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With Legal Challenges Completed, What’s Next in Beverly Hills Subway Drama

Late Friday afternoon, I was already at a dinner meeting when I heard the news. Metro announced that the most recent, and likely last, lawsuit against the Purple Line Subway Extension under Beverly Hills has been completed.

We agree. Pull quote via ##http://bhweekly.com/##Beverly Hills Weekly Issue 808##

We agree. Pull quote via Beverly Hills Weekly Issue 808

Despite some testy language against the transit agency and the Federal Transit Agency which approved the project, the ruling is a clear victory for Metro. The FTA’s record of decision, already upheld by one federal court, stands and the agency can move forward with securing funds to complete the project. The agency will have to redo some of its studies, but it should not impact the final timeline. Beverly Hills interests may appeal, but in the meantime, Metro can award contracts and get construction underway.

Metro wasted little time declaring victory at its news outlet The Source and vowed to continue its work on the project. The future for Beverly Hills is a little more uncertain.

In a case of bad timing, last week the Beverly Hills Unified School District voted to place a bond measure on the fall ballot to fund new construction at its high school. The current bond measure has not resulted in as much construction as originally promised, in part because the District’s legal expenses are among the highest in the U.S., on a per-student basis. From Beverly Hills Weekly (Issue 880):

According to research conducted by Board of Education Vice President Mel Spitz last December, comparative school districts spend $65 per student on legal fees, whereas the BHUSD spends $478.

BHUSD legal fees for the 2015-16 fiscal year totaled $3.2 million.

It also seems unlikely that Metro will be forced to pay for BHUSD’s legal fees, as boardmembers for the School District had promised in previous years. Read more…

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Metro Opens North Hollywood Pedestrian Underpass for Orange and Red Lines

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Officials cut the orange ribbon on the Orange Line side of the new North Hollywood pedestrian underpass. Left to right: Ray Tellis, Federal Transit Administration, Paul Krekorian, L.A. City Councilmember, John Fasana, Metro Board chair, Tony Cardenas, U.S. Congressmember, Eric Garcetti, city of L.A. Mayor, Stephanie Wiggins, Metro, and Jess Talamantes, city of Burbank Mayor. Photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro riders transferring between the Orange and Red Lines will find their commutes improved today. Today, the agency opened its new North Hollywood Station Underpass project, which includes new elevators, escalators, and fare gates. The $22 million underpass was funded in part by a $10 million federal TIGER grant.

The new tunnel was celebrated by elected officials including Metro Board chair, John Fasana, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, U.S. Congressmember Tony Cardenas, and L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian. Speakers emphasized the safety and convenience of the undercrossing. According to Metro staff reports [PDF], the tunnel will save riders approximately 44 seconds on each transfer between the Red and Orange Lines. Krekorian announced that the recently renovated historic Lankershim Depot will re-open this fall, including a small park next to the new tunnel entrance.

Photos of the opening and the tunnel after the jump.  Read more…

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County Supervisors Approve Metro Sales Tax For November Ballot

Metro's sales tax proposal as it will appear on the November 2016 ballot.

Metro’s sales tax proposal as it will appear on the November 2016 ballot. Image via Metro communication to L.A. County [PDF]

Yesterday, the Los Angels County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved including Metro’s planned sales tax measure on the November ballot. The approval was expected as all of the supervisors sit on the Metro board where four out of five them already voted to move forward with the measure. Supervisor Don Knabe voted against the ballot measure at the June Metro board meeting; yesterday he joined his fellow supervisors in supporting letting L.A. County voters decide. To be approved, the measure must pass by a two-thirds majority.

The sales tax measure, which has been provisionally referred to as Measure R2, will soon have its own official letter designation, likely “Measure M.” Metro requested the letter “M”, with “E” or “T” as alternatives if M is not available.

Read Los Angeles Times coverage for additional details about yesterday’s approval.

Groups are already lining up for and against the November ballot measure.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments endorsed the measure. Though San Fernando Valley governmental bodies have not made their formal endorsement yet, there is, as reported by The Daily News, a great deal of support among Valley leadership, including elected officials and business groups.

Again from the Tribune, the South Bay and Gateway Cities COGs oppose it. According to Wave Newspapers, Gateway COG member city of Norwalk’s councilmembers are opposing the measure because it does not widen their portion of the 5 Freeway soon enough.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is among the strongest boosters for the Metro sales tax measure. In July, Garcetti tapped two of his leadership team to spearhead efforts to pass the ballot measure: Executive Vice Mayor Bill Carrick and Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Jacobs.

 

 

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Metro Making Plans to Use Transit to Connect Communities with Parks

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The executive summary of the Parks and Needs Assessment results. Note the concentration of “very high” park needs in the downtown, south-central regions, and San Fernando Valley regions of the county. Source: Los Angeles Countywide Comprehensive Parks & Recreation Needs Assessment

Nearly two years ago, President Obama noted the need for greater and more equitable park accessibility while speaking at the San Gabriel Mountain national monument designation ceremony:

“This is an issue of social justice, because it’s not enough to have this awesome natural wonder within your sight – you have to be able to access it.”

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Over 50% of Los Angeles county’s population has a “very high” or “high” park need according to the county assessment. Source: Los Angeles Countywide Comprehensive Parks & Recreation Needs Assessment

Metro, the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority, appears to be taking President Obama’s concerns for park access and equity seriously.

In June, the Metro board of directors approved a “Transit to Open Spaces and Parks” motion. The motion was authored by directors Hilda Solis, Sheila Kuehl, and John Fasana. It directs the agency to create a comprehensive transit-to-open space parks overview of park access in Los Angeles’s local, state, and federal land parks, while prioritizing recommendations for low-income and park-poor communities.

