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Posts from the Metro Category


Winning Arguments with Your Family: Don’t Fall for the Traffic Trap


Last week, the Los Angeles Times published a disastrously titled piece entitled “L.A. Expo Line hasn’t reduced congestion as promised, a study finds.” The article is based on a study by the University of Southern California that used traffic monitors to gauge how many cars are driving on the freeway and arterial streets parallel to the Expo Line between Culver City and Downtown Los Angeles.

The central premise of both the article and the report it is based on is that government agencies should not base their arguments in favor of transit investment on the impact such investment will have on car traffic. I couldn’t agree more; Streetsblog has published articles and opinion pieces on the same theme.

However, the Times article has framed the debate on Expo’s effectiveness on the impact the line has on car traffic and that’s how the other media have covered the coverage. From mainstream outlets such as KPCC to conservative media columnists such as the Santa Monica Daily Press’ Bill Bauer; the coverage of the study has been reduced to: Expo Line hasn’t reduced car congestion.

Perhaps realizing its error, or perhaps just to create conflict, the Times tried to correct its error the next day with an opinion piece entitled, “The Expo Line hasn’t reduced traffic, so what?” In this piece, writer Kerry Cavanagh pretty much writes about the many benefits of investing in transit and the many dividends that Expo is paying.

Here at Streetsblog, we’ve run an irregular series helping our readers prepare for arguments soon to be had with relatives over the dinner table during holiday feasting. Without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on how to prepare for “transit doesn’t reduce congestion.” Read more…

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Metro Committee Approves $132M Regional Connector Construction Increase

Metro's Regional Connector subway is already over-budget. Image via Metro

Metro’s Regional Connector subway is already over-budget

This morning, the Metro board’s Construction Committee approved an additional $131.8M for construction of the downtown Los Angeles Regional Connector subway. This increase ups the budget from $1.42 billion to 1.55 billion – a 9 percent increase.

The line had been expected to open in 2020, but has already experienced delays pushing it back ten months, likely to at least 2021.

The Regional Connector will be a 1.9-mile light rail subway. Its alignment follows Second Street (Alameda to Flower) and Flower Street (2nd to 7th.) The connector ties together the Metro Blue, Gold, and Expo Lines, making for transfer-free travel from Long Beach to Azusa, and from Santa Monica to East L.A.

What is perhaps disconcerting is that the current cost overruns occur so early into construction. If the agency is just getting construction underway, and the budget has already overshot its ten percent contingency, what kinds of additional cost overruns might reveal themselves when major construction really gets underway?  Read more…


Metro Planning Committee Approves Bike-Share Fare Structure

Metro's proposed bike-share fare strucutre. Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

Metro’s proposed bike-share fare structure. Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee approved the proposed bike-share fare structure. Three payment options would be offered: a $20 monthly pass, a $40 annual “flex pass,” or $3.50 per half-hour for walk-up single use. For further Metro bike-share fare details see earlier SBLA coverage on the proposal.

Metro boardmembers Mike Bonin and Hilda Solis expressed “sticker shock” at the $3.50 cost for single-ride walk-up use. Metro staff explained that hourly rentals are anticipated to be largely tourists, and that revenue from these users would be important for the system’s financial stability. Bonin was concerned that hourly users would also include Angelenos interested in trying out the system for the first time. At the suggestion of Metro Planning head Martha Wellborne, boardmembers directed staff to look into some kind of reduced-price initial trial period to allow more Angelenos to get acquainted with the new system.

Boardmembers Bonin and Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker also pushed staff to allow for free transfers from bus or rail to bike-share. While this will not be available during the initial mid-2016 downtown Los Angeles roll-out, staff suggested it could be part of a phase of TAP integration due in late 2016. Staff cautioned that it might not be cost-effective. Further details of of the TAP payment linkages are expected to come back to the board in March 2016.

The proposal goes to the full Metro board for approval on December 3.


A Peek Into Metro Bike-Share’s Proposed Fare Structure

Metro's proposed bike-share fare strucutre. Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

Metro’s proposed bike-share fare strucutre. Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

A Metro staff report available this week gives a peek into the proposed fare structure for the transit agency’s bike-share system, coming to downtown Los Angeles in 2016. Metro has contracted with Bicycle Transit Systems (BTS) to open a 60+ station, 1000+ bicycle system extending from Union Station to USC. The new report [PDF] recommends that the Metro board approve bike-share fees and an interoperability plan, both detailed below.

