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My Figueroa Breaks Ground, Opening Anticipated June 2017

My Figueroa groundbreaking. Left to right are L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price, L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar, L.A. County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler, L.A. Walks Executive Director Deborah Murphy, LADOT Assistant General Manager Dan Mitchell, and Department of City Planning Director Vince Bertoni. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

My Figueroa groundbreaking. Left to right are L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price, L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar, L.A. County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler, L.A. Walks Executive Director Deborah Murphy, LADOT Assistant General Manager Dan Mitchell, and Department of City Planning Director Vince Bertoni. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today city of Los Angeles leaders celebrated the groundbreaking for the long awaited My Figueroa complete streets project. Construction is getting underway this month. The facility is anticipated to open in June 2017.

The high profile street makeover will make Figueroa safer, more vibrant, and better for walking, bicycling and transit. My Figueroa connects with numerous high profile destinations, including Exposition Park, the Coliseum, USC, L.A. Trade Technical College, the Convention Center, Staples Center, L.A. Live, as well as Metro’s Blue, Expo, Purple and Red Lines.  Read more…


Metro Bike Share’s 2017 Expansion Plans: Pasadena, Venice, Port of L.A.


Metro is poised to approve a $42 million expansion of Metro Bike Share in 2017. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

On Wednesday, the Metro Planning and Programming Committee approved funding to expand Metro Bike Share in 2017. Operated by Bicycle Transit Systems, Metro Bike Share opened in downtown L.A. in July. In 2017, Metro would expand bike-share to new service areas in Pasadena, Venice, San Pedro, and Wilmington.

If the bike-share expansion plan is approved by the Board next week, Metro will allocate $42 million to continue and to expand bicycling in L.A. County. Any expansion of bike-share is welcome. Unfortunately, some of the new locations raise questions as to whether expansion plans are more political than strategic, and more focused on tourists than on local riders.

Bike-share mobility is optimized when docks are located in a contiguous area where one can ride a bike to numerous other docks. Compared to disconnected islands, larger service area “blobs” present exponentially more destinations. Larger areas are also less costly to operate and maintain. In the words of NYCDOT bike-share architect Jon Orcutt:

Plans to launch bike-share systems in separate geographical areas or nodes are almost certainly a recipe for low usage.

Small bike-share systems are generally low performers. Breaking a finite amount of bike share resources into smaller pieces needlessly sacrifices the utility and productivity of stations/bicycles.

Watch Orcutt’s explainer video for a good visualization of these points.

A NACTO report found lower-performing bike-share systems in cities with more spread-out systems. Many cities bow to political pressure to spread stations over a wide geographic area in order to accommodate various constituencies. Metro is poised to make this common mistake.

Metro’s initial bike-share pilot was planned for downtown L.A. then Pasadena. After Pasadena, the plans were more tentative, with possible expansion in numerous areas pending further study. Locations designated for further study included Koreatown, MacArthur Park, Echo Park, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Venice, Marina Del Rey, North Hollywood, Huntington Park, and East Los Angeles. The Port area did not make the initial study list.

Expansion is not entirely up to Metro. Metro’s policy mandates cost share arrangements with local jurisdictions, so, to a large extent, expansion follows funding. This is especially true for planned expansion to the Port of Los Angeles locations in San Pedro and Wilmington.

According to testimony from Metro Deputy Executive Officer for Active Transportation Laura Cornejo, the Port system would primarily cater to tourists. Metro staff reported that other bike-share systems driven by tourist use are “quite profitable.” Cornejo stated that the Port was interested in implementing bike-share and was considering a “neighboring provider.” The provider went unnamed, but clearly it has to be CycleHop, which runs Long Beach Bike Share. The Port comes to the table with money. Up front, the Port and Metro would each pay $334,000 in initial capital costs for 120 bikes at 11 stations, tentatively seven in San Pedro and four in Wilmington. Subsequent ongoing operation costs are split with the Port paying 65 percent. Metro approved a conservative scenario for its share of the Port system capital costs plus six years operations for a grand total of $4.9 million.

These Port systems – with four and seven stations, and very little in the way of transit connections – could see very little usage. Bike-share systems in the Orange County cities of Fullerton and Anaheim failed with eleven and three stations, respectively. Cornejo characterized the Port of L.A. system as an “interesting pilot.” Time will tell if it turns out to be nearly $5 million in limited Metro bike-share funding well spent.

