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

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Two new bike bills in the California legislature through the process known as “gut and amend,” two new bills that may affect cycling in the Golden State are on the legislative agenda for 2013.

By Richard Masoner, April 30, 2013

A poison pill for the 710?

The first is Senator Ricardo Lara’s SB 811 to force Caltrans to include public transportation and Complete Streets elements in any changes to Highway 710 in Los Angeles, along with significant requirements for job training, workforce development, and targeted hiring activities.

Explosive growth in cargo volumes at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have resulted in a constant slow parade of trucks on Highway 710, known locally as the Long Beach Freeway. The working class residential neighborhoods that line the 710 are nicknamed “cancer alley” and have the among the highest child asthma rates in the nation. Caltrans and local transportation agencies are in the process of studying ways to “improve” this freeway to more efficiently move more trucks and cars between Pasadena and the railyards of Vernon and East L.A.

SB 811, as currently amended, requires Caltrans to develop and implement a comprehensive public transportation plan for the Highway 710 corridor, and to create and implement comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle improvements in order to help address some adverse affects any freeway expansion would have on the residents who live near this smog-choked freeway.

When I showed the text of SB 811 to Ted, he suggested this might be an attempt to derail the 710 project, which is unpopular with many constituents represented by Lara.

California Greenway Initiative

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez’s AB 735 would establish a statewide Greenway Initiative to promote the development of greenways along rivers in Califonria, including the development of a greenway along the Los Angeles River. A “greenway” is defined in this bill as a “a pedestrian and bicycle, non-motorized vehicle transportation, and recreational travel corridor … that is separated and protected from shared roadways that parallels an urban waterway and incorporates ease of access to adjacent communities … [and] reflects design standards with appropriate widths, clearances, and setbacks from obstructions, and centerlines protecting directional travel.”

In other words, Gomez would encourage the development of what the Dutch call “bicycle superhighways.” Under AB 735, a local government could declare a river corridor to officially be a “Greenway” and magical things can happen afterwards, though I’m honestly fuzzy on the specifics of how that would happen.

Gut and amend

Gut and amend is the process by which California legislators completely rewrite a bill that was introduced months earlier. SB 811, for example, was introduced as a bill that would make “nonsubstantive changes” to the law that authorizes the California Highway Commission. Stephen Bradford’s 3 foot passing law for cyclists started out as a “nonsubstantive change” to the wording of the state law that prohibits a type of business licenses against certain non-profit organizations.

The cynic might interpret these gut and amend procedures as an end-run around the democratic process. People like me who follow such things typically look for bicycle related bills after the deadline to submit bills passes in February. I’ve learned to monitor things a little more closely after learning of this process a couple of years ago, and I still get caught by surprise as do even professional lobbyists.

It’s possible for a bill to be radically amended and pass through both chambers and land on the governor’s desk before the amended text of the bill makes it into the online legislative database. A small, bipartisan group of legislators now wants to amend the constitution to prevent such legislative shenanigans. Read more about this process and the proposed amendment at the Capitol Alert blog. Hearings on this amendment begin Tuesday.


On Many Agendas: Goods Movement Projects and Plans


 By Editor of Sunroom Desk, May 2, 2013



U.S. Truck Traffic Flows 2007 - Source: USDOG

 U.S. Truck Traffic Flows 2007 – Source: USDOT

 Goods movement is a hot topic now in Southern California, and at state and national levels. The Los Angeles City Council will vote May 8 on the Southern California International Gateway Project (SCIG), approved by the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, but now disfavored by the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, which joined with the City of Long Beach in opposing the proposal.

Community advocates are asking for an on-dock, ship-to-rail loading alternative, instead of the SCIG/BNSF near-dock transfer facility that will draw trucks up and down the southern stretch of the I-710. The Transit Coalition is advocating for the GRID Project as an alternative – GRID includes an underground zero-emission freight rail system that would load containers at the ports and take them to warehouses or to outlying facilities that would transfer containers onto heavy rail for further shipment.

