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Metro Studying Arts District Red/Purple Line Subway Extension

Metro is considering extending its Red/Purple Line subways southeast of Union Station into the downtown Los Angeles Arts District. Diagram Streetsblog L.A., with base map via Google

Metro is considering extending its Red/Purple Line subways southeast of Union Station into the downtown Los Angeles Arts District. Diagram Streetsblog L.A., with base map via Google

Metro’s outgoing CEO Art Leahy spoke enthusiastically at last week’s Metro board Planning and Programming Committee about potentially extending the Red and Purple Line subways into the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. The new station or stations would take advantage of existing tracks in Metro’s Heavy Rail Maintenance Yard, which extends southeast of Union Station, sandwiched between the Arts District and the Los Angeles River, mostly between First and Fourth streets, but extending all the way from the 101 Freeway to below Sixth Street.

The item didn’t even rise to the level of full Metro board approval; the board committee merely received and filed a Metro staff report [PDF]. That report joins an earlier staff report [PDF] filed in 2010.

There is already a fair amount of detail covered at Downtown News, Urbanize L.A., and the Los Angeles Times, so SBLA will be relatively brief.

It is clear that adding new “revenue service” to this location where empty trains are already going would be a fairly low-cost way of expanding Metro rail service. As Metro extends the Purple Line subway, the agency is already planning upgrades to this maintenance yard.

Metro has committed to running subway trains with two-minute headways, with service every four minutes on both the Red and Purple lines. In order to meet the improved headways, the agency would need to re-tool some of its tracks east of Union Station.

This includes widening the tunnel portal near the 101 Freeway and creating a “turn-back facility.”

As the Metro staff report [PDF] states:

To support increased service levels on the Red/Purple Lines … a turn-back facility consisting of three tracks and two platforms must be constructed within the [maintenance] yard. [… T]o keep trains moving through Union Station, it is necessary to continue passenger revenue service through to the turn-back facility, at which point trains can be cleared and sent back into service. Designing the turn-back facility to also serve as an at-grade revenue station is a cost-effective method for expanding rail service to the eastern edge of Downtown Los Angeles.

Metro’s next step is to complete its “coordination study,” which is expected this Spring.

What do you think, readers? Should Metro prioritize this relatively low-cost connection? Should there be one stop or two?

 

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120 Groups Call for More Funding for Active Transportation Program

bikesandcars

California should invest more to increase biking and walking, say community groups and advocates. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A broad coalition of organizations called today for California to increase funding for walk and bike projects. More than 120 organizations signed a petition urging the state to increase its investment in the Active Transportation Program (ATP), citing cost savings and health benefits from better bike and pedestrian infrastructure and the low level of funding currently available.

The ATP provides $300 million biannually for projects that encourage people to take trips by bike or on foot, including infrastructure (paths, lanes, sidewalks, crossings) and programs (education, safe routes to schools). In the last round, announced in the fall, many more projects applied for the program than could be funded, leaving over $800 million worth of ready-to-go projects on the table.

“We know that 20 percent of trips by Californians are on foot or by bicycle, but despite the overwhelming demand for projects that create safer streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and pathways, the state Active Transportation Program still only receives around one percent of Caltrans’ annual budget,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, Senior Policy Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

The 120 organizations that have signed on so far [PDF] include community and advocacy organizations that focus on health, walking, biking, the environment, equity, and economic policy. Several cities also signed the call for more funding.

The coalition emphasizes cost savings from investing in active transportation, which are less expensive to build and require less maintenance per trip than highways. It also refers to the recent Smart Growth America report, Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, that presents data on community economic benefits from better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Read more…

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Expo Is Coming, Santa Monica! But When Will It Get Here?

Construction on Expo's 4th Street station in Downtown Santa Monica is moving along at a health clip (photo from the City of Santa Monica)

Construction on Expo’s 4th Street station in Downtown Santa Monica is moving along at a health clip (photo from the City of Santa Monica)

Expo Phase II completes the long-anticipated rail connection between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Santa Monica. Construction on Phase II began in 2011. Currently, the Expo line ends in Culver City. When the new 6.6-mile extension opens next year, it will be possible to take the train from the beach to Downtown Los Angeles for the first time in half-a-century.

