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Coalition Urges Good Local Jobs in Metro Heavy Railcar Contract

Jobs to Move America organizer Diego Janacua speaks at this morning's rally. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Jobs to Move America organizer Diego Janacua speaks at this morning’s rally. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a press event in front of Metro headquarters this morning, the Jobs to Move America (JMA) coalition called for companies to create good jobs as they manufacture Metro railcars. Today is the deadline to file income taxes, so the coalition emphasized the need for companies to be responsive to U.S. taxpayers who are footing the bill for these transportation manufacturing contracts.

Shawn Stewart of the L.A. Black Workers Center speaks at this morning's Jobs to Move America event.

Shawn Stewart of the L.A. Black Workers Center speaks at this morning’s Jobs to Move America event.

The national JMA coalition represents a broad range of organizations, including labor, civil rights, environmentalists, and others. Speakers at today’s event included representatives from the AFL-CIO, the L.A. Black Workers Center, Move L.A., Occidental College, and the Southern California Association of Governments.

The rally opened and closed with rousing chants of, “What do we want? Good Jobs! When do we want them? Now!” and “¡Sí se puede!”

Speakers emphasized the need for transportation investments to serve more than one purpose: expanding mobility and also creating quality jobs, especially for disadvantaged workers, including lower-income veterans, women, communities of color, and the formerly incarcerated. Speakers stressed that the generation of quality jobs would create a win-win situation for the contractor and the community.

Metro is in the middle of a $1 billion procurement process to build nearly 300 heavy railcars that will serve the existing Red Line and the expanding Purple Line subways. According to the coalition’s press release, “Metro is one of the first transit agencies whose Request for Proposals included innovative language developed by Jobs to Move America, called the U.S. Employment Plan, that incentivizes companies proposing to build taxpayer-funded transit vehicles to create U.S. jobs.”

Metro railcar bid proposals were due in January. According to one coalition spokesperson, at least two companies, China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation and Hyundai Rotem, are known to have already submitted bids. While local or even domestic manufacturing is not strictly required for the contract, Metro’s selection may take into account bidders’ job creation pledges.

Coalition speakers touted the past job creation successes from Metro’s light railcar procurement with Kinkisharyo. Though it has been the subject of some controversy, Kinkisharyo is currently building light railcars in its Palmdale factory. According to the coalition, the Kinkisharyo contract has resulted in “235 jobs for people facing barriers to employment.” Similar arrangements are in effect for the Chicago Transit Agency, where there is a “Build Chicago” partnership, and Amtrak, though their low demand and high crash standards have delayed domestic train production.

The Metro Board is expected to select its contractor and approve its heavy railcar manufacturing contract in June.

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Eyes On The Street: Metro Bike-Share Really Coming To DTLA This Summer

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Metro bike-share coming to a downtown street near you this summer. Photo via Allison Mannos

It is not real until the marketing materials say it is real, right? Via friend of the blog Allison Mannos, enjoy an image from a marketing photo shoot for Metro’s exciting new bike-share system debuting in downtown Los Angeles this Summer. No start date has been announced yet.

The roughly 1000-bike, 60-station system will extend from USC to Union Station throughout a service area roughly bounded by Chinatown, the L.A. River, Washington Boulevard and the 10 Freeway.  The initial $11 million funding is in place for the initial 2-year Metro bike-share contract with operator Bicycle Transit SystemsMetro approved the planned fare structure last November, and in March approved what amounts to basically a half-price discount for low-income people, students, and seniors. Future year system expansion is expected to bring the bike-share system to Pasadena, central Los Angeles, Hollywood, and other parts of L.A. County.

Who else out there is excited to see this great new transportation mode on the streets of downtown L.A.?

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Metro Measure R2 Expenditure Plan Meetings Start Tonight

Metro eases traffic. Image via Metro

Metro eases traffic. Image via Metro

Tonight in Agoura Hills, Metro kicks off a series of community meetings to receive input on the agency’s draft expenditure plan for a likely November 2016 half-cent sales tax ballot measure. There are nine face-to-face meetings throughout April, and a final on-line forum April 30.

