, the press event showcased the bluff-top construction site of the city of Santa Monica’s California Incline retrofit project.

House Minority Leader Representative Nancy Pelosi, Representative Ted Lieu, L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown, AFL CIO Executive Secretary Rusty Hicks, ‎Building and Construction Trades Council President Ron Miller, and Metro CEO Phil Washington all expressed support for the Grow America Act.

Many Americans think that gas taxes cover the costs of transportation infrastructure. In truth, gas taxes have not kept up with inflation. For many years, transportation-dedicated revenue has fallen way short of transportation expenditures.

This has resulted in ongoing debates over how to pay for transportation infrastructure. The Grow America Act is President Obama’s proposal, favored by Democrats. Grow America would pay for six years of federal transportation funding by closing loopholes that allow American corporations to skirt taxes on overseas profits. Republicans are less interested in trimming corporate profits, and more inclined to fund transportation by trimming pensions. Today, Pelosi characterized the plan to trim pension funding as “a non-starter” and, in response to questions, expressed her support for raising the gas tax, though that too is likely a non-starter.

Though Lieu and Pelosi are pressing for the six-year Grow America Act, this week the House of Representatives passed its stopgap five-month measure that would keep federal transportation funds solvent through December 2015. Senate committees are hammering out their likely-longer-term versions.

CEO Washington and Mayor McKeown stressed that short term funding is not enough for local cities and agencies Read more…

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Proposed Metro Joint Development Policy Updates A Step In Right Direction

Metro is revising its joint development program to better foster transit-oriented affordable housing. Image via Metro [PDF]

Metro is revising its joint development program to better foster transit-oriented affordable housing. Image via Metro [PDF]

Today, the Metro Board of Directors’ Executive Management Committee approved changes to the way the agency partners for development on Metro-owned land.

In the past, Metro joint development was often called “TOD” for Transit Oriented Development. Under new CEO Phil Washington, praised for his commitment to joint development when he led Denver RTD, TOD has given way to “TOC” Transit Oriented Communities. Today’s new policy was likely molded by Washington, but the changes have been underway since the middle of last year pursuant to a 2014 motion introduced by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and others.

While Metro has partnered to successfully develop housing and retail above many of its stations, from Koreatown to Hollywood to Pasadena, development has perhaps not been among the agency’s genuine priorities. Some proposed projects, including a private multi-story parking structure proposed for Mariachi Plaza, have been controversial. With new state funding, including the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program, and a new TOC-minded CEO, future joint development at Metro sites is looking more promising.

The changes to Metro’s Joint Development Policy include:

  • Setting an overall goal for 35 percent of joint development housing to be affordable housing. Past Metro projects completed have 31 percent affordable housing overall.
  • Allow discounts on the price of Metro-owned land to incentivize affordability. The discount would be equal to the percentage of affordable housing developed, up to a maximum 30 percent land discount. This is a new policy, and part of the above-mentioned Garcetti motion. (Maybe Metro could up this to 35 percent to match their stated goal above? -JL)
  • In order to accommodate full environmental reviews, Metro is extending the duration of its Exclusive Negotiating Agreements (ENAs.) ENAs used to be approved for six months, and were often extended. Now they will now start at 18 months, still with possible extensions.
  • Revisions to the policy language describing the agency’s outreach processes, fostering “meaningful site-specific outreach” and “increased transparency.”
  • Earlier emphasis on joint development projects providing first last miles facilities, such as walkways, bike parking, etc.

For additional details, Read more…

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Cartoon Tuesday: Yo La Tengo Video Showcases Sunset Plaza

For decades Hollywood has exported Southern California car culture images around the world. That’s changing now. Made-in-L.A. commercials, films, and videos now increasingly feature bike lanes, inverted-U bike racks, and, yes, even People St polka-dotted pedestrian plazas. From NPR via Streetfilms‘ Clarence Eckerson, have fun watching Yo La Tengo’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’ video – showing L.A.’s premiere pedestrian plaza – the Sunset Triangle Park Plaza. Tomorrow we return to serious news.

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Broadway Dress Rehearsal Project Gets New, More Durable Surface

New yellow makeover for Broadway Dress Rehearsal. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New yellow suface being installed on Broadway Dress Rehearsal bulb-outs last month. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Downtown L.A.’s “Broadway Dress Rehearsal” project entered a new phase last month. SBLA readers will recall that the Broadway project was a relatively quick and low-cost creation of bulb-outs designed to calm traffic. The project removed space from cars, giving it to people dining and traveling on foot on one of L.A.’s highest pedestrian-volume streets. Broadway’s Dress Rehearsal opened August 2014 and every day plenty of people use it, especially the tables and chairs there. Last fall, the city Transportation Department (LADOT) published a study showing baseline conditions on Broadway; this fall LADOT will be following up with comparison data on what has changed.

Installation of Broadway's epoxy-aggregate surface in 2014

Installation of Broadway’s epoxy-aggregate surface in 2014

Initially the Dress Rehearsal bulb-out surface was, according to LADOT People St’s Valerie Watson, an “epoxy-based aggregate mix” — think tiny smooth rocks embedded in a thin layer of glue. Some merchants reported that some of the tiny stones were getting dislodged and tracked into stores.  Read more…

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Dangerous Intersection of Venice and Robertson Gets a Flashing Yellow Signal

Last November, David Lindley was walking across the street at the five point intersection of Venice and South Robertson Boulevard when he was struck and killed. Lindley, an autistic teen who attended nearby Hamilton High School, was mourned by friends and family who vowed to see the intersection fixed.

Three months later, with the construction and reconfigurations complete, a video by longtime Expo Line supporter/watcher Gökhan Esirgen showed that cars turning on to Robertson Boulevard were routinely turning left into the pedestrian path well after receiving a red light. Esirgen noted this wasn’t an unusual occurrence, but a decision to place expediency over the safety of pedestrians that was made with nearly every crossing.

Over six months after Lindley’s tragic death, LADOT recently unveiled its answer to the safety issues created by what one Hamilton High School student described as a “busy, confusing and dangerous” intersection, a flashing yellow arrow warning drivers to be aware of pedestrians. This is the first time the City of Los Angeles has used this traffic control device, but they are common in other parts of the country. Motorists have shown greater likelihood to yield during a flashing yellow arrow than a red one.

A good start, to be sure. Now if only the city would prioritize ticketing cars that turn against the light over pedestrians who are crossing the street safely and efficiently.