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, June 19, 2013

Blood, spit and cops: Nationwide drug roadblocks raise eyebrows


By Matt Smith, June 19, 2013

Off-duty Alabama sheriff's deputies steered drivers toward federal highway safety researchers who asked for blood samples.

 Off-duty Alabama sheriff's deputies steered drivers toward federal highway safety researchers who asked for blood samples.


(CNN) -- The roadblocks went up on a Friday at several points in two Alabama towns, about 40 miles on either side of Birmingham.

For the next two days, off-duty sheriff's deputies in St. Clair County, to the east, and Bibb County, to the southwest, flagged down motorists and steered them toward federal highway safety researchers. The researchers asked them a few questions about drinking and drug use and asked them for breath, saliva and blood samples -- offering them $10 for saliva and $50 to give blood.

It's not just in Alabama. The roadblocks are part of a national study led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is trying to determine how many drivers are on the road with drugs or alcohol in their systems. Similar roadblocks will be erected in dozens of communities across the nation this year, according to the agency.

It's been going on for decades. Previous surveys date to the 1970s. The last one was run in 2007, and it included the collection of blood and saliva samples without apparent controversy, sheriff's spokesmen in both Alabama counties said.

But this time, it's happening as the Obama administration struggles to explain revelations that U.S. spy organizations have been tracking phone and Internet traffic. Against that backdrop, the NHTSA-backed roadblocks have led to complaints in Alabama about an intrusive federal government.

Gov. Robert Bentley complained that his office had not been notified that the surveys were going to be conducted. Speaking on a Birmingham radio show, Bentley, a Republican, said the stops were "bad timing" after the NSA revelations and in light of recent complaints about the Internal Revenue Service subjecting conservative groups that applied for tax exemptions to additional scrutiny.

Bentley spokesman Jeremy King said the governor's office "is working to find out exactly what took place during those surveys."

"We just want to make sure the rights of our citizens are protected," King said.

And Susan Watson, executive director of the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the use of deputies to conduct the survey an "abuse of power." Even though the survey is voluntary, people still feel they need to comply when asked by a police officer, she said.

"How voluntary is it when you have a police officer in uniform flagging you down?" Watson asked. "Are you going to stop? Yes, you're going to stop."

The agency said in a statement that the survey provides "critical information" to reduce drunken or drugged driving.

"Impaired driving accounts for more than 10,000 deaths per year, and findings from this survey will be used to maximize the impact of policy development, education campaigns, law enforcement efforts and other activities aimed at reducing this problem," it said. The program costs about $7.9 million over three years, from planning the study to analyzing the results, it said.

"The survey provides useful data about alcohol and drug use by drivers, and participation is completely voluntary and anonymous," it said. "More than 60 communities across the country will participate this year, including two Alabama counties, both of which also participated in the previous survey in 2007. NHTSA always works closely with state safety officials and local law enforcement to conduct these surveys as we work to better inform our efforts to reduce drunk and drugged driving."

The agency said the 8,000 drivers expected to take part will do so voluntarily and anonymously, and researchers follow "a highly scientific protocol and complex statistical design in order to accurately reflect the problem nationwide."

In the 2007 survey, about 7,700 drivers gave saliva samples and 3,300 gave blood at survey sites run during both day and night. Among drivers who were interviewed at night, 12.4% had alcohol in their systems, while about 16% had used marijuana, cocaine or over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
Cliff Sims, publisher of the Alabama conservative blog Yellowhammer Politics, said the complaints are mostly because of the bad timing Bentley mentioned. But, he added, "I think it's also that it has a lot to do with a larger distrust of government and people feeling more and more like their privacy has been invaded.

"When you see that taken out of the online space, where it's not quite as tangible, and into the real, physical world, that's the kind of visible and tangible thing that people can latch onto," he said.
Sims said he doesn't believe that the roadblocks are the result of "some sort of sinister conspiracy." But, he added, "I think it's inappropriate to have uniformed police officers on the side of the road taking people's saliva samples, whether it's voluntary or not."

