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Posts from the "Metro" Category


Federal Changes Causing Metro to Withdraw Previously Approved Funding for Bike and Ped Projects

These planned bike and walk paths are among xxx projects that Metro was going to fund, but not any more.

This planned Pacoima Wash greenway is among 49 bicycle and pedestrian projects that Metro is “transitioning.” Metro had approved, but now cites a funding shortfall, and is encouraging this project to instead seek state funding.  See full list of projects below. Image: Pacoima Wash Vision Plan courtesy of Pacoima Beautiful

At last week’s board meeting, Metro weighed the future of its commitment to funding active transportation: walking and bicycling. Changes in federal government funding are leading Metro to withdraw from its past bike and ped programs.

Right now, 49 projects, totaling over $90 million, are on Metro’s list for “transition.” Metro had approved funding for these, but is now requiring project sponsors to seek other monies.

For a couple of decades, Metro’s every-other-year Call for Projects (Call) has been the major source of funding for bike and pedestrian projects throughout L.A. County. Federal transportation funding passed to Metro. Local cities applied to Metro to receive funds. Relatively expensive bike/ped transportation projects, including completed portions of the L.A. River bike path, received Metro Call funding.

In 2012, the federal government passed its new transportation bill, called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21. The feds changed the rules for funding bicycle and pedestrian projects. Funding used to be through a program called Transportation Enhancements (TEA), which was eliminated. Now bike and ped funding is channeled through Transportation Alternatives (TA), which funds more types of projects with less money than was available under TEA. These federal changes have taken a while to work their way into California’s rules. In response to the federal changes, the state consolidated and retooled its bike and pedestrian funding into a new Active Transportation Program (ATP.) The ATP has a few pots of money (more on that in future articles), with the largest share being a statewide competitive process.

Metro, through its Call, had already approved funding for projects scheduled well into the future–through the year 2019. Federal and state changes have eliminated funds that Metro anticipated would pay for these future projects.

At the February 27th Metro Board meeting, Metro staff presented a report and presentation regarding transitioning to the state Active Transportation Program. In essence, Metro is looking to withdraw its previously-approved Call funding for 49 bicycle and pedestrian projects in various local cities. These projects (listed below) total $90 million in projected Metro funding. The 49-project list only represents around half of the Metro Call’s future bike and pedestrian project obligations–the ones that appear most likely to get state funding. So, there will likely be more hand-offs still to come.

Read more…

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Metro Scores $200 Million in Obama’s Proposed Budget

There is much celebrating going on by Metro and  transit expansion advocates around the region. In President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for next year, a cool $200 million is set aside for Los Angeles under the “new starts” program. $100 million of that is set to go towards the Regional Connector and the other $100 million to the Westside Subway extension.

The $200 million is a record investment for the Los Angeles region and will help both projects be completed at lower cost to local taxpayers. Both projects are partially funded by the Measure R sales tax passed by voters in 2008.

The Obama budget comes through for Eric Garcetti and Metro. Image: Eric

The Obama budget comes through for Eric Garcetti and Metro. Image: Eric

This is certainly good news for Los Angeles, however there are a couple of major obstacles left before Metro can start cashing these checks.

First, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has to play ball, and there are many reasons to believe they won’t be willing to. Knowing that a carbon tax of some sort might be politically unpopular in a mid-term election year, the Obama Administration proposes to close the transportation funding gap by “reforming” the corporate tax code. At Streetsblog USA, Angie Schmitt explains the problems with this approach:

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the White House budget proposal includes $100 billion in new taxes on corporations’ international operations. About $150 billion is needed to bridge the gap between gas tax revenue and projected federal transportation spending over the next four years.

But even if the administration is able to somehow convince the House and Senate to pass the tax increase, there’s always a chance the budget itself won’t be able to pass the House of Representatives. It’s fortuitous that Obama and House Republican David Camp have similar plans for business tax reform, but mid-term elections often aren’t the best time for bi-partisan compromise to rule the day.

