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Six Updates From Today’s April Metro Board Meeting

Today’s monthly Metro board of directors meeting was one of the less eventful ones; it was sort of a lull in the news swirling around Metro’s planned November sales tax ballot measure. Nonetheless, there were a number of items that SBLA readers might find interesting.

Metro Wi-Fi Phase 1 Operational

SBLA has been noticing recent social media mentions of Metro subway riders receiving texts while on board. Metro CEO made it official today, announcing that, from Union Station to 7th Street Station, wireless service is operational for Verizon customers. According to Metro “Sprint and T-Mobile have signed-up to provide service which will be available in two to three months. Negotiations are ongoing with AT&T.” More details at The Source.

Bike-Share Exempt From Further Environmental Studies

The board approved environmental clearance for Metro bike-share, coming to downtown L.A. this summer. The project was certified to be categorically exempt, meaning that expensive, time-consuming environmental impact studies are not needed.

June Bus Service Re-Organization 

Metro is in the final stretch of its planned bus service reorganization, slated for implementation in June. Metro held a series of public input sessions, the outcomes of which were presented to the board. The most contentious items were three Metro bus routes transitioning to other municipal operators. Lines 190 and 194 [PDF] (El Monte Station to Cal Poly Pomona) would be operated by Foothill Transit. Line 270 [PDF] (Monrovia to Norwalk Station) would be split between Foothill and Norwalk Transit. Metro’s public input and service council had recommended against shifting the service to Norwalk Transit. Bus drivers union representatives oppose any outsourcing of Metro bus service to municipal operators. Numerous representatives from Foothill Transit leadership and staff spoke in favor of the hand-off.

County Supervisor Don Knabe put forward a motion to support the proposed transitions to both Norwalk and Foothill. The motion passed.

Foothill Transit has electric buses - under Garcetti's motion, Metro may soon join them

Foothill Transit has electric buses – under a Garcetti motion, Metro may soon join them. Image via Foothill Transit.

Bus Procurement, Zero-Emission Bus Study

The board approved a procurement process for 850 new replacement buses from 2018-2022. The buses would either be Metro’s current CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) standard or Zero Emission (presumably electric.) Mayor Eric Garcetti offered a supplementary motion, approved unanimously, to have Metro study how it can transition to a fully Zero Emission bus fleet.

New TAP Vending Machines

Metro approved a $5.1 million contract to purchase 54 new TAP card vending machines (TVMs). These will replace and augment existing TVMs at stations, including expanding Silver Line TVMs to support the agency’s all-door boarding pilot. Inglewood Mayor James Butts offered a supplementary motion, approved unanimously, to have Metro study how to add TVMs at key locations for municipal bus operators. Representatives from Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus requested TVMs at the LAX Transit Center and at Pico-Rimpau.

710 North Tunnel Lines Drawn

710 North Tunnel opponents weighed in vehemently during public comment on a staff recommendation that Metro oppose State Senator Carol Liu’s SB 1018. Opponents of the 710 freeway project continue to be vocally opposed to a future Metro sales measure if there is any possibility that it could fund the destructive 710 North freeway expansion.

SB 1018 would dictate how a 710 North project cost-benefit analysis would be conducted. Metro legislative staff recommended the agency oppose the bill because it intervenes in Metro’s ongoing environmental review process. Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian, a stalwart 710 Freeway tunnel opponent, disagreed with Metro staff. Ultimately the board voted to oppose SB 1018, with Najarian and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl casting dissenting votes.

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Coalition Urges Good Local Jobs in Metro Heavy Railcar Contract

Jobs to Move America organizer Diego Janacua speaks at this morning's rally. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Jobs to Move America organizer Diego Janacua speaks at this morning’s rally. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a press event in front of Metro headquarters this morning, the Jobs to Move America (JMA) coalition called for companies to create good jobs as they manufacture Metro railcars. Today is the deadline to file income taxes, so the coalition emphasized the need for companies to be responsive to U.S. taxpayers who are footing the bill for these transportation manufacturing contracts.

