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Eyes on the Street, er, Rails: Foothill Gold Line Extension Tracks Complete

Metro Gold Line

Celebrating the final e-clip on the Metro Foothill Gold Line Extension tracks. Left to right: Doug Tessitor (Glendora), Sam Pedroza (Claremont), John Fasana (Duarte and Metro), Elias Avila (Gold Line construction crew), Habib Balian (Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority), and Andy Peplow (Kiewit Infrastructure.) Photo via The Source

Last Saturday, Foothill communities celebrated a Track Completion Ceremony for the initial phase of the Foothill Gold Line extension. Local leaders installed the final “e-clip” which attached the rail tracks to the rail ties. Streetsblog didn’t actually make it out to Azusa for the event; find coverage at ABC, CBSThe Source, and Railway Age.

The new 11.5-mile Foothill Gold Line extension is now less than a year away from its grand opening completion of construction, expected to take place in late September 2015. The opening will coincide with a cross-San Gabriel Valley multi-city “Golden Streets” open streets event similar to CicLAvia. Additional Gold Line extensions eastward to Ontario Airport are anticipated, but not yet funded or scheduled. To tour the new light rail line virtually, see SBLA’s recent 4-part Foothill Gold Line photo essay: the overall route, the bridges, the large-scale rail maintenance yard, and accompanying Transit-Oriented Development.

The Foothill Gold Line will extend from Pasadena to Azusa, with six new stations slated to open in September 2015. Image via Metro

The Foothill Gold Line will extend from Pasadena to Azusa, with six new stations slated to open soon after construction is complete in September 2015. Image via Metro

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Metro Moving Forward With Flawed Complete Streets Policy

Cover of proposed Metro Complete Streets Policy, approved by Metro's Sustainability Committee today. Image via Metro, full report here.

Cover of proposed Metro Complete Streets Policy, approved by Metro’s Sustainability Committee today. Image via Metro, full report [PDF]

At today’s meeting, the Metro board of directors Ad Hoc Sustainability Committee approved the agency’s proposed Complete Streets Policy [PDF]. The committee approval sends the policy to the full board for anticipated approval at its meeting next Thursday, October 23.

Complete streets policies, broadly, mandate that all streets need to accommodate people using all modes of travel, including walking, bicycling, transit, and driving.

Metro staff in giving their presentation [PDF], expressed that the bulk of regional complete streets implementation occurs outside Metro’s jurisdiction. For the most part, street configurations are the jurisdiction of individual cities.

Metro staff identified two key areas where they assert that Metro has its greatest influence over complete streets implementation:

  • Corridor Planning: Metro is a lead agency in building various projects, most prominently rail, but also highways and other facilities.
  • Transportation Funding: Metro passes funding along to cities (and others) to build projects – including via the Call for Projects.

Seven public speakers, including L.A. County Bicycle Coalition’s Eric Bruins and Safe Routes To School National Partnership’s Jessica Meaney, expressed support for complete streets goals, and criticism of the draft policy. Comments focused on lack of enforceability, equity, performance metrics, as well as overall vagueness. For more details on criticisms expressed, read the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative comment letter at SRTS.

Sustainability committee members including Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin’s Transportation Deputy Paul Backstrom portrayed the new policy as “a step in the right direction,” while suggesting that some improvements will need to be made to it over time. The committee approved the policy, and requested that staff return later with proposed metrics.

In recent years, Metro has incorporated commendable complete streets facilities as part of some of its projects; examples include multi-use bike/walk paths along portions of the Metro Orange and Expo Lines. Though these bike and walk facilities are well-used, Metro does not include them in all projects, and tends to invest much greater funding in providing free parking for cars than it does in ensuring safe and convenient walking and bicycling access to its stations.

Metro recently adopted its First Last Mile Strategic Plan. Many Metro projects, though, continue to be rail- and car-focused, with first/last mile bike and pedestrian facilities being poorly-funded afterthoughts unevenly tacked on much later.

What’s in Metro’s proposed Complete Streets policy?  Read more…

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Construction Updates, the Naming of Stations, and More at Tonight’s Meeting on the Crenshaw Line

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 10.53.06 AMThe Crenshaw Leadership Council (CLC) will be holding their quarterly meeting on the progress of the Crenshaw/LAX line tonight from 6 – 8 p.m. at Dulan’s on Crenshaw (4859 Crenshaw Boulevard).

