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What a Vermont Avenue BRT Line Could Look Like

Future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Vermont Avenue could resemble Eugene, OR's EmX BRT line. Photo: ITDP

Future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Vermont Avenue could resemble the Emerald Express BRT line in Eugene, OR. Photo: ITDP

At this month’s board meeting, Metro staff reported that they are hiring consultants to shepherd two Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects. Today, SBLA previews one of those: Vermont Avenue BRT.

For the uninitiated, what is BRT? Bus Rapid Transit is high-quality bus service running in its own dedicated right-of-way. It comes in a lot of flavors, but generally operates like a rail line. There are two BRT examples locally. The best one is the Metro Orange Line, which runs on bus-only roads in the San Fernando Valley. Arguably the Metro Silver Line is also BRT as it runs mostly in highway toll lanes. Read this Daniel Jacobson editorial about the potential for BRT to play key roles in L.A. County’s transportation networks.

Briefly, the other BRT project will extend from the San Fernando Valley to the San Gabriel Valley. Connections would include Burbank Airport, and the Metro Gold, Orange, and Red Lines. SBLA will cover this project more as it progresses.

The two BRT projects were given momentum by a July Metro Board motion [PDF] directing Metro staff to advance these projects, including developing a budget and timelines. The Metro Board re-affirmed the July direction in this October board motion [PDF]. This month, Metro staff stated [audio - item 70 at 3:04] that they are preparing scopes of work and that consultant contracts are expected to be awarded in early 2015. Metro Board chair L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti had pressed for Metro to pursue federal Small Starts funding for these BRTs, but Metro staff sounded pessimistic about that program, due to maximum funding of $250 million for each project.

The Vermont Avenue BRT project route has not been finalized, but it is likely to be similar to the current Metro bus lines on Vermont Avenue. Vermont Avenue is one of the nation’s highest ridership bus corridors, and ridership is second only to Wilshire. The Vermont bus lines extend about 12 miles from the Metro Green Line (at the 105 Freeway) to Sunset Boulevard, including connections with Red, Purple, and Expo Lines. Depending on funding and other constraints, BRT could run on some of all of this corridor, converting to express/Rapid service in unimproved areas.

Other alternatives might be under consideration, but the Vermont line is anticipated to be “center-running” (also known as “median-aligned”) BRT. Center-running BRT has been shown to be faster and safer, compared to running along curbs. For a great explanation, watch this fun Lego-animation video.

Here’s a quick tour of some center-running BRT systems up and running elsewhere:  Read more…

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Metro Extends Sheriff Contract 6 Months; What’s In Metro Policing’s Future?

Los Angeles County Sheriffs have, at least anecdotally, had an increased presence on Metro in recent months.

Last Thursday, Metro’s policing contract decision was postponed in favor of a 6-month extension of the current L.A. County Sheriffs Department contract. Photo of Sheriff deputy on Wilshire Bus in September 2014. Photo by Dana Gabbard/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, the Metro Board of Directors finally took action on its repeatedly-extended, repeatedly-about-to-expire contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).

Metro approved a $44.44 million 6-month extension of the $83 million annual contract covering policing for its entire bus and rail transportation networks. This is the eleventh modification of the contract; most of those modifications have been to extend the current contract, which has been in place since 2009.

The extension kicks the ultimate contract decision down the road to a new set of Metro directors, as supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina will be replaced by Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, respectively. There will also be a newly-elected L.A. County Sheriff: former Long Beach police chief Jim McDonnell.

The extension also, for better or for worse, puts some time between contract deliberations and the recent LASD audit. Ostensibly, it gives the LASD six months to fix problems identified by the audit, or perhaps enough time for any heat generated by the audit’s criticism to dissipate.