The Pasadena and Venice systems are more fully-featured and more likely to be successful.  Read more…


Metro Lowers ‘Angeli’ the Regional Connector Tunnel Boring Machine

The 21.5-foot diameter shell for "Angeli" the Metro Regional Connector Tunnel Boring Machine. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The 21.5-foot diameter shell for “Angeli” the Metro Regional Connector Tunnel Boring Machine. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning, Metro celebrated the ceremonial naming and lowering of the Regional Connector subway tunnel boring machine. Metro’s newest TBM – another is currently tunneling portions of Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX light rail line – is named “Angeli.” The winning name was proposed by Windsor McInerny, a student at Woodrow Wilson High School.

McInerny was joined by a bevvy of transportation leaders excited about the progress that Angeli represents. Metro board chair John Fasana acted as master of ceremonies. City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti received the best laughs of the morning’s proceedings by noticing the “great turnout for such a boring event.”

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar, and State Assemblymember Miguel Santiago rounded out the elected officials, all of whom mentioned the importance of Measure M without actually telling people how to vote, due to being on official government business time.


Metro board chair John Fasana opens this morning’s Regional Connector Tunnel Boring Machine Lowering Ceremony

Alongside the electeds were California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales, Regional Connector Community Leadership Council ED Russell Brown, and Metro CEO Phil Washington. Washington announced another Metro tunneling milestone: tomorrow morning the Crenshaw/LAX tunneling machine will break through at the future Leimert Park station. Morales joked to Washington not to get rid of the TBM: “When you’re done with this machine we’ll put it to use” building high-speed rail.  Read more…


Foothill Gold Line Conference Builds Momentum To Extend


“The Journey Continues” was a theme of today’s Foothill Gold Line conference. Pictured (left to right) are Metro board chair John Fasana, Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian and Chief Project Officer Chris Burner and Metro Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority hosted a one-day State of the Project 2016 conference today at Pomona College. Elected officials, agency leaders and others gathered to hear some success stories from previous segments, but mostly to look ahead to extending the Gold Line eastward to Montclair, and possibly further.

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The Foothill Gold Line’s next phase eastward, referred to as phase 2B, would extend 12.3 miles to just outside the L.A. County border with San Bernardino County. Stations would be located in Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair. The phase already has environmental clearance, and the construction authority’s board recently approved engineering designs.

At today’s event, construction authority leadership shared characteristics of the Glendora to Montclair extension. The phase is anticipated to cost $1.2 billion, of which still needed are $1.15 billion from L.A. County and $63 million from San Bernardino County. There will be four times more station parking than the prior Pasadena to Azusa segment. The new light rail runs in the same right-of-way as BNSF and Metrolink trains, hence there will complicated relocation of tracks to make space. The light rail stations will be in the middle of the tracks, making for less confusion for riders, but also necessitating some pedestrian under- and over-crossings.

That next extension dominated the conversation, but what really hung over the conference was Measure M, Metro’s sales tax which goes to L.A. County voters on November 8th.  Read more…

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#DamienTalksSGV 19 – Foothill Transit’s Doran Barnes

This week, #DamienTalks with Doran Barnes, the executive director of Foothill Transit and the Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Damien Talks SGV logoOur conversation touches on a wide range of subjects including integrating Foothill Transit with the new Gold Line Extension, Measure M, and Foothill Transit’s ground-breaking electric bus program.

We also talk about both APTA and Barnes’ agenda as chair of this national advocacy organization for transit providers. Barnes lists three things he would like APTA to accomplish in the next year, one of which is assuring that the infrastructure needs of the country remain a priority for the incoming administration in the White House.

If you want to hear the other two, you will have to listen in.

#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 “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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#DamienTalks the Regional Connector with Metro’s Community and Construction Relations Team

Metro's Regional Connector subway is already over-budget

Today, #DamienTalks with Olga Arroyo and Jean Marie Hance with Community and Construction Relations for the Regional Connector Project in Downtown Los Angeles. With the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) going in the ground next week, it seemed the perfect time to connect with the Regional Connector.

The conversation is wide ranging and goes on for over twenty minutes, a rarity for this podcast. We cover a lot of ground, including:

  • Where are we in the construction timeframe?
  • The naming project for the Tunnel Boring Machine (to be announced next week)
  • Outreach projects including Go Little Tokyo
  • The station naming contest

Despite my best efforts, they would not tell me the names of the stations or the TBM. Even more disappointingly, no matter how many twitter accounts I create and spam them, I will not be able to get a station named after me.

But there is other exciting news. The TBM will be lowered into the ground next week at a special ceremony at the station at First Street and Central Avenue in Little Tokyo. Because it is an active construction zone, attendance is limited. You can get more details for the event in the podcast and can RSVP (if there’s space) by emailing regionalconnector[at]


Mike Kodama Explains West Santa Ana Branch “Eco-Rapid Transit” Rail Line

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Map of potential Eco-Rapid Transit rail line alignments. Image via Orangeline Development Authority

Metro’s Measure M expenditure plan [PDF] includes two phases of construction of the West Santa Ana Transit Corridor light rail line. These are anticipated to be open in 2028 and 2041. The new rail line would go from Union Station southeast through several cities including Huntington Park, South Gate, Lynwood, Paramount, and Bellflower, with a terminus in Artesia. 

