To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Leg update: Congress restores commuter tax benefit, Burke confirmed to Amtrak Board


 Posted by Steve Hymon


A pair of legislative updates from Metro’s government relations staff. Some explanation on the second one — it means that the $240 spent on transit benefits month is exempt from withholding taxes, meaning more money in the pocket of commuters. Congress had in 2011 rudely allowed that number to slip from $230 to $125. A news release from the American Public Transportation Assn. about the commuter tax benefit is after the jump.

The update from Metro’s government relations staff:

U.S. Senate Confirms Yvonne Burke for Amtrak Board
The full U.S. Senate has confirmed President Obama’s nomination of former Los Angeles County Supervisor and California Transportation Commissioner Yvonne Burke to serve on the Board of Directors of AMTRAK. Commissioner Burke will join the Board of Directors that oversees AMTRAK, the informal name for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. Metro staff have been in consistent communication with Commissioner Burke to provide information on the importance of AMTRAK in enhancing mobility across the State of California and specifically in southern California. We congratulate Commissioner Burke on the Senate’s action to confirm her nomination and look forward to working with her as she begins her efforts as a member of the AMTRAK Board of Directors.

Congress Approves Extension of CNG Tax Credit and Commuter Tax Benefit Program

As part of the fiscal cliff legislation adopted by the Senate and House yesterday, a provision was included that will extend (through December 31, 2013) the increase in the monthly exclusion for employer-provided transit and vanpool benefits from $125 to $240.  By increasing the monthly exclusion for transit and vanpool participants, the benefit now matches those provided for employer-provided parking benefits.

Also included in the fiscal cliff legislation was a provision to extend, for one year, the CNG tax credit. In addition to being extended through December 31, 2013, the CNG tax credit language included in the final bill provides for the tax credits to be retroactive for 2012.  This benefit is worth approximately $20 million to our agency.

Metro is deeply appreciative to our U.S. Senators and Los Angeles County Congressional Delegation members for supporting both the commuter transit tax benefit and CNG tax credit language in H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 that was cleared by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday.

From APTA:

 Congress Makes Public Transit Commute Benefit Equal to the Parking Benefit

“On behalf of the millions of Americans who ride public transportation, I commend Congress for passing legislation to increase the public transit commuter benefit, and making it equal to the parking benefit. With parity between public transit and parking benefits, people have the ability to make the best reasonable transportation choice,” said American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “For 2013, there is no longer a financial bias in the federal tax code against public transit use. This has always been an issue of fairness, and public transit advocates are pleased that the federal tax code will again provide transit riders with the same tax benefits according to those who drive to work.”Under the new “fiscal cliff” legislation passed by Congress this week, the parity between public transit and parking benefits are now up to $240 a month and are retroactive from January 1, 2012. This will expire on December 31, 2013. APTA urged Congress to permanently extend the transit commuter tax benefit to the same level as the parking tax benefit.
“It is our hope that in the new Congress, legislation will pass to make the public transit commuter benefit parity permanent,” said Melaniphy.

The bill also extends through 2013, the alternative fuels tax credit refund that many public transit systems utilize to offset costs associated with using natural gas and other alternatively-fueled vehicles.

Electric vehicle charging stations coming to Metro park and ride stations


 EV drivers will soon be able to charge their vehicles at five Metro park and ride stations: Union Station, Sierra Madre Villa Station, Willow Station, El Segundo Station and Universal City Station. Each of the five locations will have four Level 2 chargers that can accommodate up to eight vehicles at a time. The first two locations, Union Station (located at P2D in the underground parking structure) and Sierra Madre Villa Station, opens to the public in early January 2013. All stations will be open by mid-February 2013

 The installation of these EV charging stations is part of a one-year pilot program. Metro hopes that these stations will encourage EV drivers to combine public transportation with driving. EV drivers will be able to charge their vehicles while using Metro to run errands, or while commuting the rest of the way to work.

EV drivers need to subscribe with Metro to use these charging stations. Once they sign up, they will receive a key fob linked to either a credit card or PayPal account. To start a charge, plug the EV in and wave the key fob over the reader. The cost is $1/hr and tops out at $3. EV drivers will receive a text notification when the $3 maximum has been charged. EV drivers can also get instant access to a charging station by calling 213-922-GOEV and setting up an account on the spot.
This pilot program marks the first time a transportation agency has directly incorporated EV charging stations as part of the transit system. Metro is working with EV Connect to install and operate the charging stations. The program is funded by a grant from the California Energy Commission.

Free Shuttle From North Hollywood Station


January 2, 2012

Free Shuttle from North Hollywood StationSave on parking and reach Burbank's Bob Hope Airport the easy way. Go Metro to the North Hollywood Station and hop on a free SuperShuttle van straight to your terminal.

SuperShuttles operate between 6am-10pm daily. You can call 800.224.7767 to reserve a van in advance, or call 818.558.3179 to request one without a reservation. The SuperShuttle will pick you up at the taxi zone on Lankershim Bl.

For return trips to the North Hollywood Station, go to the shuttle island in front of the airport terminal.

This service is provided by the Burbank-Glendale- Pasadena Airport Authority.