In April 2014, Metro received the results of its audit of LASD policing work. Both Metro and LASD’s Transit Services Bureau (TSB) wrote official responses to the audit; the agency responses were included as attachments in a June 2014 final report. Though a 4-page board report summarizing the roughly 200-page LASD audit document was soon made available, it took some persistence to obtain the actual public document. Transit advocate Dana Gabbard obtained and posted the audit here. Gabbard also penned this article previewing Metro’s September 4 board meeting to receive and file the audit.

At that September meeting, Metro’s Inspector General staff asserted that the audit, not yet posted to Metro’s website, was publicly available, as anyone could file a public records request to obtain it. The Metro board differed, directing staff to post the full public document online. After that meeting, Metro posted a revised version [PDF].

Though there was media coverage at the time, much of it more-or-less summarized the summaries, rarely going into detail regarding issues raised. Largely missing was LASD TSB’s responses on items where they differed with auditors. Press included:

  • The L.A. Register stated, “Auditors made 50 recommendations to correct or improve deficiencies in nearly every performance area, including staffing, billing, strategic planning, communications, oversight, and achievement of goals.”
  • In July, the L.A. Times ran highlights of audit findings regarding crime statistics, fare evasion, and staffing issues.
  • After the September Board meeting, the Times ran a follow-up article stating, “Their blistering [LASD Audit] report found a host of management and safety problems over the last five years of contracted service” and that “Sheriff’s Department officials [...] are working to correct the issues raised in the audit.”
  • July coverage at County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website outlined that the audit “faulted the Sheriff on a number of fronts, including lack of a community-policing plan for the nation’s third-largest bus and rail system, perennial staff vacancies, tardy responses to citizen complaints, and inadequate records to support its billings” but assured readers that “reforms already are underway.”

Metro staff reporting on the audit have been similarly opaque about audit responses. Here is a chart showing how the agency is complying with audit recommendations:

Metro is about xx percent done address issues raised in their audit of LASD transit policing performance. From Metro Staff Report September 2014

Metro is about 50 percent done addressing issues raised in their audit of LASD transit policing performance. Which 50 percent have been addressed is not indicated. From Metro Staff Report September 2014

The brief September staff report shows various percentages of work completed and in progress, with no supporting documentation indicating which audit items have been completed and which remain.

So, what’s in that audit?  Read more…

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Metro Postpones Approving ENA for Mariachi Plaza, Gets Blasted for Having it on Agenda in First Place

Recognize this place? Me, neither. But it's a rendering of the potential future of Mariachi Plaza. (Source: Metro)

Recognize this place? Me, neither. But it’s a rendering of the potential future of Mariachi Plaza. (Source: Metro)

“Injustice. [...] Lack of accountability. Lack of outreach in our community,” a frustrated Teresa Marquez, president of the Boyle Heights Stakeholders Association, told the Metro Board of Directors this morning. “Nobody’s talking to us!”

She was right.

Metro had apparently reneged on promises in 2012 that, “prior to seeking Metro Board approval [for a project at Mariachi Plaza], staff will be conducting a meeting to update the community regarding the development site.

Instead, only a handful of people were made aware of the plans for an 8-story parking garage with medical offices and a 3-story retail and fitness center adjacent to the plaza, the motion before the Planning Committee last Tuesday to grant developer Primestor an 18-month Exclusive Negotiation Agreement and Planning Document (ENA) for the site, or the motions to grant ENAs to two other affordable housing projects slated for Cesar Chavez/Soto and 1st/Soto.

The firestorm the Mariachi Plaza plans and the lack of community outreach ignited (not even the neighborhood councils had been advised of the plans) prompted the Board to pull the item and the two linked to affordable housing from the consent agenda. All three were postponed until February of 2015 in order to give the developers time to engage the community in the planning process. *(The extension of the ENA for the 1st/Lorena site, which some hoped to also see postponed, was granted to A Community of Friends.)

It was a move that Primestor CEO and Co-founder Arturo Sneider said he applauded.

During the public comment period, he spoke of Metro’s Request for Proposals (RFP) process as keeping them from being able to do extensive community engagement.