Shawn Stewart of the L.A. Black Workers Center speaks at this morning's Jobs to Move America event.

Shawn Stewart of the L.A. Black Workers Center speaks at this morning’s Jobs to Move America event.

The national JMA coalition represents a broad range of organizations, including labor, civil rights, environmentalists, and others. Speakers at today’s event included representatives from the AFL-CIO, the L.A. Black Workers Center, Move L.A., Occidental College, and the Southern California Association of Governments.

The rally opened and closed with rousing chants of, “What do we want? Good Jobs! When do we want them? Now!” and “¡Sí se puede!”

Speakers emphasized the need for transportation investments to serve more than one purpose: expanding mobility and also creating quality jobs, especially for disadvantaged workers, including lower-income veterans, women, communities of color, and the formerly incarcerated. Speakers stressed that the generation of quality jobs would create a win-win situation for the contractor and the community.

Metro is in the middle of a $1 billion procurement process to build nearly 300 heavy railcars that will serve the existing Red Line and the expanding Purple Line subways. According to the coalition’s press release, “Metro is one of the first transit agencies whose Request for Proposals included innovative language developed by Jobs to Move America, called the U.S. Employment Plan, that incentivizes companies proposing to build taxpayer-funded transit vehicles to create U.S. jobs.”

Metro railcar bid proposals were due in January. According to one coalition spokesperson, at least two companies, China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation and Hyundai Rotem, are known to have already submitted bids. While local or even domestic manufacturing is not strictly required for the contract, Metro’s selection may take into account bidders’ job creation pledges.

Coalition speakers touted the past job creation successes from Metro’s light railcar procurement with Kinkisharyo. Though it has been the subject of some controversy, Kinkisharyo is currently building light railcars in its Palmdale factory. According to the coalition, the Kinkisharyo contract has resulted in “235 jobs for people facing barriers to employment.” Similar arrangements are in effect for the Chicago Transit Agency, where there is a “Build Chicago” partnership, and Amtrak, though their low demand and high crash standards have delayed domestic train production.

The Metro Board is expected to select its contractor and approve its heavy railcar manufacturing contract in June.

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Re:code L.A. Comes to Boyle Heights Saturday to Talk Updates to Zoning Code

Re:code presentation slide on the need to update the zoning code. Source: City Planning

Re:code presentation slide on the need to update the zoning code. Source: City Planning

Re:code L.A. is holding a forum in Boyle Heights Saturday (TOMORROW) morning from 9 a.m. to noon to talk with the community about the city’s $5 million, five-year effort to update its outdated zoning code.

I know.

That announcement did not set you on fire.

Believe me, I get it.

But you should still think about attending the forum or at least perusing the re:code website.

Here’s why. The zoning code was last fully updated (if that is even the right word) in 1946, when the scattered bits of code that had previously guided development were compiled to create a massive, somewhat unwieldy, and largely insufficient code for a growing suburban-style city.

As you might imagine, 1946 was a very different time in Los Angeles.

Anyone familiar with the history of planning and development in L.A. in the early part of the 20th century knows that policy tools were used both to enforce segregation (see also, here) and, as Occidental College professor Mark Vallianatos wrote in 2013, to create a more “horizontal” Los Angeles as a way

…to avoid some of the perceived ills of dense European and east coast metropolises. Policy makers, planners, voters, industry and real estate interests made choices around land use and infrastructure that enshrined the single family house, the commuter streetcar, and later, the automobile as the building blocks of L.A. Just as London, Manchester, and New York symbolized the scale and challenges of the 19th century industrial city, Los Angeles, with its sprawl and unprecedented car culture, was the “shock city” of the 20th century, a new way of organizing urban land.

Instead of remedying that orientation, since 1946, planners have been adding to the code in such a piecemeal way that the language and codes governing what can or cannot happen on a single property can be both confusing and contradictory.