The proposal will be heard at the Metro board’s Planning and Programming Committee on November 18th, then at the full board meeting scheduled on December 3.

Initial Interoperability Plan

As alluded to at the Metro board’s September discussion, the latest documents confirm that interoperability will initially just mean that multiple bike-share systems will use Metro’s TAP card. When the system first opens in mid-2016, monthly pass or annual pass bike-share users will receive a “uniquely branded TAP card” to unlock bicycles at docking stations. Bike-share TAP cards will be issued by BTS, with the TAP card only linked to the user’s bike-share account, separate from any TAP card’s stored transit fare account.

By the end of 2016, “all TAP cards will function as bike-share passes to unlock a bicycle at a station.” Users will enter their TAP card number when purchasing of a Bike share pass, though the bike-share and stored transit fare accounts still remain separate.

Additional interoperability features continue to be discussed, and will come back to Metro’s board in Spring 2016.

Fare Structure

Metro’s proposed bike-share fare structure (shown at top of post) includes three payment options:  Read more…


Video: Fly Through the Future Of Union Station



For rainy Tuesday night viewing, watch Metro’s updated Union Station explainer video.

Ridership expected to xxx by xxxx. Chart via Metro staff report

L.A. Union Station ridership expected to double from 2012 to 2040. Chart via Metro staff report [PDF]

There are plenty of big changes coming to Union Station in next few years. In October, Metro’s Board of Directors approved $15,000,000 for preliminary engineering and environmental work on the long-discussed cut-through tracks (officially called the SCRIP – Southern California Regional Interconnector Project.) During the SCRIP presentation, Metro staff presented the above bar graph showing forecasted growth in Union Station ridership. From 2012 to 2040, people using Union Station will double from current totals around 110,000 to an estimated 220,000 – with increases in people riding the bus, subway, and Metrolink/Amtrak, plus new high speed rail.  Read more…


710 Freeway Opposition Testimony Dominates October Metro Board Meeting

Metro board meeting attendees stand in support of Supervisor Hilda Solis motion directing Metro to broaden 710 Freeway South studies. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro board meeting attendees stand in support of Supervisor Hilda Solis’ motion directing Metro to broaden 710 Freeway South studies. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

(NO-710 advocate Joe Cano recorded the meeting. His video can be found here.)

Last week’s Metro board meeting agenda included numerous items, from bus service to Union Station run-through tracks, but the audience was packed with people mobilized to testify against Metro’s freeway expansion projects.

Namely, the 710 Freeway.

There are two halves to the 710 story: north and south. Both critical battles pitting communities against numerous deadly impacts of outdated 20th Century transportation thinking.

710 Freeway South

710 Freeway South study area. Map via Metro.

710 Freeway South study area. Map via Metro.

The metro board approved two items related to the southern portion of the 710 Freeway. The project is called the “I-710 Corridor Project.” It is located in Southeast L.A. County, extending from East L.A. to Long Beach. Metro studied widening the 710 South a few years ago, then concluded its environmental studies were inadequate, and need to be re-done, at a cost of over eight million dollars.

Environmental justice organizations, including East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice, Communities for a Better Environment, and many others, have been pressing for a 710 South project alternative that only adds lanes specifically for port truck traffic, and instead of additional freeway widening, invests in walkability, bikeability, and transit.

L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Boardmember Hilda Solis proposed a motion to expand the scope of the 710 South environmental studies to include zero-emission trucks, increased bus and rail service, complete streets, bike paths, and additional livability improvements.

More than twenty speakers, many speaking in Spanish, addressed the board in support of approving the Solis motion. Residents of Long Beach, Cudahy, South Gate elaborated on the health impacts of 710 Freeway traffic. One speaker turned to the audience and asked attendees supporting the Solis motion to stand up; more than 50 people stood.

County Supervisor Don Knabe proposed an amendment somewhat watering down Solis’ motion. Knabe’s amendment directs Metro to only study zero-emission trucks “should technology be available” and removes three bike paths from the EIR, directing Metro to study them separately.

The board unanimously approved the Solis motion as amended by Knabe. Solis’ supervisorial district includes the 710 from East Los Angeles to South Gate. Knabe represents communities along the lower 710, including Long Beach.