Although Metro had released the RFP almost a year ago, Primestor could do no outreach during the “blackout period” while its proposal was being considered. And since Metro had only conducted the final interviews in September and decided upon the winning proposals some time after that, there really had been no time for a community process. (The same had been true with the proposals for housing at 1st/Soto and Cesar Chavez/Soto)

Sneider reassured Metro that Primestor was committed to community engagement and local hiring, and was looking forward to beginning that process.

It was not enough to reassure those present to protest the project. While they were pleased that Metro had (finally) listened to the community, they were frustrated at their sense they were never seen as a partner in development and that their voices only tended to be heard when there was a massive outcry in the eleventh hour.

Many of the speakers wanted to make it clear that community engagement was not only important for a productive planning process, but also essential to ensure that current residents would be able to reap the benefits of any investments in the area. Read more…

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Garcetti Motion Encourages Affordable Housing At Metro Stations

California's Strategic Growth Council has awarded the city of Los Angeles a half-million dollar grant for a study that will make it easier to build infill housing in Transit Priority Areas, similar to this transit-oriented development above the Metro Red Line Wilshire/Vermont Station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

A Metro motion passed today should help the agency play a significant role in joint development of affordable housing at Metro stations, similar to this housing at the Wilshire-Vermont subway station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Earlier today, the Metro board of directors passed a motion [PDF] encouraging Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and affordable housing.

The motion may give some indication of where the board’s newest chair, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, hopes to take the agency. Garcetti has been a vocal proponent of siting affordable housing along transit lines. Garcetti authored the motion and shepherded its passage in the face of concerns expressed by other Metro boardmembers.

The motion helps Metro to play a greater role in fostering affordable housing at its rail stations and along its transit corridors. There are six components to the motion; the agency will: (full text in this PDF)

  1. Inventory current and potential future joint development sites along Metro’s Gold, Expo, Crenshaw/LAX, Regional Connector, and Purple Lines.
  2. Partner with local cities and L.A. County to work together to invest in transit corridor sites, potentially leveraging municipal housing funding.
  3. Set a goal that a minimum 30 percent of Metro’s jointly-developed housing will be affordable housing.
  4. Allow property value discounts to incentivize affordability.
  5. Collaborate on the creation of a Countywide Transit Oriented Affordable Housing (TOAH) loan fund.
  6. Establish a TAP purchase program for residents of joint development housing.

The motion directs Metro CEO Art Leahy to report to the board in February 2015 with a preliminary assessment of the above. From its preamble, the motion readies Metro to support the region in taking advantage of new State of California programs that will grant cap-and-trade funds to promote Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC.)

The motion was approved at last week’s executive committee meeting, so it could have sailed through this morning without debate. Boardmember Diane DuBois removed the item from the meeting’s consent calendar. Though DuBois ultimately voted in favor of the motion, she offered a long list of concerns, including: Metro shouldn’t “dictate” affordable housing goals, Metro doesn’t have authority over land use, affordability targets will discourage development, existing TAP outlets are sufficient, and affordable joint development is “diverting transit dollars.”

Overall, Dubois’ comments encouraged Metro to tightly focus on its mission to provide transit, hence joint development would merely “generate value” that the agency can use to fund transit.

The motion was then defended by its co-authors, Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Garcetti-appointees Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker and Mike Bonin. Garcetti cited a recent report showed that L.A. City has the least affordable rental housing market in the nation.

Councilmember Bonin stressed that Metro does have significant influence over development, and that it was a “moral imperative” to play a role in addressing the great need for affordable housing. Overall, Garcetti and these co-authors affirmed that Metro’s mission does extend beyond the strict boundaries of its stations, and that the agency plays a big role in the quality of life in transit-adjacent communities.  Read more…

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Metro Breaks Ground on Purple Line Subway Extension

Assembled dignitaries break ceremonial ground on the 4-mile Purple Line subway extension this morning at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Assembled dignitaries break ceremonial ground on the 4-mile Purple Line subway extension this morning at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning Metro broke ground on its fifth simultaneous rail construction project: the Purple Line Extension. The new phase will extend the subway from downtown to La Cienega Boulevard, with two additional future phases planned to extend the line to Century City and Westwood.

