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Preview of May’s Metro Board meeting

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pdf here

The Metro Board of Directors meets at 9 a.m. on Thursday for their May meeting. The meeting will be livestreamed (a link will appear here once the meeting begins) or you can attend in person.

There’s definitely some interestingness on the agenda this month, so grab the popcorn or your snack of choice for our brief preview. The Metro Board will consider:

•Approving a balanced $6.52-billion budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year that begins July 1. As the staff report notes, the budget will include $500,000 to begin the draft environmental studies for the Crenshaw Northern Extension project. The budget for the current fiscal year was $6.1 billion.

As far as bus and rail service goes, here is a paragraph from the budget:

Improved Bus & Rail Service This year’s proposed budget consists of 8,357,682 Bus and Rail Revenue Service Hours (RSH), an increase of 1.3% from FY18. Bus service hours are expected to increase by 104,081 RSH. Based on current passenger commute patterns, 15,643 RSH are for minor service adjustments to relieve overcrowding. There is an extensive rehabilitation initiative on the Blue Line, known as “New Blue” that will require line segments and stations to be closed while the rehabilitation work is performed. The remaining increase of 78,438 RSH are for Bus Bridge deployment to transport passengers during these closures. Rail service hours consist of a small net increase of 2,172 RSH. This includes an additional 32,147 RSH for service improvements, such as three car consists on the Gold Line and shorter six minute headways on the Green Line to accommodate increased demand in the morning peak hours. This increase is offset by a 29,975 RSH reduction due to “New Blue” service interruptions.

Below are the proposed budget revenues and expenses.

In plain English, “Transportation Infrastructure Development” means project construction. The bulk of that money in the coming fiscal year is going to work on the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector.

For those who don’t speak jargon, STA is State Transit Assistance, TDA is Transportation Development Act (also funds from the state) and SGR is State of Good Repair (maintenance). Subsidy Funding Programs include things such as fare assistance, funds for other transit agencies in L.A. County and highway projects.

•Approving three northern route options for the Artesia-to-downtown Los Angeles light rail project known as the West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor project. See the map at right. Source post .

•A $45.9-million contract with CH2M Hill, Inc., to perform the environmental studies and design work for the Los Angeles River Bike Path Gap Closure Project to close the eight-mile gap between the Elysian Valley and Vermon. Source post

•Cutting Metro Bike Share fares and approving a $35.48-million contract with BTS for the third phase of expansion to Culver City, Marina del Rey, Mar Vista and the area surrounding downtown L.A. Staff report on fares and staff report on expansion .

•A revenue-generating contract with Interactive Communications International for the distribution of TAP gift cards at retail kiosks and major chain stores. The idea is to greatly expand the number of outlets — presently about 400 — where people can buy TAP cards. Staff report

•A $6.77-million contract with Kimley Horn and Associates to do the planning and environmental study for the North Hollywood to Pasadena bus rapid transit project. This is one of the BRT projects funded by Measure M. Staff report . There are a couple of concepts under study — street running and freeway running. Please see this presentation from 2017 that shows both on pages 11 and 12, respectively.

•A $5.58-million contract with IBI Group to do the planning and environmental study for the North San Fernando Valley bus rapid transit project. This is another Measure M project that proposes to build an east-west line across the northern Valley. The study area stretches from Chatsworth to Sylmar and San Fernando and includes destinations such as CSUN, the Northridge Fashion Center, the Panorama Mall and medical facilities. Staff report

•Authorized Metro to proceed with a Memorandum of Understanding with L.A. County for the development of a transit vocational and boarding school. From the staff report : the school “ plans to recruit youth from the County’s safety net, along with youth from across the County, to a college-preparatory boarding academy that specializes in inspiring and training youth to pursue careers in the transportation and infrastructure sectors.”

The school is to be located as part of a joint development on 4.2 acres of land in the 8400 and 8500 blocks of Vermont Avenue in South L.A. that was acquired by Los Angeles County. Here’s a presentation :
View this document on Scribd

•Expanding Metro’s Homeless Outreach Program from two to eight teams. Metro’s current outreach teams patrol the Red Line on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. This item would allow teams to expand to all Metro Rail lines as well as Metro’s overnight bus lines (known as Owl Service). As part of this item the Board will also receive a report on Metro real estate that may be used for homeless services — the five properties identified include three Orange Line parking lots (Reseda, Sherman Way and Van Nuys), the old Division 6 bus yard in Venice and an abandoned right-of-way that had been used for parking in northeast L.A. Staff report

Here’s a presentation :

View this document on Scribd

•A three-year funding agreement for $9.7 million with the CHP to patrol the Metro ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways. Citations have been increasing, btw, for those pondering trying to cheat the system. Staff report and presentation .


Meatless Mondays with Metro: Purgatory Pizza

Take a little more transit and eat a little less meat — two things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment. In this installment of Meatless Mondays with Metro, let’s look at what’s being dished up at Purgatory Pizza .

Meaty, vegan and veggie. Photo via Purgatory Pizza Instagram .

Garlic knotsssssss. Photo via Purgatory Pizza Instagram.