Over at The Source, Steve Hymon writes of the “big picture”: Read more…


Legislation Would Change Composition of Metro Board, Adding Two Appointees of State Legislature

L.A. County residents have long complained that they don’t receive a fair share of funds from Metro, noting that many transit projects take place inside of the City of Los Angeles. Now, legislation by Assemblyman Chris Holden, seeks to change that reality by adding to new seats to the Metro Board of Directors.

State Senator Carol Liu, Arcadia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz and Holden at the opening of the Gold Line Arcadia Overpass. Image: ## of Chris Holden##

State Senator Carol Liu, Arcadia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz and Holden at the opening of the Gold Line Arcadia Overpass. Image: Office of Chris Holden

“Beginning with my tenure on the Pasadena City Council and continuing to my service in the California State Assembly, I have long heard complaints about the allocation of funding, and regional representation on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro),” writes Holden. “Too frequently I hear that although all residents of Los Angeles County pay to fund county wide ballot measures, only select residents receive their fair share of the benefits. I felt this simmering discontent reach a boiling point last summer when the Metro Board amended Measure R’s expenditure plan to deemphasize projects that voters were convinced would be a priority when voting for the sales tax in 2008.”

Assembly Bill 1941 would add  two voting members who would be appointed by the Speaker of the State Assembly and the State Senate Committee on Rules.

Currently, the Metro Board is made up of 13 voting members. Five are county supervisors, one is the mayor of Los Angeles, three are appointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles, and four represent the local “Council of Governments.” There is also a representative of Caltrans on the Board, but that position is non-voting. If AB 1941 becomes law, Metro would be the only transit agency with state appointed representatives. A report prepared by staff for today’s Metro Board meeting encouraged the Board to vote against the legislation for that reason.

“While there may be no perfect solution to the allocation of limited resources to address what seem to be limitless needs, AB 1941 represents a dialogue about who does and does not have a voice in the planning of community’s infrastructure needs,” Holden continued. “Many of us, while not a member of the Metro Board are heavily invested in the success of this agency and passage of another countywide measure to fund the county’s transportation priorities.”

When Holden speaks of “de-emphasizing” projects, he is referring to Metro’s efforts to speed up certain transit projects funded by the Measure R sales tax. When the Board voted last year on an acceleration plan, it specifically excluded the proposed I-710 Big Dig, the Gold Line Extension to Azusa and other projects.

Not surprisingly, Metro Board Members aren’t excited by Holden’s motion and they aren’t shy about letting state officials know it. After the Board quickly and unanimously passed a motion against AB 1941, Streetsblog talked with some of the Board Members.

“Increasing Sacramento influence over regional transportation decisions, while Sacramento’s investment in regional transportation needs is diminishing, makes no sense,” writes Paul Krekorian, a Los Angeles City Councilmember and Mayoral Appointee to the Board. “This bill would simply diminish the City’s role in meeting the needs of our residents and it should be rejected.”

There has long been friction between the Board Members who represent the City of Los Angeles, or part of the City of Los Angeles, and ones from the rest of the County. One Metro staffer, who was speaking off the record, jokes that the only thing the County Supervisors and COG representatives can agree on is who their enemy is: whoever is the Mayor of Los Angeles. However, that doesn’t mean that those not representing the city see AB 1941 as a good bill. Read more…


Reorganization or Shakeup? Change in Metro Staff Has Some Wondering About Highway Projects

Failing, pre-beard, speaks at a safety press event. Image: ## Study San Rafael Neighborhoods##

Metro recently released executive director of higway programs Doug Failing, shown here speaking at a safety press event. Caltrans photo by Thomas Ritter

“It’s a bloodletting.”

While Metro’s public relations team is portraying the departure of several high-profile senior staff as nothing more than the by-product of a reorganization, some in Metro’s personnel believe the staff shakeup is being pushed by CEO Art Leahy to best prepare the agency for the massive construction projects that are coming online.

