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Metro Board Approves November 2016 Sales Tax Plan

Metro sales tax promotional image

Voters will decide Metro’s new sales tax measure this November

At its monthly meeting today, the Metro board of directors approved placing a sales tax measure on the November ballot. If approved by the voters, the measure would add a new half-cent sales tax and would extend Measure R’s half cent sales tax. These sales taxes would be permanent.

Today’s deliberations were quite a bit more contentious than last week’s unanimous committee approvals. After hours of public testimony – some hostile, some approving – the board considered the sales tax motion alongside four amending motions:

  • Boardmember and County Supervisor Don Knabe proposed two motions that would have derailed the sales tax. One would have postponed the vote, awaiting further study. Another would have allocated a great deal of funding for additional specific projects in Knabe’s district. Both Knabe motions failed to get enough votes for passage.
  • Boardmember and Inglewood Mayor James Butts pressed for a decision on his earlier motion to accelerate partially funded Measure R projects ahead of any new projects in this year’s ballot measure. Butts’ motion did not receive enough board votes to pass.
  • Boardmember and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spearheaded a motion to direct $180 million in ballot measure sales tax funding for a transit project, expected to be BRT, to serve the North San Fernando Valley. This addresses the recent push, led by State Senator Bob Hertzberg, for improved transit connections to Cal State Northridge. The Garcetti motion passed; it was the only sales tax amendment that did pass.

When the final sales tax vote passed, only boardmembers Knabe and Diane DuBois voted against.

Today’s approval includes $10.9 million to fund “election-related and public information costs.” Putting the measure on the ballot will cost $8.4 million. Metro will also spend $2.5 million to educate the public about it.

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Metro Service Changes Take Effect This Sunday, Including Fewer Night Trains

A side effect of additional "late night" train service will be to alleviate the strain on cars when Midnight Ridazz let's out (assuming the ride ends before midnight). Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyseven/3138690971/sizes/z/in/photostream/##Gary Kavanagh/Flickr##

As of Sunday, Metro’s “More Trains More Often” nighttime initiative will be over. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

This Sunday, June 26, Metro will be making their twice yearly “service changes” to bus and rail service. This typically means minor cuts, often justifiable, but still incrementally making riders’ lives a little worse and incrementally contributing to declines in ridership.

Metro’s The Source has a fair summary of the agency’s latest round of transit service adjustments. As one would expect, the agency emphasized improvements:

  • All Gold Line trains will serve the entire new Foothill Extension. Since the new stations opened in March, they were only served by every other train out of Union Station, meaning trains to Azusa ran every 12 minutes. As of Sunday, peak-hour service to Azusa will be every 7 minutes.
  • Metro Rapid Bus line 744 night service has been adjusted to better serve Cal State Northridge.
  • Metro Bus line 230 night service has been adjusted to better serve Mission College.

The Source uses very neutral language to mention some nighttime service cuts for Metro rail lines. These cuts are generating some concern on social media. Right now, evening service (from roughly 8 p.m. to midnight) on the Expo Line and Blue Line runs every 10 minutes. As of Sunday, this will be cut in half to every 20 minutes. Some late night Blue Line trains also run shorter lines, ending at Del Amo Station. In addition, Red Line and Purple Line service for Friday and Saturday nights will be reduced from every 10 minutes to every 20. (Metro already reduced Sunday through Thursday night service to every 20 minutes last year.)

Relatively frequent night train service was introduced in 2011 as part of the Villaraigosa-era “More Trains More Often” improvements. This week’s changes effectively end that 2011 service expansion.  Read more…

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#DamienTalksSGV 11 – Metro, Cacciotti and 626 Golden Streets

UPDATE VIA BIKE SGV, JUNE 23 : BREAKING NEWS: ‪#‎626GoldenStreets‬ POSTPONED for a future date given unfavorable conditions due to San Gabriel Valley Complex Fire 🔥😭😭 Please be advised: Openstreets and all activities planned for #626GoldenStreets will no longer be held this Sunday.