A brief tour of agendas:

From the south I-710-adjacent communities who continue to fight a freeway widening plan that will accommodate more trucks, and have succeeded in getting “Community Alternative 7″ added to a recirculated draft I-710 Project EIR — to the north SR-710 communities along a proposed tunnel extension to the 210 who oppose that plan, contending that it will bring more trucks and traffic through northeast LA County and onto the 210 in both directions (they rebut recent assurances from the SR-710 technical team that there won’t be many additional trucks using the corridor in part by noting that the south/I-710 is being widened to accommodate more trucks!)…

From the webpages of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, promoting their respective efforts to reduce pollution related to freight transportation — to the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire, where Alameda Corridor East grade separation projects are underway so that freight trains don’t regularly jam vehicular traffic on local arterials causing more idling and pollution…

From the San Joaquin Valley, which suffers from poor air quality due in part to diesel particulates from trucks and trains — to Southern California AQMD headquarters in Diamond Bar which just hosted an April symposium on Transitioning to Zero-Emission Freight Transport Technologies at which Central Valley pollution sources, the I-710, port facilities, and lower or zero emission technologies for trucks and trains were discussed (and at which one audience member said to the panelists he was disappointed that no one was talking about downsizing trains for short-haul trips, and that the group was approaching the question of zero-emission technology with a “business as usual” attitude – big trains, big trucks – instead of smaller, electric freight trains)…

From Palm Desert, where the Southern California Association of Governments 2013 General Assembly is taking place today and tomorrow (the Executive Director’s report devotes two paragraphs to freight transportation policy) — to Sacramento where the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy and the Institute for Transportation Studies together with the Union of Concerned Scientists have convened a three-session forum Delivering the Green: The Future of California’s Freight Transportation System (this post’s graphic is from one of the presentations) at which panelists will address the role of a cleaner freight system in meeting air quality, climate, economic, and public health and community needs. Sacramento is also where Caltrans has begun to develop a State Freight Plan…

From Southern California, where the multi-county transportation coalition Mobility 21 works to mobilize regional support for transportation funding and legislative priorities at the federal and state levels — to Pennsylvania, whose Congressman Bill Shuster, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told Mobility 21 2012 summit attendees that goods movement has to be a top national priority (Shuster was breakfast keynote speaker)…

From the coast of Mexico, where planned ports that would compete with San Pedro are looking for capital investment and links to a NAFTA superhighway up through Texas — to New York, which has its own struggles with waterfront modernization and labor issues but where the NY Times just published a feature on the Long Beach/Los Angeles SCIG controversy here!…

From Cal State Long Beach, where its Center for International Trade and Transportation will hold a May 15 Town Hall Meeting on Efficiency and Competitiveness: Securing Cargo and Jobs — to the U.S. House of Representatives, where a 21st Century Panel on Freight Transportation has just been formed and tasked with examining the current state of freight transportation in the United States and improving ways to strengthen the U.S. economy through an efficient intermodal freight network (and which will be holding a field hearing in Los Angeles soon)…

The overarching issues behind all these agendas are jobs, investment, economic efficiency and regional/national competitiveness, the environment, and new technologies for trucks and rail systems.

The SCIG Project promoters stress its benefits in these areas, but while eventual zero-emission trucks may reduce pollution, keeping lots of trucks on the road poses safety and congestion problems. A truck-centered approach to moving goods labeled the SR-710 a “natural goods movement corridor” some years ago, and continues to pose policy, safety, and environmental problems today. Some on-dock rail facilities are already being built at our local ports, and new approaches that put freight from the ports directly onto electrified rail for short trips could greatly mitigate urban congestion while reducing the need for land near the ports and opening it up for other, community-friendly uses.

BYD - first Chinese automaker in US - to open plants in Lancaster


By John Rogers, May 2, 2013



 An all-electric bus is seen at the announcement of the opening of an electric bus manufacturing plant by the Chinese firm BYD, in the Southern California city of Lancaster Wednesday, May 1, 2013. BYD, known as Build Your Dream, is a major producer of batteries and electric vehicles in China.

