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Posts from the "Streetcars" Category

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Op/Ed: Yes on Downtown Streetcar

(We’ll resume our Measure J op/ed series tomorrow. During our one-day break, enjoy this piece by DTLA Rising author Brigham Yen’s view on the vote on the Downtown Streetcar funding measure. You can still vote by mail before November 28. – DN)

The deadline to register to vote for the L.A. Streetcar in Downtown L.A. has passed. Now registered voters within Downtown will be mailing in their votes by mail – to ensure the ballots are received on time, they should be mailed in by November 28. What direction future developments will take in Downtown L.A. will depend on whether residents see the value of the streetcar circulating pedestrians around town — promoting a walking culture and decreasing our dependency on the automobile — or allowing the status quo to remain perversely slanted toward a car-oriented mentality. This is L.A. after all, right? Wrong. I believe that most Downtown residents embrace the idea of urbanism and its car-lite or even car-free tenets.

While voting “yes” for the streetcar is a no-brainer for the vast majority of Downtown residents, a small number have questioned why the private sector should have to pay anything for a public transit project. Let’s face it, and it bears repeating again: The average condo owner would fork out about $60 in tax assessments for an entire year. That’s about half the price of a Disneyland ticket where revelers can ride in, basically, a full-sized toy train looping around the theme park for one whole day. Why wouldn’t you want a real train that takes you to where you need to go for the other 364 days in the year — for half the cost?

Have we not already spent billions and billions more on supporting a car-oriented infrastructure that has gotten us into this mess to begin with? The unending traffic, the incessant lack of parking, the unhealthy dependency on our cars, etc. If you ask me, downtowners spending $62.5 million, in addition to bond issuance costs, of course, is an absolutely tiny price to pay for the tremendous amount of benefits this new streetcar would bring.

The knee jerk reaction I have heard from the few skeptics out there who still view the streetcar with unfounded wariness is “Why do we need a streetcar when we have buses servicing Downtown L.A.?” That’s a valid concern about service redundancy, but the reality is these are two very different beasts: buses on rubber wheels and the streetcar on fixed rail alignments. The pink elephant in the room refuses to leave no matter how hard we wish more people would just get on those buses.  Read more…

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First Look at Farmer’s Field Traffic EIR: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Earlier today, AEG announced the completion of the first draft of environmental documents for Farmers Field, the proposed football stadium for Downtown Los Angeles.  The document, available on City Planning’s website, is a mammoth 10,000 pages and the ceremonial handing over of the documents to the city at today’s event involved 13 overflowing three ring binders.

Of course, the EIR was already available on City Planning’s website.

With only 45 days to examine all 10,000 pages, the clock is running.  Here is our first thoughts on the transportation planning for Farmers Field.

Increasing Capacity on the 101

Be careful what you plan for. This graphic explains how building highways begets more highways in rural areas, but the conclusion is the same. Building a highway expansion creates a need to expand a highway somewhere else.

When the Daily News published its exclusive report on the transportation planning for the Downtown Stadium last night, it focused on a proposal to widen the 101 freeway from Downtown Los Angeles to Glendale Boulevard.  While the idea of eliminating a bottleneck probably appeals to car commuters from the Valley to Downtown and football fans alike, Caltrans and the other agencies who will spend AEG’s $2.5 million to study the project need to be vigilant.

Lat month, the Metro Board authorized a funding agreement (Item 8) with Caltrans of $100,000 for development of Project Study Report (PSR) for the “Highway 101 Auxiliary Lane Project” that appears to be the same project proposed by AEG.  It should take up to six months for Metro, Caltrans and other participating agreements to be ready for the study.

Increasing capacity on one highway in an area where it connects with so many other highways in such a short area is fraught with peril, even if one only measures a highway project’s success by traffic flow.  True, traffic may flow through the couple of miles that are bottlenecked now, but opening the flow in that area could encourage more people to drive to more destinations and increase congestion elsewhere.

Of course, the new traffic patterns will impact congestion, air quality, and life in general on a daily basis, not just on game day.  If the traffic study shows an increased amount of cars on the 101 and connected highways, and it probably will, officials will have to decide whether or not increasing the amount of cars on L.A.’s freeways is a cost the region is willing to pay to increase access to a special event’s center.

