Skip to content

Posts from the Metro Category

No Comments

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…

4 Comments

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.

33 Comments

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…

8 Comments

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…

37 Comments

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…

5 Comments

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

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

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

DSC_0161

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

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

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

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

2 Comments

Today’s Beverly Hills vs. Metro Subway Court Hearing Inconclusive

Early version of possible Purple Line Subway alignments studied through Beverly Hills. Image via Metro

Early version of possible Purple Line Subway alignments through Beverly Hills. Image via Metro

At a federal court hearing this morning, attorneys for Beverly Hills and Metro clashed, but did not arrive at any conclusive outcome. It appears that Metro will likely need to do some additional environmental review (a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement or SEIS) before proceeding with construction on phase 2 of the Purple Line Subway extension, which is planned to tunnel below the city of Beverly Hills with stations in Beverly Hills and Century City.

The plaintiffs include the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. The defendants include Metro and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). For the purposes of this article, SBLA simplifies the parties to “Beverly Hills” against “Metro.”

The deadlock outlined in SBLA’s February explainer remain. The lawsuit primarily centers on Beverly Hills’ criticism of Metro’s decision to relocate the planned Century City stop from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation Boulevard. Metro studied various subway alignments, and chose to place the Century City station at the intersection of Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. Though Constellation and Santa Monica are one block apart, Metro found that Santa Monica Boulevard would not work due to earthquake faults. The Constellation alignment necessitates tunneling under Beverly Hills High School.

Judge George H. Wu preliminarily sided with Beverly Hills, finding that Metro’s subway environmental studies (Environmental Impact Statement EIS) did not fulfill all the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). In order to comply with NEPA requirements, Metro will likely need to do additional environmental review (a SEIS.)

Metro and Beverly Hills continue to be far from settling the legal dispute.  Read more…

9 Comments

Metro Awards Contract for Environmental Study and Design of Phase I of Rail-to-River Bike Path

The Rail-to-River plan to put a bike path between the Crenshaw Line to the west and the L.A. River to the east just took another step forward. Source: Metro

The Rail-to-River plan to put a bike path along the Slauson corridor (between the Crenshaw Line to the west and the L.A. River to the east) just took another step forward. Source: Metro

As bike month comes to a close, we have some good news for South L.A. cyclists. At yesterday’s Metro Board meeting, a $2 million contract was awarded to Cityworks Design to begin working on plans for a 6.4 mile segment of the Rail-to-River bike path project (segments A-1, A-2, and A-3, above).

The Rail-to-River bike path, as County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas described it last October, is an important opportunity to turn an 8-mile stretch of a “dormant” and “blighted” rail right-of-way (ROW) in a “historically distressed area” into a biking and walking path that could more efficiently connect people to transit while also bettering the local economy, health outcomes for residents, and the local environment.

Running between the Crenshaw/LAX Line station at Fairview Heights station to just east of the Blue Line station at Slauson and, in subsequent phases, to the river, the path will not only help connect cycling commuters to transit but offer the local residents of a neglected industrial corridor much-needed green space and a place to safely stretch their legs.

Yesterday’s development doesn’t mean the project is about to break ground, unfortunately. Instead, Cityworks Design has been tasked with undertaking environmental review, clearance, and design work for the project. Supporting documents describe Cityworks as specialists in environmental clearance and able to work within the time constraints of the project. Which is a good thing, as the TIGER grant requires the funds be obligated by September of 2017 and expended by 2022.

The project has been a few years in the making. Read more…

1 Comment

Metro Approves New College Student Transit Pass Pilot Program

Students line up to make public comment in favor of Metro's student bus pass improvements. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At yesterday’s Metro board meeting, Luz Juan, East Los Angeles College student giving public testimony. Students lined up to make public comment in favor of Metro’s student bus pass improvements. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At yesterday morning’s Metro board meeting the proposed pilot college student pass program was passed with resounding unanimous approval. Board members and students representing a broad coalition of L.A. County colleges expressed excitement and optimism for the approved pilot program, which intends to expand ridership and increase program accessibility through partnerships with colleges.

