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City of Azusa to Lease 145 Spaces to Metro for Station Parking

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A view from atop the Azusa Intermodal Transit Center on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. this week. Free Metro spots and Foothill Non-Paid Permit spots were all occupied at this time. Photos by Doug Lewis/Streetsblog L.A.

As per recent city council approval, the city of Azusa will lease 145 parking spaces at the Azusa Intermodal Transit Center to Metro for at least one year to alleviate an overflow of parking demand at the Downtown Azusa Gold Line station stop.

In return, Metro is expected to reimburse the city for 100 percent of its operation and maintenance of the 145 spots, an estimated yearly fee of $31,000. Both parties have the option to extend the agreement a second year, with an additional $32,000 in operations and maintenance fees paid by Metro to the city of Azusa.

Metro also plans to include the leased spaces in the existing parking permit program, with twenty percent of the permits allocated to city of Azusa residents. Originally city staff negotiated for city residents to receive free Metro permits, but that agreement was later rejected due to legal concerns.

The parking lease agreement arrives after the City of Azusa enacted parking restrictions in surrounding neighborhoods and downtown streets because of an overflow of Gold Line riders. City officials hope the new three-hour parking limits will confine Metro parking to the Azusa station garage and incentivize riders arriving by car to instead use the nearby Irwindale and Duarte lots. In a phone interview, Azusa Director of Public Works Daniel Bobadilla noted that though no official analysis on the recent parking measures has been conducted, staff have noticed fewer vehicles on streets and residential neighborhoods in downtown Azusa. Read more…

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L.A. and San Bernardino Inter-County Transit/Rail Planning Meetings Kick Off

SCAG's L.A.-San Bernardino Counties area of study. Source: http://www.scag.ca.gov/programs/Pages/InterCountyTransitRail.aspx

SCAG’s L.A.-San Bernardino Counties area of study. Image via SCAG study fact sheet [PDF]

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is seeking to develop a comprehensive overview of potential transportation and rail improvement options in the corridor bridging L.A. Counties and San Bernardino counties. Los Angeles and San Bernardino inter-county cooperation could expand transit access to cities near the county border. A number of significant inter-county transportation projects are or have been proposed to increase connectivity in eastern San Gabriel Valley and Western San Bernardino County. Future transportation projects could include:

  • Metrolink San Bernardino Line connection to Ontario Airport
  • Metro Gold Line light rail phase 2-B extension to Montclair
  • Metro Gold Line light rail phase 2-C extension to Ontario Airport
  • Bus Rapid Transit connections
  • 10 Freeway express lanes

SCAG’s study corridor area includes portions of the San Bernardino County cities of Montclair, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, and Upland and the Los Angeles County cities of Claremont, La Verne, and Pomona.

SCAG hosted a community meeting in Upland last night for the cross-counties study. A second community meeting will take place tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Palomares Academy of Health Sciences at 211 N. Orange Grove Avenue in Pomona. SCAG will be disseminating project information and gathering community input. Interested folks who cannot attend the meetings can give input via a five-minute interactive online survey.

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One of the presentation boards at last night’s meeting. According to a SCAG representative, PDFs of the presentation will be made available on the study website. Source: Doug Lewis/Streetsblog L.A.

Recently, Gold Line authority officials expressed interest in moving forward with an Ontario airport connection, but with San Bernardino Associated Governments (SanBAG – somewhat analogous to L.A. County’s Metro) approval and oversight. Any future facilities in San Bernardino County, including the planned Montclair station and proposed Ontario Airport extension, would need to be funded by San Bernardino County.

A 2014 report from the Pasadena Star details the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority’s past efforts to gain inter-county authority for a possible San Bernardino extension. The proposed state bill A.B. 2574 was met with vehement opposition from SanBAG for overriding jurisdiction.

Can SCAG, which spans six counties, facilitate a more harmonious cooperation between San Bernardino and L.A. Counties? Will the result be transit service that improves the lives of all southern California residents, regardless of what county they live or work in? Time will tell, and SCAG’s current study appears to be one worthwhile step in the right direction. Attend tonight’s meeting or give your input via the online survey.