The ceremonies took place at the L.A. County Museum of Art, which will be served by the future Wilshire/Fairfax station. Attendees numbered roughly 500, mostly governmental and consultant staff. The Master of Ceremonies was KCRW traffic reporter Kajon Cermak.

Speakers included Federal Transit Administration acting head Therese McMillan, Senator Diane Feinstein, Congressmembers Karen Bass and Henry Waxman, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor, County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas, City Attorney Mike Feuer, and L.A. City Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, and Tom LaBonge.

Numerous speakers acknowledged the long series of leaders that brought this latest construction project to fruition: from former L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa to former Metro CEO Roger Snoble. Administrator McMillan spoke enthusiastically about bringing transit to Wilshire Boulevard, “where car culture was born.” Mayor Garcetti spoke of Los Angeles as a multi-modal city, where people can walk, bike, ride, and “if you want to stay in your car, God bless you.”

Maybe most tellingly, Senator Feinstein singled out the need for continuity of leadership, specifically mentioning County Supervisor-elect Sheila Kuehl who was seated in the front row of the audience. Feinstein also spoke of the importance of the task of keeping full federal funding on track in the current Congress.  Read more…

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Dupont-Walker, Community Press Metro on Surprising Changes Slated for Mariachi Plaza, Demand More Outreach

Recognize this place? Me, neither. But it's a rendering of the potential future of Mariachi Plaza. (Source: Metro)

Recognize this place? Me, neither. But, according to Metro, it’s a rendering of what Mariachi Plaza could look like a few short years from now. (Source: Metro)

How can we ensure stakeholder input has value and is incorporated into planning? And, in so doing, help the community feel comfortable in trusting Metro to make sure that happens?

The queries, posed by Metro Board Member Jacqueline Dupont-Walker to Metro CEO Art Leahy during Tuesday’s Planning Committee meeting were in response to Boyle Heights residents’ complaints that Metro had failed to seek adequate community input on a potential development at Mariachi Plaza that would fundamentally transform the area.

She was right to ask.

Despite promises made in 2012 that, “prior to seeking Metro Board approval [for projects at Mariachi Plaza and other area sites], staff will be conducting a meeting to update the community regarding th[ese] development site[s],” no notice seems to have been given — either to the community or the advisory committee for the Eastside Access project — about Tuesday’s motion to allow Metro to enter into an 18-month Exclusive Negotiation Agreement and Planning Document (ENA) with Primestor Development.

An ENA grants Primestor — one of four applicants who submitted proposals for Metro’s RFP to develop the Mariachi Plaza parcels — the space to further develop their plans, work out the terms of a Joint Development Agreement (JDA), work out ground leases with Metro, and pull together the appropriate construction documents.

According to Metro, Primestor won out over the other applicants because of their track record with financing, commitment to job creation, “well-conceived proposal,” “attractive, transit-oriented design,” and expanded development footprint, made possible by their decision to “partner” with a neighboring property owner.

The new footprint of the plaza project. The green represents private property Primestor would acquire. Source: Metro

The expanded footprint of the plaza project. The green represents private property Primestor would acquire. Source: Metro

Specifically, that means that the buildings now housing J&F Ice Cream, Santa Cecilia restaurant, and Libros Schmibros (in green, above) will be turned into “retail and commercial office space that could provide a combination of food and beverage retail opportunities [and] a fitness center.”

The vacant lot at Bailey (the grey square below, at right) will be converted into an 8-story office building with 6 floors (528 spaces) of parking and 2 floors of medical offices, helping address the spillover demand for medical services from White Memorial Hospital (which sits across the street from the lot).

