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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…

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Metro Board Approves November 2016 Sales Tax Plan

Metro sales tax promotional image

Voters will decide Metro’s new sales tax measure this November

At its monthly meeting today, the Metro board of directors approved placing a sales tax measure on the November ballot. If approved by the voters, the measure would add a new half-cent sales tax and would extend Measure R’s half cent sales tax. These sales taxes would be permanent.

Today’s deliberations were quite a bit more contentious than last week’s unanimous committee approvals. After hours of public testimony – some hostile, some approving – the board considered the sales tax motion alongside four amending motions:

  • Boardmember and County Supervisor Don Knabe proposed two motions that would have derailed the sales tax. One would have postponed the vote, awaiting further study. Another would have allocated a great deal of funding for additional specific projects in Knabe’s district. Both Knabe motions failed to get enough votes for passage.
  • Boardmember and Inglewood Mayor James Butts pressed for a decision on his earlier motion to accelerate partially funded Measure R projects ahead of any new projects in this year’s ballot measure. Butts’ motion did not receive enough board votes to pass.
  • Boardmember and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spearheaded a motion to direct $180 million in ballot measure sales tax funding for a transit project, expected to be BRT, to serve the North San Fernando Valley. This addresses the recent push, led by State Senator Bob Hertzberg, for improved transit connections to Cal State Northridge. The Garcetti motion passed; it was the only sales tax amendment that did pass.

When the final sales tax vote passed, only boardmembers Knabe and Diane DuBois voted against.

Today’s approval includes $10.9 million to fund “election-related and public information costs.” Putting the measure on the ballot will cost $8.4 million. Metro will also spend $2.5 million to educate the public about it.

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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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#DamienTalksSGV 11 – Metro, Cacciotti and 626 Golden Streets

UPDATE VIA BIKE SGV, JUNE 23 : BREAKING NEWS: ‪#‎626GoldenStreets‬ POSTPONED for a future date given unfavorable conditions due to San Gabriel Valley Complex Fire 🔥😭😭 Please be advised: Openstreets and all activities planned for #626GoldenStreets will no longer be held this Sunday.

Thank You to all those who ALMOST made this truly special event possible. We thank sponsors, volunteers, vendors, performers and city staff for your commitment and continued support. #626GoldenStreets will be back, stay tuned!

June 26 San Gabriel Valley open streets map!

June 26 San Gabriel Valley open streets map!

This week, #DamienTalks with Laura Cornejo, the sustainability officer for Metro and the lead for Metro’s Open Streets events program. Metro has been funding numerous Open Streets events throughout L.A. County. Metro’s initial open streets funding cycle finishes up this weekend with 626 – an amazing 18-mile long multi-jurisdictional car-free party.

Damien Talks SGV logo626 Golden Streets will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Sunday, June 26. Metro, Bike SGV, seven cities and a host of other organizations invite you to explore ​18+ miles of open streets linking six Metro Gold Line stations and seven San Gabriel Valley cities ​stretching from South Pasadena to Azusa. Participants do not need to ride all 18 miles, but can start and finish wherever you like. Participants can walk, run, bike, skate, wheelchair, or crawl. Take breaks, stop for lunch, listen to music, shop, hang out, and generally enjoy streets open to all. The event is free, family-friendly, fun, and, of course, very easily accessible via the Metro Gold Line.

For more information, visit 626GoldenStreets.com.

After the talk with Cornejo, we are replaying our #DamienTalks from April 7 with South Pasadena Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Cacciotti. Cacciotti has been a critical figure in the effort to create the 626 both as an elected official and an advocate. As a fun bonus, the interview takes place on the Gold Line itself as Michael is heading home from work.

#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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Metro Board Committees Show Unanimity on November Sales Tax Proposal

Metro sales tax promotional image

Metro sales tax promotional image

Metro’s newly revised November sales tax expenditure plan flew through two board committees this week with virtually no discussion. The proposal was approved unanimously by both the Planning and Programming Committee and the Executive Management Committee. The plan now goes to the full board for approval at this month’s meeting on Thursday, June 23.

Last week, Metro announced the newest version of its spending plan. What had been a fifty-year sales tax has been modified to an indefinite “no sunset” sales tax. This allows for numerous large highway and transit projects to accelerated.