Blue Line Station Read more…

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CRA Unveils Draft Plans for South Figueroa, Public Mostly Positive

The South Figueroa Corridor Plan proposes changes for more than just Figueroa Street.

The South Figueroa Corridor Plan proposes changes for more than just Figueroa Street.

A standing room only audience descended on the Fashion Institute of Design on South Grand Street to listen to a presentation from the embattled Community Redevelopment Agency for a ground breaking and popular proposal to transform the South Figueroa Corridor.  When people discuss Los Angeles’ streets, they usually use terms such as “car-oriented” or “ugly.”  The new South Figueroa, aka My Figueroa, would be a truly beautiful street designed for people to walk, bike wait for transit or just enjoy life outside as well as a way to shuffle cars from one area to another.

The South Figueroa Corridor Project covers three miles of South Figueroa from 41st Street to Seventh Street as well as a half mile of 11st Street between Figueroa and Broadway, a half mile of Martin Luther King (MLK) Boulevard just south of Exposition Park, and a half mile of Bill Robertson Boulevard from into Exposition Park starting at MLK Boulevard.  While there are different proposals being studied for each part of the corridor, Oliver Schultze, from the world-renowned Gehl Architects in Copenhagen, promised that every part of the corridor would see some sort of improvement.

Good.

The project team offered three proposals for different sections of Figueroa, a “good,” “better,” and “best” options.  Whether a segment qualifies for good, better, or best depends on the amount of funding available and the current level of street life in the segment.  The good option consisted of an eight foot separated bike lane traveling the length of the corridor in each direction, an eighteen inch separator, car parking and bus bump outs, and a transit only lane for buses and streetcars.  In addition to creating a safe place for cyclists, removing them from car traffic and the sidewalk, it also created a 22 foot buffer between the sidewalk and the first regular vehicle travel lane.

As Joe Linton noted from the audience, “I love that protected bike lanes are the base proposal.”  Figueroa street would be the first street in Los Angeles to feature protected bike lanes.  In fact, no city in Los Angeles County has these special bike lanes, although Long Beach is adding some as we speak. Read more…

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Three Visionary Real Estate Developers and the Downtown LA Streetcar

The demand for federal transit funding is so great in the U.S. that getting a project through the funding queue is a decades-long process. To give you an idea: 37 states have proposed 400 projects worth $250 billion, according to a recent report by the national nonprofit Reconnecting America, and at the current rate of federal investment building these projects would take 77 years.

The $100 million downtown LA streetcar is a newcomer to this game, and has to get in line and wait its turn – unless it attracts significant private investment, which can boot it to the front of the line and open up all kinds of funding streams. That makes last week’s fundraiser at LA Live a significant milestone.

The event at the Target Terrace was hosted by LA City Councilmember Jose Huizar, with Eli Broad, Rick Caruso and AEG CEO Tim Leiwecke, and attended by LA City Councilmember Jan Perry as well as a host of major property owners and reps from the downtown business improvement districts. Governor Schwarzenegger sent someone, as did Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, a longtime downtown streetcar champion. Enough money was raised to keep the nonprofit LA Steetcar Inc. in the business of moving the streetcar project forward during these lean years.

Modern streetcars in other cities have won significant private investment. Property owners along Seattle’s new South Lake Union Trolley (yes, she’s a SLUT) line paid for half the $52 million pricetag, massive development has continued along that line despite the recession, and the city has already planned more lines. Property owners in Portland, where the streetcar attracted $3.5 billion in private investment along the line, also raised significant funding – and almost 40 percent of the cost of the first segment came from increased parking fees – and have even traveled to other cities to preach the streetcar gospel. Read more…

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Bids For Federal Streetcar Aid Top Available Money by Nearly Tenfold

After announcing $130 million in new streetcar grants in December,
the Obama administration received more than $1.1 billion in
applications, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) chief Peter Rogoff
told lawmakers today — offering more evidence of the growing local
enthusiasm for competitive transportation funding that began with the
stimulus law’s TIGER grant program.

large_streetcar.red.JPGNew Orleans, above, is one of more than 65 cities seeking federal grants for its streetcar. (Photo: Times-Picayune)

Testifying
before the House Appropriations Committee, Rogoff said the winners of
the streetcar grants as well as a corresponding bus funding program
would be named in June. The bus grants, totaling $150 million, were
even more popular than the streetcar funding, with more than $2 billion
worth of applications submitted to the FTA.