As one Metro spokesperson, who was speaking on background as he is not authorized to speak about personnel matters noted, Metro has historically only worked on one rail transit project at a time. It is currently building three, with two more projects about to come online. A major change in the type of projects Metro is overseeing construction of naturally leads to a change in the structure of the agencies project delivery departments.

But that can only explain so much of the “bloodletting.”

A second explanation is offered in the Pasadena Star-News. Following a motion by Glendale City Councilmember and Metro Board Member Ara Najarian, Metro hired professional consultants to examine the agency. Their report showed an agency that is overstaffed leading to Leahy’s effort to streamiline the agency.

“It’s an attempt to streamline the upper management of Metro and to make sure we are operating as efficiently as possible,” Najarian said. “We felt that it was getting a little too bureaucratic and at least at the top level we were losing sight of our core mission and our core direction and too much involved in the day-to-day management of departments and divisions of departments.”

Michelle Lopes Caldwell, Metro’s chief administrative services officer, Roger Moliere, Metro’s executive director in charge of real estate, and Doug Failing, Metro’s executive director of highway programs, have all left the company in recent weeks. Two different sources, and the Los Angeles Times are saying that Terry Matsumoto, the agency’s chief financial officer is next. The departures are happening so quickly, that Metro’s online “management staff directory” has the wrong people listed as the heads of at least four departments.

The biggest departure is Doug Failing, who previously served 29 years at Caltrans including running the District 7 Office in Downtown Los Angeles. While Metro staff assured me on Thursday that the long-time transportation executive was just the victim of a reorganization.  Both Failing and Bryan Pennington were candidates for the new position heading the construction department that will include highway and rail construction. When Pennington was offered the position, Failing chose to retire.

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Second Time is Not a Charm: Community Still Vociferously Opposed to Plans for Lorena Plaza in Boyle Heights

The proposed Lorena Plaza apartments would sit at the corner of 1st and Lorena, next to el Mercado de Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The proposed Lorena Plaza apartments would sit at the corner of 1st and Lorena, next to el Mercado de Los Angeles and across the street from the Everbrown, er, Evergreen Cemetery. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

What had ever happened to the plans to turn the space on the corner of Lorena and 1st St. into a fitness parklet?

Many of those gathered this past Wednesday evening at the second informational meeting regarding the plans for the site were still feeling burned by the promise they believed Metro had reneged on to put a park there.

At another meeting on the subject back in December of 2012, Metro had essentially told the community it had chosen a mixed-use development project because it was working toward enhancing transit quality and was not in the business of building parks. Last week’s informational meeting on the plans for the site had only reaffirmed that the park plans were out of the question.

Still, it wasn’t a dream people were willing to give up on just yet.

A mini fitness park would have been a wonderful addition to the jogging path that runs around the (not so) Evergreen cemetery across the street, lamented Rita Govea Rodriguez, a long-time Boyle Heights community stakeholder. Citing other examples of well-used fitness zones from around the city, she said it was something that her community would really have benefited from.

We were discussing the progress of A Community of Friends’ (ACOF) plans to build a four-story building containing 49 affordable housing units — half of which would be reserved for people with special needs (e.g. the homeless or mentally ill) — and approximately 7000 sq. ft. of retail space at the Lorena site.

The $23.1 million project cleared its last hurdle last March, when the Metro Board voted 10 – 1 to begin negotiations with ACOF regarding the development.

Jose Huizar, Councilmember for the 14th District and (now a former) Metro Board member, was the lone dissenting vote at the time. He was concerned that the drastic reduction in retail and parking space from the original 2006 proposal would heavily curtail the boost in economic activity the project was expected to have generated in the surrounding areas. Read more…


Feds Announce Regional Connector Funding, Hint at Purple Line Funding

Mayor Garcetti expresses his enthusiasm for the Regional Connector subway

Mayor Garcetti expresses his enthusiasm for the Regional Connector subway

This morning, local elected officials and federal administrators joined together to announce that Metro’s Regional Connector is now fully funded. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is granting $670 million in New Starts funding to the Regional Connector, and also extending a low-interest TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan of $160 million.

