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Open Thread: Expo Phase Two Grand Opening

Inaugural Expo train pulls into Downtown Santa Monica station Friday, May 20. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Steers/City of Santa Monica

Inaugural Expo train pulls into Downtown Santa Monica station Friday, May 20. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Steers/City of Santa Monica

The day Los Angeles transit enthusiasts have been waiting for finally arrived this morning when the 6.6 mile extension of the Expo line opened, bringing passenger rail back to the westside of L.A. County for the first time since 1953.

Opening festivities continue tomorrow with celebrations at five of the seven new stations and a celebration at the Culver City station. Tonight and all day tomorrow, riding Expo is free. Also, the Big Blue Bus and Breeze Bike Share will be free to ride tomorrow.

Looking east toward the Downtown Santa Monica Expo line station. Photo by Jason Islas/SBLA

Looking east toward the Downtown Santa Monica Expo line station: the Santa Monica Esplanade includes an extra wide sidewalk, plus two-way protected bike lanes. Photo by Jason Islas/SBLA

This morning at around 9:45 a.m., a ceremonial passenger service train pulled into the Downtown Santa Monica station at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue, carrying local dignitaries, elected officials, Metro and municipal staff, enthusiasts, and supporters of Expo.

Passenger service officially started at noon, but before that happened, Metro held a ceremony in the parking lot just south of the Downtown Santa Monica Expo station, emceed by 2nd District L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Also among the dignitaries were County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and State Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who served on the Santa Monica City Council from 1999 to 2012.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti was on hand, as was Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez, who posed with a surfboard and offered a hearty welcome to the Expo line in Spanish. Garcetti declared that L.A. was making the transformation from being the nation’s car capital to being the nation’s transit capital. Metro CEO Phil Washington was on hand to offer some words, too, as was L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who thanked the many people in the audience whose grassroots activism helped make Expo happen, especially Friends4Expo.

Santa Monica’s longest-serving City Councilmember Pam O’Connor, who represented the city and the South Bay on the Metro Board of Directors in 2001 when the Expo right of way was chosen. In fact, she was the board member who, with tremendous grassroots support, made the motion to set the right-of-way that is today the Expo light rail line.

Were you at today’s opening ceremonies? Are you planning to attend tomorrow’s ceremonies? What is your experience riding Southern Calfornia’s newest light rail line? Please post your pictures and comments below.

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The Expo Line Opening and the Way Forward

Metro opens the Metro Expo Line to Santa Monica today. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro opens the Metro Expo Line to Santa Monica today. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today is the day. While many were happy about the Gold Line Foothill Extension opening earlier this year, I think the level of excitement about today’s opening of the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica is several magnitudes greater. As Kathy Seal eloquently detailed in her recent post, this project was made possible by authentic grassroots activism, exemplifying the famous quote by anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

And I notice the one thing no one seems overly concerned about is ridership. From day one the new Expo rail extension will be used. In fact the chief concerns are crowded trains (due to the rail procurement delivery situation that currently afflicts Metro) and the travel time from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles being too long. As to the latter I urge all readers of this blog to sign the petition to LADOT that it provide the line signal preemption. I am gratified the petition has generated significant attention for the issue and hopefully it will force officials to finally act.

SoCaTA booth this year at Fullerton Railroad Days. Photo by Dana Gabbard

SoCaTA booth this year at Fullerton Railroad Days. Photo by Dana Gabbard

Saturday Southern California Transit Advocates will have a booth at the Culver City station during the community celebration for the opening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A list of vendors and schedule of the musical performers at that location is posted at this link. The purpose will be to share information and engage the public. Charles Hobbs, author of Hidden History of Transportation in Los Angeles, will also be at the booth and I expect representatives of the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada to also be present. RailLA also has booth at the station. Come by and say hello.

Certainly this weekend will be about savoring this achievement, but starting next week we need to rededicate ourselves to build on it because there is still much work to do to facilitate expanding our rail network. On Monday, Move L.A. will hold its 8th annual Transportation Conversation. We cannot be complacent. To build a coalition and pass the Los Angeles County transit sales tax measure in November (which requires securing a two-thirds majority) will not be easy but is necessary. Move L.A.’s forum will be key to that effort and I am attending. I urge all in a position to attend to do so and join our movement to create multi-modal networks (transit, bicycling, walking) that support sustainable communities. The future doesn’t happen by accident. It is the result of vision and commitment. Join me on the front lines and aid the struggle for a better tomorrow.