LANCASTER - The first Chinese-owned vehicle manufacturer in the United States unveiled ambitious plans Wednesday to eventually build as many as 1,000 plug-in electric buses a year at a refurbished RV manufacturing plant in a wind-swept, sage-dotted corner of the Mojave Desert.

In a news conference on a patio outside BYD's new energy-efficient production facility, the company's senior vice president, Stella Li, said the first of 10 zero-pollution vehicles, already on order from the city of Long Beach, should roll off the assembly line next year.

Within two years, Li said, BYD Motors expects to be producing 50 buses a year, and it will continue to ramp up production, hoping to reach the plant's capacity of 1,000 buses a year within a decade or two.

All the buses will be powered by the company's own iron-phosphate batteries, which will be manufactured at another plant near the bus factory in Lancaster, 60 miles east of Los Angeles. BYD is the world's largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries.

"Today is a very special day for us," Li said. "Today marks the first time a Chinese vehicle company opens a vehicle manufacturing plant in the United States."

She said after the news conference that BYD has invested more than $10 million in the two plants, declining to give a more specific figure. When the vehicle plant reaches full production, she said, it could employ as many as 1,000 people.

BYD's North American headquarters in Los Angeles currently employs about 40 people but will also grow as bus production does, Li said. She expects it will add engineers and people employed in marketing, distribution, and research and development.

Since it was founded with 20 employees in 1995, BYD Co. Ltd., has grown to employ 150,000 people across China and in offices in Europe, Japan, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere. Among its investors is U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett.

The company, which got into the automobile business 10 years ago, hasbeen looking to expand into the U.S. market for some time.

Although China has surpassed the U.S. as the world's largest auto market, Chinese manufacturers have seen domestic sales inhibited by the popularity of cars from the United States and Japan, and they've been looking to expand elsewhere.

"It's well known that Chinese manufacturers have been eyeing the North American market for years," said U.S. auto industry analyst Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Automotive in Northville, Mich. "It's probably the most important market from their perspective," he said.

But Robinet said it's not an easy one to crack, thanks to the need to establish a dealership network, fluctuations in international currency and the volatility and competitiveness of the market itself. So it makes sense that BYD would try to gain a foothold by building its vehicles on American soil as a means of controlling price and quality, he said.

At one point, BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, had hoped to introduce its e6 model electric passenger cars to the U.S. by 2010, but has since pushed back those plans. Li said after Wednesday's news conference that the company still hopes to eventually market the cars to taxi fleets in the U.S., but she couldn't provide a timeline.

"My plan is 10-year, 20-year," she said of expansion plans, before adding with a laugh: "My target is as soon as possible. My target is I wish we could do it tomorrow."

BYD says its buses can travel 155 miles between charges with a full load of passengers and with the air conditioning on. They are powered by three battery packs with a life of 20 years, said BYD Vice President Michael Austin. That means they should outlast the vehicle itself.

Each bus has 34 passenger seats but has enough standing room to accommodate 60 riders. BYD hopes to sell them to cities, transit agencies and school districts at a price of $100,000 to $200,000 per bus.

Li said BYD officials settled on Lancaster for their first U.S. production facility largely because of the influence of the city's flamboyant mayor, R. Rex Parris, who visited the company's headquarters in Shenzhen not long after being introduced to BYD executives in 2008.

"Every time we met, he was not talking about, 'Put it here or here or here,'" she said of locating the company's plant. "He was talking about creative technology. I was very impressed."

Parris, better known nationally for opening City Council meetings with a prayer, shutting down a hotel where a motorcycle gang was to meet and requiring pit bulls to be castrated, is also a long-time advocate of green technology and developing local trade relations with China.

He successfully pressed the City Council earlier this year to adopt an ordinance requiring that all new homes come with a solar energy system beginning in 2014.

"It's not just about jobs," Parris said of landing the plant in Lancaster, although he quickly added he was happy to get them. "It's about solving global warming."

In 2010, he brokered a partnership with BYD and Southern California homebuilder KB Home, which produced a prototype home with a solar-energy system that produces more energy than an average family would consume. That same year, he also persuaded the City Council to hire a Hong Kong native as Lancaster's China trade liaison.