710 Freeway North Read more…


Area Mobility Advocate Exhausted by Bus, Makes Decision to Buy Car

Erick Huerta checks his phone as he waits for the bus on Western Ave. at Exposition Blvd. At this point he has already taken one bus and one train and has been in transit for an hour and fifteen minutes. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Erick Huerta checks his phone as he waits for the bus on Western Ave. at Exposition Blvd. At this point, he has already taken one bus, one train, walked three-quarters of a mile, and been in transit for an hour and twenty minutes. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

What was I writing about, a woman wanted to know.

She had heard me explain to a gentleman passenger on the bus that, just because I had a camera with me, I was not also a model. Nor was I a stripper. I was a journalist.

That news seemed to have disappointed him. He had fond memories of taking fifty dollars’ worth of one dollar bills to the Gold Digger and “ballin'” as a young man. So much so that even when I explained I was interested in seeing more investment in the bus system so people could get to their destinations in a reasonable amount of time, he kept taking the subject back to the ladies of “extraordinary talents” that he had once known.

I turned to the woman that had asked the question, gestured toward my friend, social justice advocate, and noted Boyle Heights resident Erick Huerta, and said, “His commute.”

“Commute” did not seem like the right word to describe a trek that involved two buses, a train, just under a mile’s worth of walking, and anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours of transit time for one trip. Coming home was more of the same, adding as many as four hours to an 8-hour (but sometimes longer, as Huerta is in the non-profit world and there are often community meetings) work day. And that’s when service wasn’t held up because of a bus or train breakdown, something which happened far too often for his taste.

“It shouldn’t take me two hours to go 12 miles,” he said as we boarded the first bus at 8:08 that morning.

He’s right.

By bike, the commute takes under an hour. And when he’s gotten a lift in a co-worker’s car (or on a rare occasion, a very costly Uber/Lyft ride), it takes just half an hour.

It was so crazy getting a ride after work one day and realizing he had the time to meet a friend for dinner and just hang out, he said.

It’s the reason he has decided to buy a car.

Not to drive it every day, he reassured me. But to be able to have the option of doing so when he wanted to have time to have a life outside of work and commuting.

You see, Huerta has never owned a car.

Brought to the U.S. as a young child, his undocumented status meant that, until recently, he couldn’t get a driver’s license. And because of his status, the struggle to find stable work and even stable living arrangements, at times, meant that a car would have been out of reach, anyways.

Growing up, his family owned one car and it was mainly for his father to use for work and special errands, like runs to the grocery store. For everything else his family did and everywhere else Huerta needed to go, there was the bus.

And it kind of sucked.

Read more…


Court Rules In Metro’s Favor In Beverly Hills Subway Lawsuit Appeal

What will it take for Beverly Hills to stop fighting the Purple Line? Map from Metro

What will it take for Beverly Hills to stop fighting the Purple Line? Map from Metro

In a ruling filed yesterday, an appeals court denied Beverly Hills’ attempt to block Metro from tunneling under their city to extend the Purple Line subway.  The city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) challenged Metro’s environmental studies as being inadequate. In 2014, Beverly Hills lost in the initial round of the lawsuit. This week Beverly Hills lost in their efforts to overturn the earlier ruling. The appeal court’s verdict takes Metro a few steps closer to moving full speed ahead with subway construction.

From the ruling document, posted at The Source, Beverly Hills and BHUSD asserted that Metro’s environmental impact reports (EIS/EIR) “relied on significant new and different information that was not in the draft EIS/EIR” and that Metro “fail[ed] to analyze localized air pollution and public health impacts from [Purple Line] construction.” The court concluded “that substantial evidence supports Metro’s decision not to recirculate the EIS/EIR, and that the EIS/EIR adequately discussed air pollution and public health impacts.” Ultimately the appeals court “affirm[ed] the trial court’s denial of School District’s and City’s petitions.”

The initial 4-mile extension of the Metro Purple Line subway is already under construction and expected to open in 2023. The contentious second extension, which includes a station in — and a tunnel below — Beverly Hills, is anticipated to begin construction soon, pending full funding.

The latest verdict is good news for Metro’s efforts to continue to build out rail transportation networks. Unfortunately, it is also possible that Beverly Hills will continue to appeal to higher courts. Also, per The Source, this week’s decision – an appeal on California law – is only half of the lawsuit with a parallel appeal on federal law still pending.