The meeting will provide updates from the work of the small groups, or PODs (Project Oriented Discussions), the CLC supports — Small Business Resources, Economic Development, Transit-Oriented Development, and Safety.

You will also have the opportunity to learn about Metro’s station naming policy and offer feedback on the station names currently under consideration. Should the stations be named after a neighborhood? A landmark structure? A historic figure? A living one (don’t laugh — Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky might just get their own stops)? Drop by the meeting to offer your thoughts and get some soul food while you’re at it.

Finally, the meeting will provide updates on construction, including the upcoming 2-week closure at Crenshaw Bl. and Rodeo Rd. Read more…

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Metro Celebrates Downtown L.A. Regional Connector Subway Groundbreaking

RegionalConnectorFoxx

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx addresses attendees at yesterday’s groundbreaking celebrations for construction of the Regional Connector subway. Photo: Streetsblog L.A.

Electeds, agency representatives, and other leaders gathered  in Little Tokyo yesterday to commemorate the groundbreaking for construction of Metro’s Regional Connector subway. Metro boardmembers were joined by federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and even activist-actor George Takei.

Preliminary construction has been underway for over a year, since before February’s full-funding announcement for the project.

Read more…

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Metro Board Will Discuss Sheriff Audit Reports and Shortcomings on Thursday

Thursday at noon the Metro Board is holding a workshop on the recent audit of the security contract it has with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The unit of the LASD that handles the contract is known as Metro Transit Services which has an online presence on Facebook, Twitter and nixle.

To read the report, click ##http://www.scribd.com/doc/238287478/Los-Angeles-County-Sheriff-s-Department-Contract-Audit-Report-May-2014##here.##

To read the report, click here.

In 1997 Metro’s Police Department was replaced by a partnership of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Then in 2003 when it was due to be renewed LASD was able to freeze out the LADP and take over the entire contract, which they have held since that time via periodic renewals. For the period of July 2013-June 2014 LASD received $83,855,638 for the contract.

Earlier this year, I was elated to learn (via this comment made by taipan85 to my piece on the Metro fare restructuring proposal) that an audit was underway in response to a motion (#21) made in June 2013 by then Metro Board member Mel Wilson. At that time, Wilson was chair of the Metro Finance, Budget and Audit Committee. Wilson stated that in the prior year various troubling Sheriff’s Department items came before his committee, so he decided that a thorough audit was called for to see if other aspects of the LASD’s performance were similarly inadequate.

The establishment of the partnership and then the LASD getting the entire contract were during the years I attended Metro Board meetings. As I watched this unfold, it became clear that the entire process was extremely political and had little to do with providing the best policing services for Metro patrons. The audit and the follow-up peer review, facilitated at the request of Metro CEO Art Leahy, by the American Public Transportation Association (a trade group), confirm my long-held suspicions of how poorly the LASD has been fulfilling the contract.

It is dismaying that the staff report for the meeting Thursday glosses over the depth of the problems with claims of recent improvements and opportunities. This begs the question: would these recent improvements have occurred if Wilson had not requested the audit? Read more…

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Panel Review: “The New Streets of L.A.”

We might want to remember that Levi Strauss & Company is a clothing company which follows fashion trends while indeed playing a role in the creation of trends.  The above Levi’s Commercial in which an internal-combustion-powered vehicle is apparently allowed onto the trading floor of a major stock or commodities exchange in New York City actually propelled Steve Miller’s song “The Joker” to the number one spot on the UK charts in September of 1990, some 16 years after it was released in 1973. Powerful stuff that sturdy fabric from the city of Nimes in France.

Photo: Maria Sipin

Photo: Maria Sipin

It is however is no joke that Levi’s has opened a “pop-up” “commuter workshop” in Downtown Los Angeles, rather than a more traditional location for such Brigadoon-like ventures such as Melrose. Even choosing Downtown, one would expect to see this pop-up around the established shopping crossroads of 7th and Figueroa, not just east of Broadway but by golly east of Spring on 5th! To think that 15 years ago many thought Tom Gilmore was nuts for planning hotels in “Skid Row.”

The workshop is really more of a corporate-sponsored Bicycle Kitchen with places to repair the iron steed of course, but also space to socialize or even get your torn jeans repaired by helpful seamstresses (well, they were all female last night!). Of course, you can also test ride a Tokyobike or peruse the Levi’s Commuter clothing line which is aimed at bicycle users.