SBLA reviewed the overall outline of Metro’s expenditure plan earlier. There is plenty to like in it, but there is also a whole lot of highway spending that livability proponents may have to tolerate in order to get more car-centric voters to favor the overall plan.

At the Metro board meeting where the plan was introduced, there were nearly two hours of public comment representing a wide range of public views. This was followed by a lengthy discussion among the Metro board.

The most numerous public comments were in opposition to the $6 billion tunnel proposed for the 710 Freeway north. The 710 North project is not explicitly funded in the draft, but there is plenty of unallocated highway funding that could be directed to the project at some future date. Opponents of the 710 North project are requesting that it be explicitly excluded from the measure. One speaker suggested that any 710 tunnel funding should go instead to tunneling for the Crenshaw/LAX rail line. That potential tunnel is a safety measure requested in public testimony by representatives of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

Other public testimony focused on moving later-year projects up into earlier slots. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti responded to this thread encouraging speakers to support the ballot measure because sometimes, depending on securing outside funds, later year projects have strong potential to be shifted to sooner dates.

There was already jockeying at the board level with directors James Butts, Diane DuBois, and Don Knabe putting forth a motion to accelerate later year Measure R projects before any new projects enter the queue.

Since the draft plan was made public, other outlets have posted important analysis of it. More plan analysis and the upcoming meeting schedule are after the jump. Read more…

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New Map Shows Walk Time Between L.A. Metro Stations

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Walking times between stations map by Torti Gallas and Partners. For higher resolution see [PDF]

Here is a interesting way of looking at L.A. County’s rail and Bus Rapid Transit systems. Martin Leitner at Torti Gallas and Partners architecture firm did a “map hack” showing how long it takes to walk from each Metro station to the next. From Leitner:

We took a cue from Transit for London’s new tube map and hacked Metro L.A.’s rail map by adding walking time between stations.

We found that some stations are only a few minutes apart, 7-12 minutes in Koreatown and East LA, they are a stunning 104 minutes apart on the Green Line (Long Beach Blvd – Lakewood Blvd) and 79 minutes apart between on the Red Line (Hollywood/Highland – Studio City). Some long walk times also on the Gold Line.

The optimal distance between stations is not some engineering constant, but a reflection of the grain of a neighborhood coming up against all kinds of opportunities and constraints in real-world planning processes. Some of the longish distances seem to make sense. Nonetheless, some of these 7-minute gaps – including those at USC and East L.A.’s Civic Center – do seem a bit less than ideal. Stations further apart in those areas might have been more optimal in supporting more cost-effective and speedier transit systems.

What do you think readers? What insights do you glean from the Torti Gallas map? What map hacks would you like to see to shed light on L.A. transportation systems?

 

 

 

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A Quick Look at Metro’s Newly Released Measure R2 Expenditure Plan

Metro's Measure R2 draft expenditure plan pie chart. Image via Metro

Metro’s Measure R2 draft expenditure plan pie chart. Image via Metro

At a press briefing this morning, Metro’s CEO Phil Washington released the agency’s draft expenditure plan for a potential $120 billion November 2016 ballot measure, often referred to as Measure R2.

The expenditure plan is expected to be received and filed by the full Metro board of directors at its monthly meeting next Thursday March 24. Metro will receive input on the plan in the coming months. Final expenditure language is expected to be approved at the June board meeting.

There will likely be jockeying over the next few months to adjust funding percentages and project timelines, but even within the draft there are a few details to be worked out. Metro had initially been planning a 40-year sales tax. The draft plan includes 40-, 45-, and 50-year options. Washington reported that Metro staff are recommending the 50-year sales tax, which would generate a projected additional $11 billion compared to the 40-year plan.