HB2Newport Is A Party Bus Connecting Huntington Beach To Newport 


By Jaimee Lynn Fletcher, May 2, 2013



 Andrew Angulo and Chasom Brown launched HB2Newport with a handful of other investors about two months ago.

They call it the idea that everyone had but nobody executed.
Andrew Angulo and Chasom Brown launched HB2Newport with a handful of other investors about two months ago.

Their party shuttle, which takes locals and tourists from downtown Huntington Beach to the Newport Beach peninsula and back again, has been gaining popularity.

The founders, both from Huntington Beach, say the No. 1 reaction they get to their new business is, "How has this not existed before?"

"If I had a dollar for every time someone said, 'That was my idea,'" Brown said, laughing. "We didn't invent the shuttle and we didn't invent the party bus, but I think we're the first to tie the two together."
HB2Newport offers $3 rides between the two nightlife-rich beach communities on Friday and Saturday nights.

On a recent Friday night, HB2Newport was seen, and heard, from a distance as it wound through downtown Huntington Beach.

The hollers of people having a good time were barely audible above the heavy bass and bouncy melody of the dance music.

Alcohol is not served on the bus, but the riders didn't seem to mind. They held giant glow sticks in their hands instead of drinks and drummed them on the vinyl seats to the beat of the music.

"This is a great, great, great idea," said passenger Kelley McDonnell, 23, of Newport Beach. "It's a godsend."

On average, the party bus sees about 200 customers a night, and that number grows by the week, the owners said.

Angulo, who also works as a bartender at the Costa Mesa Yard House, and Brown, a musician, said they target customers who live near downtown Huntington Beach and the Newport Beach peninsula but rarely venture outside their city for a night out.

"We already have regulars," Angulo said. "We have all types of people that come on."

But the bus is not for locals only. Tourists visiting the Orange County beach communities often jump at the chance to check out the neighboring nightlife, Angulo said.

Although the idea behind HB2Newport is fun and flashy, Brown and Angulo said they also want to deter drinking and driving -- a problem prevalent in both areas.

"People drive (on Pacific Coast Highway) when they shouldn't," Brown said. "It's so close, but it's really not that close ... it's too tempting for people."

Dozens of people took the party bus in a two-hour period Friday night. Inside, LED lights spun and flashed, giving the feel of a nightclub. It took only minutes before riders -- men and women -- used the vertical handrails as dance poles.

Several riders said they plan to frequent HB2Newport to experience both cities in a safe and budget-friendly way.

"It's always really expensive to get from Huntington Beach to Newport," said Arielle Severns, 22, of Huntington Beach. "It's really clean, it's fun and we like it a lot. We're out tonight for a friend's birthday and we're coming back tomorrow."

The idea to start the company came from Angulo's mother when she visited from Seattle in July.
Angulo showed her the Huntington Beach scene and then took her to Newport Beach to experience the restaurants.

He told his mom he wished he could make it out to Newport Beach more often.

"It's hard to break out of your bubble when everything is in walking distance and so close," he told her.

"Parking is bad, nobody wants to drive and taking a taxi can be $40 round-trip," he said of the journey from Huntington to Newport Beach.

His mom asked him if a shuttle was available to transport people back and forth.

With that, the seed was planted, and Angulo called Brown to share the idea. Brown suggested making the shuttle a party bus and they worked up a business plan.

By August, they had purchased two shuttle buses that had been used at John Wayne Airport.
Angulo's uncle, who works in the limousine and party bus business, converted the airport shuttles into destruction-proof party machines.

"We told him this thing needed to be built like a tank," Angulo said. "We wanted it to have a luxury look, but we wanted it to be bulletproof from the inside out."

HB2Newport launched in early March, and the founders already have plans to expand.

They said they hope to add a "Sunday Funday" route in the coming weeks and also hope to tack on Thursday nights this summer.


Huntington Beach: HB2Newport picks up passengers on the hour starting at 6 p.m. The loading zone is just outside 25 Degrees at 412 Walnut Ave.

