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Metro Committee OKs Dismal Walk/Bike Plan Now, Funding Report Later

Active transportation supporters at Metro's Planning and Programming Committee on

Active transportation supporters hold up #metrofundwalkbike messages at this week’s Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee. Metro’s board did not increase funding for active transportation in its Short Range Transportation Plan, but director Mike Bonin introduced a motion which, if passed, would direct Metro to develop an Active Transportation Finance Strategy. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

More than fifty people showed up at this week’s Metro Planning and Programming Committee to urge the Metro board to support active transportation. Metro’s proposed $88.2 billion, ten-year Short Range Transportation Plan (SRTP) includes only $500 million for active transportation funding. Though walking and bicycling make up nearly 20 percent of L.A. County trips, Metro allocates less than one percent of its budget to those modes.

Aware of active transportation advocates’ mobilization, Metro staff’s slide show [pdf] attempted to make active transportation funding sound more plentiful than it actually is. Metro staff’s presentation suggests that the agency is supporting walking and bicycling through agency funding for categories including Signal Synchronization and Transit Capital. By totaling Metro’s committed $500 million, plus a hodgepodge of eligible Metro, state, and local funds, the staff presentation showed “up to $1.17 billion” in potential funding for bicycling and walking.

Though it is unlikely that the actual funding total will end up anything near this “up to” potential, the asserted $1.17 billion still would represent only 1.3 percent of the overall $88.2 billion plan. This is nowhere near the roughly $18 billion that active transportation would receive if Metro’s allocations were based on the current 20 percent modal share. Ideally, funding shouldn’t be limited to the existing mode share, but could be aspirational. Metro values expanding its rail infrastructure, presumably aspiring that more rail investment will create more rail ridership. Metro’s fiscal commitment shouldn’t necessarily be to maintain the existing 20 percent active transportation mode share, but to fund expansion of safe walking and bicycling facilities in order to increase levels of active transportation.

The committee did respond to active transportation demands, but not by increasing the dismal amount of funding in its SRTP. Instead, Metro board member Mike Bonin put forth a motion [PDF] (full text after the jump) that directs Metro to study active transportation and come up with a funding strategy. Safe Routes to School praised the board’s leadership embodied in the Bonin motion; Santa Monica Spoke called it a “good start.” The motion directs Metro to complete its Active Transportation Funding Strategy and report back to the board in October 2014.

Hopefully that funding strategy will not be chock full of “up to” dollars, but will actually represent an acknowledgement by Metro that safe and convenient places to walk and bike are integral to the agency’s regional transportation system.

As expected, the committee approved the agency’s SRTP, without approving any additional dollars for active transportation. The SRTP is expected to be approved by the full board next week.

Metro is considering a possible future transportation funding ballot measure. Past measures have primarily drawn from projects and budgets already approved in the agency’s Short- and Long-Range Plans. Though active transportation has been repeatedly shortchanged in Metro’s past plans and past ballot measures, if advocates keep up this timely pressure, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian funding could be a significant part of a future ballot measure.

County ballot measure funding or not, active transportation continues to grow. Will Metro’s October report address pedestrians’ and cyclists’ concerns?

Read more…

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40% of Proceeds from ExpressLanes Going to Active Transportation

Thanks to funds collected by Metro's ExpressLanes, funding to convert this bridge and other parts of the Dominguez Channel will be converted into a bicycle and pedestrian path.and the service road that has now been funded to be converted into a similar path. This portion along the channel is currently closed. Carson and County Flood Control will work together to open it to the public for bicyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Lauren Grabowski

Thanks to funds collected by Metro’s ExpressLanes, funding to convert this bridge and other parts of the Dominguez Channel will be converted into a bicycle and pedestrian path.and the service road that has now been funded to be converted into a similar path. This portion along the channel is currently closed. Carson and County Flood Control will work together to open it to the public. Photo: Lauren Grabowski

While much of the attention on yesterday’s Metro Board committee hearings was on the showdown over active transportation in the Short Range Transportation Plan, some good news emerged in the Congestion Reduction Committee tasked with overseeing Metro’s ExpressLanes Program.