Expo Line Phase II

Where: The Expo Line currently runs from 7th Street and Figueroa in Downtown Los Angeles, past USC, Exposition Park, and the Coliseum. It continues past Baldwin Hills and currently terminates in Culver City. Phase II will bring the line through Palms before cutting north of the 10 Freeway. Other Phase II stops will include Westwood Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard, and Bundy Drive. Then, it crosses into Santa Monica, stopping at 26th Street (Bergamot Station), 17th Street (Santa Monica College, UCLA Hospital), and finally, 4th Street in Downtown Santa Monica.

When: Though Expo Phase II construction is nearing completion, a solid opening date remains elusive. According to Metro, as of March 19, design is 99 percent complete and mainline construction 84.6 percent complete. Metro is juggling two new light rail line extensions, Expo II and the Gold Line’s Foothill extension, both anticipated to open in early-to-mid 2016.

According to this week’s Metro budget staff report, the agency will begin service on both new lines in the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2016, between April and June of 2016.

Construction at the Bergamot Station stop at 26th Street earlier this month.

Construction at the Bergamot Station stop at 26th Street earlier this month.

If you have been to any of the new stops recently, you will see that construction sure looks like it is nearly complete. In fact, Metro anticipates that it will be able to start safety testing in April starting in Palms. Even though we may end up seeing trains running this summer, there will still be at least six months of testing after the Expo Construction Authority completes its work.

Issues: The two main issues facing Expo at the moment are a delay at the maintenance facility and a potential shortage of trains, which could result in longer headways when the line first opens.

The maintenance facility, being built in the eastern edge of Santa Monica, is behind schedule, according to Metro. The “substantial completion date” for the facility has slipped from May 2015 to October 2015.

According to another Metro staff report this week, the agency anticipates a “temporary shortage of light rail vehicles.” The shortage has been attributed to a labor dispute at Kinkisharyo, the company that supplies trains for Metro (Note: As noted in the comments, the shortage isn’t a result of the labor dispute, but rather Metro changing suppliers).  Given the shortage, Metro expects some longer-than-usual headways when Expo Phase II first opens. Metro expects to initially operate Expo will operate between Santa Monica and L.A. every 12 minutes in the morning and afternoon.  Read more…

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Englander Touts Reseda Great Street Upgrade, Includes Protected Bike Lanes

Parking protected bike lane improvements coming to Reseda Boulevard. Diagram via SFMTA

Parking protected bike lane improvements coming to Reseda Boulevard. Diagram via SFMTA

The city of Los Angeles will receive its first parking-protected bike lanes this weekend. The new parking-protected lanes are part of a Great Streets upgrade to Reseda Boulevard in Northridge. They will extend one mile from Parthenia Street to Plummer Street, replacing existing conventional bike lanes. If readers are unfamiliar with parking-protected bike lanes, also called cycle tracks, this Portland video can help.

plan via LAGreatStreets Tumblr

Reseda Boulevard plan configuration via LAGreatStreets Tumblr

At a community meeting last night, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander expressed his enthusiasm for Reseda Boulevard’s new street design, stating, “Wait ’til you see the striping, it’s never been done before in Los Angeles.” Englander, responding to a common critique, added, “People say that the Valley is always last. Here, we’re first!”

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander announces Reseda Boulevard Great Streets improvements. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander announces Reseda Boulevard Great Streets improvements. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Englander explained that the new street design had grown out of the Northridge Vision Plan. The plan, adopted in 2013, calls for improving “the Reseda Boulevard area traffic flow so that it is a safer environment for vehicles and a pedestrian/ bicycle-friendly environment for shoppers, students, and tourists.”

Englander stressed the new striping as a safety improvement. According to the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT), this portion of Reseda Blvd had 209 car crashes reported over the past five years. LADOT has done baseline surveys before implementing street improvements, and will be returning to record post-improvement behavior in early 2016.

Englander seized the opportunity to advance Reseda Boulevard upgrades under Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets initiative. In June, 2014, Mayor Garcetti chose Northridge’s Reseda Boulevard as the site to announce his first fifteen priority areas, including Reseda, targeted for Great Streets improvements.