The situation has gotten so bad that as much as 60% of the city is governed by special overlays and site-specific designations (qualified, tentative, and restricted uses). Meaning, according to re:code Project Manager and senior planner, Tom Rothmann, that 61% of city planning staff are currently dedicated to processing of cases and synthesizing competing regulations in order for development to be able to go through.

60% of city is subject to special overlays and site-specific conditions. (The darker brown areas). Source: City Planning

60% of city is subject to special overlays and site-specific conditions as well as different and sometimes competing sets of regulations. (The darker brown areas). Source: City Planning

Streamlining the code by creating a more flexible and appropriate web-based set of tools will help free up planning personnel to do more actual planning work. It will also make it easier for the end user to know what they can or can’t do with their property before they attempt to undertake that process.

So, the technical reasons for updating the code are more than justified. As is the decision to prioritize the code that will orient Downtown development toward supporting both job and residential growth as its complex set of neighborhoods and land uses continue to evolve.

But questions of how a modernized code will intersect with realities in the surrounding communities in such a way as to foster growth that is more transit-oriented, inclusive, innovative, affordable, healthy, and celebratory of culture and heritage are harder to answer. Read more…

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Construction Getting Underway For Los Angeles Street Protected Bike Lanes

In about a month, Los Angeles Street will be a full-featured protected bike lane. Image via LADOT

Next month, Los Angeles Street will have full-featured protected bike lanes. Image via LADOT

Yesterday, a construction notice appeared on the official L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) Twitter account. It announced a “resurfacing and bike lane enhancement project” to include “protected bike lanes” on downtown L.A.’s Los Angeles Street, extending from First Street to Alameda Street. Construction is set to begin this weekend, and conclude by May 15. During the month-long construction, cyclists and drivers will share a single lane.

Los Angeles Street protected bike lanes will extend from Union Station to First Street. Map via LADOT

Los Angeles Street protected bike lanes will extend from Union Station to First Street. Map via LADOT

This 0.5-mile stretch of Los Angeles Street has existing buffered bike lanes that were striped in 2012.

A protected bike lane on Los Angeles Street was mentioned by LADOT bicycle coordinator Michelle Mowery in 2014. The project was planned to coincide with city Bureau of Street Services resurfacing of the street, which was delayed.

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds describes the Los Angeles Street facility as a “laboratory” for testing out protected bike lane features. Though LADOT has implemented protected lanes in the Second Street tunnel and on Reseda Boulevard, Los Angeles Street will be the first L.A. protected bikeway facility to feature bike signals, and integrated transit stop islands.

Reynolds mentioned that Los Angeles Street is an easy site for trying out new features because it is surrounded entirely by governmental uses. The protected bike lane will run adjacent to Union Station, El Pueblo, the Edward Roybal Federal Building, City Hall East, City Hall South, LAPD, as well as crossing over the 101 Freeway. The high-visibility central downtown location puts the state of the art protected facility right under the eyes of city, county, state, and federal governmental staff and electeds. This should help familiarize governmental insiders with how protected bike lanes function.

Reynolds added that the new protected lanes will be completed in time to dovetail with implementation of Metro bike-share program coming to downtown L.A. this summer.

The existing Los Angeles Street bike lanes experience a significant amount of bike-car conflict, with right-turning drivers and parked law enforcement vehicles often occupying the bike lane. The new protected facility should minimize these conflicts. Delineator bollards will keep cars from parking or driving in the lane. New signals will give cyclists and right-turning drivers separate signal phases.

Rush hour drivers

Rush hour drivers crowd the existing Los Angeles Street bike lane, queuing to turn right onto the 101 Freeway. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Cyclists can ride in the new lanes in just one short month; look for a grand opening in mid-May.

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L.A. Moves Toward Returning Parking Meter Revenue To Neighborhoods

Pasadena parking meter revenue returns to neighborhoods where it is collected. Soon L.A. may implement a similar program.