Purgatory Pizza makes plenty of meaty slices, but they also have a sizeable selection of vegan pizzas and sides that are actually tasty. If you’re okay with eating cheese, I highly recommend the White Iverson. From the vegan menu, I have friends who love the Buffalo Bill, but I think it’s just okay. I personally prefer the Pineapple Express, but I know pineapple on pizza is a very divisive topic…

But one thing you won’t regret is getting an order of the vegan garlic knots.

Purgatory Pizza offers $2 slices on Wednesdays. If you want a deal the rest of the week, show your TAP card for a 10% discount on your order !

To get to Purgatory Pizza, take the Gold Line to Pico/Aliso Station or take Metro Bus 30/330 to 1st/Utah.

Have other recommendations for vegan/veggie restaurants? Let me know in the comments!


LAFC, BYD, freeways vs costways: HWR, May 21

Dept. of Transit Oriented Futbol:

LAFC has two matches this week — a Tuesday night friendly versus BVB and Saturday night against D.C. United. The new Banc of California Stadium is a short stroll from the Expo Line and Silver Line. More here .

On the subject of Major League Soccer, the NYT also had a good story this weekend about Atlanta United’s popularity with the city’s transplant community. Although a different sport, the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights secured a spot in the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday and perhaps will serve as inspiration for LAFC, which currently sits in second place in the Western Conference of the MLS.

Dept. of Rail Construction:

Stalls, stops and breakdowns: Problems plague push for electric buses (LAT)

The article takes a critical look at electric buses made by manufacturer BYD and the firm’s lobbying efforts to win contracts with transit agencies, including Metro.

Metro’s Board voted last summer to purchase 60 40-foot buses from BYD last summer as part of the agency’s efforts to fully electrify its bus fleet by 2030. Here is the staff report and the procurement summary . Metro stresses that it plans to conduct a quality control process throughout this contract (and others) to ensure that the buses meet the agency’s expectations.

Counting the ways that freeways are no longer really free (SGV Tribune)

In this op-ed, Steve Scauzillo counts the many ways that freeways exact a price — the cost of owning and maintaining a car, the time lost in congestion and the air pollution impacting the health of those who live near freeways.

He likes a proposal that the Metro Board has asked the agency to study: billing people to use the ExpressLanes instead of fining them — likely through a license plate recognition system (they do this on the Golden Gate Bridge).

Of course that raises an interesting public policy question: is it better to have everyone pay to use toll lanes or continue to provide free rides to those that meet the carpool requirement. At this time, no changes are planned — but the Metro Board had an interesting conversation about the issue last month if you want to listen.

As for calling freeways freeways, what would a better alternative be? Costways?

Elon Musk doesn’t want anyone slowing down his plan to dig tunnels under Los Angeles (Washington Post)

The WaPo serves up a couple scoops of skepticism on the Boring Company’s plans for tunnels that would carry people and cars under the L.A. area:

He [Musk] stressed that the project’s test tunnels would not be detrimental to the city’s residents or its environment and that the Boring Company is not drilling under any homes or businesses. But the details on how that is possible – or how the company plans to make money if they only charge $1 per rider, plus how it will solve the city’s transportation problem if only 16 people can ride even multiple tubes at a time – weren’t addressed in real detail at the event.

“We will turn a profit by making more money than we spend,” the company said via email.

Maybe another way of thinking about it: when it comes to transpo, the more options the better. It’s hard to say if the Boring Company’s plans will definitely come to pass but it does seem like the demand for mobility is certainly there. I can envision a world in which the Sepulveda Transit Corridor and the private tunnels could co-exist. Thoughts?

Metro committee approves cutting Bike-Share prices, expanding system (Streetsblog LA)

One of the items the Metro Board will consider Thursday is cutting bike share fares in half — to $1.75 for a 30-minute ride — and expanding the system over the next year to Culver City, Mar Vista, West L.A. and pushing the existing DTLA system further out. Here’s a presentation, including the new fare structure .

Cutting the price should help ridership, I think. Station locations matter — and Metro staff are working on improving locations to make the bikes as convenient as possible. The X factor, of course, is whether there are enough bike lanes to attract the masses to use the bikes although that hasn’t stopped the Bird electric scooters from soaring in popularity.



Paid parking to begin at four Green Line stations in June

The parking lot for the Green Line’s Norwalk Station has 1,792 spaces — and all of them are filled on most weekdays. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Paid parking will be implemented at four Green Line stations in June. The stations are as follows:

The parking rate is $3 per 24 hours. All stations will have the automated pay systems that are in use at other Metro pay parking lots. Riders will need a valid TAP card and either cash or credit card to pay. Parking kiosk locations are different for each facility but are generally located along pedestrian walkways, ground level near the elevator lobby or in the station plaza.

You can also pay for parking online at parkatmetro.net or use the Metro parking app. The app is available in the iTunes store and the Google Play store (there is a 15 cent fee to use the app so parking is $3.15 a day).

Monthly permits for Norwalk and Lakewood will be available at $39 a month, and for Crenshaw Station at $59 a month.

