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Ride the Owls with So.CA.TA on Their Annual Day-After-Thanksgiving Tour

Traditionally Southern Caifornia Transit Advocates does a day-after-thanksgiving study tour , usually to explore service in far-flung areas outside urban Los Angeles (Santa Barbara, San Diego, Victorville, Bakersfield).

This year we are doing something different. We are riding owl service in the L.A. area, Friday evening into Saturday morning. This is service that operates in the wee hours (midnight to 4 a.m.). We’ll also ride some service on the fringes of that period

Schedules are posted on the websites of Metro andFoothill.

The reason we are interested in owl service is at a meeting of the Metro Citizens’ Advisory Council earlier this year I learned Metro next year will be considering whether to change how it operates service overnight. Instead of having most bus lines run into downtown L.A. for the hourly “line’-up” timed connections, the agency might operate the Red Line 24 hours and have owl bus service feed into that.

This would open up possibilities versus the time constraints that currently shape how owl service is operated. It seems like a good time to start contemplating what we think the changes should be and go out to investigate the service operated now — are there gaps in service, or lines with low ridership that may not merit continuation?

Please post comments with any thoughts you have about owl service. And please note at this point running the subway overnight is just an idea Metro staff is starting to think about. Nothing at this point is set in stone.

As always anyone who wishes is welcome to ride along with us.

The itinerary was prepared by member Charles Powell. Read more…

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Electric Bus Company BYD Offers Private Tour with So.CA.TA. on Friday

Dignataries from Shenzhen, China, Los Angeles and BYD at the grand opening of their North American Headquarters in L.A. Live. Photo:##http://www.ecns.cn/2011/10-25/3292.shtml##ECNS##

Dignataries from Shenzhen, China, Los Angeles and BYD at the grand opening of their North American Headquarters in L.A. Live. Photo:ECNS

(In the absence of a “Week in Livable” Streets Events, we’re going to highlight some of our favorite events coming up this weekend – DN)

Electric bus manufacturer Build Your Dreams (BYD) has kindly offered Southern California Transit Advocates an opportunity to tour their electric bus manufacturing plant in Lancaster this Friday, July 11th. The tour group can include up to 20 people and at this time we have about 10 members who have made a reservation.

Since open slots are available if any Streetsblog readers would like to join us you can contact me by Wednesday (tomorrow) afternoon at dgabbard@hotmail.com to join this rare opportunity to see how buses are built. Only cost is for transport and any incidentals.

Here is the schedule for the trip: Read more…

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Ride the New sbX BRT with So.CA.TA. Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Friday May 2nd, Southern California Transit Advocates (SoCATA) is touring of Omnitrans’ sbX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) express service. Omnitrans sbX started operating Monday. Our hope is by highlighting its key attribute, dedicated stations along an exclusive bus lane, that sbX will inspire aspirations in Los Angeles County as Metro studies corridors for a proposed BRT network for possible implementation in the next few years.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 8.22.47 AMJust a glance at trade journal Metro Magazine’s survey of Bus Rapid Transit confirms BRT is the object of burgeoning interest, especially in California.

We will be taking the Metrolink San Bernardino line train departing Los Angeles Union Station at 9:02 a.m. and scheduled to arrive in San Bernardino at 10:40 a.m. Our guide is to meet us at the San Bernardino station and from there we’ll take local bus service to nearby E Street where we will begin riding sbX. Read more…

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Thoughts on Metro’s Fare Restructuring

(I want to be explicit this is solely my own opinion, and in no way endorsed by either Streetsblog or Southern California Transit Advocates – DG
But I can’t help notice that So.CA.TA. has a special meeting just to discuss the changes this Saturday. – DN)

300px-TAP_CARD_001Metro staff recently released two options for fare restructuring that as Steve Hymon notes “would raise fares in three phases over the next eight years while also making Metro more customer-friendly by allowing riders to board an unlimited number of buses and trains for 90 minutes in any direction for a single fare.”

This has garnered coverage in the media and the blogsphere. I agree with the comment DTLA Star made on LA Curbed “Metro has proposed this plan knowing full well that much of the less popular items will be stripped out after public comment”.

In 2007, Metro had an all day hearing on restructuring fares. I actually took a day off from work to attend, along with my fellow transit advocate the late Woody Rosner. When it was over we took the Red Line and Hollywood DASH to have dinner at the since shuttered Old Spaghetti Factory on Sunset. Woody’s quip was the dinner was the only useful thing we did that day.

Electeds and stakeholders made presentations. Then the many transit users that signed up to speak were given 60 seconds in which to make comments. Like many activists I had worked up my own proposal. Plus I had agreed to present a consensus position that the membership of Southern California Transit Advocates had agreed to after a lengthy study session.

You can imagine how well I did trying to convey two separate proposals in 1 minute.