The off-duty sheriff's deputies who took part this year set up traffic signs notifying motorists that a national traffic survey was being conducted, said Bibb County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Lawrence, who worked at one of the five sites around Centerville. The next half-dozen drivers who came by were flagged down and asked whether they wanted to take part in the program.

If they did, they were steered into a spot where researchers from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which conducted the survey for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, began asking them questions. Once they drove off, deputies flagged down another car to take their place.

"It was all voluntary. Nobody was made to participate or anything like that," Lawrence said. "They could just answer the little 10 survey questions and then leave, or they could answer the questions and give the mouth sample, or they could do it all."

Deputies were told they were not to make arrests, he said. If a breath sample indicated that a driver was legally intoxicated, "The organization would handle them as far as a ride home."

Lawrence said most motorists opted in, although several at the roadblock he worked bowed out.
"I had mostly traffic of folks going to and from work," he said. "We had several that would say, you know, 'I don't have time' or 'I'm on my way to work, I can't.' "

Lawrence said Bibb County had no complaints about its role in the 2007 survey. Nor did St. Clair County, said Lt. Freddie Turrentine, a sheriff's spokesman there.

Did LA Cyclists Just Get Hosed by Unanimous Vote?


By Ted Rogers, June 19, 2013

(Update, 3:28 p.m.: Council Member Huizar sends along a rendering of the new design. The text of the final motion can be found here.)

The verdict is in. And it looks like Hollywood won.

The Los Angeles City Council just voted unanimously to replace the Spring Street green bike lanes with a new treatment hashed out behind closed doors — without hearing a single comment from the many bike riders present in the room.

Instead, the lanes will be restriped in white, with a narrow, four inch line of reflective dark green paint inside each line.

Hardly the highly visible lanes Downtown bike riders now enjoy, and which have resulted in a significant increase in bicycling on the street.

The council members called it a compromise that works for everyone. But many bike advocates walked out of the room feeling like they’d lost.

And knowing they hadn’t been heard.

More details to follow.

After Hollywood outcry, Spring Street bike lanes lose some paint


 By Laura J. Nelson, June 19, 2013


 Downtown L.A. bike lane

Film crews work on the show "Ringer" as cyclists, cars and buses pass in the green bike lane in the 400 block Spring Street last year. City officials approved a plan Wednesday that would replace the bright color with a forest green that is less visible on film.

The film industry and the Los Angeles bicycling community reached a compromise Wednesday on the future of a controversial, bright green bike lane in downtown Los Angeles.

Under a motion passed by the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday, what is currently a vivid ribbon of color will be scraped off and replaced with less paint in a more muted shade.

The design, which would be experimental, must still be approved by the state.

"Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing a transformation," said Councilman Jose Huizar, who proposed the action. "This reflects the future."

When the 1.5-mile lane was painted in 2011, bicycle advocates hailed it as a important step for cycling safety and infrastructure in a city where non-car transportation lags behind other major metropolitan areas.

But the film industry was less pleased. Location scouts commonly choose Spring Street to stand in for other cities, including New York and Chicago, and they said the lane's fluorescent green bounced off everything under bright filming lights, including actors' faces.

The issue arose again this spring when the paint began to fade. Huizar asked the council to approve a repainting. But representatives from Hollywood, including the Screen Actors Guild, and Teamsters Local 399 urged the council to remove the bike lanes.

Huizar's office held multiple meetings with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and film industry representatives to negotiate a compromise.

Under the new plan, the Spring Street bike lane will lose 80% to 90% of its paint. A 4-inch stripe of forest green would flank the inside of the white lane markers, with the rest of the lane unpainted. The lanes would remain fully painted in areas where vehicles frequently cut into the bike lane.