Over $26 million in funds collected by variable toll lanes on the I-10 and I-110 were programmed, pending Board approval, for projects that include a Downtown Los Angeles Bike Share program, a Union Station Bike Hub, MyFigueroa outreach/marketing, and active transportation projects in El Monte, Carson, Monterey Park, Baldwin Park, and other parts of the county. The rest of the programmed funds will go towards improvements in station access to the express bus services, improvements to the ExpressLanes themselves, and even a Dodger Stadium Express bus service for the South Bay area.

The Metro staff report, including a two-page table breaking down the funded and un-funded applications, can be found here.

At yesterday’s committee meeting, there was some questioning of the funded program list. John Fasana, Duarte City Councilmember and long-time Metro Board Member, questioned the staff recommendation to fund new ticketing machines for Metrolink trains. The project scored a 75, higher than some of the active transportation projects and all of the highway projects, yet the committee ruled that it did not meet corridor-connection funding criteria.

In the end, the final funded project list won the committee’s full backing — a big win for active transportation advocates. While only 0.6% of the Metro’s multi-billion-dollar Short Range Transportation Plan funding will go towards supporting active transportation, roughly 40% of this much smaller pot will.

There are two other takeaways from this report and the Metro action: Read more…

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Showdown Over Bike/Walk Funds Missing from Metro Short Range Plan

Metro's Every Day is a Bike Day campaign appartently doesn't apply to the agency's funding planning days.

Does Metro’s EVERY DAY IS A BIKE DAY campaign apply to days when Metro is planning their future funding priorities? Find out this Wednesday as the agency considers its Short Range Transportation Plan. Image: Metro

Metro’s Short Term Transportation Plan is on the agenda for this Wednesday’s Metro board Planning and Programming Committee. The SRTP is the agency’s $88 billion plan for the next 10 years.

Though concerns have been raised about technology, articulated buses, and extending the Gold Line east of Azusa, the main point of contention appears to be over funding for active transportation: walking and bicycling. Overall, the 10-year plan includes $500 million worth of active transportation funding, just 0.6 percent of the overall $88 billion budget.

The Safe Routes To School National Partnership (SRTS) and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) have been at the forefront of a broad coalition urging greater Metro investment in  active transportation. They are mobilizing organizations and individuals to attend the Metro committee meeting on Wednesday, July 16 at 2:30 p.m.

From the  SRTS website:

In Metro’s view, walking and biking are the purview of cities, not a regional transportation priority. As a result, Metro has a fragmented approach to walking and biking that does not ensure that all of the parts add up to a region that is in fact multimodal, safe and serves the needs of all travelers and all trips. [...] As Metro prepares for a possible new transportation sales tax in 2016, now is a critical time to reevaluate the region’s policy vision and investment strategy to support a transportation system that works for all.

More than 60 organizations signed on to this L.A. County Active Transportation Collaborative comment letter. Other non-profits urging greater funding for walking and bicycling include NRDC-Climate Plan-Coalition for Clean Air, Move L.A., and the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Transportation Committee.

It’s not only non-profit community organizations echoing the call to support walking and bicycling. Also submitting comments to Metro were the L.A. County Department of Public Health, the L.A. Unified School District, and Jon Kirk Mukri’s city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT.)  Here is an excerpt from LADOT’s refreshingly livability-minded comment letterRead more…

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S.F. Supervisors Commend Pedestrian Safety Champion Seleta Reynolds

Soon-to-be LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaks before the S.F. County Supervisors on July 8th 2014. Watch full video here, Reynolds' item begins at 00:43.

Soon-to-be LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaks before the S.F. Board of Supervisors on July 8th 2014. Watch full video here, Reynolds’ item begins at 00:43.

For a quick preview of what Seleta Reynolds has to offer Los Angeles, watch this video of her commendation appearance before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors two days ago. Reynolds’ item begins at 00:43.

San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, in a glowing speech, praised the departing San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency manager. Kim states, in part:

We will really miss your leadership, but mostly your passion advocating for residents here in San Francisco. And, we want to honor you today for the incredible groundwork that you have done that we will continue to push on to effect a culture change at the city level. Thank you for putting us on the map for pedestrian and bike safety.