Thank You to all those who ALMOST made this truly special event possible. We thank sponsors, volunteers, vendors, performers and city staff for your commitment and continued support. #626GoldenStreets will be back, stay tuned!

June 26 San Gabriel Valley open streets map!

June 26 San Gabriel Valley open streets map!

This week, #DamienTalks with Laura Cornejo, the sustainability officer for Metro and the lead for Metro’s Open Streets events program. Metro has been funding numerous Open Streets events throughout L.A. County. Metro’s initial open streets funding cycle finishes up this weekend with 626 – an amazing 18-mile long multi-jurisdictional car-free party.

Damien Talks SGV logo626 Golden Streets will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Sunday, June 26. Metro, Bike SGV, seven cities and a host of other organizations invite you to explore ​18+ miles of open streets linking six Metro Gold Line stations and seven San Gabriel Valley cities ​stretching from South Pasadena to Azusa. Participants do not need to ride all 18 miles, but can start and finish wherever you like. Participants can walk, run, bike, skate, wheelchair, or crawl. Take breaks, stop for lunch, listen to music, shop, hang out, and generally enjoy streets open to all. The event is free, family-friendly, fun, and, of course, very easily accessible via the Metro Gold Line.

For more information, visit 626GoldenStreets.com.

After the talk with Cornejo, we are replaying our #DamienTalks from April 7 with South Pasadena Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Cacciotti. Cacciotti has been a critical figure in the effort to create the 626 both as an elected official and an advocate. As a fun bonus, the interview takes place on the Gold Line itself as Michael is heading home from work.

#DamienTalks is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of Downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit foothilltransit.org. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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Downtown L.A. Celebrates New Protected Bike Lanes On Los Angeles Street

Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero and LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds take a celebratory ride in the Los Angeles Street protected bikeway. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero and LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds take a celebratory ride in the Los Angeles Street protected bikeway. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Downtown L.A. now has protected bike lanes! Woooot! Wooooot!

Not just a block-long tunnel, but full-on grown-up Euro-style protected bike lanes. The newly opened half-mile-long Los Angeles Street protected bike lanes feature bicycle signals, floating bus stop islands, neon-green merge zones and two-phase left turn markings, not to mention freshly resurfaced pavement. All just in time for the launch of Metro bike-share on July 7.

Councilmember Jose Huizar and other city leaders officially opened the new facility yesterday afternoon. Huizar connected the low-stress bikeway with his DTLA Forward campaign, which will include additional protected lanes on Spring and Main Streets. Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds spoke of the symbolic importance of these lanes connecting with early Los Angeles’s focal plaza, plus Union Station, City Hall, and even Caltrans’ Southern California headquarters. The ribbon-cutting event even featured a small fleet of Metro bike-share bikes available to test ride.

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L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar addressing the crowd assembled at El Pueblo

Read more…

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Metro Board Committees Show Unanimity on November Sales Tax Proposal

Metro sales tax promotional image

Metro sales tax promotional image

Metro’s newly revised November sales tax expenditure plan flew through two board committees this week with virtually no discussion. The proposal was approved unanimously by both the Planning and Programming Committee and the Executive Management Committee. The plan now goes to the full board for approval at this month’s meeting on Thursday, June 23.

Last week, Metro announced the newest version of its spending plan. What had been a fifty-year sales tax has been modified to an indefinite “no sunset” sales tax. This allows for numerous large highway and transit projects to accelerated.

In the course of the two committee meetings, Metro directors Mike Bonin, Sheila Kuehl, James Butts, Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Hilda Solis, Mark Ridley-Thomas, John Fasana, Mike Antonovich, Eric Garcetti, and Paul Krekorian all voted to support the plan. County Supervisor Kuehl joked that there was an informal agreement among directors not to get into conflicts trying to “take a little from them and give it to us.”  Read more…

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Los Angeles Street Protected Bike Lanes Ribbon-Cutting This Thursday

New full-featured protected bike lanes on Los Angeles Street. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New full-featured protected bike lanes on Los Angeles Street. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of Los Angeles has a brand new full-featured protected bike lane. It is on downtown L.A.’s Los Angeles Street, connecting Union Station with First Street, running literally in the shadow of Los Angeles City Hall.