The bicycle coalition said the loss of the paint, and the change of color, is a step backward for safety in an area where the number of bicyclists is growing. A coalition survey in 2012 said the number of bicycles along Spring Street went up by half after the buffered lanes were installed.

"The brighter it is, the better," said Dennis Hindman of Toluca Lake. "The brighter it is, the safer you feel."

New York City also uses forest green paint in its bike lanes, Huizar spokesman Rick Coca said, so the film industry will find that the lanes now look more authentic.

Forest green is one in a spectrum of colors the federal government has approved for bike lanes.

The Streetsblog Guide to CicLAvia VII: Iconic Wilshire Corridor


By Damien Newton, June 19, 2013


 Click on the image to go to CicLAvia's map page

If there are two complaints people have with CicLAvia they are, in order of how often I hear them: cyclists are racing by and there’s not enough space to walk and that the event doesn’t last long enough to truly explore the entire route.

CicLAvia VII: Iconic Wilshire Corridor, seeks to address both of those concerns. First, the time of the event is longer, lasting 7 hours from 9 am to 4 pm. Second, each end has “pedestrian zone” where bike riders won’t be allowed for several blocks. One zone is at One Wilshire in Downtown Los Angeles. The other is at Fairfax Ave in Miracle Mile, right near all of the wonderful Mid-Wilshire museums. In addition, CicLAvia and the Getty Center have teamed to bring a series of architecture tours along the iconic route.

“This is our dream CicLAvia. The route is ideal for pedestrians, for people who love the history of Los Angeles architecture, foodies, families, cyclists and everyone who wants to experience the grand thoroughfare of Los Angeles from a new perspective,” CicLAvia Executive Director Aaron Paley said in a media release.

As part of Pacific Standard Time Presents, CicLAvia will include programs designed to provide participants with a deeper look at the architectural history of Wilshire Boulevard. Radio broadcasts by noted architectural researcher and commentator Edward Lifson will be available for participants to download and listen to as free podcasts. The radio series will tell stories that run quickly through Wilshire’s beginnings more than a century ago and its pre-WWII boom years, to focus on the modern era, with stories and sounds. As of this writing, the downloads aren’t on CicLAvias website, but when they are you can find them here.

Going from east to west, let’s look at some of the attractions of CicLAvia VII.

CicLAvia begins at the “One Wilshire Hub” at Grand and Wilshire in Downtown Los Angeles. As mentioned, this hub has a large “bicycle free zone” stretching three blocks west to Figueroa and Wilshire.

One of the iconic images of Columbias Ciclovia, the event that started the worldwide open street festival phenomenon, is of thousands of people taking a dance class and later an exercise class together. Finally, CicLAvia is adding that type of experience. The One Wilshire Hub will feature a climbing wall, pilates and art pilates, belly dance classes, bicycle helmet decoration and give-aways.

Or, you can just walk in the street for a couple of blocks free of anyone on any wheels, minus those in wheelchairs. That’s pretty cool too.

Wilshire and Figueroa is also home to Metro Center, the second largest transit hub in Los Angeles. Red, Purple, Blue, Expo and Silver Lines all meet at Expo Center. Metro staff has quietly worried that the station will be overwhelmed with CicLAvia participants and their bicycles, but thus far I have not seen any warnings from Metro to avoid the station.

At each Hub, CicLAvia participants will also be able to grab a free copy of The Modernists Guide to Iconic Wilshire Boulevard (or you can download it here.) Researched and written by Catherine Gudis and designed by Colleen Corcoran, the guide allows readers to appreciate and understand the context for modernism and the role that Wilshire’s built environment has played as the city’s cultural and demographic makeup has changed.
Wilshire and Grand is also the start of Los Angeles Walks “WalkLAvia” event. The walk begins at 9:15 am, but the feet powered non-profit recommends arriving right at CicLAvia’s opening at 9 am. They plan to walk the entire route, arriving at Fairfax near 1:30 pm. They’ll stop at all the major hubs, but take an extra long break at the Koreatown Hub for lunch.