In the course of the two committee meetings, Metro directors Mike Bonin, Sheila Kuehl, James Butts, Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Hilda Solis, Mark Ridley-Thomas, John Fasana, Mike Antonovich, Eric Garcetti, and Paul Krekorian all voted to support the plan. County Supervisor Kuehl joked that there was an informal agreement among directors not to get into conflicts trying to “take a little from them and give it to us.”  Read more…

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Metro CEO Announces Revised November Sales Tax Proposal

Phil Washington outlines the latest version of Metro's sales tax expenditure plan. Photo: Joe Linton

Phil Washington outlines the latest version of Metro’s sales tax expenditure plan. Photo: Joe Linton

In a press briefing this afternoon, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced the latest changes to Metro’s planned November sales tax ballot measure. The proposal, which Washington calls “the most comprehensive in the country,” will be voted on by the Metro board in late June.

The biggest change today is that sales tax will have no sunset. Metro’s earlier expenditure plan would have lasted for only 40, 45 or 50 years. Washington’s “once and for all” new sales tax would continue indefinitely.

The lack of a sunset allows for better financing, especially in later years. This frees up monies to accelerate projects, both rail and highway, and to add a few new projects. Accelerated projects would include: Orange Line grade separation, Green Line to Torrance, West Santa Ana Branch rail, Gold Line extension east, Crenshaw North, and other projects.

The new plan also shifts funds slightly in a few categories, including increasing funds for local return and Metrolink. The new version of the plan increases local return from 16 percent to 17 percent, with a later increase to 20 percent in 2040. Metrolink funding would be increased from one percent to two percent. Administration and rail construction would be reduced by one percent each.

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Eyes on the Street: Metro Expo Line 2 Has Parking Available

Plenty of Expo Line parking available at the Bundy station. Photo taken Monday at 8 a.m. by Juan Matute

Plenty of Expo Line parking available at the Bundy station. Photo taken Monday at around 8 a.m. by Juan Matute

Expo

Plenty of Expo Line parking available at the 17th Street station. Photo taken today at around 8 a.m. by Juan Matute

Someone get the word out to all those eager Metro Expo Line riders that the L.A. Times, Los Angeles Magazine and KTLA5 were so concerned about! Get the word out to Pacific Palisades! Lo and behold, it turns out that there is actually plenty of car parking available along the newly-opened Metro Expo Line phase 2.

There are lots of people riding the new train. Sometimes the train cars get crowded. It turns out that, as in the past, apparently Expo is not that different from the rest of Metro’s transit network where more than 80 percent of riders arrive by walking. As SBLA opined earlier, it does appear that:

Metro has done a good job of balancing its investments in access to the Expo Line. By investing in parking, bus service, bike and walk facilities, Metro is giving Angelenos plenty of great choices.

The questions now may be: Why are there so many empty spaces? Why did Metro build so much parking (roughly 5-10 million dollars worth)?  Read more…

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South L.A. Celebrates Slate-Z’s Promise Zone Designation; Prepares to Roll up Sleeves and Get to Work

The area of South Los Angeles designated as a Promise Zone encompasses Historic South Central, moves east along important rail and bus corridors to the Crenshaw District. Source: Slate Z

The area of South Los Angeles designated as a Promise Zone encompasses Historic South Central, moves east along important rail and bus corridors to the Crenshaw District. Source: Slate-Z

If at first you don’t succeed in winning the Promise Zone designation from the Obama administration, try, try again.

Wait – scratch that.

If at first you don’t succeed, take the initiative to change the federal government’s understanding of urban poverty. And along the way, commit to laying the foundation for long-term cross-sector collaboration on behalf of your community, regardless of whether you win the grant.

Yes, that’s much better.

And it’s a winning formula, if the announcement that South Los Angeles was named one of five urban Promise Zones yesterday is anything to go by.

