Skip to content

Posts from the Metro Category

12 Comments

Phil Washington Announces Metro’s “Operation Shovel Ready” Initiative

Metro Operation Shovel Ready Transit Projects map - including rail, bus, and bike projects

Metro Operation Shovel Ready Transit Projects map – including rail, bus, and bike projects

Does Phil Washington know something we don’t?

Well, I am sure he knows a lot of things I don’t know about. In any case, last week CEO Phil Washington announced Metro’s “Operation Shovel Ready.” According to the January 27 board communication [PDF], this initiative will bring “projects to a ‘shovel-ready’ state” to allow Metro “to take advantage of potential opportunities that may develop.” Getting these projects from the preliminary plan stage to the ready-to-build stage “does not necessarily mean that they will all move into the construction stage” but if there is another, perhaps, federal stimulus package, it’s good to have ready-to-go projects lying around just in case. Perhaps Washington is anticipating that a new president or an ambitious governor could again turn to transportation investments to stimulate the economy. We’ll see.

The initiative includes two project lists. The first is transit projects, which is predominantly rail, but also includes some Bus Rapid Transit and bikeway projects. There is also, unfortunately, a long list of highway projects, mostly widening existing freeways and interchanges. Projects are broken out based on whether they have some measure R funding or not.

Many of these projects will be familiar to transportation watchers; some of them will require quite a bit of work, including environmental clearance, which could take several years.

The full Operation Shovel Ready project lists appear after the jump.  Read more…

43 Comments

What Factors Are Causing Metro’s Declining Ridership? What Next?

The Los Angeles Times graph of Metro ridership over the past 30 years

The Los Angeles Times graph of Metro ridership over the past 30 years

In my circles, there has been a lot of discussion swirling around Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times article, Billions spent, but fewer people are using public transportation in Southern California, by Laura Nelson and Dan Weikel.

The Times’ authors cast a disparaging light on recent downturns in ridership: “Despite a $9-billion investment in new light rail and subway lines, Metro now has fewer boardings than it did three decades ago, when buses were the county’s only transit option.” The article further asserts a number of causes for declining ridership including “a changing job market, falling gas prices, fare increases, declining immigration and the growing popularity of other transportation options, including bicycling and ride-hailing companies” and also immigration patterns and new drivers licenses for the undocumented.

The internet has already responded to the Times:

  • Steve Hymon at Metro’s The Source, responds citing national trends and touting transit’s promising future, though Hymon ultimately concludes that Metro can do better.
  • KCRW’s Which Way L.A.? hosted a discussion with Loren Kaye, Denny Zane, and Brian Taylor. Taylor blames a lack of agreement on policy goals that results in a “distorted” system that favors cheap car travel.
  • Railtown author Ethan Elkind notes that the Times graphic misleadingly emphasizes Metro’s 1985 peak ridership.
  • Jarrett Walker criticizes the Times for identifying an “accelerating” trend out of what is actually “very noisy” but largely flat ridership data. Walker emphasizes that the current one-year decline in ridership is not a “trend” yet; labeling it one is presumptuous.
  • Matt Tinoco at LAist echoes Elkind and Hymon and questions the role of changing demographics, including gentrification in L.A.’s core.
  • Eric Jaffe at CityLab points to new research that disputes the article’s claim, made by transit critic James E Moore that, “It’s the dream of every bus rider to own a car.”

At yesterday’s Metro board meeting, CEO Phil Washington asserted that transit ridership is cyclical and that L.A.’s decline is in line with national trends. He also stated that he would be responding via a planned Times guest editorial.

There are a lot of keystrokes already stricken on this, but, nonetheless, I’d like to weigh in with some ideas and some questions, and to further hear from SBLA readers on what you think. Like the Times list, I don’t think that there is one smoking gun cause, but plenty of interacting and overlapping factors that influence ridership.