Rogoff, a veteran
congressional aide before his nomination to the FTA, described the
streetcar and bus programs as elements of the administration’s broader plan to promote transit-oriented development and sustainable transportation under the "livable communities" aegis.

The
FTA, he said, will keep pursuing "more integrated regional planning to
guide state, metropolitan and
local decisions that link land use, transportation and housing policy,"
with a special emphasis on making the most of increasingly scarce
federal funds.

The
stimulus law’s $1.5 billion TIGER program (short for Transportation
Investments Generating Economic Recovery) was even more oversubscribed
than the streetcar or bus grants, with more than $57 billion in bids pouring in. The grants were so in-demand that several Republicans took political flak for supporting local applications after criticizing the stimulus law as a whole, and Democrats from states that came up short were not shy about airing their frustrations.

The
significant demand for streetcar and bus funds, coming on the heels of
TIGER’s success, could bolster the U.S. DOT’s case for more merit-based
grant programs that disburse aid on the basis of environmental and
economic metrics rather than state-based formulas. The White House
already has signaled that it supports an expansion of the TIGER program beyond the $600 million in extra grants approved during last year’s appropriations process.

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In New Orleans, LaHood $280 Million in Bus and Streetcar Grants

During a visit to New Orleans, where city planners are seeking nearly $100 million in federal stimulus money for three new streetcar lines, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced plans to award $280 million in grants for streetcar and bus networks.

large_streetcar.red.JPGNew Orleans is counting on bonds, backed by sales taxes, to finance new streetcar lines. Photo: Times-Picayune

The grants, set to be awarded this spring, do not require new spending -- the money will come from unallocated funding lawmakers have already approved for transit New Starts and buses, according to a statement released by the U.S. DOT.

The streetcar and bus investments are being depicted as the first phase in the Obama administration's inter-agency sustainable communities partnership, headed by longtime transit advocate Shelley Poticha. The legislation officially starting that push, which would also authorize $4 billion for transit-oriented development projects, has yet to see action in Congress.

“Fostering the concept of livability in transportation projects will stimulate America’s neighborhoods to become safer, healthier and more vibrant," LaHood said in a statement on the grants.

The money is set to be divided into two parts. The first would award $130 million to streetcars and "urban circulators," with a focus on proposals that promote mixed-use development in local neighborhoods. No project can win more than $25 million from that pot, however, which would provide about 12 percent of the funding New Orleans needs for its ambitious streetcar expansion plan.

The second $150 million group of bus grants would go to proposals that "provide access to jobs, healthcare, and education, and/or contribute to the redevelopment of neighborhoods into pedestrian-friendly vibrant environments," the U.S. DOT said in its announcement.

As part of his trip to New Orleans, the first leg of a nationwide transportation tour, LaHood toured local transit stations that were hit by Hurricane Katrina. He stopped by the Union Passenger Terminal (home of the Amtrak Crescent line) and the Willow Street barn, wh
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Downtown Streetcar Project Opens Website, Seeks Feedback

7_10_09_streetcar.jpgA street car on Tornoto’s King Street. Photo: Kevinseanw/Flickr

Activist and blogger Eric Richardson, and indeed the whole Blogdowntown team so some extent, have been heavily involved in advocating for bringing streetcars back to Los Angeles on Broadway and beyond.  Thus, it’s little surprise that Richardson has the scoop on L.A. Streetcar Inc.’s new website designed to solicit feedback on potential routes for Los Angeles’ streetcars of the 21st Century:

For many Downtowners, 2014 just can’t get here fast enough.

That’s the projected opening date for a Downtown streetcar planned
to link South Park, Bunker Hill and the Historic Core. L.A. Streetcar
Inc. (LASI) today launched a new website full of information about the project and its current status.

Most importantly, the site includes maps for three conceptual alignments currently under consideration.

The non-profit LASI was set up in 2008 to spearhead the streetcar project, following a model established in other cities like Portland. In January, the board named Dennis Allen its Executive Director and he’s been hard at work on streetcar issues ever since.

What follows is an interview with Allen that touches on the choices behind the roots and other issues.  If you’re not familar with Blogdowntown and have some thoughts on the streetcar, please feel free to leave comments there as well as here.  The folks at L.A.S.I. are familar with Blogdowntown and will be mining the site for feedback.