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Future transit projects could serve some of the 180,000 daily trips between the counties. SCAG’s trip-forecasting model detailed here. Source: Doug Lewis/Streetsblog L.A.

SBLA San Gabriel Valley coverage 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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Foothill Gold Line Glendora-to-Montclair Extension Ready, Waiting for Voters

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Source: Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority

Last March beneath the omnipresent San Gabriel Mountains, the Foothill Gold Line’s Pasadena to Azusa extension opened up to residents and commuters alike. Financed by Measure R sales tax returns, the Pasadena to Azusa extension opened to higher-than-expected ridership numbers, indicating the growing region’s desire for increased light rail connectivity and a commuting alternative to jam-packed traffic on the 210 Freeway.

This November, voters will decide the future of the Gold Line expansion to Glendora through Montclair. The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority is eager to secure additional funding to initiate the $1.2 billion extension which will add 12.3 miles of rail and six new stations located in the cities of Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont, and Montclair. The project, though slated to begin in 2019, could break ground as early as 2017 depending on voters approving Metro’s Measure R2 sales tax. The current estimated completion is within a three-year range from 2025-2028.

Officials hope that the Glendora to Montclair extension will be financed through the R2 sales tax increase, officially now known as the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan. If passed, R2 will apportion $1.2 billion to the Foothill Construction Authority to build the Gold Line to Claremont, the last extension city located in L.A. County. The easternmost terminus, Montclair Station, is located in San Bernardino County, so the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) is expected to contribute supplemental funding for their station.

The extension, according to Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian, is positioned to be the first project ready-to-go into construction following R2 approval. Having already completed its environmental clearance (Environmental Impact Report – EIR) in 2013, the advanced conceptual engineering for the extension is expected to be finished by this September. Balian noted in a phone interview:

Strategic elements of the project, including the alignment, station parking, the station area site plan – all of those details will be released to the cities by September. Contingent on the sales tax measure approval, we’ll be the first project ready to go into construction.

Read more…

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Metro Service Changes Take Effect This Sunday, Including Fewer Night Trains

A side effect of additional "late night" train service will be to alleviate the strain on cars when Midnight Ridazz let's out (assuming the ride ends before midnight). Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyseven/3138690971/sizes/z/in/photostream/##Gary Kavanagh/Flickr##

As of Sunday, Metro’s “More Trains More Often” nighttime initiative will be over. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

This Sunday, June 26, Metro will be making their twice yearly “service changes” to bus and rail service. This typically means minor cuts, often justifiable, but still incrementally making riders’ lives a little worse and incrementally contributing to declines in ridership.

Metro’s The Source has a fair summary of the agency’s latest round of transit service adjustments. As one would expect, the agency emphasized improvements:

  • All Gold Line trains will serve the entire new Foothill Extension. Since the new stations opened in March, they were only served by every other train out of Union Station, meaning trains to Azusa ran every 12 minutes. As of Sunday, peak-hour service to Azusa will be every 7 minutes.
  • Metro Rapid Bus line 744 night service has been adjusted to better serve Cal State Northridge.
  • Metro Bus line 230 night service has been adjusted to better serve Mission College.

The Source uses very neutral language to mention some nighttime service cuts for Metro rail lines. These cuts are generating some concern on social media. Right now, evening service (from roughly 8 p.m. to midnight) on the Expo Line and Blue Line runs every 10 minutes. As of Sunday, this will be cut in half to every 20 minutes. Some late night Blue Line trains also run shorter lines, ending at Del Amo Station. In addition, Red Line and Purple Line service for Friday and Saturday nights will be reduced from every 10 minutes to every 20. (Metro already reduced Sunday through Thursday night service to every 20 minutes last year.)

Relatively frequent night train service was introduced in 2011 as part of the Villaraigosa-era “More Trains More Often” improvements. This week’s changes effectively end that 2011 service expansion.  Read more…

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City of Duarte’s Free Rails-to-Trails Gold Line Shuttle Open Saturdays in June

Los Angeles’s surrounding mountain ranges are often overlooked in the county’s popularized image as a smog-ridden, freeway megalopolis with admired Pacific beaches.