Traveling west, walkers will find themselves mixing with bicyclists until MacArthur Park at Alvarado and Wilshire. MacArthur Park has been a part of every CicLAvia, and is a regular place for activities, restaurants, and more food trucks. Of course, a large urban park such as MacArthur is a sort of CicLAvia extension on its own as a carfree place to sit and relax by the fountain, with or without street food, and cool your wheels (or souls) free of interfering automobiles.

MacArthur Park will also feature a yoga area. The fun at the park doesn’t end at 4 pm. a post-event concert, including a children’s show and an evening show, will all take place at the park.
Image from the 2011 Koreatown BBQ Festival in 2011.

From there, we head west to the Koreatown Hub. As luck would have it, CicLAvia coincides with the 5th Annual Koreatown BBQ Festival. I’m not sure that needs a lot more explanation. In addition to the gigantic BBQ party, the hub features  music, aerobics, crossfit, cardio kickboxing and, yes, more yoga.

The Koreatown Hub is also the starting point for a second large, organized walk. Meetup with Yelpers, ie people that use Yelp, at noon for a walk from Koreatown to Downtown. Grab your BBQ and a drink and get ready to work off those calories. If you walk with Yelp, you’ll receive a free Yelp t-shirt.

From there we next meet the smaller Mid-Wilshire Hub. The smallest of the hubs, Mid-Wilshire features a picnic area and more live music. There’s no yoga planned, but you can always do some on your own.

The Westernmost Hub is the Miracle Mile Hub. This Hub features…cars! Ok, it features a lot of great things, including The Modernists Guide to Iconic Wilshire Boulevard, gigantic oscar statues, refreshments from Johnny Rockets, and a a Photo Op Stop, Tattoo Parlour, and Interactive Spin Art Studio, provided by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

But yes, there will be cars too. The Petersen Automotive Museum will be bringing a collection of its vintage cars out to the street corner for public viewing. There will also be events for the kids.
But the most appropriate event of the day is programmed by For Your Art (FYA). FYA celebrates CicLAvia with a temporary public art installation of works by Ben Jones and Ruben Ochoa.

Organized to celebrate the first CicLAvia’s first pedestrian zone, in the city where “nobody walks”, the works reflect the increasingly pedestrian-centric bent of the city and the event. FYA’s engagement campaign for the event, Stop and Smile #ForYourArt, encourages pedestrians to document and share their experience with the works during #CICLAVIA (make sure to share these photos via Twitter and Facebook!).

Caltrans waves red flag on Millennium Hollywood project


By Michael Hiltzik, June 19, 2013

  Millennium Hollywood

 Caltrans has made it clear that without significant changes in the giant Millennium Hollywood project, the effect on the 101 Freeway could be disastrous. Above, a rendering of the development by the landmark Capitol Records building.

It has become almost routine for community groups to rise up in protest whenever a big developer proposes a project likely to make their city neighborhoods unrecognizable.

But what's happening with the giant Millennium Hollywood project is much more unusual: In this case, a state agency is taking up the cudgel against the city of Los Angeles, accusing city officials of using bogus statistics and trampling over state law in an effort to push the project through to approval by the City Council.

The state agency is the California Department of Transportation. Caltrans is responsible for the health and welfare of the 101 Freeway, which winds within a block or two around the Millennium site.

The agency says, quite reasonably, that a $664-million project — comprising 461 residential units, 254 hotel rooms, more than a quarter-million square feet for office space, and 80,000 square feet of retail in two towers looming over the landmark Capitol Records building close to the already-busy corner of Hollywood and Vine — can't help but have a marked effect on the freeway. In fact, Caltrans makes it plenty clear that without significant changes in the plan, the effect on the 101 could be disastrous.

Caltrans is irked that city officials seem to have wholly ignored its concerns. In a May 7 letter to Councilman Eric Garcetti, whose district encompasses the Millennium site — and who is a critic of the project and is the mayor-elect — the agency said that it hadn't heard from city officials since Feb. 19, when it listed a raft of misgivings about the Millennium. The City Council's vote, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, is likely to be put off until July.