What will it take for Beverly Hills to drop its animus toward the Purple Line?

With an election for some Beverly Hills school board members on the ballot next week, this issue could be a spoiler in the election. Read more…


Foothill Gold Line Extension To Open March 5, 2016

The 12-mile Foothill Gold Line Extension will open March 5, 2016. Image via Metro

The 12-mile Foothill Gold Line Extension will open March 5, 2016. Image via Metro

Today, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced the opening date for the initial 12-mile extension of the Foothill Gold Line. The new Gold Line extension is set to open on March 5, 2016.

The line was built by the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority. When it was substantially complete in September, it was turned over to Metro for testing. The Gold Line extension includes 12 miles of track, new maintenance yards, 1,525 parking spaces, and six new stations: Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, Azusa Downtown, and Azusa Pacific University/Citrus College. Metro estimates anticipate 13,600 new daily riders.

Additional phases are anticipated to extend the line east from Azusa to Monclair and then further into San Bernardino County, though these are not yet funded.

A shortage of rail cars means that initial operations will feature less than optimal headways. Trains will operate every 12 minutes, with more frequent service likely starting in late 2016.

The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority recently celebrated station dedications. For a tour of the then-under-construction Gold Line Extension, see the 2014 SBLA series of articles on the rail line, transit-adjacent developmentbridges, and maintenance yards.


October Metro Committee Meeting Updates: Bus Service, TOC, Measure R2

Metro's Transit Service Policy Update is summarized in this presentation [PDF]

Metro’s Transit Service Policy Update lays the groundwork for a frequent bus service network, expected in July 2016. Changes are summarized in this presentation [PDF].

The Metro Board of Directors held its monthly committee meetings this week, in advance of next Thursday’s board meeting. Below are a handful of news bits gleaned from this week’s committee meetings. Final decisions still need to be approved by the full board next week.

Frequent Bus Service Network

Metro’s System Safety, Security and Operations Committee approved a new 81-page “2016 Transit Service Policy” document [PDF]. The changes are summarized in this presentation [PDF]. The document primarily lays the groundwork for implementing the not-yet-well-defined Frequent Bus Network, also known as the Strategic Bus Network Plan (SBNP.) SBLA analyzed the draft network proposal in this earlier article.

There are two main policy changes in the new Transit Service Policy. Both were recommended in Metro’s March 2015 American Public Transportation Association review:

  • Increase Load Factor: Load factor measures how crowded buses are. Currently Metro has a single load factor for all bus service; buses (at least as scheduled/planned at peak) hold 1.3 times their seated capacity. That means that generally 23 percent of riders are expected to stand at peak hours. The agency is adopting a new standard that it characterizes as “wait a long time: get to sit down.” It is a more complex standard that takes into account frequency of service. Peak service load factors increase to 1.4, meaning 29 percent of peak hour riders can expect to stand. This is a somewhat delicate balance to strike. Transit expert Jarrett Walker emphasizes that maintaining a low peak load factor is costly. On the other hand, overcrowded buses can become so full that they pass by waiting riders.
  • Eliminate Bus Stops: Metro reports that, over the past five years, average bus speeds have declined from “12 mph to less than 10.91 mph.” One low cost way to address this is to eliminate stops, especially local bus stops that are close together. See this earlier SBLA article on the benefits of bus stop thinning.

As this earlier SBLA article outlines, many questions remain regarding the SBNP, especially regarding canceling lines that may be picked up by municipal bus operators, including Foothill Transit and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus. The timeline specified in the presentation shows Metro detailing service changes in December, and holding hearings in February 2016, for a planned implementation in July 2016.

Map of planned new North Hollywood to Pasadena freeway bus. Image via Metro.

Map of planned new North Hollywood to Pasadena freeway bus. Image via Metro.

New NoHo-Pasadena Express Bus Line

Metro’s Operations Committee approved $784,000 to fund a new North Hollywood to Pasadena express bus, connecting the Orange and Red Lines with the Gold Line.  The new freeway bus line will be called Line 501. It is expected to begin a 180-day pilot at the same time that the Foothill Gold Line opens in the Spring of 2016. The route roughly parallels LADOT Commuter Express line 549, which operates only on weekday peak hours. Additional details in Metro staff reports.

Read more…