Decades of government capital spending favor cars. Graph via Frontier Group

Decades of government capital spending favor cars. Graph via Frontier Group

Overall Investment – Transit vs. Cars

My first thought upon reading the article was to blame declining ridership on a disparity of investment between transit infrastructure and car infrastructure. The U.S., California, and Los Angeles continue a long pattern of spending huge budgets to support driving, and not so much for transit. Governmental regulations, including parking requirements, also require massive private investment to serve cars, with little to no provisions for transit. Collectively, we pay people to drive, and so people drive a lot.

I am skeptical that even Measure R’s significant transit investments will move L.A. County toward a greater transit share because Measure R also provides billions of dollars for highway and road expansion.

Yonah Freemark touches on these disparities in his study showing that light rail investment did not increase transit mode share. Read more…

2 Comments

VerdeXchange Day One Highlights: Phil Washington, Earl Blumenauer

Day one of this year’s VerdeXchange conference is over. By the time you read this, the second and final day is already underway; Tuesday will feature discussions on the Los Angeles River, sustainable buildings, the sharing economy, new mobility models for cities, and much more! The full program schedule is here. Streetsblog L.A. is a media sponsor; follow @StreetsblogLA on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

Below are a couple of highlights from the first day.

VerdeXchange's 21st Century Transit panel (left to right) Jeff Morales, CA High-Speed Rail Authority, Deborah Flint, L.A. World Airports, Phil Washington, Metro, and Renata Simril LA84 Foundation. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

VerdeXchange’s 21st Century Transit panel (left to right) Jeff Morales, CA High-Speed Rail Authority, Deborah Flint, L.A. World Airports, Phil Washington, Metro, and Renata Simril LA84 Foundation. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s CEO Phil Washington spoke alongside the CEOs of L.A. World Airports, Deborah Flint, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Jeff Morales. All these leaders spoke the need to build seamless, complementary, balanced transportation systems. Washington decried the “three-decade infrastructure vacation” throughout the United States where the nation has neglected to build and maintain the transportation infrastructure needed for future generations. The Metro CEO emphasized that local jurisdictions and private industry have played their roles, but that the federal government has been weak in dragging its heels to pass its re-authorization bills.

Washington made two important announcements:

  • The second phase of the Metro Expo Line will open in May. A mid-2016 estimate has been expected since Metro took control of the substantially completed rail line ten days ago, but no opening date has been publicized.
  • USDOT approved phase three of Metro’s Westside Purple Line Subway for expedited treatment. This should speed up the federal processes to all for an accelerated schedule, potentially extending the subway to UCLA in time for a possible 2024 Olympics.

Congressmember Earl Blumenauer

Congressmember Earl Blumenauer

Streetsblog caught up with Oregon Congressmember Earl Blumenauer. Blumenauer is a leader on livability issues, especially bicycling. At VerdeXchange, he was speaking on a sustainable agriculture panel. Below is a very brief interview.  Read more…

No Comments

#DamienTalks SGV2: Albert Ho on IWillRide and Wes Reutimann on the Puente Hills Landfill Park

puente

A view from the future Puente Hills Landfill Park.

This week, #DamienTalks with Albert Ho of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. Albert has been a booster of the project dating back to the mid aughts, helping to found the IWillRide campaign as an interested college student, managing the website early in his career and then working for the Construction Authority.

Albert talks about his experiences advocating for the project, touches on some of the highlights of the line extension, scheduled to open on March 5. Towards the end, we reminisce about our days of yore, sitting in the back of Metro Board meetings together, trying to come up with the wittiest tweet about the meeting.

Next, #DamienTalks with Wes Reutimann, the executive director of Bike SGV. Reutimann discusses the upcoming scoping meeting for the Puente Hills Landfill Park. The park promises to be one of the largest tracts of open space on the Southland. There will be an environmental scoping meeting this Wednesday, January 27 (for more information on the hearing and the park click here.)