Together, the two buildings would provide 120,570 square feet of commercial space and be called “La Plaza del Mariachi.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 2.29.19 AM

Mariachi Plaza, is that you? An 8-story structure at Bailey (the grey square) will boast 6 floors of parking and 2 of medical offices. A 3-story fitness center and retail space could crowd the western end of the plaza. (Source: Metro presentation)

If that design comes as a surprise to you, either because of the notion that six stories’ worth of parking falls under the definition of “transit-oriented design,” because retail space appears to be built on the plaza itself, or because the murals that speak to the culture and history of the area and help define the space would be forever lost, you are not alone. Read more…

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A Plea to Beverly Hills: Give Up the Anti-Subway PR Campaign

Metro ##https://www.facebook.com/purplelineext/photos/a.10150672477261778.390611.270944186777/10152456823176778/?type=1##posted this picture to Facebook## of the shovels ready for today's groundbreaking ceremony.

Metro posted this picture to Facebook of the shovels ready for today’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Today is a great day for L.A. County. After decades of stalling, Metro is finally breaking ground on the Westside Subway extension from Wilshire/Western to Westwood.

Well, maybe it is not a good day for everyone. The NUMBY’s (that would be “Not UNDER”) in Beverly Hills are still so upset about the subway, they are still crusading against a train route that’s now already under construction.

Having exhausted the $3 million budgeted to fight the planned route of the Westside Subway extension of the Purple Line, the Beverly Hills Unified School District decided last month to double down.Perhaps buoyed by the pandering of Supervisor-Elect Sheila Kuehl, the BHUSD voted to allocate another $3 million (up to $6 million) in school construction bonds to wage a public relations, legal and political war of attrition against Metro.

Source: BH Weekly.

Source: BH Weekly.

So here’s a plea to the BHUSD. Give up. It’s over. The subway route is going to run under a portion of the Beverly Hills High School Campus. Please, stop spending Measure E construction bond funds to fight the subway. You’re just throwing your money away. It would be one thing if this were just about the legal fees needed to reach a settlement with Metro, which seems closer now than ever, but a lot of that money is also going to the communications firms to help smear the subway and alarm residents.

While I make this plea, I know it’s going to do zero good. The Chair of the School Board, David Goldberg, thinks the tunnel is going to endanger students. Despite being shut-down in court thus far, he also thinks that the School District will eventually be reimbursed its legal fees after its eventual victory. Here’s an excerpt from his fiery email defending the spending:

“By not fighting MTA, we will be taking tens of millions of dollars earmarked for classroom improvements and instead spending those dollars to reinforce foundations to striatal tunnels running under instructional buildings,” Goldberg writes.

Metro has publicly committed to mitigations in the EIS/EIR, but the exact amount of funding for other damage has yet to be negotiated. Because there are legal questions involved with BHUSD’s never-ending lawsuit, nobody is going to talk to a reporter about what Metro will and won’t commit to pay for after construction is completed. Even legal mediation can go awry.

Measure E is a $334 million construction bond proposal passed in 2008, ironically the same election as the County-wide sales tax Measure R which made the subway possible. Read more…

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Leimert Park People St. Plaza Set for Soft Opening at December CicLAvia

Detail of People St. Plaza plan and the Sankhofa symbol -- one of many designs that stakeholders hope to use to fill the polka dots that will grace the plaza. Plaza design: Kendall Planning + Design

The People St. Plaza plan for 43rd Pl in Leimert Park and the Sankofa symbol — one of many designs that stakeholders hope to use to fill the polka dots that will grace the plaza. The Metro station for the Crenshaw Line will be just a few hundred feet away. Plaza design: Kendall Planning + Design (click to enlarge)

On my way to a meeting of the Leimert Park Village stakeholders at the Vision Theater a few weeks ago, I poked my head into the art space known as the KAOS Network looking for founder and artist Ben Caldwell.