Pasadena parking meter revenue returns to neighborhoods where it is collected. L.A. plans to implement a similar program soon.

Parking expert Donald Shoup has long asserted that one cornerstone of smart parking policy is to return parking meter revenue to the neighborhoods where the revenue is generated. When parking meters feed an anonymous city general fund, as much of the city of L.A.’s meter revenue does, then parking meters are perceived as burden to communities. When local meter revenue goes to fund local improvements, then neighborhoods tend to welcome the meters.

There is a much-repeated Pasadena anecdote showing the power of revenue return. When the city of Pasadena wanted to install parking meters in its Old Pasadena neighborhood, there was resistance from local merchants. When Pasadena proposed using the meter revenue just to improve Old Pasadena, merchants responded: can we run the meters at night and on weekends!?

Revenue return is key to generating the political will to implementing meters and charging appropriate rates for parking.

Under a suite of parking reform motions by L.A. City Councilmember Bonin, the city and its Department of Transportation (LADOT) are moving toward a pilot program where a portion of parking meter revenue will be returned to neighborhoods. Bonin’s very Shoupista motion 15-1450-S4 calls on LADOT to begin a “pilot program that would return a portion of local meter revenue to the locations where it was generated” and for that funding to go to “transportation improvements.” LADOT is interpreting “transportation improvements” very broadly to include sidewalk repair, bike corrals, beautification, parking, etc.

At today’s Transportation Committee meeting, LADOT appeared poised to begin the program in FY2016-17 in three pilot areas, with probable expansion citywide in FY2107-18.  Read more…

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Eyes On The Street: Metro Bike-Share Really Coming To DTLA This Summer

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Metro bike-share coming to a downtown street near you this summer. Photo via Allison Mannos

It is not real until the marketing materials say it is real, right? Via friend of the blog Allison Mannos, enjoy an image from a marketing photo shoot for Metro’s exciting new bike-share system debuting in downtown Los Angeles this Summer. No start date has been announced yet.

The roughly 1000-bike, 60-station system will extend from USC to Union Station throughout a service area roughly bounded by Chinatown, the L.A. River, Washington Boulevard and the 10 Freeway.  The initial $11 million funding is in place for the initial 2-year Metro bike-share contract with operator Bicycle Transit SystemsMetro approved the planned fare structure last November, and in March approved what amounts to basically a half-price discount for low-income people, students, and seniors. Future year system expansion is expected to bring the bike-share system to Pasadena, central Los Angeles, Hollywood, and other parts of L.A. County.

Who else out there is excited to see this great new transportation mode on the streets of downtown L.A.?

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LADOT People St Program Wins National Planning Award

Folklorico dancers at the openign of People St's Bradley Plaza. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Folklorico dancers at the 2015 opening of People St’s Bradley Plaza. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This week, the national American Planning Association (APA) awarded its National Planning Achievement Award for a Best Practice to the city of Los Angeles’ Transportation Department (LADOT) People St program. SBLA readers are likely familiar with People St, which is responsible for over a dozen new community friendly spaces—including plazas, parklets, and bike corrals—on the streets of Los Angeles. People St is an ongoing program wherein LADOT partners with local stakeholders—businesses, nonprofits, others—who request these facilities.

In a press statement, LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds wrote:

We are so proud to have won this prestigious award from APA. People St represents a collective and collaborative lift from the City staff and consultants who worked tirelessly to create this innovative program, to our community partners who rally their expertise and resources to partner with the City to bring the projects to life. This recognition is a testament to the power of working hand-in-hand with communities to unlock the potential of their streets.

More details on the best practice award is available at People St and APA websites. Kudos to everyone involved in making these People St projects such great successes. More please!

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Metro Measure R2 Expenditure Plan Meetings Start Tonight

Metro eases traffic. Image via Metro

Metro eases traffic. Image via Metro

Tonight in Agoura Hills, Metro kicks off a series of community meetings to receive input on the agency’s draft expenditure plan for a likely November 2016 half-cent sales tax ballot measure. There are nine face-to-face meetings throughout April, and a final on-line forum April 30.