A document showing how the Connector is funded can be found at the bottom of this article.

While the Regional Connector announcement had been tipped in this morning’s Los Angeles Times, the surprise announcement is that the FTA hinted that it would also fund the pending request  for $1.2 billion for the Purple Line subway.

Streetsblog frequent readers may be very well aware of the Regional Connector. What follows is a three paragraph summary of the project and its timeline. If you’re already familiar with the project, skip ahead for today’s news, right after the page jump.

The Regional Connector is a $1.4 billion 1.9-mile light rail subway. It will extend from the Little Tokyo Gold Line Station west under 2nd Street to Bunker Hill, then south under Flower Street to the 7th Street Station. What best explains the Regional Connector’s importance is that it’s light rail. Yes – underground light rail. From downtown, Metro has light rail running north (Pasadena Gold Line), south (Blue Line), east (Gold Line Eastside Extension) and west (Expo Line), but there’s no connection in the middle. Today, to get from one of these lines to another, one has to take the heavy rail Red/Purple Line subway.

Regional Connector map - courtesy of Metro

Regional Connector map – courtesy of Metro

The Regional Connector closes downtown’s light rail gap, hence makes a lot of connections a lot easier. When the Connector is complete, today’s 3-4 rail lines consolidate down to just two. There will the combined Gold-Expo line extending from East L.A. to Santa Monica, and the combined Blue-Gold line extending from Long Beach to Azusa.

The Regional Connector was funded under Measure R, with additional monies from State propositions 1A and 1B. Metro proposed a route alignment in 2010Metro released its environmental review documentation in early 2012. Though some downtown and Little Tokyo interests opposed the project due to construction headaches, Metro approved environmental documentation in April 2012. Read more…

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Freewaves Debuts “Long Live LA” Tonight and on Transit TV

Tonight, Freewaves will present its newest Out the Window series, Long Live LA, at a special screening at ForYourArt on Wilshire Boulevard in Mid-town. A full calendar placement can be found at the bottom of this post.

Out the Window is a collaborative effort between Freewaves and Transit TV. Videos produced by L.A. County based artists are collected by Freewaves and broadcasst for free on Transit TV. As such, Long Live L.A. will air 2,000 times every hour on buses throughout L.A. County for literally millions of viewers.

Using a variety of styles, narratives, images, and music, the artists have created a total of 35 original videos addressing the issues of heart disease, obesity, mental health, lead poisoning,and overall wellbeing. From Feb. 17 through March 31, the videos will be broadcast hourly on more than 2,000 LA Metro buses throughout Los Angeles County, reaching an estimated one million Metro riders daily.

“Our country’s public health crisis has received a lot of attention in the traditional media, yet the problem continues to get worse,” says Anne Bray, executive director of Freewaves. “We thought that artists could bring a fresh perspective to these issues and reach people in a way that conventional PSAs and news stories do not.”

The participating artists are: Mel Chin, Yoshua Okón, Poli Marichal, Ann Kaneko, John Jota Leaños, and The Here and Now (Paolo Davanzo and Lisa Marr of the Echo Park Film Center). Long Live LA is funded by a grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. You can view more videos from Long Live LA on vimeo.

Last year, Streetsblog took part in Out the Window, with a video promoting the Iconic Wilshire Corridor CicLAvia. Read more…


Metro Diary: Every Day He’s Hustlin’

The Willowbrook Station, looking South. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station, looking south. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The well-dressed and good-looking young man with enormous glasses walked toward where I was standing at the front of the packed Blue Line car, gave me a wink and a smile, then turned around and began delivering his sales pitch for headphones to the passengers.

Watching him work the car, I was reminded of how puzzling I find complaints about vendors — especially from those that claim they won’t ride the Blue Line because of them — on the trains.