The aptly titled “Universal College Student Transit Pass (U-Pass) Pilot Program” will start this fall and is approved for a two-year pilot period. The U-Pass pilot intends to expand reduced fare college pass enrollment through improving pass accessibility and administrative processing.

To streamline program participation and administration, the approved pilot program includes two key accessibility modifications from the current I-TAP college pass program to ensure student discount passes are easier to understand and administer for participating schools and students.

Under the U-Pass pilot, participating schools are responsible for payment to Metro through a pay-per-boarding model capped off at a fee of $43 per month per participant. Participating schools are also encouraged to streamline the U-Pass program through existing class and activity fee registration processes, similar to the Santa Monica City College’s “Any Line / Any Time” program. Until yesterday, student pass programs involved a lengthy and backlogged mail-order application process. Metro reported students undergo a 4-6 week wait period from their application submission to receiving reduced-fare cards. Under the U-Pass program colleges can bypass Metro’s administrative approval through a TAP-enabled sticker, easing the administrative application process for interested students.

A second key change reduces the student pass required credit minimum from 12 to 8 per semester in an effort to include part-time students in the U- Pass program. After six months the unit requirement may be further reduced to 6 units following a revenue impact review. Part-time students taking 8 or more credits will continue to only have to pay a maximum fee of $43 (the current Metro monthly student pass rate, discounted from the regular Metro monthly pass cost of $100.)

These initial Metro student pass changes focus on expanding ridership numbers. Under the existing 12-credit requirement for undergraduate students, only 3 percent of total eligible public school students participate in reduced price college transit programs. For the newly approved U-Pass Pilot program, Metro established a goal of increasing student participation by 10 percent over existing discount-pass levels. Metro data from Pasadena City College and Rio Hondo College’s participation in the now discontinued I-TAP college discount program inspires hope to the U-Pass pilot: PCC and Rio Hondo increased full-student ridership by 30 percent and 37 percent respectively under a 5 year I-Tap program period.  Read more…

No Comments

Metro Not Quite Ready for First/Last Mile Funding for Purple Line Phase 2

Will Metro pay attention to its own Active Transportation Strategic Plan [PDF]?

Will Metro pay attention to its own Active Transportation Strategic Plan [PDF]?

Just when the Metro board was on the verge of adopting a policy to incorporate first/last mile, including bike and walk, connections into “the planning, design, and construction of all [Metro] transit projects,” Metro staff postponed including first/last mile connections to the second phase of Purple Line subway expansion.

The issue before the board was Metro’s new Active Transportation Strategic Plan [PDF]. The ATSP theoretically builds on a number of Metro bike-and-walk-friendly policies, including the agency’s First/Last Mile Strategic Plan and Complete Streets Policy. Livability advocates, with champions on the Metro board prominently including Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, have pushed for Metro to follow up these good-sounding policies with Metro funding commitments to truly get first/last mile facilities on the ground. After the 2014 passage of the Metro Complete Streets Policy, Bonin pushed the agency to follow up with a walk/bike funding plan.

Metro dragged its heels on the funding plan, publishing schedules designed to complete the funding document right after the November sales tax ballot measure. So Metro would finally have a walk/bike funding plan right after it sets the course for the next 50 years of Metro funding.

Pressure from Bonin and others accelerated the schedule for the funding plan, now called the ATSP. Today the Metro board approved its ATSP, a month in advance of June’s planned approval of a sales tax expenditure plan.

The ATSP, similar to the plans that preceded it, also sounds good. There are plenty of graphs and diagrams about how great walking and bicycling are. What is new in the ATSP (page 59) is overall cost estimates for building out a Los Angeles County Active Transportation Network. There is no commitment on Metro’s part to pay these costs, but at least there is an official agency estimate for how much someone should pay to support active transportation.

Accompanying today’s adoption of the ATSP were two multi-part motions regarding Metro implementation:  Read more…