Englander announced that the current phase of street improvements will be completed by April 14, the same day that Garcetti will deliver his State of the City address at the Valley Performing Arts Center at California State University Northridge. That event will include a walking tour of the new Reseda Boulevard improvements. Englander stated that this will be the first time a Los Angeles mayor has chosen to make his State of the City speech in the San Fernando Valley.  Read more…

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Not Your Parents’ LADOT

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reyolds. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reyolds. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

One of the nice things about shopping for food and eating in France is that the quality is assured by rigorous government regulation. While some boulangeries are better than others, in general, consumers can find a good quality baguette in any bakery.

Refreshingly, the same might be said about the Westside Urban Forum‘s (WUF) monthly breakfast events. Without the regulation, of course. While I wish WUF events were held at more transit-friendly locations west of the 405, attendees are always assured a great presentation on a timely topic. Today’s event with Los Angeles City Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds was no exception.

The format — Ms. Reynolds interviewed by Brian Taylor, Professor of Urban Planning and Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies and Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA — allowed for an informative, free-ranging session focused on complete streets, transit, competing priorities for L.A.’s roads, and safety. Reynolds is an experienced transportation leader who talks streets and mobility without getting too bogged down in the jargon of transportation engineering.

The talk began with a little on her background as a then-newly-minted history major working as an intern creating bike parking for the City of Oakland. To paraphrase, transportation is a lot like history, in that we are all looking at the asphalt with different opinions about how it should be used and what its design should look like.

Ms. Reynolds went on to describe the radical recycling of streets and public space that started in New York City under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Khan at the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT).

Reynolds has only been in her job for six months, but if all goes as planned, what has been said of the NYCDOT under Sadik-Khan might become true of LADOT: this is not your parents’ LADOT. This agency says they do something and they do it.

To illustrate the challenges LADOT faces, the General Manager spoke about L.A.’s Great Streets Program. Great Streets is L.A.’s “effort to activate public spaces, provide economic revitalization, increase public safety, enhance local culture, and support great neighborhoods…by reimagining our streetscape.”

One person in the audience aptly called Great Streets’ initial candidates, streets hand-selected by the City Council rather than a more data-driven process.

According to Reynolds, while some streets like Central Ave. in South L.A. have been studied to death and stakeholders are just awaiting implementation, in the case of others, like Venice in Mar Vista, “you have to show up with not a whiff of an agenda.” The General Manager believes that in South L.A., Mar Vista, on Western in Koreatown, Broadway downtown, and elsewhere, LADOT has an opportunity to try things out and hopefully exploit the intersection of arts, for which L.A. is known, and transportation. The changes ultimately will range from a light touch by LADOT to a wholesale rearranging of the furniture of our street.

Interviewer Brian Taylor did a good job keeping things moving while getting a chuckle from the audience for his shameless plug of UCLA’s excellent urban planning program and its upcoming Complete Streets Conference. Save the May 14th date for what might be called the Compete Streets conference, given the competing priorities of stakeholders. Whose street is it anyway?  Read more…

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Your Moment of City-Planning Zen: Lulu Guides You Through the Community Plan Implementation Overlay Tool

How will South L.A. develop over the next twenty years?

It’s the question city planners working on the Southeast and South Los Angeles Community Plans have been asking themselves for the past several years. As draft plans move closer to finalization, the decisions they make now about how the communities will be structured and zoned will guide future growth, impact the creation of economic opportunity, safeguard (or change) neighborhood character, and (hopefully) enhance the quality of life there over many years to come.

The new video City Planning just released (above, also available in Spanish) explains the role of the Community Plan Implementation Overlay (CPIO) tool. Where the goals, policies, and programs of the community plans are aspirational, the video suggests, the CPIO can provide the teeth necessary to help bring the specific vision of a community or neighborhood to life.

The ten-minute, easy-to-follow video is narrated by a cheerful, animated Lulu (who sounds kind of depressed in the Spanish version), who claims to be a long-time South L.A. resident (she’s actually voiced by city planner Haydee Urita-Lopez). She explains that the CPIO puts restrictions on nuisance land uses, provides incentives for desired developments, and establishes rules that will guide the appearance of new (or remodeled) structures.

