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APTA Metro Review: Raise Fares, Consolidate Service, Charge For Parking

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

Metro’s APTA review recommends how the agency can best prioritize services for low income bus riders. Photo via Wikimedia

When the Metro board approved fare hikes last May, it also directed Metro to engage experts from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to study Metro’s fares and look into other revenue strategies. APTA experts completed their review recently, and presented their findings at last week’s Metro board meeting. Though the APTA review recommended approving Metro’s proposed fare increases, many of their findings contrast somewhat with present Metro policies.

The review sheds light on many Metro revenue practices, from fares to parking, and what their implications are regarding serving low-income riders. More details are available at the full review [PDF]; Metro’s summary [PDF], audio from last week’s board discussion (item 56 here), and The Source.

Metro Fares

Auditors characterized Metro’s challenges as “meeting state of good repair costs, which are going up as the system ages,” and paying down a “long term and growing debt service burden [due to] building out the system capital expansion program.” To meet these, the APTA panel recommended that Metro approve two proposed 25-cent fare increases, to take effect in 2017 and 2020. In addition, APTA recommended that Metro approve ongoing fare modification to match inflation, as reflected by the Consumer Price Index (CPI.)

The review also supported raising Metro’s student fare, which is currently frozen. APTA recommends that Metro partner with colleges and others to help offset the costs of student discounts. During the board discussion, though not explicitly mentioned in the review, one panelist suggested Metro consider adopting one practice used by other transit agencies: offering a discount fare for youth (such as up to age 18) that is not necessarily dependent on student status.

The review recommended consolidation of all of Metro’s discounts – senior, student/youth, and low-income – into a single discounted fare product. Means-testing for this (deciding who qualifies for discounts) could be done in conjunction with other governmental programs, such as school free lunch programs and/or utility discounts, thereby lessening administrative burdens for Metro and its patrons.

The review recommended trip-based discounts over time-based discounts. Low income riders are better served by, for example, a ten-trip pass than a weekly or monthly unlimited pass. Citing a New York study, the APTA panel noted that thirty-day passes tend to benefit higher-income riders. For example, even transit-dependent riders sometimes get rides in a car, possibly at times when Metro service is lacking. With trip-based discounts, these non-Metro trips save a Metro fare, and hence wouldn’t effectively count against a time-based unlimited pass.  Read more…

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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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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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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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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…

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Eyes on the Street: North Hollywood Station Tunnel Construction

North Hollywood station mural ready for departure. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

North Hollywood station mural ready for departure. February 2015 photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last December, Streetsblog L.A. reported that construction had gotten underway for Metro’s new tunnel below Lankershim Boulevard. The $22 million North Hollywood Station Underpass will connect the Red Line subway with the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit. Full details and diagrams at the earlier article.

Visitors to this Sunday’s CicLAvia – The Valley will not be able to go through the actual tunnel, but sharp-eyed transportation-infrastructure-spotters may be interested to see evidence of the construction in process. There is a fenced-off surface construction zone on the west side of Lankershim.

Perhaps more interesting is the spot inside the Red Line station where the tunnel will soon connect. At the mezzanine level, just west of the elevator (on passengers’ left when disembarking), there was a semi-circular mosaic mural, one part of series of colorful kaleidoscopic pieces throughout the subway station.

What the mural looked like in late 2014. Photo via Metro

What the mural looked like in late 2014. Photo via Metro

The mural was installed on a knock-out panel. The panel was recently isolated (see above), then removed.  Read more…

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Metrolink Hires Art Leahy As CEO, To Start April 2015

Art Leahy riding the Metro Red Line in December 2014. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Mertolink’s new CEO Art Leahy, riding the Metro Red Line in December 2014. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Metrolink board of directors voted unanimously this morning to hire Art Leahy as CEO.

Streetsblog readers are probably aware that Leahy served as the head of Metro since 2009. In January, Leahy announced his retirement from Metro effective April 2015. Yesterday, Metro approved Leahy’s replacement, Phil Washington.

Metrolink approved a $330,000 annual salary for Leahy. This is actually slightly more than the $326,000 his successor, Washington, will earn at Metro, despite Metrolink having a much smaller ridership and budget, though a broader geographic scope, with commuter rail serving six Southern California counties.

Leahy is scheduled start at Metrolink on April 20. His contract runs through 2018.

Art Leahy appeared at this morning’s Metrolink board meeting, stating that he was honored and pleased, and pledged to “deliver the goods” for the public, taxpayers, and Metrolink board and employees.

Leahy assumes the helm at Metrolink at a time when the agency is facing numerous crises, including failing ticket machines, declining ridership, service cuts, finance audit questions, and (despite a very good overall safety record that should be the envy of highway engineers) a recent newsworthy train crash in Oxnard.