There are two bottom lines in the Caltrans analysis: one, the potential impacts from this mega-project will make the freeway and surrounding streets more unsafe; and two, the failure to measure and properly mitigate these impacts violates the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
The latter conclusion shouldn't be overlooked. CEQA has long been a whipping boy for real estate developers, who gripe that it serves only as a tool for anti-growth malcontents.

But if the City Council gives the Millennium a green light despite the unanswered questions about it, CEQA will be the only leverage the community will have to minimize its deleterious impacts. "Without CEQA compliance, this would be a big giveaway," says Robert P. Silverstein, a land-use lawyer representing more than 40 community and neighborhood groups opposing the project.

The battle already is shaping up along David versus Goliath lines. Millennium Partners is the epitome of big-money real estate development, the backer of billions of dollars in luxury developments in New York, Boston, Washington and San Francisco. Its Hollywood plan, featuring two towers of which one could be as tall as 585 feet, or 55 stories, aims to take advantage of city zoning changes that encourage high-density development near Metro stations, such as the stop at Hollywood and Vine.

Millennium's style is to gravitate toward high-profile but down-at-the-heels urban centers and spiff them up — creating "luxurious residential environments surrounded by beautiful places to work, shop, exercise and be entertained," it says with all due modesty. "All of our projects altered the skyline," Millennium co-founder Philip Aarons remarked in a recent interview with the Bloomberg news service.

That's always nice, especially if you're the one doing the altering. But the people who live and work under the existing skyline don't always perceive the gain. One of the criticisms heard about the Millennium Hollywood is that the towers, which will be the tallest buildings in Hollywood, will dominate, rather than complement, the low-rise neighborhoods around them and the Capitol building, which Millennium owns and will incorporate into the project.

Millennium does have the current city administration's favor. City Hall insiders say Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has pressed for rapid approval, perhaps because he sees the Millennium as some sort of legacy. But the unresolved questions about traffic suggest that the whole scheme may need a better going-over than it has received.

That's not the view of the developers. "This will be the most highly regulated project ever approved by the city," declares Jerold B. Neuman, the project's Los Angeles land-use attorney.
Neuman says the disagreement between Caltrans and the city involves a broader fight between them over how to set standards for reviewing environmental issues with local and state impacts. "We're stuck in the cross hairs," he told me.

Still, it's hard to argue that Caltrans is out of line in questioning the city's assertion that this huge project would feed no more than 150 cars a day onto the 101 during peak hours. That's the threshold figure the city used to justify its conclusion that the Millennium would have "a less than significant impact ... on freeway segments" — and therefore "no mitigation is required."

From Caltrans' point of view, that stretches plausibility to the breaking point. (Even if it were true, Caltrans says, the 101 is so jammed now that 150 more rush-hour cars is significant enough. Would anyone who drives the Hollywood Freeway disagree?) Caltrans says the city's estimate "is not based on any credible analysis that could be found anywhere" in the environmental impact report. And it points out that more overload on the 101 means more backups from on-ramps onto city streets, more cars spewing exhaust into residential neighborhoods, more potential vehicle/pedestrian encounters (and we know who always wins those).

Caltrans says the city didn't bother to study the freeway segments where there would be the most impact, including the six on- and off-ramps closest to the Millennium site. When it did study traffic impacts, Caltrans adds, it used faulty formulas, including giving the developer too much credit for mitigation efforts such as bikeshare and carpooling.

Tomas Carranza, a senior transportation engineer at the city Department of Transportation, told me that the developers will put in place a "really aggressive trip reduction program" exploiting the city's transit system and incentives to encourage residents, workers and visitors to leave their cars at home. But he also acknowledges that "there will be more traffic, and there will be unmitigated impacts" from the Millennium.