Reynolds’ response includes:

I’ve been working on safety for pedestrians for 16 years. It’s really hard to compete with some of the cool, glamorous things that we have in transportation, things like bike share and cycletracks and SFPark and smart signals, but I am so so thankful that pedestrian safety is finally getting its day.

Watch and listen to the full exchange starting at 00:43 here.

Seleta Reynolds was nominated by Mayor Garcetti to become General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. She was recently confirmed by the City Council’s Transportation Committee and by the full Los Angeles City Council. She is expected to begin her tenure at LADOT on August 11th, 2014.

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Metro Round-Up: LAX, Open Streets, New Reps on Technical Committee

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail  run at grade, below future "automated people mover." Image via Metro staff report

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Bo. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail run at grade (visible in the middle right), below future “automated people mover” (visible in the upper right). Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

At yesterday’s Metro Board Meeting, directors approved a handful of initiatives that have great implications for the future livability of the Los Angeles Region. Here is the re-cap:

Technical Committee Adds Pedestrian and Bike Representatives

The Metro Board approved adding two new active transportation representatives to the agency’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). In addition to new TAC members representing bicycle and pedestrian transportation experts, the motion [pdf] approved yesterday also added a non-voting public health representative.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) and Safe Routes to School National Partnership have pushed for long-overdue Metro TAC expansion. The TAC includes a representative from the Automobile Association of America, but no one advocating for active transportation. Earlier this year, Streetsblog previewed TAC expansion. Since that earlier article, the somewhat half-hearted proposal was strengthened by a March 2014 motion from Metro boardmember Mike Bonin.

Here’s what the LACBC’s Eric Bruins had to say about yesterday’s Metro board action:

It’s about time for Metro to embrace multi-modalism throughout the culture of the agency, including their advisory committees. This committee is involved in the nuts-and-bolts of decision-making at Metro, so it’s important to have people at the table constantly viewing agency actions through a lens of how they impact walking, biking, and public health throughout the county.

Open Streets Events Expanding Throughout L.A. County

SBLA covered the expansion of CicLAvia-type open streets events when Metro staff recommendations were circulated about a month ago. As LongBeachize previewed, representatives from the city of Long Beach attended the Metro Board meeting, expressing their concerns over Metro’s selection criteria. Metro awarded funding to only one event to each applicant city before funding any additional events hosted by the same city. Proportionally, this puts the cities of Los Angeles (population 4,000,000) and Long Beach (population 500,000) on equal footing with Lawndale (population 34,000) and Culver City (population 40,000). (Population figures here.)

Though Metro board member John Fasana expressed that Metro should “re-tool” in future open streets funding cycles, the board approved the staff recommendations unchanged. Lots more ciclovías coming to lots of neighborhoods over the next couple years!

Rail Connection with LAX Approved

Despite boardmember Mike Bonin expressing some concerns (including very low ridership projections, a focus of this L.A. Weekly article) at last week’s Metro Programming Committee meeting, yesterday’s LAX approval went very smoothly. The Metro board approved a preferred alternative for connecting rail to LAX. It’s a new rail station, located at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard, where LAX-bound riders can board an Automated-People-Mover (APM). Depending on operations decisions, still to be determined, the new station will serve the existing Metro Green Line, Metro Crenshaw Line (under construction) and possibly even Expo Line trains via Crenshaw. (Editor’s note: this would be way in the future – there are no current plans to connect Expo and Crenshaw tracks.) Both Mayor Garcetti and Bonin stated that they expect the 96th Street Station to be more than just a transfer point, but indeed a full-featured world-class gateway to Los Angeles.

With the LAX connection conceptually decided, there’s still lots of environmental studies, design and operation decisions, finalization of features that will be designed/built by LAX itself, and about a decade of construction before the riders can experience it.  Read more…

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What World Cup Soccer Tells Us About Using Public Space in Los Angeles

Join 4000-5000 people watching South Korea

How often does Los Angeles find 4,000-5,000+ people assembled in public space? Come to Wilshire Blvd. and Serrano Ave. in Koreatown, on Thursday June 26th at 1 p.m. and experience it. If South Korea can upset Belgium on the 26th, there could be additional outdoor viewings, which grow bigger and bigger as Korea progresses toward the final. Larger image and full K-pop audio experience at Radiokorea.com

I assume that most Streetsblog readers who have any interest in sports turn elsewhere for insightful sports coverage. We barely cover competitive bike racing here. I don’t claim much in the way of sport expertise, nonetheless, as a somewhat-closeted soccer fan, I am going to try my hand at writing about the World Cup Football. It’s not Football in the American sense though, it is, of course, Soccer.