Here are the draft expenditures ranked by allocation amount:  Read more…

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Metro Committee Approves All-Paid Parking For 3 New Expo Stations

Yesterday, Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee approved the initial phase of the agency’s new Parking Management Pilot Program. The program is anticipated to begin with three new Expo station parking lots in May: Sepulveda, Bundy, and 17th Street.

The pilot is anticipated to expand to nine rail station parking lots by Winter 2016.

Here is how it will work:

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Drivers with TAP cards validate when entering the parking lot. Image via Metro

Returning Transit Riders

Returning riders will show their TAP card to a parking attendant, who, like Metro security do, will validate that the TAP card has been used in the past few days. The driver will pay the parking attendant or show their paid monthly permit.

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Drivers without TAP cards are required to validate after riding Metro. Image via Metro

New Transit Riders

New riders would not have a TAP card yet. They will receive an “exception ticket” which is placed on the car dashboard. After the driver parks and rides, they subsequently have to link their TAP payment to their parking, either online or in person with a parking attendant.

Approval Process

The committee discussion was energetic, with boardmembers Sheila Kuehl and Mike Bonin intent on managing the user experience at Expo stations in neighborhoods they represent. Kuehl spoke of the need to utilize Metro parking to get her constituents “who drive all the time” out of their cars.

Bonin anticipated that monthly parking passes will sell out immediately upon being made available, likely in April. Though Bonin suggested a lottery for initial permits, Metro staff responded that the plan is to make Expo Phase 2 parking permits available on a straightforward first-come first-served basis, as has been Metro’s practice in the past. Historically many Metro station monthly permits have long wait lists, arguably because Metro’s below-market pricing has led to permit supply being insufficient to meet demand. The parking pilot is retooling the monthly permits somewhat. Under the pilot, in order to prevent “poaching” (non-transit riders purchasing monthly permits), monthly pass holders will be required to ride Metro at least ten times per month to be eligible to renew monthly parking permits.

Read more…

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This Week’s Metro Committees: All-Door Boarding, Bike-Share, Parking, More

Metro's all-door boarding pilot is underway. Photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s operations committee is expected to approve all-door boarding for the Silver Line BRT this week. Photo of the agency’s 2015 Wilshire all-door boarding pilot: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This week’s big Metro announcement, expected Friday, will be the fall ballot measure expenditure plan. Some early Measure R2.1 outlines are already foreshadowed here and at the Los Angeles Times.

That expenditure plan will be huge news, but there is other important Metro business going on at Metro board committee meetings this week. Dollar for dollar, this week’s committee business may not match the budget for the November ballot measure, but, from ciclovías to bike-share to all-door boarding to parking to joint development, these agency decisions can add up to make a difference for the region’s livability.

Below is a run-down of key items on this week’s Metro committee agendas:

Planning and Programming Committee – today 2 p.m. – agenda

  • The committee is expected to authorize an all-paid parking pilot for nine rail stations. This is an excellent step to stop costly-to-provide free parking from hemorraging away Metro’s budget, and for managing parking to better foster equity, improve air quality, and encourage active transportation.
  • The committee will hear a proposal to discount Metro bike-share fares for low-income folks, seniors, and students. This should be one helpful step toward making bike-share service more equitable. More details here.
  • Metro is proposing to fund CicLAvia-type open streets events, similar to the agency’s prior open streets funding cycle. The overall allocation would be $4 million, with $2 million per year for Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018.
  • The committee will consider joint development plans for parcels at First Street and Soto Street in Boyle Heights, and at Fourth Street and Hill Street in Downtown L.A. (rendering below).
  • Additional committee items include the Union Station run-through tracks (called the Southern California Regional Interconnector Project or SCRIP), double-tracking a portion of Metrolink’s San Bernardino line, and evaluating a proposed Metrolink Station for Rio Hondo College.