Newport Beach: Pickups are every hour starting at 6:30 p.m. The loading zone is just across the street from Cassidy's Bar and Grill, 2603 Newport Blvd. The bus runs until 2:30 a.m.

Other info: The cost is $3 one way and the bus holds 30 people. Large groups can make arrangements for a special pickup ahead of time. Visit partybushb.com for more information.
The Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America, and Why It Barely Registers


By Angie Schmitt, May 2, 2013

In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians were killed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and another 70,000 were injured. That’s one death every two hours.
If a pedestrian is killed in an intersection like this one, will major media even mention road design as a factor?

It’s impossible to quantify the human toll of traffic fatalities, but as David Nelson at Project for Public Spaces points out, AAA estimates that traffic crashes cost America $300 billion annually in the form of medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other factors [PDF]. That works out to three times the annual cost of congestion reported by the Texas Transportation Institute. But while we’re spending billions “fighting congestion” with expensive new roads, getting a handle on pedestrian deaths and injuries is almost a non-issue at your average state DOT.
Nelson says the silence about pedestrian fatalities arises from a tendency he calls the “accident axiom” — a set of assumptions that presume no fault, or assign culpability in simplistic and stereotypical terms, when a pedestrian is struck:
Given that all forms of transportation begin and end with walking, this is essentially a right to be a pedestrian—a right severely restricted by expensive and counterproductive high-speed roads that we’ve built. A key problem in defending this right is that very few laws motivate law enforcement to consider killing a pedestrian as a crime. Involuntary Vehicular Manslaughter is a potential charge, but it’s hard to prove constructive manslaughter since a little speeding is rarely seen as a crime, and the threshold for recklessness is hard to meet. Anecdotally, drivers who kill a pedestrian are better off waiting for the police to arrive, because hit and runs really are about the only time the police reliably pursue these drivers with any prejudice. New laws specifically dealing with pedestrian-vehicle crashes are needed.

In my opinion, our local media outlets are exacerbating the problem. Their stories discount the human loss and reinforce widely held misconceptions. First and foremost, underlying all of the poor media coverage is what I call the “Accident Axiom.” This is the widely-held (but almost never-question) belief that accidents are an unavoidable and innocent consequence of modern motorized society. The assumption here is that crashes not involving excessive speed, alcohol, or gross negligence are presumably the fault of no one, but an unfortunate systemic fluke.

This axiom has two corollaries: the Inherent Risk Corollary and the Reckless Driver Corollary. The former states that in this world of unavoidable accidents, pedestrians and cyclists are senselessly putting themselves in harm’s way by traversing concrete and asphalt. If they get hit, it is a deserved consequence of their poor decision making. And the latter states that those rare instances when a driver is at fault, it is the result of that driver being a reckless and careless individual, a deviant member of society. All blame is attributed to the individuals involved. The road network and driving culture are given immunity.

Draft alternatives released for Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan


By Steve Hymon, May 1, 2013


 Click to view larger.Click to view larger.


 Click to view larger.


 Click to view larger.


 Click to view larger.

The Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan team is releasing its draft alternatives today for improving the venerable station as a transit center. Among some of the proposals (shown above) are replacing the parking lots in front of the station with open space, building a new bus terminal to handle most of the considerable bus traffic at the station and possibly replacing the current transit plaza at the rear of the station with other structures and/or green space.

While all the alternatives will work without high-speed rail, they each offer a variety of ways that high-speed rail could access the station, including configurations in which the tracks are above the current platform, below grade at both the east and west of the current Union Station and running through the current city of Los Angeles Piper Tech facility.

All four of the alternatives and much more will be discussed by Metro officials at a community meeting Thursday (May 2) from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo at the intersection of Central and 1st streets. The meeting will be live streamed at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/lausmp and will be recorded for later viewing.

Here’s a Q&A I put together on today’s news that covers the basics.

What do all the alternatives have in common?

That the historic Los Angeles Union Station built in 1939 is preserved and remains at the center of transit operations. The idea is to embellish the station so that it works as the region’s transit hub for many decades to come while better connecting it to the surrounding neighborhoods — i.e. Chinatown, Little Tokyo, the Arts District, the Civic Center and Boyle Heights.  While the details are not developed yet at this stage, all of the alternatives will create improved pedestrian and bike pathways, including a bike lane through the site.