For the uninitiated, there’s a big international soccer tournament that’s being played right now in Brazil: World Cup 2014. It is already being watched by record numbers of television viewers worldwide.

LA Mayor Garcetti Talks World Cup from KPCC on Vimeo.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in the above video, connects the World Cup with Los Angeles traffic. He suggests that if just enough people skip work and instead watch the games, then L.A.’s streets and freeways could flow more smoothly.

But, there are some other aspects of World Cup Soccer that get me thinking about L.A.’s streets and public spaces.

First off, let me acknowledge that there are plenty of serious downsides to all this. This is the guys cup, the women’s will take place next year and will be awesome and receive virtually no attention. Plenty of folks from the host nation, Brazil, are protesting the warped priorities of spending billions on stadiums while ignoring much-needed stuff including housing, transportation, health, etc. Streetsblog readers have seen the way big sports stadiums plague neighborhoods and create massive parking craters. The international soccer governing body, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association,) is a corruption-plagued old-boys-network, and they’re raking in the dough on this tournament. Like other sports and many other aspects of daily life, there’s plenty of racism expressed by soccer fans.

So, what’s the upside?

Soccer crosses cultures and national boundaries. As Mayor Garcetti mentions in the above video, Los Angeles is home to huge populations of immigrants from many of the nations playing in the World Cup.

Most days, it’s not easy for me to strike up a conversation with immigrants from Mexico, Korea, Cameroon, etc. in my neighborhood. Now, when my family is out walking, we’ll spot people proudly wearing their national team’s kit (soccer-ese for shirt) and we’ll at least have a short conversation about how their team is doing.

Nationalism and patriotism can be really destructive, generally, and especially in support of U.S. militarism. I find nationalism comforting, though, when it takes the form of immigrants proudly supporting the soccer team from their home country. Latin Americans get behind colonial teams overcoming their imperialist colonizers. African immigrants similarly rally behind teams from their continent. Though there’s never quite a level playing field, there are upsets. The U.S. is fun to root for, precisely because we don’t dominate soccer the way we do other sports and other arenas. Read more…

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Metro Extends Reach With Its New First Last Mile Strategic Plan

At its April 2014 meeting, the Metro board approved its First Last Mile Strategic Plan & Planning Guidelines. For readers unfamiliar with ”first last mile” terminology, it’s planner-speak for looking at the portion of a transit trip between a transit stop and one’s final destination, most often a home or work place. Generally every transit trip includes some non-transit at each end. This last mile can include: walk, bicycle, skate, scooter, transit, taxi, carpool, driving, etc., or some combination of those. First last mile planning looks at the infrastructure that makes it safer and easier for riders to get to transit stops.

It is a welcome step forward that Metro is taking first last mile facilities seriously. Control over first last mile tends to reside somewhat outside of Metro’s direct jurisdiction. Metro drives the bus and operates the train, but passengers arrive via sidewalks, paths and streets that are designed and regulated by various cities.

In planning and building its transportation system, Metro already coordinates with cities. In some cases Metro accommodates car traffic by widening roads, etc., so it only makes sense that Metro can also work with cities to accommodate safer walking and bicycling to Metro stations.

Comparison of

Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions per person trip. From Metro First Last Mile Plan page 6.

Though there are a lot of ways to get to transit stops, but a lot of first last mile planning focuses primarily on active transportation: walking and bicycling. Walking is already the most frequent first last mile mode. Per Metro surveys, more than 80% of Metro trips begin by walking to transit. Read more…

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Active Transportation Advocates Secure Fair Competition for State Funding

Safe Routes To School projects get a level playing field after yesterday’s Metro board vote on an amended Active Transportation proposal. Photo: Safe Routes To School National Partnership

At yesterday’s Metro Board meeting, bike and walk activists won a small victory to ensure a fair process for projects seeking state funding.