Proposed 4th and Hill development in downtown Los Angeles

Proposed 4th and Hill development in downtown Los Angeles would retool Metro Red/Purple Line Pershing Square Station portal. Image via Metro

Construction Committee – tomorrow 9 a.m. – agenda Read more…

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Residents Debate Priorities for Mariachi Plaza at Second Design Workshop

Wednesday's design workshop looked at potential uses for the two Metro-owned lots at Mariachi Plaza. Map detail: Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, Perkins + Will, DakeLuna

Last Wednesday’s design workshop looked at potential uses for the two Metro-owned lots at Mariachi Plaza. Map detail: Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, Perkins + Will, DakeLuna

“If it wasn’t for Garage [Board Shop and Sk8 for Education program],” 9-year-old skater “Bite Size” told me, “I’d probably be hanging out with the wrong type.”

I looked at him. He really was adorably bite-sized as he stood next to a skateboard nearly as as tall as he was. It was hard to believe he was old enough to be worried about kicking it with the “wrong type,” but as both he and 10-year-old skater Jose Solano attested, there were a lot of older guys in their neighborhoods that had no problem with steering vulnerable kids in the wrong direction.

Screen shot of Enrique "Bite Size" Fino from a short film on The Garage by Bearwalk.

Screen shot of Enrique “Bite Size” Fino from a short film on The Garage by Bearwalk.

Because of that, both Bite Size and Jose were on a mission. They had prepared short speeches to give at last Wednesday’s workshop about the importance of creating an engaging space at Mariachi Plaza that would help inspire youth to stay in school and be their best selves.

When there wasn’t time for them to deliver it to the crowd of 60 or so participants that had come to work on the development guidelines for the Metro-owned lots at the plaza, they settled for delivering the speeches to me.

While he had been skating for four years, Bite Size said, it was the program at the Garage that had given him a place to go that was safe and free of negative influences. And, he said, it had helped him get his grades up by requiring he did his homework.

A wink and a laugh from Garage founder Jerry Carrera indicated that perhaps Bite Size’s grades were not quite as high as he was suggesting.

There was room for improvement, Bite Size acknowledged. But he was doing much better than he had been.

“I go there every day,” he grinned. “I love Pizza Fridays!”

Solano echoed Bite Size’s enthusiasm and reassured me that, since he started the Garage’s program, he had raised his grades from Ds and Fs to “straight-up As” and was motivated to keep doing well.

Carrera and several of his skaters were not at the workshop, as one might have assumed, to ask that part of Mariachi Plaza be turned into a skate park.

What they were looking for was to preserve some open space at the site, be it for skating or some other form of fitness or play, and that Metro look at creative partnerships (possibly with non-profits) to make sure that any development serve as much as an investment in the people of the community as an investment in the site.

Gesturing toward the youth while reporting his table’s ideas for the site back to the larger group, he asked, “Where are these kids gonna play?”

“We want green space for kids today,” he concluded. “They are the future of tomorrow.”

It was a point well taken.

A woman reports her table's ideas back to larger group. Although many present were housing proponents, they were adamant that any development speak to the culture and multi-generational nature of the community. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A woman reports her table’s ideas back to larger group. Although many present were housing proponents, they were adamant that any development speak to the culture and multi-generational nature of the community. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Nearly 40 percent of the area’s population is under the age of 18 and they don’t have that many places to hang out. Boyle Heights is quite park poor and when the youth try to access a space like Mariachi Plaza because it is relatively safe, in a central location, accessible, and lit at night, they are often chased out by law enforcement.

With more youth congregating along 1st Street since Carrera opened a second skate shop there last fall (his original shop is in East L.A.), and more folks using the plaza as ground zero for reclaiming their streets (like the 700 women who participated in the Amigas Who Run event this past weekend), it is even more imperative that the next iteration of the plaza be more welcoming to all ages and all uses.

Because Boyle Heights is a multi-generational community, the question of carving out space for users of all ages had been on the minds of many participants, even those who were there to speak up on behalf of seniors and other vulnerable members of the population.

At the table where I sat, residents discussed the importance of ancillary uses, including a walking path, lots of shade trees, a play area, seating areas, street vending, music (particularly mariachi), and murals — both cultural and street art-style — that reflected the culture and composition of the community. A range of amenities, they felt, would keep the plaza active, beautiful, and welcoming to all ages.