However, between the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountain ranges, Los Angeles has plenty of rich outdoor hiking to offer newcomers and native Angelenos alike. Unfortunately many of these mountain trailheads are nestled within wilderness roads and nearly inaccessible to those without a car. The looming mountain ranges that characterize Los Angeles and provide water resources to the region are often unfamiliar to many long-time residents.

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The Fish Canyon falls is known for its triple-tiered waterfall canyon, a former popular vacation site now open to hikers. All photos: Doug Lewis/Streetsblog L.A.

Fortunately, one San Gabriel Mountains trailhead is finally accessible to car-less Angelenos eager to explore the region’s mountains. Since April, running through the end of June, a free city of Duarte shuttle takes riders from the Duarte/City of Hope Gold Line station parking lot to the historic Fish Canyon trailhead every Saturday between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. The Fish Canyon trail, a 4.8-mile round trip hike through a San Gabriel canyon, traverses a lush landscape and ends at the triple-tiered Fish Canyon falls. The shuttle runs every thirty minutes and takes around fifteen minutes one way. Shuttles depart from Duarte on the hour and half-hour, and from the trailhead on the 15- and 45-minute marks.

The Fish Canyon Falls shuttle was implemented by the City of Duarte, and has been promoted by the San Gabriel Mountains Forever coalition.

The shuttle, financed by local-return Measure R funds, takes advantage of the newly completed Gold Line Extension to increase access to public wilderness areas for non-car-owning residents and travelers alike. Officials spoke of environmental and social justice benefits that public transit to outdoor recreation offered Angelenos. Read more…

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Residents Debate Priorities for Mariachi Plaza at Second Design Workshop

Wednesday's design workshop looked at potential uses for the two Metro-owned lots at Mariachi Plaza. Map detail: Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, Perkins + Will, DakeLuna

Last Wednesday’s design workshop looked at potential uses for the two Metro-owned lots at Mariachi Plaza. Map detail: Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, Perkins + Will, DakeLuna

“If it wasn’t for Garage [Board Shop and Sk8 for Education program],” 9-year-old skater “Bite Size” told me, “I’d probably be hanging out with the wrong type.”

I looked at him. He really was adorably bite-sized as he stood next to a skateboard nearly as as tall as he was. It was hard to believe he was old enough to be worried about kicking it with the “wrong type,” but as both he and 10-year-old skater Jose Solano attested, there were a lot of older guys in their neighborhoods that had no problem with steering vulnerable kids in the wrong direction.

Screen shot of Enrique "Bite Size" Fino from a short film on The Garage by Bearwalk.

Screen shot of Enrique “Bite Size” Fino from a short film on The Garage by Bearwalk.

Because of that, both Bite Size and Jose were on a mission. They had prepared short speeches to give at last Wednesday’s workshop about the importance of creating an engaging space at Mariachi Plaza that would help inspire youth to stay in school and be their best selves.

When there wasn’t time for them to deliver it to the crowd of 60 or so participants that had come to work on the development guidelines for the Metro-owned lots at the plaza, they settled for delivering the speeches to me.

While he had been skating for four years, Bite Size said, it was the program at the Garage that had given him a place to go that was safe and free of negative influences. And, he said, it had helped him get his grades up by requiring he did his homework.

A wink and a laugh from Garage founder Jerry Carrera indicated that perhaps Bite Size’s grades were not quite as high as he was suggesting.

There was room for improvement, Bite Size acknowledged. But he was doing much better than he had been.

“I go there every day,” he grinned. “I love Pizza Fridays!”

Solano echoed Bite Size’s enthusiasm and reassured me that, since he started the Garage’s program, he had raised his grades from Ds and Fs to “straight-up As” and was motivated to keep doing well.

Carrera and several of his skaters were not at the workshop, as one might have assumed, to ask that part of Mariachi Plaza be turned into a skate park.