Union Station is already serving about 10 times the number of people it did after opening in 1939. The expansion of Metro Rail, increased bus service and plans for high-speed rail make it extremely likely that Union Station will only get more crowded if nothing is done.

Do the alternatives propose building designs?

No, that comes later. The alternatives released today are concepts about where to put facilities and future development on the 47 acres of land (and in some cases beyond that) that Metro owns.
Of course, the design of any future buildings, open space and bike and pedestrian connections matter a lot — the devil is always in the details. At this point of the master plan process, however, Metro is first trying to determine where to put everything transit-related. In its current configuration, bus and rail operations at Union Station are widely dispersed. For example, there are five different locations where local and regional buses stop, leading to some confusion among riders and a lot of walking.

A view of Union Station and the surrounding area. Metro headquarters, the MWD headquarters (to the right of Union Station), the First 5 building (in front of the MWD) and the Mozaic Apartments are all on the property that Metro owns. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.
A view of Union Station and the surrounding area. The graphic below identifies the different buildings on the Union Station grounds. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Are any of these changes funded yet? 

For the most part, no. Funding will come later either from Metro or other sources. It’s worth keeping in mind that without a very solid plan in place, there is little chance of getting money from anyone or anywhere.

Quick background. Metro bought Union Station, including about 47 acres of land and the existing development rights, in 2011 for roughly $70 million from the private real estate firm that owned it. The purchase gave Metro direct control over Southern California’s busiest transit hub while also ensuring it wasn’t tied up in private hands for years to come.

In 2012, Metro hired Gruen Associates in association with Grimshaw Architects of London to develop a master plan for the facility. In March, both a Metro staff report and PowerPoint were released that explained the early findings of the Master Plan process: making Union Station work as a transit hub will be the top priority.

Metro is about halfway through the Master Plan process now.

Is Metro proposing to demolish current structures?

Not yet. But the alternatives have some ambitious suggestions contained in them. The current Patsaouras Transit Plaza and East Portal could be replaced with green space and a new entrance building facing Vignes Street. Another alternative envisions a new bus terminal in place of the current Mozaic Apartments, which are mostly occupied at this time.
And one of the alternatives for high-speed rail envisions replacing the city of Los Angeles’ Piper Tech building with train platforms.

Of course, these are all draft alternatives — emphasis on the words “draft” and “alternatives.” It will ultimately be up to the Metro Board of Directors which to pursue in the long-term — a decision that won’t be made until a final plan is adopted, which is scheduled to happen in 2014. It goes without saying that cost and feasibility will both be major concerns.
The old Harvey House restaurant is currently used for special functions and filming. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
The old Harvey House restaurant is currently used for special functions and filming. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

What will happen to the old ticketing room and the old Harvey House restaurant building? 
I knew someone would ask that!

Again, these alternatives look at the big picture. That said, the master plan team is considering both spaces. One possibility for the old ticketing room is using it for some retail operations — something along the lines of the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
As for the Harvey House, Metro is continuing to seek offers from any private interests who want to restore the space as a restaurant and bar.

The news release about the draft alternatives from Metro is below:

First major step in planning process that will bring Union Station into 21st Century
LOS ANGELES – May 2, 2013 — The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) today unveiled four draft alternative master plan concepts for the historic Union Station and its surrounding 47 acres in downtown Los Angeles.
The team of Los Angeles-based Gruen Associates and Grimshaw Architects of New

York and London created the schematics as the first step in the re-envisioning of the iconic station to better serve its growing number of passengers and to accommodate greater varieties of transit modes in the coming years. These concepts grew out of seven months of data collection, technical studies and community input.

Following review and feedback from the community and other stakeholders, the team will continue to refine and revise the alternatives. Alternatives will then be brought to the Metro Board of Directors this fall to select a preferred alternative. The design team will further develop the chosen alternative concept so that a final plan can be presented to the public and approved by the Metro Board in spring 2014, in time for the 75th anniversary of Union Station.

