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Foothill Gold Line Conference Builds Momentum To Extend

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“The Journey Continues” was a theme of today’s Foothill Gold Line conference. Pictured (left to right) are Metro board chair John Fasana, Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian and Chief Project Officer Chris Burner and Metro Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority hosted a one-day State of the Project 2016 conference today at Pomona College. Elected officials, agency leaders and others gathered to hear some success stories from previous segments, but mostly to look ahead to extending the Gold Line eastward to Montclair, and possibly further.

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The Foothill Gold Line’s next phase eastward, referred to as phase 2B, would extend 12.3 miles to just outside the L.A. County border with San Bernardino County. Stations would be located in Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair. The phase already has environmental clearance, and the construction authority’s board recently approved engineering designs.

At today’s event, construction authority leadership shared characteristics of the Glendora to Montclair extension. The phase is anticipated to cost $1.2 billion, of which still needed are $1.15 billion from L.A. County and $63 million from San Bernardino County. There will be four times more station parking than the prior Pasadena to Azusa segment. The new light rail runs in the same right-of-way as BNSF and Metrolink trains, hence there will complicated relocation of tracks to make space. The light rail stations will be in the middle of the tracks, making for less confusion for riders, but also necessitating some pedestrian under- and over-crossings.

That next extension dominated the conversation, but what really hung over the conference was Measure M, Metro’s sales tax which goes to L.A. County voters on November 8th.  Read more…

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#DamienTalksSGV 19 – Foothill Transit’s Doran Barnes

This week, #DamienTalks with Doran Barnes, the executive director of Foothill Transit and the Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Damien Talks SGV logoOur conversation touches on a wide range of subjects including integrating Foothill Transit with the new Gold Line Extension, Measure M, and Foothill Transit’s ground-breaking electric bus program.

We also talk about both APTA and Barnes’ agenda as chair of this national advocacy organization for transit providers. Barnes lists three things he would like APTA to accomplish in the next year, one of which is assuring that the infrastructure needs of the country remain a priority for the incoming administration in the White House.

If you want to hear the other two, you will have to listen in.

#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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#DamienTalks the Regional Connector with Metro’s Community and Construction Relations Team

Metro's Regional Connector subway is already over-budget

Today, #DamienTalks with Olga Arroyo and Jean Marie Hance with Community and Construction Relations for the Regional Connector Project in Downtown Los Angeles. With the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) going in the ground next week, it seemed the perfect time to connect with the Regional Connector.

The conversation is wide ranging and goes on for over twenty minutes, a rarity for this podcast. We cover a lot of ground, including:

  • Where are we in the construction timeframe?
  • The naming project for the Tunnel Boring Machine (to be announced next week)
  • Outreach projects including Go Little Tokyo
  • The station naming contest

Despite my best efforts, they would not tell me the names of the stations or the TBM. Even more disappointingly, no matter how many twitter accounts I create and spam them, I will not be able to get a station named after me.

But there is other exciting news. The TBM will be lowered into the ground next week at a special ceremony at the station at First Street and Central Avenue in Little Tokyo. Because it is an active construction zone, attendance is limited. You can get more details for the event in the podcast and can RSVP (if there’s space) by emailing regionalconnector[at]metro.net.

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Mike Kodama Explains West Santa Ana Branch “Eco-Rapid Transit” Rail Line

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Map of potential Eco-Rapid Transit rail line alignments. Image via Orangeline Development Authority

Metro’s Measure M expenditure plan [PDF] includes two phases of construction of the West Santa Ana Transit Corridor light rail line. These are anticipated to be open in 2028 and 2041. The new rail line would go from Union Station southeast through several cities including Huntington Park, South Gate, Lynwood, Paramount, and Bellflower, with a terminus in Artesia. 

The exact alignment, especially for the northern portion of the line, is still evolving, with multiple potential routes. The southern portion of the line would run on an old Pacific Electric streetcar right-of-way. A portion of the route would run along an existing walk and bike trail in the city of Bellflower.

Preliminary work is already underway with this new line. The West Santa Ana Transit Corridor was partially funded in Measure R. Metro did early alignment analysis a while ago, leading to the project’s inclusion in CEO Phil Washington’s Operation Shovel Ready initiative to get numerous projects ready for potential accelerated timelines. Last month the Metro board approved a four-year $12 million contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff to complete environmental clearance work for the line

Streetsblog readers may not be aware that, similar to the Gold and Expo Lines, the Eco-Rapid Line has its own Joint Powers Authority. The JPA board includes representatives from southeast L.A. County cities, but also includes the city of Glendale and Burbank Airport, in support of a future vision that would also extend the line northward from Union Station.