I had neglected to ask for a block of time for the group. But given how things played out it was no great loss. I discerned as I watched the Metro Board have a discussion after the hearing closed that the main dynamic was opposition to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposal, driven basically by a desire to deny him a political prize. It was clear his admittedly often showboating style had irritated the rest of the Metro Board and there was a desire to take him down a peg or two.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina produced an alternative to Villaraigosa’s proposal based on keeping the fare at $1.25 for the time being. It easily was adopted despite the opposition of the Mayor and his three appointees on the Metro Board. Yes, indeed, I had a front row seat (actually one in the far back of the Metro Board meeting room) to history in the making — politics of the classic sausage making variety which isn’t pretty to watch.

So you may wonder where I stand on the current “options” offered up by Metro staff and the upcoming hearing scheduled for March 29th.

Meh. Read more…

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What’s Going on with the Wilshire BRT? This Weekend’s So.CA.TA Meeting Has the Answers

Due to the Yom Kippur holiday the September meeting of Southern California Transit Advocates is this Saturday, the 21st (normally we meet on the second Saturday). The guest speaker will be a representative of Metro making a presentation on the status of the Wilshire bus lane project. This will start at 2:15 pm at Angelus Plaza, 255 S. Hill St. (4th floor). Extensive transit directions are on our website.

It should be interesting and as always is free, open to the public and after the presentation there will be an opportunity for asking quetions.

The rest of the meeting will be taken up with the usual functioning actions plus bylaws revisions in service of a radical restructuring reflecting social trends and the emerging cyber-environment of new avenues for advocacy and engagement. We are not the only civic institution grappling with the new paradigm.

I remember it was some years ago I first heard about this via blog posts reviewing Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone. Monthly meetings just don’t cut it any more and I am unwilling to continue planning events that draw the same 15-20 people month after month. We have to do things differently and internally we are having discussions on what the “new” SO.CA.TA will be like starting Jan. 2014.

Read more…

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Metro’s Point Person for Regional Rail Featured Speaker at Saturday’s SO.CA.TA Meeting

In 2011 Don Sepulveda joined Metro as Executive Officer–Regional Rail. This Saturday at 2 p.m. he’ll be the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of Southern California Transit Advocates. This is in downtown Los Angeles at the Angelus Plaza senior living complex, 255 S. Hill St. (1/2 block north of Grand Central Market), on the 4th floor. It is free and open to the public. After his remarks there will be a q&a session.

Don Sepulveda

Here is a chance to hear more about all sorts of regional rail issues: the Sprinter situation, LOSSAN, Amtrak, the statewide bullet train, Las Vegas party train, the Victorville-Vegas high speed proposal, Union Station run through tracks (aka the Southern California Regional Interconnector Project) etc. etc. Sepulveda has a full plate and keeps busy interacting with agencies, local jurisdictions, key stakeholders, etc. building support and seeking input. Like his appearance on Saturday!

Metro CEO Arthur T. Leahy has put an emphasis on multi-modalism and regional connectivity as illustrated in his remarks at Railvolution when it was held in Los Angeles last year: “The region is being transformed with transit. What do the key players in this regional Renaissance have to teach us?”

Sepulveda is Metro’s point person for the renaissance Mr. Leahy was referring to. For a snapshot of the regional rail situation I try to always read the regionl rail update Sepulveda helps prepare that is a receive and file at the Metro Board Planning & Programming Committee monthly meeting. But even better will be the opportunity tomorrow to hear him speak and ask questions.

I’ll be there. Will you?

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Measuring the Odds for Measure R+

Image from Metro Board reports via The Source.

The issue of whether or not Measure R+, our temporary name for a proposed ballot initiative to extend the 2008 transportation sales tax, will be on the fall ballot will be much clearer in a couple of days.  The Metro Board of Directors will vote on whether or not to place the initative on the fall ballot this Thursday.  The initiative still needs the approval of the State Senate and the Governor’s office, but if the measure passes muster on Thursday, it will most likely go before the voters.

Whether the voters will pass it is another story.  As in 2008, extending the sales tax would require a two-thirds vote of those voting.  The 2008 ballot measure passed with 67.2%.

In other words, it barely passed.

While the coalition that worked to pass Measure R in 2008 is coming back together under the stewardship of Move L.A., the opposition to the transit tax extension already appears stronger than last time.  The campaign for Measure R+ could have a tougher road to travel.  The plan calls for no new projects, just a “speeded up” project schedule.  In other words, if it matters to you whether the airport connector is completed in 2023 instead of 2028, then you’ll likely support the project.  If you wanted a Leimert Park Station for the Crenshaw Line, there’s nothing in this proposal for you.

Leading the opposition is Supervisor, and soon-to-be Metro Board Chair, Mike Antonovich.  The Supervisor famously compared the plan to “gang rape” of his constituents despite his Supervisor District receiving the lion’s share of the highway funding portion of the sales tax.  Antonovich voted against placing the initiative on the ballot in Committee.