Bike SGV is hoping that there we be a safe network of bicycle lanes leading to the park and a network of bike facilities within the park to create the largest bike park in California. If you can’t make the scoping meeting, click here to read and sign Bike SGV’s petition.

If, like me, you are unfamiliar with what a bike park is, here are examples in Marin County and Fresno County.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the #DamienTalks homepage on Libsyn.

#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 foothilltransit.org. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

32 Comments

Would You Vote for a Measure R2.1 with No Dedicated Walk/Bike Funding?

UCLA researchers found that new Multi-Modal Level of Service metrics are not so great for measuring what's helpful for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Will Metro’s new sales tax serve people who walk? Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Metro has five rail lines under construction today, with new Gold and Expo Lines set to open this year. Metro’s recent rail infrastructure expansion was fueled by countywide sales taxes. On top of existing Prop A and Prop C sales taxes, in 2008 voters approved the roughly $40 billion Measure R.

Forty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California rail.

Twenty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California freeways.

What percent of Measure R is dedicated to walking and bicycling?

None.

There should probably be a small asterisk on that “none” because a small percentage of Measure R funding has made its way to walk and bike projects. There is a fifteen percent “local return” that goes to cities to fund transportation projects, and some cities, notably Los Angeles, spent a modest percentage of their local return on walk and bike projects. Most local return throughout the county goes to car infrastructure.

Metro is gearing up for Measure R2.1. The new sales tax initiative is expected to be on the November 2016 ballot. Early estimates showed Measure R2.1 raising $120 billion over the next 40 years. Recent estimates anticipate about $100 billion. Metro is still nailing down what will actually be in Measure R2.1, through a complicated trying-to-sound-neutral process of weighing regional project requests, which will ultimately be shaped by politics and polling. To get to the two-thirds majority necessary to pass a new sales tax, Metro needs to strike a number of delicate balances. Projects need to span various regions and appeal based on voters’ current travel modes as well as their future aspirations.

Though Metro has not dedicated sales tax initiative funding to walking and bicycling, other transportation funding measures throughout California have. These include measures in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Marin, Alameda, and San Francisco counties. Measure BB in Oakland’s Alameda County, with twelve percent reserved to walking and bicycling.

In 2015, walk and bike advocates estimated L.A. County’s unmet need for walking and bicycling infrastructure at roughly $20 billion. In a Metro staff report released this week, the agency basically concurred with advocates’ estimates. Metro estimated the countywide annual walk and bike funding needs to be between $550 million and $1.5 billion. Multiplying those estimates times 20 years results in $11 to $30 billion total; this range matches advocates earlier $20 billion estimates.

PrimaryTravelMode

19 percent of county commuters primarily walk or bike. Will Metro’s new sales tax support and expand these active transportation modes? Chart via LADOT Vision Zero

A coalition of active transportation advocates is pushing for ten percent of Measure R2.1 to be dedicated to walk and bike projects.

Move L.A.’s latest straw man proposal dedicates five percent for walk and bike, with more first/last mile funding that could support walk/bike facilities.

Metro has not weighed in yet.

But you can weigh in right now – via comments below.
What would make you support or reject a November 2016 transportation sales tax measure? Would you vote against it if there is less than ten percent set aside for walking and bicycling? Can Measure R2.1 spark the complementary expansion of biking and walking the way that 2008’s Measure R did for rail and freeway expansion?
12 Comments

Open House Showcases Expo Bike Path Gap Closure Options

Last night's Expo Bikeway meeting. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night’s Expo Bikeway meeting. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

An overflow crowd of more than one hundred people showed up to last night’s Expo Bike Path meeting at the Palms-Rancho Park Branch Library. A representative from Councilmember Paul Koretz welcomed the boisterous crowd before turning the open house over to L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) Senior Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery.

The crowd appeared to be about half from L.A.’s bicycling community about half from the adjacent Cheviot Hills neighborhood. Many Cheviot Hills neighbors have actively opposed to both the Metro Expo rail line and the Expo bike path.