What they were looking for was to preserve some open space at the site, be it for skating or some other form of fitness or play, and that Metro look at creative partnerships (possibly with non-profits) to make sure that any development serve as much as an investment in the people of the community as an investment in the site.

Gesturing toward the youth while reporting his table’s ideas for the site back to the larger group, he asked, “Where are these kids gonna play?”

“We want green space for kids today,” he concluded. “They are the future of tomorrow.”

It was a point well taken.

A woman reports her table's ideas back to larger group. Although many present were housing proponents, they were adamant that any development speak to the culture and multi-generational nature of the community. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A woman reports her table’s ideas back to larger group. Although many present were housing proponents, they were adamant that any development speak to the culture and multi-generational nature of the community. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Nearly 40 percent of the area’s population is under the age of 18 and they don’t have that many places to hang out. Boyle Heights is quite park poor and when the youth try to access a space like Mariachi Plaza because it is relatively safe, in a central location, accessible, and lit at night, they are often chased out by law enforcement.

With more youth congregating along 1st Street since Carrera opened a second skate shop there last fall (his original shop is in East L.A.), and more folks using the plaza as ground zero for reclaiming their streets (like the 700 women who participated in the Amigas Who Run event this past weekend), it is even more imperative that the next iteration of the plaza be more welcoming to all ages and all uses.

Because Boyle Heights is a multi-generational community, the question of carving out space for users of all ages had been on the minds of many participants, even those who were there to speak up on behalf of seniors and other vulnerable members of the population.

At the table where I sat, residents discussed the importance of ancillary uses, including a walking path, lots of shade trees, a play area, seating areas, street vending, music (particularly mariachi), and murals — both cultural and street art-style — that reflected the culture and composition of the community. A range of amenities, they felt, would keep the plaza active, beautiful, and welcoming to all ages.

The interest in preserving and activating open space was so great, in fact, that many participants came down in favor of closing off some or all of Bailey Street (below).

Participants discussed the potential for closing off part or all of Bailey Street to make a pedestrian plaza, potential space for street vendors and open-air markets, or fitness area.

Participants discussed the potential for closing off part or all of Bailey Street to make a pedestrian plaza, potential space for street vendors and open-air markets, fitness area, or any number of other uses.

The portion in lighter orange between the two lots (above) is the minimum area that participants and the design team considered converting to open space.

Being able to use that section (or more) of the street would allow for more uses to be packed into the project. Residents wouldn’t have to choose between the structures they appeared to be most in favor of — affordable housing for seniors or very low-income residents, a grocery market, or a laundromat — and the open green space they were desperate for. And it might even allow for some of the more practical amenities many have called for, like public restrooms.

One gentleman even suggested a single structure bridging both lots in such a way as to allow for more housing to be packed in while leaving Bailey Street open (and creating a tunnel that offered shade).

As always, the question of affordable housing touched off heated conversation among participants. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Little Tokyo Gold Line Test Train on New Tracks

Little Tokyo test train this afternoon. Photo by Roger Rudick/Streetsblog L.A.

Little Tokyo test train this afternoon. Photo by Roger Rudick/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro is getting close to re-opening the temporarily detoured Gold Line through Little Tokyo. To facilitate Regional Connector subway construction, Metro removed and relocated a stretch of Gold Line tracks between the Little Tokyo and Pico Aliso Stations. This afternoon, Streetsblog S.F. editor Roger Rudick spotted rail cars traversing the rebuilt tracks. According to Rudick, the train was towed by a truck, so it was probably testing clearances.

At last month’s board meeting, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced that the under construction stretch would re-open March 21. Metro’s The Source reports that full testing of the new track section is expected next week.

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Metro Opens Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa

The Metro Gold Line has arrived in Azusa. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A. except where noted

The Metro Gold Line now extends east to Azusa. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A. except where noted

Last Saturday, Metro extended its growing rail network, celebrating the grand opening of the 11-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension. The initial phase of the Foothill Extension includes six new stations in five San Gabriel Valley cities: Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, and Azusa. Additional future phases would extend the Gold Line to Ontario Airport.