The council's vote, when it comes, will amount to a judgment that the upside of building the Millennium will outweigh the inevitable downsides. Can we trust the evidence they'll be relying on? Caltrans says no.

Readers oppose "710 Day"


By Nasrin Aboulhosn, June 19, 2013



 Results based on 243 responses.

Alhambra officials have proclaimed July 10 "710 Day," a celebration of their efforts to close the gap between the 710 and 210 freeways. The city will hold a family festival that day from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the arch park at Fremont Avenue and Valley Boulevard, including informational booths, activities, and live entertainment. 
Alhambra Source asked readers: How do you plan to spend July 10, 2013? While we received 34 responses in favor of the celebration and "710 Day," more than 75 percent of the 243 votes were in opposition of the festival and the city's attempts to close the gap (results pictured above). In comments on our poll, stories, and Facebook page, many readers also disagreed with the city's position that a tunnel between the freeways will improve congestion, safety, and the environment. Read what they had to say below.

What do you think of "710 Day"?

  1. "This is going to be so awesome!"

  2. "Want to attend, but why 10a-2p?"
  3. This is going to be so awesome! This park is really awesome but no one is ever using it. Of course, there's no parking nearby that I know of so I'm not sure how people will get there. Should we park at the Kohl's lot and walk over?
  4. "I can't attend but I do support the idea."
  5. "Wake up, Alhambra!"

  6. "We don't need a 20th Century solution to a 21st Century problem. Whether above or below ground, more cars and trucks in the community are not the answer." - John McCormick
  7. "The current plans would do nothing for Valley residents, requiring us to drive miles to access or exit the system, even if we were willing to pay the rumored huge tolls, which obviously could only be afforded by Commercial users!" - Dean Price
  8. “I think that if we're serious about decreasing traffic, that money is better spent on double tracking metrolink so people commuting in have a more valuable option. Double tracking and separating the train route from car traffic would allow more trains, take less time to traverse the route, and allow electrification…Ultimately, I think the City as a whole should wait for Metro to finish the environmental review before supporting the tunnel option. At this point we're blind to its actual value and costs.”-Dan Bednarski
  9. That sounds kinda, um, dumb.
  10. yeah Josh has a good point. can i throw some fliers around South Pasadena? can we turn the arch park into more condos?
  11. "We need more participation for this! Why is this scheduled for a Wednesday from 10 am to 2 pm? Make it before/after the commute when the people who care about it most can show up and support it!" -Charles Pevey
  12. "I'm mystified why the Alhambra City Council should be so much in support of the 710 tunnel as it will do little to improve congestion and air quality and most likely increase both…Alhambrans, please start asking the hard questions of METRO Board and your elected officials." - locality
  13. "Metro's own origin and destination studies show that only 23% of the vehicles exiting the 710 at Valley are through traffic and are trying to get to the 210 and points beyond. Since there are no intermediate exits/entrances to the tunnel, it will be of use only to through traffic…Wake up, Alhambra!" - J.SooHoo

Regional Connector Construction Concerns


Editorial, June 18, 2013



  Regional Connector Construction Concerns


DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - few outreach meetings organized by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the other week were sparsely attended. That’s unfortunate, because the subject of those sessions — when, where and for how long construction crews can work on the Regional Connector — is among the most important issues facing Downtown Los Angeles over the next five years.

The Regional Connector is vital to the future of Downtown, but before it powers into the construction phase, the community deserves to know more about what officials want permission to do. If ever there were a situation where the devil is in the details, this is it. We know the good that will come from the Regional Connector, but we also know from past experience that Downtown needs to be protected from the tumult that can result when the ground is torn up and tunnel boring machines begin working. We want Metro to proceed as quickly as possible, but we can’t just trust that things will work out. The best intentions cannot be allowed to undermine the health of some major Downtown buildings and businesses.