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Metro Did the Right Thing By Not Over-Parking Expo Line Phase 2

Does Downtown Santa Monica really need more parking? Photo; Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Does Downtown Santa Monica really need more parking? Photo; Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s Expo Line Phase 2 opens this Friday. Though there is a lot of excitement and praise for the line, the Expo extension from Culver City to Downtown Santa Monica has also received some criticism. Note that Expo Phase 1 weathered its own criticism, and exceeded expectations.

Some critics are suggesting the line could be “doomed” due to a lack of parking. When Angeleno drivers say “parking” they tend to mean “free parking.”

Here’s an example from Laura Nelson’s Los Angeles Times article The Expo Line is finally coming to the Westside, but limited parking raises concerns:

“So how do I get to the station?” Liesel Friedreich, 64, of Pacific Palisades, asked when she learned the downtown Santa Monica station wouldn’t include dedicated parking for transit riders. “Isn’t the point to get more people with more money to ride the train?”

(Nelson’s article is overall a very good read and fairly balanced. She goes on to quote a Metro official stating that “hulking garages and expansive lots can be unsightly, expensive, and ultimately not a tool for encouraging people to stop driving.”)

My first reaction to the Friedreich quote is that it is just not news. Yes, some people are saying this, but the first question for the reporter is: how valid, applicable, or newsworthy is it? Yes, people who never rode transit and who will probably never ride transit regularly will spout off lots of self-serving rationalizations for why they are not riding. If it is not the parking, it could be the time, the frequency, the location, the walk, the homeless people, the noise, or the yadda yadda. As a transit rider (cyclist and pedestrian), I hear these excuses all the time, and I don’t think think they are news. They are a dog bites man story.

But let’s take a look at the assertion that Metro should build parking so “people with more money” will ride the train.

Nelson and Metro call these monied folks “choice riders.” Theoretically this means that there are two big groups of transit riders: poor “captive riders” who have no other transportation choice, and rich “choice riders” who typically drive. Transit expert Jarrett Walker (at minute 26 in this video) calls this false dichotomy the single most destructive fantasy about transit. In real life, people form a broad spectrum, so “When we incrementally improve transit service a little bit – we improve frequency, we get a payoff. We get a ridership improvement.” Walker advises agencies to forget about the mythical “choice rider” and instead focus on the “middle 90 percent.”

Read more…

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Touring the Soon-To-Open Metro Expo Line Phase 2

A train waits at the Downtown Santa Monica platform while special guests explore. Photos by Jason Islas.

A train waits at the Downtown Santa Monica platform while guests explore. Photos by Jason Islas.

The countdown has begun for the opening of Expo Phase 2 with just over a week left before the 6.6 mile extension of the Expo line opens to the public.

Starting on Monday, various members of the media, public officials, and municipal employees, community groups, and other stakeholders began getting sneak peak rides from the Culver City station — the current terminus of the Expo line — to Downtown Santa Monica, the new end of the line starting on May 20.

We were lucky enough to get to ride along yesterday morning and experience the future of Westside public transit. We were joined by Santa Monica City Councilmember Pam O’Connor, who represented Santa Monica and the South Bay on the Metro Board from 2001 to 2015.

Our trip begin at the Culver City station, the Expo line's current terminus.

Our trip begin at the Culver City station, the Expo line’s current terminus.

It was in her first year on the board that the alignment for the Expo line was decided; that year, O’Connor made the motion that assured the Expo line would come to Santa Monica. That story is retold in a book about the history of modern rail in Los Angeles County, Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City by Ethan Elkind.

While the train stopped at all of the seven new stations, riders weren't allowed to disembark until we arrived at the end of the line. This is the view from inside the train at the Bundy station, looking northward at the Bundy/Olympic intersection.

While the train stopped at all of the seven new stations, riders weren’t allowed to disembark until we arrived at the end of the line. This is the view from inside the train at the Sepulveda station, looking northward toward the Sepulveda/Pico intersection.

“By July 2001, Los Angeles had a newly elected mayor, James Hahn, and Pam O’Connor, an ardent Expo supporter from the Santa Monica City Council, was serving on the MTA board. The new board voted to approve light rail along the route from downtown to Culver City… some residents along the right-of-way expressed opposition to the project based on the potential for accidents with pedestrians, and the MTA board voted to perform additional safety studies. But the MTA leadership, thanks to a motion by O’Connor, expressed their ‘vision and intent to complete the LRT [light rail transit] line to Santa Monica,’” according to Railtown.

It helped that O’Connor and Metro actions enjoyed support from ongoing community activism for Expo. Read more…

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Community Organizing Wins the Day: Skills and Enthusiasm of Many to Build Expo for All

Behind the May 20 opening of the Expo Line to Santa Monica lies the untold story of dozens of dedicated volunteers who worked for decades to make this line happen.