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 from Pasadena to Azusa. Image via Metro

Kick-off festivities began at the Duarte/City of Hope station, where a crowd of more than a thousand gathered to hear remarks from Metro board members, numerous representatives of the cities along the route, Metro’s CEO Phil Washington, and other luminaries.

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County Supervisor and Metro board chair Mark Ridley Thomas hosting the Gold Line opening festivities, proclaiming “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Read more…

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What This Gold Line & CicLAvia Weekend Says About So. Cal.’s Future

I am looking forward to this weekend.

My 2-year old daughter Maeve and I will be attending the opening festivities for the Metro Gold Line tomorrow, and we’ll be heading up to the northern San Fernando Valley for CicLAvia on Sunday.

The Foothill Gold Line opens tomorrow!

The Foothill Gold Line opens tomorrow!

If I were transportation investment king, I would not have prioritized building the Gold Line; it is not quite a corridor with high ridership projected. There is too much in the way of free parking. Some of the public art investment is directed more toward freeway drivers than rail riders.

The time for this criticism is in the past, though.

As I attended the Azusa station celebration, and I got to ride a press preview train, I kind of got the bug. Now, I confess I am excited about this shiny new rail infrastructure.

I am glad that the Gold Line will mean that I can much more easily visit my niece and nephew who attend college in Azusa. I am glad more of L.A. County will be within easier reach of my typical bike-transit trip. And I am really glad to see that Foothill Gold Line communities are embracing these stations as opportunities for transit-oriented development and downtown revitalization.

Metrolink will run extra trains to this Sunday's CicLAvia - The Valley

Route map for this Sunday’s CicLAvia – The Valley

This Sunday’s CicLAvia breaks new ground in bringing open streets to San Fernando Valley communities of Pacoima, Arleta, and Panorama City.

If I were CicLAvia king, this wouldn’t be where I would have picked for an open streets event. It will the first CicLAvia route that is not located along a Metro rail route. I think that this might mean more people will drive to get there.

This will be the first, but not the last. Thanks to Metro funding, there are lots and lots of L.A. County open streets events are coming up this year. Not all of them will not be rail-connected; examples include Downey (May 1) to Lawndale (April 25).

I used to think that CicLAvia would have a difficult time working in the San Fernando Valley.

I remember, when I was one of the organizers of L.A.’s first CicLAvia, we were told by a senior law enforcement officer that this kind of event just wouldn’t work in downtown Los Angeles. “This isn’t San Francisco” were his words. Later, many early CicLAvia doubters, including my local senior lead officer, expressed their wholehearted support for CicLAvia after seeing how successful the event was.

Hopefully CicLAvia will change my mind, the way it has changed so many people’s minds. I am looking forward to being proven wrong – to seeing how successful the Valley’s second CicLAvia will be.

All this to say that, despite lots of loud critics in NIMBY factions and the mainstream media, projects like the Foothill Gold Line and CicLAvia – The Valley show me that livability works not just in L.A.’s population-dense pedestrian- and transit-centric core (where I live) but in our farther-flung more car-centric suburban communities, too. These communities want more transportation choices, more health, more walkability, more livability – the same way mine does. Southern California is really undergoing a transformation under our noses, even if I feel like I am slogging through the rearguard trenches many days.

It is weekends like this one that give me hope for my city. And for the city my daughter will move through.

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Gold Line Foothill Extension Preview Ride from Pasadena to Azusa

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The view from the cab of the Gold Line test train westbound into Downtown Azusa Station. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, Metro hosted its first press preview for journalists to ride the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension. The 12-mile project includes 6 new stations. It will open on March 5th.

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

Foothill Gold Line Extension map via Metro

Overall the ride was smooth. The train departed Pasadena’s Sierra Madre Station, stopped very briefly at the intermediate five stations, but did not open doors until it arrived just 20 minutes later at the Azusa Pacific University/Citrus College Station at the eastern edge of Azusa.

After the jump, find a photo and video tour of the Foothill Extension. Read more…