I found him huddled around a table with Sherri Franklin, the founder of Urban Design Center, and Alison Kendall, Principal Architect at Kendall Planning + Design (both of whom worked on the project pro-bono), finalizing the designs for Leimert Park’s People St. plaza project to be implemented at 43rd Pl. between Leimert Park Bl. and Degnan.

As Kendall and Franklin discussed the color scheme and the type and placement of street furniture and foliage around the perimeter, Caldwell scrolled through images of symbols that they hoped to use to fill in the polka dots that would grace the plaza. It was coming down to the wire, Kendall said, as she flipped through the pages of the plan. They needed to get their design specifications in to LADOT for approval so that the plaza would be ready in time for a soft opening at CicLAvia on December 7.

Watching them go back and forth over which elements would fit within LADOT’s standard kit offerings provided a hint of the effort it had taken to pull the proposal together.

Stakeholders had first needed to find a “community partner” (in this case, the Institute for Maximum Human Potential) who could provide insurance for the plaza, aid with the design, and take responsibility for the financing, maintenance, and programming around the project. Then they needed to gather signatures and letters of support, pull together a budget and list of potential plaza-centric activities, and design the space in a way that felt organic to the community but fit within the standard options that LADOT was offering (see more about the development of the project and the Thought Leadership Team here).

While they had embraced the idea of putting together a People St. project, they had been adamant that they wanted it to reflect the character and culture of the community. It also had to fit into their “20/20 Vision” — the longer-term strategy for the future named, in part, for the year the Leimert Park station of the Crenshaw Line is expected to open. Read more…

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Metro Updates: Rail-to-River, Complete Streets, BRT, & More

Here’s a round-up of newsworthy items from today’s Metro Board Meeting and the committee meetings that led up to it.

The tracks at Crenshaw, looking east. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

These South L.A. rail tracks may soon be part of a “Rail to River” bike and walk path. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

Rail-to-River Project Keeps Moving
The Metro board of directors approved $2.85 million to continue to move forward with the Rail-to-River bike and walk path project. The funds will pay for further studies, planning, and design work to prepare the project to receive capital funding in the future.

Approval Highlights: Complete Streets, Union Station, and Support for Crenshaw Businesses
Metro’s board adopted the agency’s first-ever Complete Streets Policy [PDF]. It has some flaws. The board adopted the Union Station Master Plan. Metro also approved a contract for supporting small businesses impacted by Crenshaw/LAX rail line construction.

Revenue Up, Ridership Down After September Fare Increase
Metro raised fares in mid-September. It is too early to draw conclusions about trends and what is causing them, but stats are out for that first half-month. Metro’s Chief Financial Services Officer reported that fare revenue is up 7.1 percent, comparing September 2013 ($28.68 million) to September 2014 ($30.73 million). Overall ridership declined 3.2 percent, comparing September 2013 (39,903,521) to September 2014 (38,633,928).

Purple Line Extension Groundbreaking Announced
Board chair Eric Garcetti announced that the groundbreaking ceremony for Purple Line subway construction will take place on Friday, November 7. The fully-funded extension will bring the Wilshire Boulevard subway to La Cienega Boulevard. Construction is expected to be completed in 2023.

ExpressLanes Enable Speeding Scofflaws
From this Performance Update Report [PDF]: Metro targets that toll lane “monthly average travel speeds remain above 45 mph.” For the first 19 months of ExpressLane program, the AM peak-period speed on the 110 Freeway was 62 mph, but on the 10 Freeway, that AM peak-period speed was 66 mph. That’s 66 mph where the speed limit is 65 mph. As that’s an average, certainly there must be a lot folks speeding much faster than this. When I was researching this ExpressLanes article, I found that Metro buses in the ExpressLanes act as a damper on car speed. When the (frequent) buses come through, they’re going the speed limit and each bus has a lines of cars bunched up behind it.