Few people know that Expo Line light rail was a glimmer in the eye of Santa Monica city officials as early as 1989. That year they convened a group of citizens to advocate for purchasing a former Red Car right of way from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica. They envisioned providing a fast, comfortable, and green light rail line along this route.

Historic Red Car on today's Expo Line. Photo via Friends for Expo

Historic Red Car on what is today the Expo Line. Photo via Friends for Expo. See also historic red car video.

Among that group was Darrell Clarke, who, growing up in Los Angeles, had often talked with his parents about that city’s large network of red and yellow streetcars and their demise in 1963. When, as a UC Berkeley student in 1974, Clarke rode the first public BART train from the East Bay to San Francisco, he thought about his hometown. Why, he wondered, couldn’t Los Angeles have great mass transit too?

Fifteen years later, Clarke joined this Committee to Preserve the Right-of-Way.

The decades-long campaign to build Expo Line had begun.

Grassroots Organizing Begins

Launched on the initiative of Santa Monica city council members Christine Reed and Denny Zane, the Committee to Preserve the Right-of-Way convinced Los Angeles Metro’s predecessor to buy this route, originally built in 1875 as a steam railroad by Santa Monica founder Senator John P. Jones. Dubbed the “Air Line,” it was later electrified and carried passengers until 1953 and freight until the mid-1980s. The freight train was noisy, and when the family of Presley Burroughs, another member of the Committee to Preserve the Right-of-Way, moved into a new home in Baldwin Vista in 1968, Burroughs – who would become an urban planner – remembers his father telling their new neighbors, “If you put passenger rail there, you’ll get a sound wall.”

But not everyone in Los Angeles wanted a passenger line on Exposition. Homeowners’ groups in Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park opposed it. That didn’t stop the Committee to Preserve the Right-of-Way. Clarke, Burroughs and Russ Davies, a retired IBM marketing manager, documented the economic and social sense of a light rail line on Exposition the line, and pleaded their case by petitioning door to door and tabling at shopping malls.

Planning began after the right-of-way purchase, then halted, then restarted in 1998 after the cancellation of new subway extensions left federal money on the table for mass transit to the Westside.

Meanwhile, then-mayor Richard Riordan and County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Yvonne Burke traveled in 1999 to Curitiba, Brazil, known for a successful Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line. That trip planted the seed of Bus Rapid Transit in the heads of several key players in the city.

The following year, longtime community organizer Kathy Seal, facing both an empty nest and a growing concern about the environment, wondered if a light rail line to Santa Monica would help. “I was worried about the environment, especially climate change,” she remembers. “And personally, I couldn’t stand the traffic gridlock.”

“Call Darrell Clarke,” counseled her husband Jim, a transportation consultant.

“When do we meet?” Clarke answered when Kathy proposed starting a mass organization to fight for light rail on Expo.

Told about this idea, Kathy’s fellow community activist Julia Maher came on board. “We wanted to use the pressure of grassroots support to make the Expo line happen,” remembers Maher, who worked in her local neighborhood association and the newly-formed SoRo (South Robertson) Neighborhood Council. “I realized that a light rail line would change the way I felt about Los Angeles.”

Open to volunteers of any political persuasion, Friends 4 Expo Transit was born.

The group quickly attracted new activists, many of them women who were not typical rail buffs, but who emphasized the social and environmental impact of a future Expo line. “We saw this project as a way to bring people and communities together rather than dividing them,” remembers attorney Faith Mitchell (who’d married both Burroughs and Expo in 1994). She suggested “Connecting Neighbors” for the F4E slogan, as the activists pointed out the sociability of riding a light rail train, the boon it would provide for teenagers and the elderly, and the increased access for everyone – especially the disadvantaged and car-less – to the community’s valuable resources.

“We saw it as serving Westside and downtown jobs, a ladder of economic opportunity giving residents greater access to the rich economic, educational and spiritual centers throughout the Los Angeles region,” says Clarke. As fighting against climate change rose on the national agenda, the activists stressed the environmental benefit of clean, speedy, high-capacity light rail.

Early Friends4Expo promotional image.

Early Friends4Expo promotional image.

Outreach and Organizing: Solidifying the Voice of the Majority

Dozens of enthusiasts joined and Friends4Expo went to work, presenting slide shows to schools, senior centers, churches, a mosque, chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs, Neighborhood Councils, unions, and neighborhood groups flanking the right of way. They gathered thousands of signatures at farmers’ markets, neighborhood festivals, outdoor malls, and citywide events like the Los Angeles Times Book Festival. They lobbied Los Angeles, Culver City, and Santa Monica city council members, and members of the Metro board. Representatives of constituents along the proposed line took note. As one elected official told the activists, “You start the parade and I’ll walk in front of it.”