Earlier this month, SBLA interviewed Mike Kodama, the Executive Director of the Orangeline Development Authority. The interview took place over email earlier this month.

SBLA: Tell Streetsblog readers about yourself. What’s your background? How did you come to be Executive Director of the Eco-Rapid Transit authority?

Mike Kodama: I am a transportation planner. I work on a variety of transportation planning, funding, and policy issues. I have spent a lot of time in many parts of the country developing parking management programs. I have a masters in urban planning from UCLA and I am also a professor teaching transportation planning at USC. I became Executive Director in 2009.

This line gets called “The Orange Line”, “Eco-Rapid”, and “West Santa Ana Branch.” What are all those names?

The formal name is the Orangeline Development Authority. This was because the original concept was to connect Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

A few years ago, the organization was looking for another name so it would not be confused with the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit project in the San Fernando Valley. They picked the name Eco-Rapid Transit – the idea of economy, ecology, and moving fast.

West Santa Ana Branch is the name of the former Pacific Electric line that ran until the mid-1950s. There is a right-of-way from Bellflower all the way down to Santa Ana. Therefore – “West Santa Ana Branch.”

The historic PE West Santa Ana Branch railway station still stands in Bellflower. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The historic PE West Santa Ana Branch railway station still stands in Bellflower. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

What work is already underway for the Eco-Rapid Transit line, such as early transit-oriented development plans?

Eco-Rapid Transit has developed transit corridor guidelines. We also conducted an environmental justice study. Along with the technical refinement study, these plans set up principles and concepts of working together in the corridor.

We also are working on station planning. [There are] lot of studies, planning, and changes to get ready for economic development opportunities in the entire corridor.

What is the status of the main rail project? In September, Metro approved its contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff to complete the environmental clearance for the West Santa Ana Branch (WSAB) Transit Corridor. When is this work getting underway? Will there be opportunities for the public to get informed and give input?

Absolutely – we want input from the public. The work is just getting underway.

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The West Santa Ana Branch cuts diagonally through southeast L.A. County and adjacent Orange County. Photo of the present day tracks crossing Paramount Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue.

The West Santa Ana Branch is in Measure M, though it is split into two segments expected to open in 2028 and 2041. What do you think about that timetable? Are there potential ways to speed things up? Perhaps a public-private partnership?

I think it must move faster and the construction timeline needs to be reduced. We are very excited about P3 and are looking forward to exploring this option. We know about the work in Denver and other places – we need this type of innovation here, too.

Eco-Rapid’s joint powers mandate includes a northern segment, through Glendale and Burbank and further into the San Fernando Valley. What are the prospects for funding and constructing the upper portion?

This also includes thinking into the future – including Hollywood Burbank Airport and the development of “plane-to-train” concepts. This concept was led by Supervisor Antonovich and the Hollywood Burbank Airport, leading to new ground access concepts and now a new Metrolink Station on the Antelope Valley Line. We want transit improvements to serve all our members.

The northern segment is in “unconstrained plans for the future.” We think this is a great opportunity–the idea of connecting to Glendale and then into the airport. Imagine the possibilities of flying into Bob Hope Airport and having public transit options to Universal Studios, Disneyland, downtown, and the beach.

Is there any interest in continuing the line into Orange County? How might that work?

We hope so. We have been built on the concept of local leadership and would welcome an opportunity to work with Orange County cities and OCTA to move project concepts and ideas forward.

Cyclists riding the West Santa Ana Branch bike path in the city of Bellflower

Cyclists riding the West Santa Ana Branch bike path in the city of Bellflower

This is a question we typically end SBLA interviews with: if you had a magic wand and could instantly transform one thing about Southern California transportation and livability, what would you change?

We need to learn to work together and think like a region. Look at Gateway Cities – it includes 2.4 million people and would be the fourth largest city in the United States. Our thirteen members work very hard to find common ground and we are built on helping our residents and communities. We are working together in a coordinated and collaborative process. I think it is the only way to move forward.

We need to make this a better and safer place – all of us working together would make the region much better.

 

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New Map Shows Metro’s 20,000+ Parking Spaces, Mostly Free

Metro Rail and BRT parking map - by Mehmet Berker

Metro Rail and BRT parking map created by Mehmet Berker. Click for higher resolution PDF

Earlier this year, a Seattle transit parking infographic map made the rounds. Created by Zach Shaner at Seattle Transit Blog, the map is helpful for visualizing the urban to suburban mix of station uses, and understanding the investments that Seattle’s transit agency is planning.