Construction began in April and was recently completed.

Celebrate the newly completed lanes with Councilmember Jose Huizar and the L.A. Department of Transportation (LADOT) at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this Thursday June 16 at 1:30 p.m. at the plaza at El Pueblo (also known as Olvera Street.) The address is 125 Paseo de la Plaza, though the festivities take place on the Los Angeles Street side of the plaza, immediately west of Union Station.

Though the city of L.A. already has protected bike lanes in the Second Street tunnel and on Reseda Boulevard (and more on the way soon for Venice Boulevard, Van Nuys Boulevard, and Figueroa Street) the Los Angeles Street bike lanes include features that represent some important firsts for L.A. protected bikeways.

Bicycle traffic signal to allow cyclists a separate phase from turning cars

Bicycle traffic signal allows cyclists a separate phase from turning cars

L.A.’s First Bike Traffic Signals

Bike signals are not required for protected bike lane intersections; Long Beach uses them, Temple City’s Rosemead Boulevard and L.A.’s Reseda Boulevard do not.

Bike traffic signals are used to give cyclists that are headed straight ahead a signal phase separate from right-turning cars. The signals contribute to a relatively stress-free ride; cyclists ride to the right of parked and moving cars the entire ride, and do not need to merge into traffic at the approach to intersections.

Similar to car traffic signals, the bike signals are triggered by sensors embedded in the street (see photos below). Waiting bicyclists receive the green light first, followed by turning cars.

One drawback of the bike signals is that they drive up construction and maintenance costs.

L.A.’s First Protected Bikeway Transit Islands

Passengers board a DASH bus at a Los Angeles Street's transit island

Passengers board a DASH bus at a Los Angeles Street transit island

In order to minimize pedestrian-cyclist conflict, the project includes transit islands. Instead of transit riders waiting at the curb, they walk across the bike lane and wait in the transit island. Bicyclists ride between the transit island and the sidewalk.

This speeds up transit, allowing buses to stop in the travel lane while passengers are boarding. It also makes for a more stress-free bike ride, as conflicts between buses and bicycles are minimized.

L.A.’s First Two-Phase Left Turn Markings 



The Los Angeles Street project also features green boxes that support cyclists’ two-phase left turns. Instead of stressful merging through car traffic to make a vehicular left turn, cyclists make a low-stress left turn similar to the way a pedestrian would.

The green paint features were striped after SBLA took photos last week; they are visible in the video embedded above.

More images after the jump.  Read more…

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Metro CEO Announces Revised November Sales Tax Proposal

Phil Washington outlines the latest version of Metro's sales tax expenditure plan. Photo: Joe Linton

Phil Washington outlines the latest version of Metro’s sales tax expenditure plan. Photo: Joe Linton

In a press briefing this afternoon, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced the latest changes to Metro’s planned November sales tax ballot measure. The proposal, which Washington calls “the most comprehensive in the country,” will be voted on by the Metro board in late June.

The biggest change today is that sales tax will have no sunset. Metro’s earlier expenditure plan would have lasted for only 40, 45 or 50 years. Washington’s “once and for all” new sales tax would continue indefinitely.

The lack of a sunset allows for better financing, especially in later years. This frees up monies to accelerate projects, both rail and highway, and to add a few new projects. Accelerated projects would include: Orange Line grade separation, Green Line to Torrance, West Santa Ana Branch rail, Gold Line extension east, Crenshaw North, and other projects.

The new plan also shifts funds slightly in a few categories, including increasing funds for local return and Metrolink. The new version of the plan increases local return from 16 percent to 17 percent, with a later increase to 20 percent in 2040. Metrolink funding would be increased from one percent to two percent. Administration and rail construction would be reduced by one percent each.