Which is what F4E did. In addition to their broad community outreach, which produced a long list of supporters, the activists reached out to community newspapers and met with the Los Angeles Times editorial board. Two community colleges endorsed the project, as did the Music Center and the University of Southern California. KNX 1070 radio and the Times editorialized in favor of light rail on Expo.

Relying on an email list of 2,500 and their website, F4E members brought supporters to attend Metro board meetings and public hearings, including one especially boisterous meeting in the spring of 2001 at the Veterans Administration auditorium. Ken Alpern, a leader in the Westside Village Neighborhood Association led a large crowd who testified, one after the other, that they wanted light rail on Expo. The huge and passionate support for Expo light rail surprised even the longtime activists, who for the first time sensed victory emerging: even if a minority feared it, they realized, the great majority of Angelenos wanted the Expo light rail line.

In addition to community organizing, F4E members contributed technical analysis to the project. Schematics and census tract data, for example, provided by Clarke to refute opponents’ low density and low ridership arguments, influenced the Expo Line’s environmental impact reports. Gökhan Esirgen, a USC physicist, developed a Wikipedia page.

Although F4E concentrated on harnessing the enthusiasm of ordinary citizens, the activists also worked closely with allies among elected officials. Metro staff – used to fearful residents crying, “No, not in my community!” – gladly answered F4E’s requests for information. As Expo Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe would later say, “This is the first time in my career that I’ve experienced a group that is FOR something.” Read more…

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Metro Committee Approves All-Paid Parking For 3 New Expo Stations

Yesterday, Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee approved the initial phase of the agency’s new Parking Management Pilot Program. The program is anticipated to begin with three new Expo station parking lots in May: Sepulveda, Bundy, and 17th Street.

The pilot is anticipated to expand to nine rail station parking lots by Winter 2016.

Here is how it will work:

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Drivers with TAP cards validate when entering the parking lot. Image via Metro

Returning Transit Riders

Returning riders will show their TAP card to a parking attendant, who, like Metro security do, will validate that the TAP card has been used in the past few days. The driver will pay the parking attendant or show their paid monthly permit.

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Drivers without TAP cards are required to validate after riding Metro. Image via Metro

New Transit Riders

New riders would not have a TAP card yet. They will receive an “exception ticket” which is placed on the car dashboard. After the driver parks and rides, they subsequently have to link their TAP payment to their parking, either online or in person with a parking attendant.

Approval Process

The committee discussion was energetic, with boardmembers Sheila Kuehl and Mike Bonin intent on managing the user experience at Expo stations in neighborhoods they represent. Kuehl spoke of the need to utilize Metro parking to get her constituents “who drive all the time” out of their cars.

Bonin anticipated that monthly parking passes will sell out immediately upon being made available, likely in April. Though Bonin suggested a lottery for initial permits, Metro staff responded that the plan is to make Expo Phase 2 parking permits available on a straightforward first-come first-served basis, as has been Metro’s practice in the past. Historically many Metro station monthly permits have long wait lists, arguably because Metro’s below-market pricing has led to permit supply being insufficient to meet demand. The parking pilot is retooling the monthly permits somewhat. Under the pilot, in order to prevent “poaching” (non-transit riders purchasing monthly permits), monthly pass holders will be required to ride Metro at least ten times per month to be eligible to renew monthly parking permits.

Read more…

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#DamienTalksSGV 5 – Gold Line Opening and Women on Wheels

Today, #DamienTalks to Habib Balian, the CEO of the Gold Line Foothills Construction Authority and Amy Wong with Women on Wheels a project of Bike SGV.

Damien Talks SGV logoThis weekend, the long-awaited extension of the Gold Line to the San Gabriel Valley Foothills will finally open. Balian discusses the advocacy and work that led to the extension and the excitement that the line will be open soon. It is likely that any sales tax on the fall ballot will include another extension of the Gold Line, so Balian and his team are preparing in the eventuality that funding becomes available in 2017 for an extension all the way to Montclair.

Our second segment features an interview with Amy Wong of Women on Wheels, a project program of Bike SGV (WoW.) WoW works to create safe spaces and events for female bicycle riders to meet, have fun, and improve their bicycle skills. Wow has a couple of events coming up, a social on Sunday, March 13, and the LA to SGV: Sister Cities Ride & Mechanics Class with the Ovarian Psycos on Saturday, March 19.

#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.”