The interest in preserving and activating open space was so great, in fact, that many participants came down in favor of closing off some or all of Bailey Street (below).

Participants discussed the potential for closing off part or all of Bailey Street to make a pedestrian plaza, potential space for street vendors and open-air markets, or fitness area.

Participants discussed the potential for closing off part or all of Bailey Street to make a pedestrian plaza, potential space for street vendors and open-air markets, fitness area, or any number of other uses.

The portion in lighter orange between the two lots (above) is the minimum area that participants and the design team considered converting to open space.

Being able to use that section (or more) of the street would allow for more uses to be packed into the project. Residents wouldn’t have to choose between the structures they appeared to be most in favor of — affordable housing for seniors or very low-income residents, a grocery market, or a laundromat — and the open green space they were desperate for. And it might even allow for some of the more practical amenities many have called for, like public restrooms.

One gentleman even suggested a single structure bridging both lots in such a way as to allow for more housing to be packed in while leaving Bailey Street open (and creating a tunnel that offered shade).

As always, the question of affordable housing touched off heated conversation among participants. Read more…

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Open Thread: What Do We Think of the First Peek at Measure R2

Earlier this afternoon, Los Angeles Times transportation reporter Laura Nelson reported on many of the details of the sales tax ballot measure that will be presented to Metro Board committees next week. With the approval of the Metro Board of Directors, the measure would go on this fall’s ballot where it would need the support of two-thirds of L.A. County voters to take effect.

The measure would generate $120 billion over the next four decades to fund massive transit expansion and at least one very problematic highway project. The revenue stream would be created by two tweaks to the county sales tax: extending to 2050 the existing sales tax created by Measure R in 2008 and an additional half-cent sales tax, also extended until 2050. Those tweaks would increase the base sales tax in L.A. County to 9.5 cents, one of the highest in the country.

There's going to be a lot more media events, for a lot more rail station openings, if Metro and voters approve the sales tax plan outlined in the Times. Image: ##http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2016/03/05/metro-unveils-1-billion-gold-line-extension-through-san-gabriel-valley/##CBS2##

There’s going to be a lot more media events, for a lot more rail station openings, if Metro and voters approve the sales tax plan outlined in the Times. Image: CBS2

But the benefits are substantial: an extension of rapid transit to Santa Ana, the construction of the “Pink Line” (connecting the under-construction Crenshaw Line up to West Hollywood), a rail station at LAX, heavy rail under Vermont Avenue connecting the Purple Line to the Expo Line, and, finally, a reliable transit connection from the Valley to the Westside.

The Times has a more complete project list with descriptions, here.

The plan also sets aside billions of dollars for part of a public-private partnership to build a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass for a toll road. Conceivably, some large foreign financier is jumping at the chance to help pay for this tunnel in return for a portion of the tolls collected. The tunnel could be large enough to have rapid bus lanes or even light rail.

For me, this last part is certainly a bummer but not enough of a reason to vote against the sales tax. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to propose a Streetsblog endorsement of the measure, at least not until we see a complete project list and expenditure plans. What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments section below.

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Eyes on the Street: Little Tokyo Gold Line Test Train on New Tracks

Little Tokyo test train this afternoon. Photo by Roger Rudick/Streetsblog L.A.

Little Tokyo test train this afternoon. Photo by Roger Rudick/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro is getting close to re-opening the temporarily detoured Gold Line through Little Tokyo. To facilitate Regional Connector subway construction, Metro removed and relocated a stretch of Gold Line tracks between the Little Tokyo and Pico Aliso Stations. This afternoon, Streetsblog S.F. editor Roger Rudick spotted rail cars traversing the rebuilt tracks. According to Rudick, the train was towed by a truck, so it was probably testing clearances.

At last month’s board meeting, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced that the under construction stretch would re-open March 21. Metro’s The Source reports that full testing of the new track section is expected next week.