What I found a little surprising is how little attention this stat elicited: none. Speed kills, but it’s just kind of assumed that driving a few miles over the freeway speed limte is all OK. Can SBLA readers imagine how much grief pedestrians would get for a project designed to foster jaywalking? Or a bike project that assumed cyclists would just blow a stop sign? Hopefully, now that a clear pattern of law-breaking has been identified, Metro can work with appropriate law enforcement to slow speeds down and make this corridor safer. Don’t hold your breath.

CEO Art Leahy on Metrolink’s Importance… for Drivers
At last week’s Sustainability Committee meeting, Metro CEO Art Leahy responded to worries over “rumors about changes” for Metrolink commuter rail. Ridership is down on most lines. The L.A. Times explored why. Leahy defended the rail agency, stating [audio at 5:30] that “Metrolink will continue to be very important to L.A. County and the other counties. It helps with the 91. It helps with the I-5. It helps with the Hollywood and the 134 [freeways.]” Isn’t Metrolink important for the mobility of the people who ride it? Leahy sounds all too much a bit like the fictional L.A. Metro CEO in this Onion article.

CEO Art Leahy on Rail Car Manufacturing
Responding to questions about the demise of Kinkisharyo’s Palmdale manufacturing plant, Leahy stated that rail cars needed for the soon-to-open light rail lines will not be affected, though new rail cars may be manufactured “out of state.”

Metro Call for Projects Stays More-or-Less on Track
An early draft of a motion had called for the suspension of Metro’s Call for Projects from 2017 on. The Call is Metro’s every-other-year process where the agency grants transportation dollars to cities. The motion was amended, and Metro will just study the Call processes, while the upcoming 2015 Call proceeds as planned. As SBLA reported earlier, the Call had been an important funding source for bicycle and pedestrian projects, but changes at the Federal level have shifted that process into the state Active Transportation Program.

Bus Rapid Transit Projects Gaining Momentum
Mayor Garcetti is quietly becoming a strong proponent of medium-sized cost-effective Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects. The Metro board approved a Najarian-Garcetti-Antonovich motion regarding two BRT projects: Vermont Avenue and North Hollywood to Pasadena. Metro is currently procuring consultants to analyze and plan these BRTs. The motion directs both projects be given top priorities as Metro pursues federal small start funding.

Speaking of BRT, here is one more Metro-related news bit that really deserves its own article:

Metro Orange Line BRT Signalization Changes Ready to Go
Great News! At yesterday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee, representatives from the Department of Transportation (LADOT) and Metro announced some good news for Orange Line commuters. LADOT suggested that the latest motion wasn’t even needed, because Metro can unilaterally increase BRT speeds and LADOT will support Metro changes. LADOT and Metro are working together to nail down the specifics, but they estimate that BRT speeds will increase, shaving 4-8 minutes off cross-Valley rides. (There are other excellent LADOT folks working on this, but let’s speculate that the Seleta Reynolds effect could be at play here.)

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Times, ABC7, and Metro Parking Stories Are Wrong and Misleading

Yesterday, the L.A. Times ran Lack of Parking Drives Many Away from Mass Transit, an article by Laura Nelson.

The Times starts with the example of a San Fernando Valley Metro Red Line commuter nearly missing grabbing a parking space. This leads to assertions of “parking shortages” on “L.A.’s light-rail system [sic - Red Line is heavy rail].” The article goes on to quote various Metro representatives, then parking expert UCLA professor Don Shoup. Ultimately, Nelson characterizes Metro parking as a “key policy question.”

Vid capture of

Screen/video capture from ABC7′s misleading L.A. Metro parking story. Alex Gonzales of Anaheim, a city not even in Los Angeles County, says “If you can’t park, then why would you take the train?”

Like a sad game of telephone, ABC7 (KABC-TV) picked up the Times’ assertions and stretched them to near absurdity.