The story is still not entirely clear on why Leahy stepped down from Metro. The Los Angeles Times‘ Laura Nelson tweeted confirmation of a widely-rumored assertion that Leahy’s departure was shepherded by Metro board chair, and Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti.

Leahy is seen as having ties to transportation rain-maker Richard Katz. Katz is a former state legislator who actually wrote the law that created Metro, a former long-time Metro boardmember, and current Metrolink board alternate. Katz served on the Metro board as a mayoral appointee during Antonio Villaraigosa’s administration, and was replaced after endorsing Garcetti’s opponent in the mayoral race.

So, coincidence or not, Metro’s transition from Art Leahy to Phil Washington, and Leahy’s move from Metro to Metrolink, represent a changing of the guard that reflects the current political tides.

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Metro Board Unanimously Votes To Hire New CEO Phil Washington

Incoming Metro CEO Phil Washington (left) speaking with outgoing Metro CEO Art Leahy after this morning's announcement. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Incoming Metro CEO Phil Washington (left) speaking with outgoing Metro CEO Art Leahy after this morning’s announcement. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning, the Metro board of directors voted unanimously to hire Phillip A. Washington as the agency’s new CEO. For the past six years, Phil Washington was General Manager and CEO of the Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD.)

Metro’s board established quorum, then entered a closed session to discuss the CEO personnel matter. The board returned to open session where Metro board chair, and Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti enthusiastically moved to hire Washington. The motion was quickly seconded by all the directors present and passed unanimously. Washington will earn a $326,000 annual salary, and will begin in May.

The board meeting was followed by a press event at Patsaouras Plaza. Garcetti and the Metro board vice chairs, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and city of Duarte Councilmember John Fasana, all praised Washington’s experience and reputation. Garcetti emphasized that Washington had increased ridership, created jobs, and delivered Denver’s rail connection with their airport. Directors also thanked outgoing CEO Art Leahy for his service to the agency.

Phil Washington thanked the board, then opened emphasizing that he rides his transit system every day. “This is our product,” he continued, emphasizing that transit officials need to ride to “know how it’s doing.” Washington stated that his priority would be a “clean, efficient, reliable, accessible, and cost-effect system” and his first order of business would be better understand what Metro’s board and Metro’s “customers – riders” want and need. He stressed that transit infrastructure can and will continue to transform the region.

Washington repeatedly emphasized partnerships, including with other agencies, the private sector, academia, community groups, and whoever would work with his agency.

Washington makes a good sized step up from Denver RTD. According to APTA, RTD’s overall 2014 ridership was 105 million trips, about 30 percent of Metro’s 353 million trips. RTD riders break down similarly to Metro’s with about three-quarters of trips on bus, and roughly one-quarter by rail.

Washington oversaw Denver RTD’s implementation of FasTracks, an ambitious voter-approved capital expansion program, including 122 miles of new rail service, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, redevelopment of Denver’s Union Station, plus plenty of park-and-ride lots.

Denver livability advocates, from Transit Alliance, Walk Denver, and Bike Denver, all gave Washington high marks, and expressed disappointment in his leaving.

Walk Denver acting board chair Gideon Berger, fellowship director at the Urban Land Institute’s Rose Center for Public Leadership, worked with Washington at RTD. Berger describes Washington as “a breath of fresh air” for having taken the reigns at RTD during the fiscal challenge of the recent recession. According to Berger, Phil Washington was instrumental in increasing the morale of RTD staff, empowering them, and ensuring they had the resources to be successful.

Transit Alliance board chair Chris Waggett, the developer CEO of D4 Urban, emphasized Washington’s commitment to balanced investment throughout the region.  Denver is part of the Front Range – an area consisting of 41 city and county municipalities. Waggett was impressed that Washington’s leadership fostered regional cooperation over factional competition. This collaboration, often between areas with disparate political perspectives, “made things happen” and the “entire region benefited.” Read more…

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Press Reports: Denver’s Phil Washington to Be Named New Metro CEO

Phillip A. Washington. Photo via Eno Ctr for Transportation

Phillip A. Washington. Photo via Eno Ctr for Transportation

L.A. Observed is reporting that Phillip A. Washington will be the new CEO of Metro. Phil Washington is currently the head of Denver’s Regional Transportation District.

Washington is from Chicago, and had a distinguished military career before joining Denver RTD. For more details on Washington, see SBLA’s earlier post listing top candidates or Washington’s bio page at RTD.

The Denver Business Journal reports that Washington tendered his resignation to Denver’s RTD today. According to the Journal, Metro spokespersons are stating that a new CEO has not been confirmed yet, but that an announcement is expected after tomorrow’s 9 a.m. closed session Metro Board meeting. On the agenda: “Consideration of Candidates for Position of CEO.” 

Spokespersons for Metro and for Board Chair Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have declined to answer SBLA’s inquiries on this matter.

Outgoing Metro CEO Art Leahy is widely expected to become the head of Metrolink.