SBLA reviewed the overall outline of Metro’s expenditure plan earlier. There is plenty to like in it, but there is also a whole lot of highway spending that livability proponents may have to tolerate in order to get more car-centric voters to favor the overall plan.

At the Metro board meeting where the plan was introduced, there were nearly two hours of public comment representing a wide range of public views. This was followed by a lengthy discussion among the Metro board.

The most numerous public comments were in opposition to the $6 billion tunnel proposed for the 710 Freeway north. The 710 North project is not explicitly funded in the draft, but there is plenty of unallocated highway funding that could be directed to the project at some future date. Opponents of the 710 North project are requesting that it be explicitly excluded from the measure. One speaker suggested that any 710 tunnel funding should go instead to tunneling for the Crenshaw/LAX rail line. That potential tunnel is a safety measure requested in public testimony by representatives of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

Other public testimony focused on moving later-year projects up into earlier slots. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti responded to this thread encouraging speakers to support the ballot measure because sometimes, depending on securing outside funds, later year projects have strong potential to be shifted to sooner dates.

There was already jockeying at the board level with directors James Butts, Diane DuBois, and Don Knabe putting forth a motion to accelerate later year Measure R projects before any new projects enter the queue.

Since the draft plan was made public, other outlets have posted important analysis of it. More plan analysis and the upcoming meeting schedule are after the jump. Read more…

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New Map Shows Walk Time Between L.A. Metro Stations

Walk xxx

Walking times between stations map by Torti Gallas and Partners. For higher resolution see [PDF]

Here is a interesting way of looking at L.A. County’s rail and Bus Rapid Transit systems. Martin Leitner at Torti Gallas and Partners architecture firm did a “map hack” showing how long it takes to walk from each Metro station to the next. From Leitner:

We took a cue from Transit for London’s new tube map and hacked Metro L.A.’s rail map by adding walking time between stations.

We found that some stations are only a few minutes apart, 7-12 minutes in Koreatown and East LA, they are a stunning 104 minutes apart on the Green Line (Long Beach Blvd – Lakewood Blvd) and 79 minutes apart between on the Red Line (Hollywood/Highland – Studio City). Some long walk times also on the Gold Line.

The optimal distance between stations is not some engineering constant, but a reflection of the grain of a neighborhood coming up against all kinds of opportunities and constraints in real-world planning processes. Some of the longish distances seem to make sense. Nonetheless, some of these 7-minute gaps – including those at USC and East L.A.’s Civic Center – do seem a bit less than ideal. Stations further apart in those areas might have been more optimal in supporting more cost-effective and speedier transit systems.

What do you think readers? What insights do you glean from the Torti Gallas map? What map hacks would you like to see to shed light on L.A. transportation systems?

 

 

 

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A Quick Look at Metro’s Newly Released Measure R2 Expenditure Plan

Metro's Measure R2 draft expenditure plan pie chart. Image via Metro

Metro’s Measure R2 draft expenditure plan pie chart. Image via Metro

At a press briefing this morning, Metro’s CEO Phil Washington released the agency’s draft expenditure plan for a potential $120 billion November 2016 ballot measure, often referred to as Measure R2.

The expenditure plan is expected to be received and filed by the full Metro board of directors at its monthly meeting next Thursday March 24. Metro will receive input on the plan in the coming months. Final expenditure language is expected to be approved at the June board meeting.

There will likely be jockeying over the next few months to adjust funding percentages and project timelines, but even within the draft there are a few details to be worked out. Metro had initially been planning a 40-year sales tax. The draft plan includes 40-, 45-, and 50-year options. Washington reported that Metro staff are recommending the 50-year sales tax, which would generate a projected additional $11 billion compared to the 40-year plan.

Here are the draft expenditures ranked by allocation amount:  Read more…