The exact alignment, especially for the northern portion of the line, is still evolving, with multiple potential routes. The southern portion of the line would run on an old Pacific Electric streetcar right-of-way. A portion of the route would run along an existing walk and bike trail in the city of Bellflower.

Preliminary work is already underway with this new line. The West Santa Ana Transit Corridor was partially funded in Measure R. Metro did early alignment analysis a while ago, leading to the project’s inclusion in CEO Phil Washington’s Operation Shovel Ready initiative to get numerous projects ready for potential accelerated timelines. Last month the Metro board approved a four-year $12 million contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff to complete environmental clearance work for the line

Streetsblog readers may not be aware that, similar to the Gold and Expo Lines, the Eco-Rapid Line has its own Joint Powers Authority. The JPA board includes representatives from southeast L.A. County cities, but also includes the city of Glendale and Burbank Airport, in support of a future vision that would also extend the line northward from Union Station.

Earlier this month, SBLA interviewed Mike Kodama, the Executive Director of the Orangeline Development Authority. The interview took place over email earlier this month.

SBLA: Tell Streetsblog readers about yourself. What’s your background? How did you come to be Executive Director of the Eco-Rapid Transit authority?

Mike Kodama: I am a transportation planner. I work on a variety of transportation planning, funding, and policy issues. I have spent a lot of time in many parts of the country developing parking management programs. I have a masters in urban planning from UCLA and I am also a professor teaching transportation planning at USC. I became Executive Director in 2009.

This line gets called “The Orange Line”, “Eco-Rapid”, and “West Santa Ana Branch.” What are all those names?

The formal name is the Orangeline Development Authority. This was because the original concept was to connect Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

A few years ago, the organization was looking for another name so it would not be confused with the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit project in the San Fernando Valley. They picked the name Eco-Rapid Transit – the idea of economy, ecology, and moving fast.

West Santa Ana Branch is the name of the former Pacific Electric line that ran until the mid-1950s. There is a right-of-way from Bellflower all the way down to Santa Ana. Therefore – “West Santa Ana Branch.”

The historic PE West Santa Ana Branch railway station still stands in Bellflower. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The historic PE West Santa Ana Branch railway station still stands in Bellflower. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

What work is already underway for the Eco-Rapid Transit line, such as early transit-oriented development plans?

Eco-Rapid Transit has developed transit corridor guidelines. We also conducted an environmental justice study. Along with the technical refinement study, these plans set up principles and concepts of working together in the corridor.

We also are working on station planning. [There are] lot of studies, planning, and changes to get ready for economic development opportunities in the entire corridor.

What is the status of the main rail project? In September, Metro approved its contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff to complete the environmental clearance for the West Santa Ana Branch (WSAB) Transit Corridor. When is this work getting underway? Will there be opportunities for the public to get informed and give input?

Absolutely – we want input from the public. The work is just getting underway.


The West Santa Ana Branch cuts diagonally through southeast L.A. County and adjacent Orange County. Photo of the present day tracks crossing Paramount Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue.

The West Santa Ana Branch is in Measure M, though it is split into two segments expected to open in 2028 and 2041. What do you think about that timetable? Are there potential ways to speed things up? Perhaps a public-private partnership?

I think it must move faster and the construction timeline needs to be reduced. We are very excited about P3 and are looking forward to exploring this option. We know about the work in Denver and other places – we need this type of innovation here, too.

Eco-Rapid’s joint powers mandate includes a northern segment, through Glendale and Burbank and further into the San Fernando Valley. What are the prospects for funding and constructing the upper portion?

This also includes thinking into the future – including Hollywood Burbank Airport and the development of “plane-to-train” concepts. This concept was led by Supervisor Antonovich and the Hollywood Burbank Airport, leading to new ground access concepts and now a new Metrolink Station on the Antelope Valley Line. We want transit improvements to serve all our members.

The northern segment is in “unconstrained plans for the future.” We think this is a great opportunity–the idea of connecting to Glendale and then into the airport. Imagine the possibilities of flying into Bob Hope Airport and having public transit options to Universal Studios, Disneyland, downtown, and the beach.

Is there any interest in continuing the line into Orange County? How might that work?

We hope so. We have been built on the concept of local leadership and would welcome an opportunity to work with Orange County cities and OCTA to move project concepts and ideas forward.