Metro’s “Transit to Open Spaces and Parks” plans are expected to be completed by October and will detail opportunities for future transit access, identify funding sources, and provide recommendations for new transit service connecting to parks, such as active transportation bike lanes, greenways, and public transit shuttles.

The Metro motion follows the massive countywide Parks & Recreation Needs Assessment, a two-year inventory and analysis of park project and maintenance recommendations for each of L.A. County’s 86 cities, completed last May, 2016.

With research demonstrating the mental and physical benefits of parks, Metro’s call for a coordinated park-access analysis comes at a much-needed time for Los Angeles. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) 2008 Environmental Justice report found a complete lack of public transit services to national parks and “very limited” access to state parks.

The dearth in Los Angeles residents’ access to green space extends to local city parks as well.

Read more…

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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.

Tripthing

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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Eyes on the Street: North Hollywood Station Underpass Nears Completion

North Hollywood Station's new above-ground structures, as viewed from the Red Line Station. The new North Hollywood tunnel is due to open August 2016. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

North Hollywood Station’s new above-ground structures, as viewed from across Lankershim Boulevard last week. The new North Hollywood underpass is due to open this August. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s new tunnel connecting North Hollywood’s Red Line and Orange Line stations is looking nearly complete. According to Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero, the project is anticipated to open next month. Per Metro [PDF] the tunnel will save riders approximately 44 seconds on transfers between the Red and Orange Lines.

The Red Line station’s fare gates and fences have been reconfigured. The above-ground structures for the escalators and elevator seem nearly done. Riders who poke their heads around the construction fence can see that the tunnel itself, while still a construction site, appears almost ready for pedestrian traffic.

More photos after the jump.  Read more…

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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 Bike Share Kicks-Off, System Open In Downtown L.A.

Metro board chair John Fasana celebrates the arrival of Metro Bike Share. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro board chair John Fasana celebrates the arrival of Metro Bike Share. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning a crowd of over a thousand people gathered to celebrate the opening of Los Angeles’ newest transportation system: Metro Bike Share. The system’s opening festivities took place at Grand Park. It featured music, speakers, and a ceremonial ride where cyclists rode bike-share bikes to distribute them to stations throughout downtown L.A.

The Metro Bike Share system includes just over a thousand bikes at about 65 docking stations throughout downtown Los Angeles, from Union Station to the Arts District to Staples Center to L.A. Trade Tech College to Chinatown. View a dynamic map of the system here or find it on the Metro Bike Share app.

Right now through the end of July, the system is open to members only. To become a member sign-up online at Metro Bike Share. As of August 1, the system will be fully open to preregistered members and walk-ups.

Photos of today’s kick-off follow after the jump.  Read more…

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Metro Bike-Share Opens July 7, Mobility Advocates Team up for Equity

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Metro Bike Share debuts next week. Photo via Allison Mannos

Southern California’s largest bike-share system, Metro Bike Share, debuts next week!

Metro Bike Share will feature 1,000+ bicycles at 65+ docking stations in downtown Los Angeles. Starting July 7, Metro Bike Share will only be available to pass holders who sign up in advance. On August 1, the bike-share system will open to walk-up customers. The system is expected to expand to Pasadena in 2017, and additional L.A. County locations in the future. Metro Bike Share is operated by the Philadelphia-based vendor Bicycle Transit Systems (BTS).

At 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 7, Grand Park will host a bike-share kick-off celebration. The event will feature speakers, free snacks, and music. At the conclusion, riders will hop on bikes and ride to distribute them to bike-share docks throughout the system. Register for the kick-off via Eventbrite; RSVP and share via Facebook event.

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

Metro’s Bike Share cost to users. Image via Metro

Under Metro’s bike-share fare policy, riders can purchase a $20 unlimited Monthly Pass which covers all 30-minute rides with no per-ride cost. Alternately, less frequent system users can purchase a $40 annual Flex Pass, the pay $1.75 per trip. Walk-up use, which begins August 1, costs $3.50 per ride. For low-income riders, students, and seniors, bikes are available for the Flex Pass cost of $1.75 for up to 30 minutes usage, with no $40 annual fee. Correction: student and senior discount fares are approved, but at a later phase, not available initially. Sign up via the Metro Bike Share website.

The first 1000 riders who sign up for Metro Bike Share will receive a special membership kit including commemorative pins and TAP card.

Metro Bike Share will be L.A. County’s first smart-dock system. Existing systems in Long Beach, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and (expected to debut this summer) West Hollywood, are all smart-bike systems. For those who have never used a bike-share docking system, watch Metro’s instructional video for basic instructions.

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Map of bike-share stations in Downtown L.A. Note that this is a screen-shot, for an up-to-date map go to Metro Bike Share’s dynamic system map.

Bike-share docks have been appearing around downtown Los Angeles, and on social media. There are docks every few blocks from Chinatown to Union Station to the Arts District to L.A. Trade Tech College to Staples Center and in between.

One exciting aspect of the new bike-share system is that Metro is working to make it as accessible as possible to low-income riders. In addition to discounted costs for students, seniors, and those of lower-income and TAP card integration, Metro has teamed up with Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM) and the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) on a $100,000 program to make sure bike-share serves low-income riders. The program is funded by a $75,000 grant from the national Better Bike Share Partnership, with $25,000 in matching funds from Metro.

Generally bike-share systems have not served the mobility needs of very low income people, especially folks who do not have credit cards. MCM’s Maria Sipin states that “MCM recognizes that existing bikeshare systems have not been readily accessible to low-income communities of color, and this system can operate differently. MCM is committed to working with our partners to ensure that low-income communities of color transform this bike share system into one that promotes equity for all.”  Read more…