10 Miles of New Sidewalks in SaMo's Bergamot Area Plan


January 2, 2012

Santa Monica's blueprint for planning in the area near the forthcoming Expo Line station at Olympic and 26th, known as the Bergamot Area Plan, will finally be heard by the city's planning commission this month, the Santa Monica Mirror reports. The newspaper has some details on the ambitious proposal, which actually encompasses two developments: the Bergamot Art Station and the Bergamot Transit Village. The former project could include hotels and museums, but it's incited far less ire than the latter, which has already been downsized and will probably ended up having more housing--and less office space--than an earlier incarnation. While the exact number of new units remains a question, there's a big push to create more workforce housing so that employees in the area's creative industries can actually afford to live nearby (findings show that only one percent of those who work in the area could afford a single-family home there).

Football Teams Seem Nervous About Moving to Downtown LA


January 2, 2012

The NFL is now accepting applications from teams that want to move to Los Angeles (and presumably to the proposed Farmers Field stadium in Downtown), and so far they've had zero takers. It is only day two of the six-week application window, but Tim Leiweke, president of Farmers Field developer AEG, thinks teams have been put off by plans, announced in September, to sell AEG. He told the Daily News that "there is no club currently that's going to file for a transfer simply because they are waiting to see what happens with our ownership situation." While that sounds fairly logical, it seems like only yesterday that Mayor Villaraigosa was assuring everyone that he had "the commitment from both [Leiweke and AEG owner Philip Anschutz] that this sale will not affect plans for an NFL team to return to Los Angeles in the near future."

NFL owners showing no signs of interest in moving to L.A.



The period between January 1 and February 15 is when owners normally indicate their plans to sell or relocate their franchises - a key six-week stretch for any team moving to L.A. But Anschutz Entertainment Group's Tim Leiweke, who hopes to build a downtown football stadium, tells the Daily News that no one has come forward so far. One reason, he says, could be the possible sale of AEG. "What I would guess ... is that there is no club currently that's going to file for a transfer simply because they are waiting to see what happens with our ownership situation," Leiweke said. After AEG was put up for sale last fall, there's been little news on the bidding process, though Leiweke says that a deal could happen soon. From the Daily News:
Leiweke said Monday "a short list" of buyers has been narrowed down for AEG, a global company that owns Staples Center, the L.A. Kings and dozens of other music and sports properties. The company, which is expected to fetch more than $6 billion, was listed for sale by Anschutz Co. in September. "There are about a dozen individuals or companies that are now in the next stage," Leiweke said, declining to detail who was on the list or bid prices. Leiweke said he believes that if the company is sold, it could happen as soon as first quarter of 2013. "We need to finish this last piece, which is an ownership group committed to the deal that we have outlined, and committing financially to building Farmers Field, and I think that it's going to happen."
Lankershim Boulevard rises to prominence in the Valley (L.A. Times) 


Another excellent dispatch in Christopher Hawthorne’s series on the past, present and future of significan streets in Southern California. In this, Hawthorne notes that the stretch of Lankershim that runs above the Red Line subway has become the most vital north-south connection in the San Fernando Valley and that the subway, in turn, has been the primary driver in reviving North Hollywood’s pedestrian-oriented Arts District.

Hawthorne also turns his attention to two projects involving Metro: a pedestrian tunnel under Lankershim to connect the Red Line’s NoHo station to the Orange Line terminus and a pedestrian bridge over the street at Universal City to connect the station entrance to Universal City proper. Hawthorne doesn’t like either project. Excerpt:
Putting pedestrians and drivers into separate silos of space, as the bridge-and-tunnel plan would do, isn’t just a remnant of modernist urban-planning theories that have been widely discredited. It would send drivers a clear message that they’re in control of the boulevard, free to drive even faster than they do now.

Simple and far cheaper solutions at both locations — widen the crosswalks, give people more time to get from one side to the other and ticket drivers who fail to yield — would have the benefit of smoothing the pedestrian flow and making the intersections safer at the same time.

Yet that approach has won little support from Metro, for one basic reason: What’s driving the proposals to remove pedestrians from the boulevard is not just a concern for their safety. It’s also a fear of traffic congestion along Lankershim, a worry that all those people on foot are proving an impediment to the free movement of cars.
I haven’t heard much from readers about the bridge at Universal City.  I have, however, sensed there is considerable reader support for the Red Line-Orange Line tunnel because many people would rather avoid crossing a busy street. I do think there is a very real ongoing conflict in Los Angeles about how much officials are willing to disrupt car traffic for transit, bike and pedestrian projects.

710 Disinformation and Contradictions 
 (This is from an email from Sylvia Plummer posted by John Picone on No 710 on Avenue 64 Facebook page)

It is important that we learn as much we can about what Metro is claiming/doing.

I have attached a collection of statements made by Metro, Caltrans, and Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), showing all the disinformation and contradictions made by these agencies.

The next two attachments have presentations made to Public Private Partnership (PPP) investors this fall: one by Doug Failing (METRO) and the other by InfraConsult (now HDR Engineering) Executive Mike Schneider. Much of the information listed for the SR-710 project is different than what we have been told repeatedly in the Alternatives Analysis process, such as a $2.3 to 4 billion total project cost, done in two stages.

The Metro Open Houses will take place at the end of January.
Please plan to attend at least one of the three scheduled meetings.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
6 pm - 8 pm
Maranatha High School
169 S. Saint John Avenue, Pasadena

Thursday, January 24, 2013
6 pm - 8 pm
San Marino Community Church
1750 Virginia Road, San Marino

Saturday, January 26, 2013
9 am – 11 am
Cal State Los Angeles
Golden Eagle Building – Ballroom
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032

The dates and locations can also be found on the no710.com website.
Thank you to everyone's continued dedication to this cause. Here's hoping that 2013 see's an end to the tunnel option and a shift to more sensible transportation solutions.