ABC7′s story, Parking Issues to Blame for Low Transit Ridership in Los Angeles, has the gall to interview a man-on-the-street from Anaheim, a suburb not even in L.A. County, who says, “if you can’t park, then why would you take the train?”

It looks like he is riding the train in Pasadena but, honestly, couldn’t ABC7 find someone who lives in L.A. County?

Sure, transportation issues cross political boundaries, but should Metro, a governmental agency with jurisdiction over L.A. County, prioritize limited funds to serve people who don’t live here?

First two general points, then responses to Times article specifics:

1. Lots of People Ride Metro, Few Use Metro Parking 

Let me first note that lots and lots of people ride Metro buses and trains. About 1.5 millon every weekdayThere’s no “low ridership” issue here. Especially during rush hour, buses and trains are standing room only.

The vast majority of these Metro riders do not park. According to Metro’s on-board surveys, more than 80 percent of transit riders arrive by walking. Fewer than 4 percent drive and park. Even when excluding buses, just looking at the Metro rail system, only about 15 percent of riders drive and park. That is roughly 1 in 7.

The system works. Mostly with most riders paying no attention to parking.

2. It Costs Metro Hundreds of Millions of Dollars to Build and Maintain “Free” Parking 

Free parking is not free for Metro to build and maintain. Metro has already spent more than $200 million to build station parking. As more parking comes on line, Metro pays more and more to operate and maintain it.

Multi-million dollar investments in parking come with trade-offs. As an agency with a limited taxpayer-funded budget, Metro can choose to fund more buses, more rail, more parking, more freeways, more walkways, bike share, etc. The difficult political job of the agency is to strike a balance between these competing public goods.

Responding to Various Erroneous or Misleading Points  

The Times, ABC7, and even Metro routinely just say “parking” when they’re really referring to just “free parking.” For example, the Times (apparently repeating a Metro assertion) states:

In North Hollywood, where the Red Line subway ends, the MTA estimates that it loses as many as 1,500 riders a day because the parking lot fills up by 7:30 a.m.

Below is a photo of the North Hollywood Red Line Station parking lot at 7:30 a.m. this morning.

Metro Red Line North Hollywood Station today at 7:30am

Metro’s Red Line North Hollywood Station parking lot, which “fills up by 7:30 a.m.” wasn’t full today at 7:30 a.m. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The North Hollywood station parking lot has 909 parking spaces. 451 are free. 425 require a paid monthly permit (currently $59, but sold out.) The free parking section is full, by about 6:30 a.m. The paid section never quite fills up. At 8 a.m. today there were still at least 200 empty spaces. Nonetheless that ’parking lot full by 7:30 a.m.’ myth gets repeated frequently: L.A. MagazineZev’s Blog, Metro board motions [PDF page 6], but the lot is not full. (Note: Laura Nelson responded via Twitter that “full” more-or-less meant “unavailable.”) 

How about the rest of that Times quote of Metro estimating it’s losing 1,500 riders a day? I think this figure from this Metro staff report [PDF] which reads:

Staff conducted a review of parking demand using Metro’s Regional Transportation Modeling Program for the North Hollywood and Universal City stations. The unconstrained parking demand for both stations far exceeds supply. Unconstrained parking demand is defined as the number of spaces required if there are no regulatory or financial restrictions on use of the parking. The 2014 unconstrained parking demand at North Hollywood is 3,075 spaces. Metro provides 951 [sic - actual: 909] spaces, leaving an unconstrained demand of 2,124 parking spaces.

What is this “unconstrained demand” with ”no financial restrictions”? It is meaningless nonsense. Ultimately nothing that exists on planet earth can exist in wholly “unconstrained” theoretical economic cartoon-fantasy-space. Metro needs to balance its constrained budget.

Metro dressing this mumbo-jumbo up in a scientific-sounding “Regional Transportation Modeling Program” is irresponsible.  Read more…