Noting that rail transit generally requires a higher subsidy than bus transit, thus causing an overall increase in transit fares, the Bus Riders Union led the charge against Measure R four years ago. The civil rights group seems poised to repeat that role this time around.

“The original Measure R has offered nothing good to transit-dependent Black and Latino bus riders, who have seen close to one million hours of bus service cut and a 20% fare increase since it took effect in 2009,” explains Barbara Lott Holland, Chair of Bus Riders Union.  ”Extending Measure R indefinitely will only accelerate the destruction of the bus system and the civil rights crisis that LA Metro now finds itself in, and will plummet the agency into a debt that the poor will be asked for pay through more fare increases and even deeper cuts to their service for decades into the future.”

The Los Angeles Times puts voice to a fiscal argument that extending a sales tax indefinitely out into the future doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense long-term.  What if the transit needs of the county change in the next fifty years, and voters are paying a tax for a completed transit system with no revenue going towards future expansion?  Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa argues that these future voters will have the benefit of a completed transit system, but that argument could be a harder sell than the argument for any transit expansion made four years ago.

Another group that opposed the 2008 tax was a loose coalition of legislators and municipal governments in the San Gabriel Valley.  These lawmakers gave perhaps the least articulate opposition demanding funds for a local project that was funded by Measure R at the same time they opposed the overall Measure.  Getting more funds for the Alameda Corridor continues to be their top priority, and there is little opportunity to close the $260 million funding gap in Measure R+. Read more…

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Metro Service Changes Take Effect This Sunday

Dana Gabbard does not like the 902 service. Photo:MetroRider 14/Flickr

June 26 Metro will be implementing what are in some cases rather substantial service changes.

The Recommendations of the Blue Ribbon panel and remarks made late last year by Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer for Service Planning and Scheduling Conan Cheung signaled substantial trims in revenue service hours were in the offing. Also an evaluation of Metro Rapid service prepared last year outlined criteria for the “adjustments” of the Rapids network subsequentky undertaken last Dec. and this month.

In the face of public consternation Metro management have mostly defended the need to reduce service, with CEO Art Leahy issuing A message to our customers and taxpayers and authoring an op-ed in the Daily News, both of them justifying these actions.

The best extended critique deconstructing and deflating Metro’s assertions has been put forward by Thomas Rubin, Controller-Treasurer of the Southern California Rapid Transit District from 1989 until 1993 with an extensive background as a consultant on transportation finance to the public and private sectors and author of numerous papers on transportation issues. In a piece titled Los Angeles: the MTA’s Bus Stop Strategy Rubin provides a history lesson and some analysis. This includes thoroughly debunking Metro management’s claim that their buses operating at an average of 42% capacity means something is wrong: Read more…

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Speaking at This Weekend’s So.CA.T.A Meeting: Stephen Box

Can someone let me know if the goatee is back? - DN Photo: City Hall Insider

Originally Stephen Villavaso of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition was scheduled to be the guest speaker at the Southern California Transit Advocates May 14th meeting, only to have a conflict force him to request to be rescheduled to our June meeting. As I scrambled to seek a replacement Nick Matonak who handles the Facebook page for SO.CA.TA suggested we have Stephen Box as a speaker. And upon being contacted Box with great enthusiasm said yes.

Given the tight timing Box has carte blanche to talk on whatever topic he wants. And of course afterward we’ll have a period for q&a with the audience.

The meeting is held at Angelus Plaza in downtown Los Angeles, 255 S. Hill Street, on the fourth floor. The location is served by numerous transit lines including the Pershing Square Red/Purple Line station. Box’s presentation begins at 2:15 p.m. The business portion of the meeting starts at 1 p.m., with a break from 2 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. The meeting is free and open to the public. I’m looking forward to it.

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Gabbard: Vote Yes on 22

(Note: As we did in 2008, Streetsblog encourages the submission of op/eds about the ballot propositions on the November ballot.  Have something transportation related to say?  Feel free to email me at damien at streetsblog dot org.  None of these op/eds should be considered an endorsement by Streetsblog.)

11 26 10 yes

Proposition 22 is the latest salvo in an ongoing war between key stakeholders who have a stake (and straw) in the state’s budget over who gets how much of it locked up for them. Its purpose is to declare an end to the funding raids the legislature and Governor have engaged in repeatedly during this decade to balance the budget at the expense of transit.

Some find the aspect of 22 that benefits redevelopment agencies as a reason to recoil. This was a realpolitik decision the folks working to get 22 on the ballot made as the transit industry needed at least one other major stakeholder supporting the measure to be sure it would have the necessary financial clout behind it to get on the ballot and provide at least a modest campaign on its behalf.

Regardless of the smell factor and any worries about 22 being yet another budget by ballot measure “locking in” funding that help foster a dysfunctional fiscal structure for the state, if you support transit you should vote for 22 for one salient reason: to end transit’s image among insiders and elected officials as being a weakling and therefore able to be robbed with impunity. Read more…