The designation is a game-changer with regard to a community’s ability to access federal funding. While it does not come with an outright guarantee of federal money, it makes the process of accessing aid much easier by boosting the competitiveness of grantees’ funding applications. The added preference points given to applications from 2014 Promise Zone awardees Hollywood, East Hollywood, Koreatown, Pico-Union, and Westlake have yielded 42 new grants for a total of $162 million over the past two years. And by feeding into a coalition of cross-sector community-based organizations, educational institutions, and city agencies working together to tackle the root causes of multi-faceted problems, the wisdom goes, the dollars will bounce a little harder within the community and make the social infrastructure a little more sustainable.

A Promise Zone designation also comes with a dedicated federal staffer that will help a grantee navigate the grant funding landscape. Because HUD works in partnership with 17 other agencies on Promise Zone programs, that staffer is essential in making grantees aware of the opportunities for funding that are out there and sorting out which will help the grantee further its goals for the community. Five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members will also be assigned to the grantee to offer technical assistance and build capacity.

Although it is a federal program, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Nani Coloretti told the slew of elected officials, educators, and non-profit representatives gathered at Los Angeles Trade Tech (LATTC) for a breakfast celebration of the announcement Monday morning, the Promise Zone program aims to take its cues from communities.

It’s a claim that seems to have been borne out in this latest round of applications.

When members of the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z) collaborative sat down to ask themselves why they had been passed over as a Promise Zone in 2015, they were prepared to believe the problem originated on their end. Many had been bitter about South L.A. being ineligible to participate in the first round of competition for a Promise Zone designation the year before* and, in response, had declared they would aggressively pursue the designation in the second round. They submitted a strong proposal that year, but it still failed to score very highly with HUD. Was the proposal lacking focus? Had they been unable to convince HUD that South L.A. could thrive? Was it that HUD was reluctant to award a second Promise Zone to L.A. – a designation that lasts ten years – so soon after awarding the first?

Nope, the collaborative members were shocked to learn when they came together for a debrief. The fault seemed to lie with the way the federal government conceptualized urban poverty.

South L.A.’s own brand of poverty, marked by overcrowded housing, underemployment, and high rates of homelessness, apparently wasn’t scoring well when held up against expectations modeled on poverty seen in cities like Detroit (where high vacancy rates and high levels of unemployment are the norm). Out of five possible points on the housing section of the application, South L.A. had scored a “1.” The same was true with jobs.

The information galvanized the collaborative. Read more…

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How Can L.A. Sheriffs Support Buses and Bikes Sharing Bus-Only Lanes?

Los Angeles bus-only lane signage. The bottom line states "BIKES OK" Photo: Marc Caswell

Los Angeles bus-only lane signage. The bottom line states “BIKES OK” Photo: Marc Caswell

On bus-only lane signage in Los Angeles, there is a little two-word section at the bottom that reads, “BIKES OK.”

Except when they’re not.

On May 24, bicycle commuter Mike MacDonald was riding in the “BIKES OK” peak-hour Wilshire Boulevard bus lanes. As he often does, MacDonald was recording his ride. He was cautioned by an L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy who stated, “You gotta let buses get through. This is their lane. You’re not even supposed to be in here right now.” He then instructed MacDonald to “be close to the curb.”

To his credit, the officer did not ticket the cyclist. MacDonald’s encounter is shown on his YouTube video and detailed in his article at Biking in L.A. In 2014, cyclist Marc Caswell had a similiar encounter where he was ticketed by a sheriff on the Sunset bus lane.

MacDonald filed a complaint with Metro, and actually received a response that went all the way to Alex Wiggins, Metro’s new Executive Director of Security, imported from Denver by Metro CEO Phil Washington.

Wiggins met with MacDonald earlier today. In an email to Streetsblog, MacDonald relates the meeting:

Mr. Wiggins wanted to meet on site at the location where I was stopped and scolded by a Sheriff’s Deputy.

On site, Mr. Wiggins explained to me that he supports and instructs Sheriff’s deputies to ticket cyclists who “impede” buses by using the lanes. He refused to discuss or reference any vehicle code basis for his direction to LASD to ticket cyclists using these lanes, saying that, “This is why we have a court system. If you disagree, you can take it up in a court of law.” Mr. Wiggins explained to me that he fully was aware of traffic law with regards to bikes because of his experience as a “bike cop.”

Wiggins followed up with an email to MacDonald that stated:
Read more…