There is a brief tutorial on how the CPIO has broken up each of the communities into four districts — Corridors Districts, Transit-Oriented Districts, Industrial Districts, and Residential Standards Districts — and explains (briefly) how its rules will guide development in each. Read more…

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Metro Installing Polycarbonate Shields to Protect Bus Operators

Metro's new bus operator security barrier. In this photo the opaque black lower barrier is shut. The upper transparent barrier is open. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s new bus operator security barrier. In this photo, the opaque black lower barrier is shut. The upper transparent barrier is open. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Numerous speakers at Metro’s press conference this morning went to great length to assure the public that “the Metro system is safe.” Nonetheless, the speakers focused on the number of crimes, foremost including assaults on bus operators, that take place on transit in Los Angeles. Metro reports that operators were assaulted by passengers 138 times in 2014.

“We’re fighting back,” proclaimed Metro Boardmember and Lakewood City Councilmember Diane DuBois.

Today’s press event focused on the on-bus hardware. Metro has been installing closed-circuit television monitors since November, 2014.

Today marks the beginning of the agency’s roll-out of new polycarbonate safety barriers.

These barriers don’t photograph all that well. Read more…

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Boyle Heights Youth Research Community Challenges, Find Proposed TOD Solutions Don’t Go Far Enough to Help Neediest

Irvin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Irvin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak at a Metro meeting about the fate of a Mariachi Plaza. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“So…” I begin, looking around the table at CALO YouthBuild students Abigail Navarro, Irvin Plata, Stephanie Olwen, and Eric Aguayo.

I am there to ask them about how the youth at this charter school — a school whose student body is comprised of at-risk students aged 16-24 who struggled at one or more traditional high schools before eventually dropping out or being kicked out — have managed to become among some of the most prominent community voices clamoring to be involved in the decision-making process regarding the future of Boyle Heights.

“What was it like to go back to the schools that you felt had written you off to tell their students that they needed to be more engaged in advocating for their community?”

Irvin grins.

He had returned to the school he had dropped out of — Roosevelt High — to speak to nearly 25 classes about gentrification, affordable housing, and the development of Metro-owned lots along 1st St. and Cesar Chavez Ave. The larger goals of the outreach he, Stephanie (who visited Mendez High), and the others conducted were to encourage students to participate in the Issues Forum the YouthBuild students will be leading this afternoon and to get the students to answer the online survey* they had created exploring challenges families face in Boyle Heights.

He had been nervous at first, he says. Especially because his partner had bowed out, leaving him to do all those presentations on his own.

He was confident in the knowledge that youth participation could make a difference in the planning process, thanks to the success he and his fellow students had had in winning a 3-month extension of the community-engagement phase of the Exclusive Negotiated Agreements (ENAs) for the affordable housing projects at Metro’s 1st/Soto and Cesar Chavez/Soto sites. And his confidence had been further boosted by the fact that YouthBuild’s proposal for a forum on gentrification, police-community relations, and environmental justice was taken seriously by policy makers. So much so that a representative of County Supervisor Hilda Solis’ office, Mynor Godoy (Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council) Max Huntsman (Inspector General of the Sheriffs Department), Patrisse Cullors (Director, Dignity and Power, Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter), and Jenna Hornstock, (Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning and Development at Metro) have all agreed to participate. (RSVP to forum here.)

But Irvin was not as confident that the students he would be speaking to were going to be interested in what he had to say.

He, Abigail, Eric, and Stephanie all agreed that, back when they were struggling their way through multiple schools, they probably would have tuned out someone who came in to lecture them about the joys of community involvement in urban planning.

YouthBuild students contributed to an installation at a Metro-owned lot at 1st and Boyle protests the lack of a community process around the affordable housing project slated for the site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

YouthBuild students contributed to an installation at a Metro-owned lot at 1st and Boyle which protests the lack of a community process around the affordable housing project slated for the site. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tapping into the students’ lived experiences and connections to the community, Irvin decided (with the help of his economics teacher and mentor, Genaro Francisco Ulloa), would be key to getting their attention.