Most of the vendors I have seen are friendly and savvy salespeople who understand that being presentable and personable, having a solid product, and, above all, not harassing passengers are the keys to success.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t get the occasional sad-faced vendor of incense who won’t take no for an answer or someone like the guy that likes to pop his glass eyeball out, of course. But, in my experience, they are in the minority.

The majority either are largely unobtrusive, floating by and murmuring, “DVDs,” like sweet nothings, or are more like the guy with the glasses — someone who is a regular presence, who takes his “job” seriously, and who has invested a lot of time and effort in honing his business and people skills.

If they’re as smart as the guy in the glasses, they anticipate their customers’ needs. When it has rained, he’s offered me umbrellas. When it has been cold, he has peddled hats.

And, he has always had a smile.

Now he was heading back up the aisle toward me again, this time with a different product in his hands.

“Battery chargers!” he announced.

Pointing at the young male passengers, he argued it was not cool to be caught with uncharged phones or other devices. What would the ladies think of such a man? Not very much.

This guy was good. Read more…

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Looking For Love in Underground Places: Speed Dating on the Red Line

All images: Elson Trinidad

All images: Elson Trinidad

Metro’s subway cars normally carry some 163,000 commuters each weekday, but last Friday the transit agency turned the Red Line into a ride through the Tunnel of Love to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

It was Metro’s first “Speed Dating on the Red Line” event, which gave relationship-seeking subway riders a chance to find romance on transit.

“Do you want to get on the love train today?” said one of the orange-vested Metro staffers that greeted me on the Vermont/Santa Monica station platform, wearing a red heart-antennae tiara on her head.

As a single dude who hasn’t been in a serious relationship in several years (uhhh, there’s no need to explain why here), I figured…why not. I’ve got nothing to lose. This only cost me $1.50. YOLO.

And it went a little something like this: After signing a release waiver, participants wear a pink wristband and board the first car of the Union Station-bound train (or last car of the North Hollywood-bound train), which is decorated with Valentine hearts on the windows.

The whole idea was to take a seat and take two minutes to chat with someone. Participants were free to move to another seat or another train. Read more…


Partnerships Offer Chance for New Riders to Join Ride 4 Love in Watts

The Ride4Love has always been about family, community, and service. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The Ride4Love has always been about family, community, and service. Here, founding member Tony August-Jones (right) introduces his youngest kids to the ESRBC way of life. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

I won’t be able to be at the Ride4Love in Watts this weekend, and I am more than a little bummed out about it.

The Ride4Love is the East Side Riders‘ (ESRBC) biggest event of the year.

Timed to fall around Valentine’s Day, it is a special event that the ESRBC has long used to highlight both the strengths and challenges in their community.

Founding members John Jones III (president) and his brother Tony August-Jones, who grew up in the area, were taught to give back from a young age. Even while their own family had faced a number of struggles, their mother had always worked hard to offer the needy a place to find shelter or food, or both. It was not unusual for their four-bedroom house to have as many as fifteen people living in it at once, sometimes more.

Once the bike club was launched six years ago and Fred Buggs Sr., Ronnie Parker, and others were brought into the fold, giving back soon became a core part of the club’s activities. So much so that the founders’ children have all cited helping others as one of the things they like most about participating in the club.

Fred Buggs Jr. and Joshua Jones cite feeding the homeless as one of the activities they enjoy. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Fred Buggs Jr. and Joshua Jones cite feeding the homeless as one of the activities they enjoy. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

In doing the work that they do, the ESRBC is well aware of the unfortunate stereotype that paints Watts as a dangerous place. Certainly, I haven’t been shy in dedicating pages to airing some of the deeper intransigent issues that plague the area and impact access to public space. But, even in acknowledging these realities, the ESRBC, as do I, want outsiders to understand that Watts is so much more — it is full of wonderful folks who care deeply about community. Read more…