Last night anyone who RSVP’d in advance (and was over 21) was able to attend a well-produced presentation arranged and moderated by Aaron Paley of CicLAvia on the future of our public spaces entitled, “The New Streets of L.A.”  The event was packed to capacity, despite the unfortunate, and IMHO unnecessary (did beer really need to be served?) age restriction.

Photo: Maria Sipin

From left to right: Jennifer Klausner, Avit Shavit, Tafarai Bayne, Seleta Reynolds, Aaron Paley, Deborah Murphey Photo: Maria Sipin

Presenting were: Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Faulty Pedestrian Detour at Expo Phase 2 Construction

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Signs offering mixed messages at this pedestrian detour on Venice Boulevard at Culver Boulevard. Image via @topomodesto Twitter

Yesterday, Michael MacDonald @topomodesto tweeted two images that highlight L.A.’s lack of accomodation for pedestrians.

The photos were taken on eastbound Venice Boulevard at Culver Boulevard, one block west of the Metro Expo Line Culver City Station. Expo Phase 2 construction has blocked pedestrians from walking on Venice Boulevard’s south sidewalk. This sidewalk is where people would walk between downtown Culver City and the current Expo Line terminus. Instead, detour “cross here” signs direct pedestrians to scramble across Venice Stroad Blvd. Unfortunately, though, crossing Venice at this intersection is illegal. There’s a No Ped Crossing sign visible in MacDonald’s photo above.

It looks like the message to L.A.’s pedestrians is “just go away.”

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Same location on Venice Boulevard, view looking east. The under-construction Exposition Rail bridge is visible in the distance. Photo via @topomodesto Twitter

SBLA is excited for Expo 2 to open! It is disappointing, though, to see that, even when Los Angeles is constructing livability enhancements, the city cuts off pedestrian (and, often, bicycle) access. Two steps forward, one step back.

Perhaps Councilmember Huizar’s motion for better walking accommodations during construction will help. What I’d like to see: the political will to, at least now and then, make it less convenient to drive, and more convenient to walk, bike, and ride transit. Copenhagen did this during their Metro construction, and bicycling increased while driving declined.

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Metro Fare Increase Postponed, Will Take Effect September 15th

New Metro fares effective September 15 2014. Image from Metro Briefing Document

New Metro fares effective September 15 2014 – page 1 of 2. Image from Metro Briefing Document

In a change that’s more procedural than policy-driven, Metro has slightly postponed its fare increase that had been approved for September 1. The new fares will take effect on Monday, September 15th.

The fare increase was approved at Metro’s May board meeting. Base bus/train fare will increase 17 percent, going from $1.50 to $1.75. Senior fares and all daily/monthly/weekly passes also increase 25-40 percent. With the new fares, Metro is instituting a new 2-hour free transfer window, though it only applies to customers paying via TAP card.

The new September 15th implementation date has not been publicized yet – though Metro will be getting the word out widely by mid-August. Streetsblog learned of it via this Metro briefing document which was publicized by Twitter user @Calwatch.

Metro spokesperson Rick Jager confirmed the new date, and explained the change as follows: Read more…

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Metro July Meeting Re-Cap: Subway, SRTP, Active Transpo, and More

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (at podium) leads San Fernando Valley rail supporters rally this morning for Orange Line upgrades. Yesterday the Metro Board approved a motion that directs the agency to take a closer look at converting the Orange Line from BRT to light rail. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (at podium) leads a San Fernando Valley rail supporters press event this morning. Yesterday, Metro approved a motion to take a closer look at converting the Orange Line from BRT to light rail. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s July Board of Directors meeting took place yesterday. As usual, it was four-plus hours long, with plenty of implications for the future of livability and transportation for the region. SBLA re-caps the meeting below.

Mayor Garcetti Assumes Board Chair

Yesterday’s meeting was Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first as the new chair of Metro’s Board of Directors. Garcetti opened with some remarks outlining his priorities for his Metro chair tenure. After giving the obligatory nod to disliking L.A. traffic, Garcetti assured that his transportation priorities are regional, not ending at L.A. City borders. His greatest enthusiasm is for innovation, especially using technology to make our transportation systems smarter. He affirmed that Los Angeles’ transportation future will be multi-modal.