Inspired by Shaner’s Seattle example, friend of the blog Mehmet Berker created an analogous map for L.A. County. The map above includes, as of this month, all of Metro’s current rail and BRT station parking, plus Crenshaw/LAX rail line parking currently under construction. Mercifully, neither of the under-construction subways – the Regional Connector and the Purple Line – include parking. The parking data is from Metro’s Park and Ride web page.

Similar to the Seattle map, the core of the Metro system (where most boarding occurs) has very little parking. The rest of the system, though, has lots and lots of parking (pun intended.) Including a couple hundred Crenshaw/LAX line spaces, Metro has 24,121 parking spaces. Only 1,596 of them (6.6 percent) are paid for by drivers. The remaining 22,267 (92.3 percent) are free, which is to say that they are paid for by taxpayers and transit riders, whether they drive or not.  Read more…

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Streetsblog L.A. Endorses Measure M

There is a lot to like about Measure M, the Los Angeles County sales tax that would fund a mix of transit and other transportation projects throughout the county. For all of the transit, mobility, walkability, bikeability benefits – not to mention health, environmental, and job benefits – across the region, Streetsblog Los Angeles endorses Measure M.

Measure M rail and BRT network. Image by xxx

Measure M rail and BRT network. Map by Adam Linder

Start by taking a look at the fully-built-out transit map that SBLA reader Adam Linder created based on Measure M’s expenditure plan. This is huge. This rail and rapid bus network would change the way that L.A. County moves. Frequent, high quality transit would extend to the San Fernando Valley, Pomona, the South Bay, the Sepulveda Pass, West Hollywood, Glendale, and to the edges of San Bernardino and Orange Counties.

There is plenty more for livability in Measure M’s expenditure plan: bicycling and walking especially for the first/last mile connection to transit, Metrolink, complete streets, fare subsidies for those in need, ADA paratransit, and hard-to-come-by maintenance funding to keep Metro’s facilities in a state of good repair.

Measure M is not perfect.

State law makes it nearly impossible to pass a ballot measure with any sort of tax except a sales tax. This means that despite the best intentions of the authors of the initiative, the funding mechanism for this revolutionary proposal is still a regressive sales tax. Distressingly, it offers the least promise to the lower-income residents of L.A. who will be disproportionately impacted by the sales tax and who rely on bus service the most.

Measure M would also fund outdated freeway and road projects. We can look past this spending as a pragmatic move to appease the voting public to get the measure passed. Among the early opposition to Measure M, though, are groups that find the measure’s highway funding to be insufficient. These backward-looking interests want to see more freeway widening sooner, no doubt continuing Southern California’s sad expensive spiral of more widening and more congestion.

Outdated highway projects are unsustainable in many ways, including fiscally. With state and federal gas tax revenues failing to cover ongoing transportation expenditures, it is a critical time for Los Angeles County to continue to step up and fund our own transportation future. Measure M would create an indefinite funding stream that gives L.A. County control of our future spending. Local control helps ensure that spending prioritizes local needs, even as those needs change and grow.

In 2008 and 2012, Streetsblog L.A. and our parent non-profit the Southern California Streets Initiative did not formally endorse or oppose Measure R or Measure J. Measure M is significantly better and more holistic than either of those prior propositions.

Lastly, the leadership of Metro CEO Phil Washington at the helm gives us greater confidence in supporting Measure M. Washington, his team, and plenty of continuing dedicated Metro staff, are taking strides to ensure that Metro is well-managed, fiscally prudent, and responsive to its riders and their communities. With the significant changes that transit and transit-oriented development are already bringing to many areas, Washington’s Metro will need to prioritize building stronger relationships with affected communities as it continues to build its networks. Metro needs be proactive in ensuring that all communities benefit from this growth, especially lower-income communities of color that continue to be the core of Metro’s ridership.

Streetsblog strongly endorses Measure M, and urges all our readers to vote yes on M on November 8.

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Ideas On How Metro and the Rams Can Expand Fan Transportation Choices

Expo Line platform crowding after Rams game. Photo via Metro

Expo Line platform crowding after this week’s Rams game. Photo via Metro

You may have heard that the National Football League’s Rams are back in Los Angeles. The football is no doubt exciting, but the team’s presence has also elevated Southern California conversations about parking, congestion, transit, and traffic.

Now through 2018, the Rams play home games at the Coliseum in Exposition Park, a stone’s throw from the Metro Expo Line. In the future, the Rams will be playing at a new stadium under construction in Inglewood. The new stadium, expected to be completed by 2019, will be just over a mile from Metro’s under-construction Crenshaw/LAX light rail line.