So, Irvin made his presentations interactive. He asked students about their relationship to landmarks like Mariachi Plaza and how they would feel if those sites were to become unrecognizable or de-linked from the community’s culture. He also engaged students on some of the challenges they face — high rents and overcrowded housing, no access to jobs, mobility issues, etc. — and tried to help them understand how developments in the area, if not designed with the community in mind, could exacerbate the struggles they were already living.

And the struggles those students are living are pretty intense. Read more…

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California Says It Is Committed to Increasing Biking, Walking

CalSTA Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Kate White testifies to the CA legislature on the benefits of encouraging walking and bicycling

CalSTA Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Kate White testifies to the CA legislature on the benefits of encouraging walking and bicycling

CalSTA, the state agency that oversees all state transportation departments including Caltrans, is committed to improving conditions for transit, biking, and walking, according to its Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing, Kate White.

“Thirty percent of all trips in California are less than a mile,” said White, testifying at a legislative hearing yesterday in Sacramento. “We want to make bicycling or walking the default for those short trips.”

White gave her testimony at a joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing and the Assembly Committee for Environmental Quality, which was set to discuss the relationships between transportation and greenhouse gas emissions. Representatives from state agencies addressed questions about what changes need to happen for the state to reach its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

CalSTA, according to White, recognizes the importance of clean vehicles and clean fuels. “However,” she said, “our focus at the transportation agency is on the infrastructure and behavioral side of the coin. And that means improving transit, walking, biking, and housing to reduce vehicles miles traveled.” She highlighted three strategies the agency is focusing on:

  • High speed rail, which White called “the cornerstone of electrifying transportation in California.” California expects high speed rail to replace “dirty” air trips between the Bay Area and the L.A. region. The project also includes electrifying Caltrain, which will have the added benefit of doubling the capacity of the popular Bay Area rail service.
  • Supporting local transit for trips between five and a hundred miles long. The state transit account this year, said White, was for $1 billion, and the state generally contributes several hundred million dollars every year for local and regional transit.
  • Active transportation. The Active Transportation Program (ATP) is investing in projects to make safe, inviting walking and biking trips an alternative to driving, especially for trips that are less than a mile. “These represent over 30 percent of all trips, and many are unfortunately still made by automobile,” said White. “A mode shift to walking and biking not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but has many co-benefits for health, and for healthier life styles for children and families,” she added.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Leimert Park Prepares People St Plaza for Grand Opening

The view of the People St Plaza in Leimert Park from the front of the Vision Theater. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The view of the People St Plaza in Leimert Park from the front of the Vision Theater. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The date for the grand opening of Leimert Park’s People St Plaza is not quite set in stone, yet, but it’s coming very soon. And I couldn’t be more excited. The stakeholders in Leimert Park have begun to install some of the unique features they developed as a way to tie the plaza to the culture of the community, and they look pretty fantastic.

Over the last week, Ben Caldwell, founder of the KAOS Network, and others laid down some of the Adinkra symbols which will eventually fill the entire plaza.

Adinkra symbols which will be used to populate the polka dots on the plaza.

Adinkra symbols which will be used to populate the polka dots on the plaza.

The symbols — representative of the philosophies of the Akan people (an ethnic group in Ghana) — were once only seen on cloths worn by community leaders during special occasions. Although they are more widely worn in Western Africa nowadays, and are commonly found stamped onto everyday objects, they still retain their meaning, represent proverbs, depict historical events, or offer some truth about human behavior or the world as the Akan understood it.

The values and ideas the symbols promote will be used to help guide programming in the plaza, incorporated into educational materials, and used throughout the Village area to reinforce the notion that when you enter Leimert Park, you are entering the home of a population with a unique cultural heritage.

The finished plaza will also feature an “urban farm lab” managed by the Carver program, wooden benches, bistro-style chairs and tables, a portable stage, and possibly some of the re-purposed street furniture that Caldwell and USC Annenberg Professor François Bar oversaw the development of in the tactical media courses they joint-taught.

So, what will you see if you stop down to check out Metro’s Eat, Shop, Play Crenshaw community fest this weekend or the Leimert Park Art Walk (Sunday, March 29)? Read more…