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West Hollywood and L.A. Celebrate New Fairfax Avenue Bike Lanes

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West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister cuts the ribbon on Fairfax Avenue’s new bike lanes. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The cities of West Hollywood and Los Angeles celebrated the grand opening of a collaborative project yesterday: 1.2 miles of bike lanes on Fairfax Avenue. The new bike lanes extend from Melrose Avenue to Hollywood Boulevard. The northern end of the lanes were striped by the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) in 2014. That facility was extended southward this year, through the cities of both L.A. and West Hollywood.

The lanes were championed by the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition, which lead a celebratory lap after yesterday’s ribbon-cutting.

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West Hollywood Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, a self proclaimed “car-free millennial,” rides a West Hollywood bike-share bike on the celebratory tour of the new Fairfax Avenue bike lanes.

Read more…

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L.A. City Faces Devil’s Bargain: Increase Limits To Allow Speed Enforcement

LAPD's Troy Williams speaks to Transportation Committee yesterday. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

LAPD’s Troy Williams speaks to Transportation Committee yesterday. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Over the course of the next two years, the city of Los Angeles plans to increase speed limits on many of its major streets. Why? According to the Police (LAPD) and Transportation (LADOT) Departments and due to pernicious state laws, cities are required to frequently study and increase speed limits to be able to actually ticket drivers who speed.

At the root of the problem is state “speed trap” law, which prevents cities from setting “arbitrarily low” speed limits. This law is defended by the California Highway Patrol and AAA. California requires local municipalities to periodically conduct speed studies and then to set speed limits based on how fast most drivers are already going. Cities are required to make the speed limit match the 85th percentile of prevailing traffic. Changes worsened the law in 2009 by taking away a modicum of local discretion to set slightly lower speed limits.

Combined with traffic engineering standards that favor auto speeds, this law results in a vicious cycle that favors faster and faster speeds. Speeders speed. City studies count speeders. Studies result in increases speed limits. This enables speeders to speed even more.

The state requires Los Angeles to conduct a speed study every seven to ten years. If speed surveys are not done, or if they expire, then LAPD cannot use state of the art laser speed enforcement devices.

At yesterday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee, LAPD officer Troy Williams bemoaned the state of speed enforcement in Los Angeles. Per Williams, as of late last year, 75 percent of L.A. streets had expired speed surveys, meaning that LAPD’s “hands are tied” and speed limits are not enforced. The figure is over 80 percent on the city’s targeted Vision Zero High Injury Network: 6 percent of L.A. streets where 65 percent of all deaths and severe injuries take place. In short, L.A.’s deadliest streets are largely places where LAPD cannot enforce speed laws.

Williams stated that in 2010, LAPD issued 99,000 speeding tickets and, in 2015, that number had dropped to 16,000. According to Williams, a great deal of LAPD laser speed enforcement equipment sits on LAPD shelves as officers have turned them in due to lack of use.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Metro Expo Line 2 Has Parking Available

Plenty of Expo Line parking available at the Bundy station. Photo taken Monday at 8 a.m. by Juan Matute

Plenty of Expo Line parking available at the Bundy station. Photo taken Monday at around 8 a.m. by Juan Matute

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Plenty of Expo Line parking available at the 17th Street station. Photo taken today at around 8 a.m. by Juan Matute

Someone get the word out to all those eager Metro Expo Line riders that the L.A. Times, Los Angeles Magazine and KTLA5 were so concerned about! Get the word out to Pacific Palisades! Lo and behold, it turns out that there is actually plenty of car parking available along the newly-opened Metro Expo Line phase 2.

There are lots of people riding the new train. Sometimes the train cars get crowded. It turns out that, as in the past, apparently Expo is not that different from the rest of Metro’s transit network where more than 80 percent of riders arrive by walking. As SBLA opined earlier, it does appear that:

Metro has done a good job of balancing its investments in access to the Expo Line. By investing in parking, bus service, bike and walk facilities, Metro is giving Angelenos plenty of great choices.

The questions now may be: Why are there so many empty spaces? Why did Metro build so much parking (roughly 5-10 million dollars worth)?  Read more…