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.)

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The biggest problem that is slowing down the average speed of the Orange Line buses is that there are several intersections where the buses routinely get a red light and are forced to stop. This even happens late at night when there is virtually no traffic on some of the streets where there bus hits a red light at the intersection.

    This even occurs at Tujunga Ave, which is the end of the route on the east side. Safety cannot be a reason why this happens. The drivers are likely to go through this intersection at a very low speed.

    The problem seems to be that the LADOT is counting objects rather than people at the intersections to determine whether the busway traffic or the street motor vehicle traffic has priority in signalization. If the bus approaching an intersection has 70 passengers, its counted as one object. If there are 20 motor vehicles at this intersections at the same time as this bus, then there are 20 motor vehicle objects on the street, therefore the motor vehicle objects on the street would get the priority since there are many more of them than buses. After all, you wouldn’t want to impede the flow of this 20 objects traffic on the street with only one or two buses (objects).

    Buses traveling in both directions on the busway at peak hours are on average two minutes apart and it takes just a few seconds for each one to go through an intersection. Its much more disruption for moving the most amount of people through an intersection to have the bus stop rather than the car traffic on the street. That’s due to the much greater time it takes to have fifty or sixty cars go through a intersection compared to a bus with 70 people on-board. The bus also has by far the slowest acceleration in comparison to light trucks, motorcycles or cars.

    It takes considerable time for the bus to reach 30 mph from a dead stop when loaded with 70 people. So every two minutes, or so, a bus would get a green light to continue through a intersection and the 2 minutes in between this the street traffic would have a green light. At fifteen seconds for every bus to clear an intersection the cross traffic would get seven times more amount of green signal time.

    The 3 biggest reasons people will choose to use transit is speed, frequency and reliability. Increasing the average speed of the Orange Line bus routes will likely also increase the demand (ridership). Reducing the amount of time it takes to complete the route enables Metro to add more trips in a day with the same amount of drivers.

    Metro weekday ridership has been down most of this year compared to last year. The average weekday ridership for the year is now less than it was for 2012.

  • Joe Linton

    Something interesting I noticed after we published this: nearly all the September ridership decline was bus riders. Comparing Septembers 2013/2014: bus ridership declined 4.1% – at the same time rail ridership declined 0.1% – those combine for the 3.2% in the article.

  • Joe Linton
  • Fakey McFakename

    Vermont BRT would be fantastic, given the massive demand in that corridor.

  • Jake Bloo

    Isn’t this what they said they were fixing…?

    “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. “

  • Jake Bloo

    That would amaaaaazing, especially because it could link up with a couple subway and a light rail station!

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Metro required that the Orange Line bus drivers go 10 mph through the intersections for safety reasons. Now they want to raise that up to a maximum 25 mph. The LA DOT response to that was that Metro determines what speed limits to impose on the busway and not the LADOT. The LADOT sets the signal timing.

    Another proposal in the Metro report is to use the real time information gathered about the signal timing to create a software program that would inform the bus drivers whether they are driving too fast or too slow to hit a green light at the intersections.

  • “ExpressLanes Enable Speeding Scofflaws”

    Under state law, I believe theyll have to raise the speed limit to 70mph if they want to enforce speed limits

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Passenger capacity of a sixty-foot transit bus can be increased by having less seats. The Orange Line bus has sixty-two seats. Reducing that to about thirty would increase the amount of passengers it can hold by about 50% since each passenger takes up much less space standing than they do sitting in a seat.

    This could be achieved by getting buses with rows of seats facing forward of three across instead of four as there is now. The seats directly across from the second and third doors could also be eliminated. Doing this would create a wider aisle and more room around two of the doors. This would enable bicycles to be stored on-board out of the aisle late at night when there is demand for bicycle boarding’s greater than there is space. This also creates easier entry, exits and movement within the bus by having more room in the aisle and around the doors.

    I’m not creating new ideas here. These seat configurations are commonly seen are European buses. The U.S. market for transit buses seems to have interiors that pack as many seats in as possible. This is not an efficient way to operate a bus on a route that has a lot of passenger boarding’s.

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