Mowery stressed that “no decisions have been made” about how to close the 0.7-mile “Northvale gap” in the Expo bikeway. She stated that the meeting would be just an open house, and requested that all concerns be submitted in writing. As Mowery directed attendees to speak with city staff at an array of poster stations, disparaging comments were uttered by attendees: “this is ridiculous” and “we’re like sitting ducks”  – apparently by neighbors opposed to the bikeway.

In mid-2016, when the completed portions of the Expo bike path open, LADOT plans an “interim detour” sharrowed bike route on Northvale Road from Overland Avenue to Motor Avenue. This route avoids nearby heavily-trafficked streets, but is not great for bicycling as it is rather hilly close to Motor Avenue.

The final gap closure bikeway will run in a relatively flat alignment, just north of the Metro Expo Line tracks. There were three design options presented, described after the jump below. Read more…

11 Comments

Irritating Double Standards In Azusa Gold Line Station Delay Request

caption

Will the Azusa Pacific University/Citrus College Gold Line Station open in March? photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, Streetsie-nominee Steve Scauzillo broke the news at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune: the city of Azusa, Azusa Pacific University (APU), and Azusa developer Rosedale Land Partners have written to Metro to delay the opening of the APU/Citrus College Station. The APU station is the farthest east of six new Metro Gold Line rail stations set to open on Saturday March 5.

The APU station is finished, but the road to the parking lot is not. Site plan from Gold Line Construction Authority

The APU station is finished, but work extending Citrus Avenue to the station parking lot is not. Site plan from Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

According to the Tribune, the Azusa interests are concerned that opening the APU station “will cause traffic jams and unsafe pedestrian crossings.” What’s causing this problem? The delay is due to construction not being complete on a road that leads to the station parking structure. And why is the parking structure road delayed? Because, according to the Tribune, the cities of Azusa and Glendora, and the developer Rosedale Land Partners “could not agree on the road’s alignment.” Those are, of course, the same folks now requesting the delay.

My first thoughts reading this news is that there is an irritating double standard going on here.

When Caltrans builds a freeway, they use all kinds of biased, flawed metrics – including Level of Service – to show that opening the freeway will reduce congestion, not only on the freeway itself but also on nearby surface streets. Freeway projects are also promoted as improving safety and reducing air pollution. The truth is, of course, that freeways worsen congestion, safety, and the environment. When communities fight freeways on their actual ill effects, government bureaucracies ignore the truth and just keep building and widening them.

Transit investments are the opposite. Rail travel is orders of magnitude safer than car travel. It is also dramatically better for air quality. In reality, despite rosy promises, new rail lines will not solve congestion issues, but do not make them worse.

Reading the Tribune, it seems to me that Azusa leaders are blaming rail for problems that it does not create.

Also, the way I see it, delaying the Gold Line station opening is likely to make things less safe for some people. If some future riders, perhaps college students, drive instead of riding the train, then they will be less safe. If a rider would would have taken a (statistically very safe) train trip and replaced it with a (statistically much less safe) car trip, then delaying the station opening makes things less safe.

My second thoughts were more encouraging. Read more…

3 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Little Tokyo Track Relocation Construction Underway

xxx

Regional Connector construction Little Tokyo station and road closures are in effect today. View west on First Street at Vignes Street. Westbound First Street is closed between Vignes and Central Avenue. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last Friday, Metro began its slightly-delayed closure of the Little Tokyo Gold Line Station. The station will be closed for about three months while Gold Line tracks are relocated to make way for Regional Connector subway construction. If this construction goes reasonably well, the on time within-budget Regional Connector will open in 2021.

xxx

View north from First Street at Alameda Street. The Little Tokyo Gold Line Station is in the upper left. Tracks south of the station have been removed.