Under a plan approved by the Metro Board of Directors , Metro has converted some of its busiest parking lots to pay lots. The reasons are two-fold: 1) the fee helps keep some parking spaces open throughout the day for transit riders, and; 2) the fees prevent parking spaces from being taken by people not using transit.

Free spaces remain in many parking lots on the Metro system, click here for the full list.


SB 1, transit ridership in the U.S., Arts District Station: HWR, May 18

Dept. of Transportation Funding

California Gov. Jerry Brown. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Metro CEO Phil Washington.

Mobility 21 held a press event and workshop on Friday morning at Union Station to discuss the importance of Senate Bill 1, the legislation that raised the gas tax and vehicle fees in 2017. Attentive Source readers know that Metro was this week awarded about $1.8 billion in state grants — backed by SB 1 funding — for a long list of road, transit and freight projects.

Speaker after speaker — including the always-blunt Gov. Jerry Brown — highlighted the importance of maintaining the state’s transpo infrastructure, as well as building the roads, transit and freight corridors of tomorrow. Hard to argue with that. What’cha think readers?

Bike Night: It’s tonight at Union Station from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Source’s Alexia Hinton will be spinning tunes, btw.

Things to read whilst transiting: How Fortnite captured teens’ hearts and minds in the New Yorker . Fun read about the video game, especially for the culturally illiterate.

U.S. transit systems are shedding riders. Are they under threat? (The Transport Politic)

Credit: Yonah Freemark/Transport Politic.

This is an excellent and thoughtful post by Yonah Freemark, who looks at the many reasons for the rise and decline of ridership over the past 25 years or so. Metro — like many other large agencies in the U.S. — has seen a decline in ridership since 2014 (you can slice+dice our ridership numbers here ).

Yonah doesn’t feel like it’s a hopeless situation. He notes that ridership has tended to be cyclical and that there are some real service issues across the country — especially in New York and Washington D.C. We’re not immune. Metro is preparing for closures on the Blue Line in 2019 to bring the system up to modern specs.

If there’s a fear, Yonah writes, it’s that officials and people will wrongly view the ridership declines as irreversible and abandon efforts to improve transit and build transit. Should that happen, he writes, millions of people who rely and use transit will be left behind. Again, this is a really good post and I urge you to read it.

L.A. transit officials consider Metro-owned sites in Valley, Venice to aid homeless (LAT)

Metro is considering expanding its homeless outreach teams from two to eight — with the teams operating on more lines and every day. The staff also provided the Metro Board an inventory of agency properties that could possibly be used for temporary housing and other services.

The five properties included three under-used Orange Line parking lots (Van Nuys, Tarzana and Canoga Park), the old Division 6 bus yard in Venice and an abandoned right-of-way that had been used for parking in northeast L.A.

The Metro Board will consider the outreach expansion at their meeting on Thursday. The temporary housing issue is being discussed but is not currently scheduled to be decided.

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pdf here

The community meeting featuring Musk — reservations and photo IDs required — was a chance to preview The Boring Company’s efforts to build a series of tunnels that would whisk people and cars around the L.A. area.

The first step is to build a 2.7-mile test tunnel in West L.A. A lawsuit was recently filed to stop the firm from building the tunnel without environmental review — which the city of L.A. gave them permission to do. Excerpt:

Before that expansion, he said, the Boring Co. will open the West L.A. tunnel to the public to solicit feedback and discover how to create the best rider experience. He described a system that could eventually carry commuters from downtown to Los Angeles International Airport in less than 10 minutes. A ride from LAX to Sherman Oaks would cost “like, a dollar.”

In response to previous criticisms that the tunnel network could spark more traffic congestion by creating more available space to drive — a phenomenon known as “induced demand” — Musk said the company could build many layers of tunnels to accommodate as many people as necessary.

“Highways are at the outer limit of their capacity, and you’re really just barely moving the needle on capacity,” he said. “But for tunnels, you can have hundreds of lanes. There’s no real limit.”

Clearly Musk has a lot of  supporters — owing to his success with Tesla and Space X — as well as some skeptics who want more details. Lots of interestingness to come on this one, I think. Stay tuned.

City of L.A. Could Fund Environmental Study for Arts District Rail Extension (Urbanize LA)

A Los Angeles City Council motion by Jose Huizar — who represents parts of DTLA — would provide city funding for environmental studies for an Arts District Station. That’s certainly news but it’s also worth noting that a station still needs to be funded.

The bullet train is California’s largest infrastructure project — but it’s seldom discussed in the Governor’s race (LAT)

The hmmmmm moment of this article: the number of candidates who won’t call back a reporter with questions about high-speed rail, which still needs tens of billions of dollars to complete the coveted L.A. to S.F. segment.

Should you move to L.A.? (Curbed LA)

Fun article about the virtues of our region, as well as the challenges. My three pennies: I’ve always thought the L.A. area is an easier place to live than visit.

If you live here, it’s easier to find a groove and how to get around and all the great little pockets whereas tourists often end up driving from crowded place to place to see everything there is to see in a short amount of time.