More on Garcetti’s Metro vision: The Source, Daily News

Contract Approved for Purple Line Subway Construction

The biggest and most contentious item on the agenda was approval of the $1.6 billion contract for 3.9 miles of Purple Line subway construction under Wilshire Boulevard from Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard. As recommended by Metro staff, the board awarded the contract to the “STS” contractor team of Skanska, Traylor and Shea. The STS bid was nearly $200 million more expensive than a competing bid by Dragados, leading some board members to question the selection process. Construction will likely begin this year, and the line is anticipated to open in 2023.

More on the Subway Contract: L.A. Times, The Source

Short Range Transportation Plan Approved

Metro approved its 10-year, $88 billion Short Range Transportation Plan more-or-less as initially proposed. Metro staff asserted that the SRTP is less a new plan and more a sort of progress report on the agency’s Long Range Transportation Plan. The perception is, though, that the SRTP is a sort of early casting call for projects to get in line for a possible 2016 transportation funding ballot measure. Speakers before the board urged more funding for active transportation, building the 710 Freeway tunnel, converting the Orange Line from BRT to rail, and extending the Gold Line eastward.

Read more…

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Metro Committee OKs Dismal Walk/Bike Plan Now, Funding Report Later

Active transportation supporters at Metro's Planning and Programming Committee on

Active transportation supporters hold up #metrofundwalkbike messages at this week’s Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee. Metro’s board did not increase funding for active transportation in its Short Range Transportation Plan, but director Mike Bonin introduced a motion which, if passed, would direct Metro to develop an Active Transportation Finance Strategy. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

More than fifty people showed up at this week’s Metro Planning and Programming Committee to urge the Metro board to support active transportation. Metro’s proposed $88.2 billion, ten-year Short Range Transportation Plan (SRTP) includes only $500 million for active transportation funding. Though walking and bicycling make up nearly 20 percent of L.A. County trips, Metro allocates less than one percent of its budget to those modes.

Aware of active transportation advocates’ mobilization, Metro staff’s slide show [pdf] attempted to make active transportation funding sound more plentiful than it actually is. Metro staff’s presentation suggests that the agency is supporting walking and bicycling through agency funding for categories including Signal Synchronization and Transit Capital. By totaling Metro’s committed $500 million, plus a hodgepodge of eligible Metro, state, and local funds, the staff presentation showed “up to $1.17 billion” in potential funding for bicycling and walking.

Though it is unlikely that the actual funding total will end up anything near this “up to” potential, the asserted $1.17 billion still would represent only 1.3 percent of the overall $88.2 billion plan. This is nowhere near the roughly $18 billion that active transportation would receive if Metro’s allocations were based on the current 20 percent modal share. Ideally, funding shouldn’t be limited to the existing mode share, but could be aspirational. Metro values expanding its rail infrastructure, presumably aspiring that more rail investment will create more rail ridership. Metro’s fiscal commitment shouldn’t necessarily be to maintain the existing 20 percent active transportation mode share, but to fund expansion of safe walking and bicycling facilities in order to increase levels of active transportation.

The committee did respond to active transportation demands, but not by increasing the dismal amount of funding in its SRTP. Instead, Metro board member Mike Bonin put forth a motion [PDF] (full text after the jump) that directs Metro to study active transportation and come up with a funding strategy. Safe Routes to School praised the board’s leadership embodied in the Bonin motion; Santa Monica Spoke called it a “good start.” The motion directs Metro to complete its Active Transportation Funding Strategy and report back to the board in October 2014.

Hopefully that funding strategy will not be chock full of “up to” dollars, but will actually represent an acknowledgement by Metro that safe and convenient places to walk and bike are integral to the agency’s regional transportation system.

As expected, the committee approved the agency’s SRTP, without approving any additional dollars for active transportation. The SRTP is expected to be approved by the full board next week.

Metro is considering a possible future transportation funding ballot measure. Past measures have primarily drawn from projects and budgets already approved in the agency’s Short- and Long-Range Plans. Though active transportation has been repeatedly shortchanged in Metro’s past plans and past ballot measures, if advocates keep up this timely pressure, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian funding could be a significant part of a future ballot measure.

County ballot measure funding or not, active transportation continues to grow. Will Metro’s October report address pedestrians’ and cyclists’ concerns?

Read more…