Metro’s contractors (Skanska and Traylor Bros.) wasted no time in getting started demolishing the existing rails immediately south of the station. More of today’s construction photos after the jump.  Read more…

8 Comments

Closing the Exposition Bikeway Northvale Gap, Meeting Next Week

LADOT is responsible for bike lanes and other road markings for this area connecting the Expo Bike Paths in Phase 1 and Phase 2. Recently, the city announced it has no timeline on when this bikeway will be completed.

The Expo Line bike path will soon extend east and west of this 0.7-mile “Northvale Gap.”

When Metro’s 6.6-mile Expo Line opens in mid-2016, the parallel Expo bikeway will open too.

Except where it won’t.

Two stretches of Expo bike path under construction are nearing completion. Unfortunately there is a 0.7-mile gap between them. Next week the city of L.A. will host a meeting to receive input on plans to close the gap, which parallels Northvale Road. Meeting details after the jump.

Here are the two sections of Expo Line bikeway nearing completion:

  1. Venice Boulevard to Motor Avenue: This 1.2-mile stretch includes two components. On the east end, located just south of the 10 Freeway, there will be a 0.7-mile bike path extending from Venice Boulevard (across the street from Culver City Station) to Palms Boulevard/National Boulevard (across from Palms Station). West of Palms Station, the bikeway is on the streets for a half mile. This includes National Boulevard (with a very short stretch of bike lanes) and Motor Avenue.
  2. Overland Avenue to Colorado Avenue: This 3.5-mile stretch is all off-street bike path, extending from Cheviot Hills to downtown Santa Monica. Like the Orange Line and other bike paths, there are a handful of places where cyclists cross perpendicular streets, but both bikes and trains run in the old rail right-of-way. The eastern terminus of the path is at Overland Avenue, near the Westwood Station. The western terminus is at 17th Street Station in Santa Monica, where cyclists can connect with the city of Santa Monica’s bike networks, including bike lanes on 17th Street, Broadway, and Arizona Avenue, and the Michigan Avenue Greenway.

Between those two segments – about 0.7 miles from Motor Avenue to Overland Avenue – is the Northvale Gap.  Read more…

7 Comments

SBLA’s Livable 2016 Year In Preview

Happy new year to all those loyal Streetsblog Los Angeles readers, especially the ones who have donated to keep SBLA strong. It is not too late for the rest of you to donate – click here.

Prediction is difficult, especially about the future and about travel forecasting. But there are a few big changes on the near-term horizon that will expand livability in Southern California. Below is a quick timeline of some of the big stories SBLA can foresee materializing in 2016.

Sixth Street Bridge

A new Sixth Street Bridge is on the way. Image via Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement project

The Sixth Street Bridge Makes Way For Its Replacement

Downtown L.A.’s historic 1932 Sixth Street Viaduct will be closed this month, with demolition anticipated to begin in February. It is sad to see this icon go, but the new bridge (coming in three years) will be iconic, and billed to be bigger and better for driving, bicycling and walking.

Mobility Plan Faces Showdowns

L.A.’s multi-modal Mobility Plan 2035 keeps facing off with opponents and keeps getting re-re-approved. Ahead in early 2016, it faces a second lawsuit and a suite of hostile amendments. When the plan survives, hopefully-more-or-less intact, can L.A. finally get some of those luxury transit lanes implemented post-haste?

Venice Boulevard To Get Protected Bike Lanes

As part of its Great Streets re-vamp, expected by Spring 2016, Venice Boulevard is getting protected bike lanes from Beethoven Street to Inglewood Boulevard in Mar Vista.

CicLAvia Opens New Streets

CicLAvia takes to the Northern San Fernando Valley on March 6th. The popular festival will also do: Watts / Southeast cities – May 15th, Wilshire Boulevard – August 7, and Heart of L.A. – October 9. More similar events on the horizon, including Golden Streets on 17 miles of the San Gabriel Valley on June 26.

Mariachi Plaza Planning Gets Underway Read more…