“As the new owner of Union Station, Metro is extremely excited to usher America’s last great train station into the 21st century,” said Arthur T. Leahy, Metro Chief Executive Officer.   “Our goal will be to create a more thriving, family-friendly transit destination that will more effectively serve all of the burgeoning demands for transit as Metro works to dramatically increase transit options within L.A. County. Our efforts today will help make the new Union Station one of the premiere transit hubs in the country.”

Martha Welborne, Executive Director of Metro’s Countywide Planning department, said the Master Plan is still in process, and architecture will come later after the master plan is completed and approved. Pedestrian circulation and connections to neighboring communities have been a priority in all the public meetings that kicked off the design process.

“We want to ensure these linkages happen but they require the cooperation of many entities,” Welborne said. In conjunction with the master plan effort we secured a Caltrans grant and are collaborating with the Southern California Association of Governments and a number of Los Angeles City departments on a study of pedestrian and bicycle linkages to and from Union Station. “The study will culminate in a prioritized public improvement plan that will be incorporated into the final Union Station Master Plan,” Welborne said. 

The alternative concepts currently focus on transit operations, offering options for expanded bus operations, and a larger passenger concourse while leaving open the potential for additional heavy and light rail service.  The alternatives satisfy near, medium and long-term goals and allow for the seamless accommodation of the future arrival of high speed rail at Union Station.  All of them protect and enhance the historic station.  Development opportunities that benefit from transit access and that support a world-class transit facility will be explored more fully for the final draft alternatives, slated to be brought before the Board in the fall.

Transit stations affect the lives of the tens of thousands of people who use them every day and account for some of the most iconic and extraordinary buildings in the world.  While still early in the process, the plans for Union Station illustrate the exciting possibilities for the center of transit in Los Angeles.

Is Los Angeles the Tiny Railway Capital of the World?


By Adrian Glick Kudler, May 2, 2013



Yes, yes, LA's rail system is not the world's greatest--they're working on it!--and the legendary Red and Yellow Cars that criss-crossed SoCal in the early part of the twentieth century had enough faults (crowding, slowness) to make the mid-century autopia seem like a genius solution, but Metro Day Pass points out one rail advantage we do have going for us: tiny little railways. Consider:

Angels Flight: "the world's shortest railway" at 282 feet
The Grove trolley: 1,189 feet long
The Americana at Brand trolley: 1,755 feet long
The Getty Center tram: 3,720 feet long
The Griffith Park and Southern Railroad: 4,387 feet long
The Travel Town Railroad (also in Griffith): 2,169 feet long
The LA Live Steamers Museum (another in Griffith Park): One and a half miles
The San Pedro Waterfront Red Car: Also one and a half miles
Then there are all the little Disney trains, plus what seems to be a regional fondness for private funiculars (like the one at John Lautner's Chemosphere in the Hollywood Hills). So, thank Grove/Americana developer Rick Caruso for helping LA to have a (kind of lame but still fun) rail win, we guess? Now, let's talk Dodger Stadium...

Big LA River Restoration Plans Probably Going to Take Forever


By Eve Bachrach, May 1, 2013


Over at the Architect's Newspaper, Sam Lubell takes a look at the delays holding up the LA River's transformation from concrete-sided flood channel to navigable river. A state bill changed its official designation, but that concrete doesn't look likely to be going anywhere anytime soon. The problem? The Army Corps of Engineers (the genius crew who covered it in concrete in the first place) needs to finish its feasibility study on restoring 11 miles of river before work can begin. Which sounds entirely sensible, but they've been working on the thing since 2006. They've now gotten a cash infusion and say they'll finish it this year, but Carol Armstrong, director of the Los Angeles River Project Office for the city's Bureau of Engineering, is doubtful. She says the LA branch of the Corps is on board, but that there's little support for the project in Washington: "They'd rather add acres to the everglades instead of changing a concrete channel in LA." As for development surrounding the river, well, it's a "bureaucratic nightmare," requiring coordination across eight council districts and 10 area general plans. And then there's the funding...