At the Rams first regular season home game, the Los Angeles Times reported parking prices surging well over $100. Rather than proclaiming parking doom, the paper interviewed parking expert Don Shoup, explained congestion pricing, and declared high prices to be “good news for mass transit backers.” Metro’s The Source reported that 26 percent of Rams attendees, 21,000 of the 80,000, took transit to the game. This is nearly quadruple transit’s 7 percent share of L.A. County commute trips.

Though SBLA will offer some advice after the jump, first a couple of caveats: Read more…

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Metro Moving Forward With $4 Million For 17 Open Streets

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CicLAvia open streets event participants. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee approved $4.04 million for 17 L.A. County open streets events to take place through December 2018. The full Metro board of directors is expected to approve the open streets program funding at its meeting next Thursday.

This is the second round of Metro open street event funding, with the agency budgeting $2 million per fiscal year. Metro support has resulted in extending open streets, including CicLAvia, to take place in a diverse range of L.A. County jurisdictions from Downey to Santa Monica to Long Beach. In addition to fostering bicycling and walking, Metro staff reported that past open streets events have shown increased Metro rail ridership (10 percent greater along the route corridor) and system-wide increased sales of Metro day passes.

Metro’s 17 upcoming open streets events include seven multi-jurisdictional events, and 11 cities hosting their first open streets event.

After the jump is the full list the Metro recommended open streets events, listed in Metro’s ranking order:  Read more…

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Proterra Unveils 350-Mile Range Electric Buses at APTA Conference in L.A.

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Proterra’s new Catalyst E2 electric bus parked outside the APTA conference. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At the American Public Transit Association’s annual meeting in downtown Los Angeles, electric bus maker Proterra unveiled its new Catalyst E2 transit bus. The Catalyst E2 electric bus is “named for its unprecedented Efficient Energy (E2) storage capacity.” According to Proterra:

[A]n E2 series vehicle achieved a new milestone at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds where it logged more than 600 miles on a single charge under test conditions. Its nominal range of 194 – 350 miles means the Catalyst E2 series is capable of serving the full daily mileage needs of nearly every U.S. mass transit route on a single charge and offers the transit industry the first direct replacement for fossil-fueled transit vehicles.

Proterra manufactures these buses at plants in L.A. County’s City of Industry and in Greenville, South Carolina.

Los Angeles County’s Foothill Transit is among the nation’s early adopters of electric bus technology, with a planned all-electric bus fleet by 2030. According to Doran Barnes, Executive Director at Foothill Transit and new APTA board chair:

We just surpassed one million miles of revenue service with our battery-electric Proterra fleet, and we’re looking forward to many more miles to come. Since our first EV bus procurement with Proterra in 2010, we knew that zero-emission buses were the future of mass transit. Now, with the new Catalyst E2, this vision is a reality. We’re excited by the possibilities of an all-electric future.

Read more…

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Court Rules For Metro’s Measure M, Against Lawsuit Filed By Seven Cities

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.

Metro’s Measure M will still need approval from two-thirds of L.A. County voters in November, but the transportation sales tax got a little good news today. A superior court judge rejected a lawsuit filed by the cities of Carson, Commerce, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes, and Signal Hill. The lawsuit alleged that Measure M’s ballot summary language is incomplete and therefore misleading. These cities also claimed that Measure M would shortchange the southern portion of L.A. County.

According to City News Service (via My News L.A.) today:

A judge today rejected a petition filed on behalf of South Bay-area cities seeking significant changes in the ballot language for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed half-cent county sales tax measure, saying there was no evidence the wording was confusing to voters.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel said Measure M is not an initiative and therefore did not require the ballot language specifics sought in the action filed last week by the cities of Carson, Commerce, Norwalk, Torrance, Santa Fe Springs, Ranchos Palos Verdes and Signal Hill. The petition alleged that the ballot label for Measure M did not include the actual 1 percent total rate of the tax to be imposed. The petitioners also claimed the ballot label for Measure M does not state that the proposed tax would be permanent.

Carson Mayor Albert Robles said after the hearing that he and the other coalition members were disappointed with the ruling and are considering an appeal. He said Metro’s argument that the coalition was required to seek help from the Legislature was not an option because it would have been too late to do so in time for the November election.

Yusef Robb of Yes on Measure M reacted to the victory with this statement:

Measure M is clear on what it will do: ease congestion and make transportation improvements Countywide and in each of L.A. County’s 88 cities. The plaintiffs attempted to mislead the voters with a politically motivated lawsuit, but the court ruled today that there was no evidence the wording is confusing to voters. The plaintiffs should stop interfering with the voters’ right to make their own judgment on Measure M.