Cyclists riding the West Santa Ana Branch bike path in the city of Bellflower

Cyclists riding the West Santa Ana Branch bike path in the city of Bellflower

This is a question we typically end SBLA interviews with: if you had a magic wand and could instantly transform one thing about Southern California transportation and livability, what would you change?

We need to learn to work together and think like a region. Look at Gateway Cities – it includes 2.4 million people and would be the fourth largest city in the United States. Our thirteen members work very hard to find common ground and we are built on helping our residents and communities. We are working together in a coordinated and collaborative process. I think it is the only way to move forward.

We need to make this a better and safer place – all of us working together would make the region much better.



LADOT Releases Annual Report, New Bikeway Mileage Declining

Cover of LADOT Annual Report Fiscal Year 2015-2016 [PDF]

Cover of LADOT Annual Report Fiscal Year 2015-2016 [PDF]

Last week, the L.A. City Department of Transportation (LADOT) released its Annual Report for the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year [PDF]. There are plenty of worthwhile accomplishments detailed in the annual report, but some disappointing news in that LADOT bikeway implementation has slowed.

Among the good news are some features that Streetsblog readers may be familiar with: the Hollywood/Highland scramble crossing, Cesar Chavez Avenue bulb-outspedestrian head-start signals, expansion of Express Park to Westwood, protected bike lanes on Los Angeles Street, and groundwork laid for downtown L.A.’s Metro Bike Share, which launched at the start of the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Only a decade ago, it was difficult to imagine these kinds of projects ever being installed here. Despite advocate pressure for protected lanes and bike-share, these were just not a possibility for LADOT circa 2006.

There are also some excellent accomplishments that flew under SBLA’s radar during the past year:

  • LADOT has implemented 13 new school safety zones where speed limits are reduced to 15 mph.
  • LADOT has fought disabled parking placard abuse by conducting 74 stings, issuing 1,278 citations, confiscating 819 placards, and working to change state law.
  • LADOT has laid the groundwork for reinstituting the city’s speed hump program and for implementing electric vehicle car-share. Both coming soon.

Vision Zero chart of L.A. traffic violence trends. Image via LADOT Annual Report [PDF]

Vision Zero chart of L.A. traffic violence trends. Image via LADOT Annual Report [PDF]

Interwoven with all this is LADOT’s work to take Vision Zero from approved policy to on-the-ground improved safety for all road users. The annual report touts LADOT’s analysis of collision data to inform future safety improvements. Some of this data mapping was presented at recent community meetings, where LADOT previewed maps for its forthcoming Vision Zero action plan, which was due to be released last August.

On the bike facility front, though, implementation has been sparse, even as new research shows that adding bike facilities improves ridership and safety.

It is telling that in her introductory preface LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds credits her department’s accomplishment having “designed 12.43 protected bike lane miles.” (emphasis added) Last year’s report touted bikeway miles implemented. When asked for a comment on the decreasing bikeway mileage, Reynolds emphasized that LADOT is continuing to improve the streets for people biking and walking, though “we have a long way to go, and our interest remains raising the bar to build the safest, most organized infrastructure we can.”

Some bike advocates evaluate LADOT’s performance less generously. Michael MacDonald of Bike the Vote asserts that diminished bikeway implementation points to a lack of leadership:

Despite more and more Angelenos using bikes to get around, we still see little leadership and vision from our politicians to make streets safer. While other major cities such as New York, Chicago, Denver, and Washington D.C. are delivering on promises to build miles and miles of bikeways each year, Los Angeles is clearly falling behind.

Many Los Angeles politicians keep saying they support safer streets, but when it comes time for the paint to hit the road, we’re not seeing the courage to make it happen. Striping bike lanes to improve safety isn’t rocket science, but it does require leadership that we aren’t seeing from Mayor Garcetti and many members of City Council.

L.A. County Bicycle Coalition’s Executive Director Tamika Butler was also critical of L.A.’s elected officials. Butler stated that the LACBC is pushing “to uplift the voices of our communities to push elected officials to be accountable to the many Angelenos who deserve improved access, connectivity, and infrastructure. Investing in people who walk and bike is an investment in a better Los Angeles. Right now, some of those elected to protect us are fighting needed investments and putting our most vulnerable road users at risk.”

In FY2015-16, LADOT implemented 8.8 miles of bike lanes, 1 mile of protected bike lane, 6.5 miles of bike path, and 0.8 miles of sharrowed bike routes. LADOT continues to count mileage using their new “lane miles” metric, which essentially double-counts most facilities, compared to pre-FY2014-15 statistics. Below is the entire list of new bikeways implemented last year, per LADOT:  Read more…


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…


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…