As SBLA reported earlier, federal changes resulted in Metro no longer receiving federal bike and pedestrian funding that Metro had granted to cities. Metro is looking to withdraw from about $90 million in already-approved bicycle and pedestrian projects scheduled for funding through 2019.

Metro had approved project funding via its Call for Projects (Metro Call), but is instead requiring cities to seek California Active Transportation Program (ATP) funding to replace lost Metro funding. Cities will be competing in a statewide ATP process; applications are due May 21st, 2014.

Eyeing the Metro budgetary bottom line, Metro staff had proposed giving Metro’s selected projects an extra 10 points in their rankings. This would have tipped the scales in favor of state funding replacing former Metro funding, but would have created an unfair process. Projects that Metro approved in the past, whether still viable or not, would be at an advantage over all other bike and pedestrian projects.

Additionally, ATP combines several pots of money, so, under the Metro proposal, there would be entire classes of projects that would be at a competitive disadvantage. The Metro Call has not included Safe Routes to School (SRTS) projects and programs; these were funded directly by the state in the past. So, under the Metro staff proposal, all L.A. County Safe Routes To School applications would be at a competitive disadvantage.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and the Safe Routes To School National Partnership were vocal in drawing attention to the flaws in Metro staff’s proposal. The organizations submitted this joint comment letter, and testified before Metro committees last week and before the full board yesterday.

Read more…

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Eyes On The Street: Broadway’s Got New Bulb-Outs

Work is underway for Downtown L.A.'s Broadway "Dress Rehearsal." The street has fresh new striping for bulb-outs, also new zebra crosswalks. photo Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Work is underway for Downtown L.A.’s Broadway “Dress Rehearsal.” The street has fresh new striping for bulb-outs, also new zebra crosswalks. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Crews are out this week doing striping and new crosswalks for a project called Broadway’s Dress Rehearsal. Broadway is, arguably, Los Angeles’ most heavily pedestrian street. The current project reallocates former car-lane space to make way for pedestrians. It’s no secret that the transformation here is inspired by NYC’s relatively-inexpensive street plazas, including Times Square.

Streetsblog L.A. reviewed the overall project earlier, and subsequently reported on implementation timelines. There’s plenty more project details at Bringing Back Broadway.

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L.A. City’s Ten Million Dollar Sidewalk Repair Program Turns Inward

Broken sidewalk on Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Roger Rudick

Don’t expect L.A. City funding to fix Alameda Street’s broken sidewalk any time soon. Photo: Roger Rudick

At Monday’s Los Angeles City Council Budget and Finance Committee, the city’s proposed $10 million sidewalk repair program took a turn inward. After closed session deliberations over sidewalk lawsuit liability, Committee Chair Paul Krekorian relayed the committee’s action to focus on “damaged sidewalks abutting city facilities.”

According to city estimates, L.A. has a $1.5 billion sidewalk repair backlog. Per the staff report, the city’s 2013-14 budget approved $10M for a Sidewalk Repair Program, specified as follows:

Sidewalk repair will be limited to sidewalks damaged as a result of street tree root growth at various locations throughout the City. Priority will be given to sidewalk locations identified in claims for damages filed with the City, with locations and size of repairs to be determined at a later date.

L.A.’s departmental staff worked with electeds to determine how to spend these funds. The proposed “limited sidewalk repair plan” would have split the funding into three equal categories: 1) locations where lawsuits have been filed, 2) iconic streets, and 3) a “50/50 program” where the city and property owner split sidewalk repair costs.

There are two wrinkles that further complicate this proposal. There are ongoing sidewalk lawsuits, prominently including Willits Vs. City of Los Angeles – a class action lawsuit over L.A.’s failure to make the public pedestrian right-of-way accessible to disabled people. There’s also a longstanding contention over who is responsible for paying for sidewalk repair: the property owner or the city? 

The clock is ticking for the $10 million approved, because the city’s fiscal year ends June 30th. The monies don’t need to be completely spent by June, but if the program, inadequate as it is, doesn’t get underway, it’s difficult to justify continuing city budget allocations.

Read more…