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Expo Line Phase 2 Opening Announced for May 20

Expo phase 2 map

Passengers will be able to ride a train to Santa Monica for the first time in more than half a century starting on Friday May 20, Metro officials announced today.

Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas announcing Expo 2's May 20 opening date. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas announcing Expo 2’s May 20 opening date. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro CEO Phil Washington officially announced the opening date for Expo phase 2, the 6.6-mile extension of the Expo light rail line. In April 2012, Expo’s first phase began operations between downtown L.A. and Culver City. Phase 2 adds seven new stations: Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Sepulveda, Bundy, 26th St./Bergamot, 17th St./Santa Monica College, and downtown Santa Monica.

The announcement comes two days after the Expo Construction Authority, the state-created entity in charge of overseeing construction of the rail line, handed over the Expo maintenance facility in Santa Monica to Metro, marking “substantial completion” of the project. The tracks were turned over to Metro late last month, after which the county transit agency ramped up train testing frequencies.

Nearly 5 miles of parallel Expo bike path will open at the same time.

The $1.6 billion Expo line extension, funded in large part by Measure R, connects the westside to Culver City, USC, and downtown Los Angeles, as well as the Blue, Red, and Purple lines. Once Metro’s Regional Connector subway is complete, likely in 2021, Expo will also connect with the Eastside Gold line, offering passengers a one-seat ride from East Los Angeles to downtown Santa Monica.

During this morning’s Metro board meeting, Washington announced that Little Tokyo Regional Connector construction is on schedule. This construction is currently closing a central segment of the Metro Gold Line between Union Station and Pico Aliso Station. Washington reported that the full Gold Line will re-open on March 21st.

 

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Four Updates from this Week’s Metro Board Committee Meetings

There were fewer Metro Board of Directors committee meetings than usual this month, with both finance and construction committee meetings canceled, but there were nonetheless some developments that Streetsblog readers may be interested in. More to come on many of these at next week’s full Board meeting on Thursday, February 25.

1. Board Environmental Motion

Metro’s Executive Committee unanimously passed a motion that would commit the agency to a broad suite of environmental practices. The motion was authored by directors Eric Garcetti, Sheila Kuehl, and four others, and supported by the Enviro Metro Coalition. It includes:

  • Greater tracking of Metro air quality efforts, including reducing nitrogen oxide (NO), carbon, and vanpool emissions, reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita, and progress on the agency’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.
  • Expanded green construction practices including water conservation, capturing and treating rainwater, permeable surfaces, low carbon-intensity materials, recycled and local materials, native shade trees, and more.
  • Improved first/last mile connections, including expanded car-share, mobility hubs, paths, bikeways, and a broader Regional Active Transportation Network.
  • Reporting on strategies for green tech jobs, including renewable energy, zero or near-zero emissions technologies, and coordination of sustainability initiatives.

With numerous capital projects already under construction or nearing shovel-readiness, it may take a while for upgraded environmental practices to kick in. But it is still better to get started by setting the policy now, rather than getting around to it later.

2. Expo Opening Date

Director and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl mentioned a planned May 20 opening date for Metro Expo Line Phase 2. This more or less agrees with an earlier internal Santa Monica city staff communication “unofficially” announcing an Expo 2 opening date of May 21st. Theoretically, there could be a Friday VIP opening that Kuehl would be invited to, with a public opening still on Saturday May 21st. Board chair and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced that there would be timeline announcements regarding Expo and Crenshaw lines at the end of the February 25 board meeting.

So, Expo will open on May 21st, but you did not hear it from SBLA, because it is not official until you hear it from Metro next Thursday. Please act surprised then!

Friends 4 Expo Transit honored at today's Metro Executive Committee meeting. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Friends 4 Expo Transit honored at today’s Metro Executive Committee meeting. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

3. Friends 4 Expo Transit Honored

Speaking of Expo, Metro’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) honored Friends 4 Expo Transit as its 2015 CAC Organization of the Year.

Metro ridership projections

Metro FY2016-2017 ridership projections

4. Ridership Watch

Ridership has been in the news recently. In some early parameter setting for Metro’s 2016-2o17 budget [PDF], the agency acknowledged it “has been experiencing a decline [in system boardings] since April of [20]14.” In FY2015, ridership declined nearly 5 percent and the current FY2016 decline is estimated to be 3.9 percent.

For FY2017, Metro is projecting an additional 10 million boardings due to the new Gold and Expo Line segments. Other existing ridership is projected to remain flat (at 435.3 million boardings) so the additional 10 million means a 2.3 percent increase. A tick upward is a good thing, but FY2017 projected ridership (445.3 million) is still anticipated to be below FY2015 actual ridership (453.0 million).

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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…