Los Angeles Downtown News last week reported on Metro’s ramp-up for the Regional Connector. The underground project would be a sort of missing link in the region’s mass transit system, allowing riders to get where they want to go easier and faster than is now possible. For instance, with the $1.366 billion Connector in place, someone could travel from Pasadena to Long Beach without having to transfer. Currently a rider has to change trains twice.

The project will require major infrastructure upheaval. That’s partly why, even today, the development is not slated to open before 2019. Having tunneled and built train lines throughout the region, Metro and its watchdogs are aware of precisely what kinds of challenges and potential complications lie ahead.

Metro has already held dozens of public meetings on various aspects of the project, and we expect dozens more will occur in the coming years. Currently, the agency is seeking permits to work on the Regional Connector 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Getting those permits, which would be granted by the Los Angeles Police Commission, requires an outreach effort, even if the community does not have to be overwhelmingly supportive of the project. Hence a series of four recent meetings, with three tied to station locations and the other for stakeholders on Flower Street.

Metro brass have said they don’t expect to have non-stop construction. Instead, they are requesting the permits, officials said, because they want to preserve future flexibility, allowing contractors to put in extra time should it be required.

We don’t doubt Metro’s intent. Although the agency is sometimes a target for criticism, it has done many admirable things for Los Angeles. The Gold Line is one of numerous fabulous additions to Downtown. Metro is full of people working hard to make the region more navigable and livable.
That said, at this point we cannot support an open ticket to work 24 hours. It is incumbent on Metro to come back to the community members who have objected and to have a specific list of what sort of work could be allowed at what time, how often and for what duration. Almost everyone has dealt with losing a night’s sleep due to noise outside a window. Losing more than one night’s sleep opens the door to serious complications, including health issues. 

 Downtown residents and business owners near the construction sites deserve to know specifics. For example, what kind of activities could occur after dark within two blocks of a residential complex in the Historic Core or Little Tokyo? How will complaints be reported and resolved? The list goes on.
The problem is, once contracts are handed out, Metro may find its authority limited. If a construction chief has to choose between meeting a deadline that has a financial incentive or bothering a few residents, you can bet the neighbors will be the least of the concerns.

Part of the reason the permits deserve such close scrutiny is what happened a few decades ago. During the construction of the Metro Red Line, huge portions of Seventh Street were blocked off and torn up. Although the work was expected to be limited in time and scope, it endured seemingly forever. Many businesses died during construction. Protections must be taken to ensure there is not even the chance of a repeat of that or 24-hour construction noise.

As stated above, we want the Regional Connector to happen. We also want it to open by the anticipated 2019 date, and we don’t pretend that can occur without some shake-ups on the street. People and businesses will be inconvenienced. 

The key is to do minimize the inconveniences. Mutual respect is a necessity. Part of achieving a careful balance is knowing precisely what construction is allowed to occur and when. Metro should be transparent and honest with area stakeholders. Only when all the facts are presented should a decision on granting the permits be made.

Jun 23 CicLAvia: Wilshire btwn Grand-Fairfax


 June 18, 2013

Affected Rail Lines: Metro Blue Line, Metro Red Line, Metro Green Line, Metro Gold Line, Metro Purple Line
Affected Bus Lines: 018, 020, 060, 066, 206, 210, 460, 487/489, 720, Orange Line (901), Silver Line (910)
Effective Dates: Sunday, June 23, 2013 Sunday, June 23, 2013


Lines:        18, 20, 60, 66, 206, 210, 460, 487, 720, Silver Line 910, Metro Rail        
In effect:      Sunday, June 23, 2013 only during the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Or when barricades are present
 Location:     Wilshire Blvd. between Grand Ave. and Fairfax Ave.
Normandie Ave. between 6th St. and 8th St.
Reason:        CicLAvia - June 2013
To avoid bus delays & detours: Use Metro Rail to travel through and around impacted areas. In anticipation for increased Metro Rail ridership and bicycles for CicLAvia, Metro Rail will operate more frequently and run with longer, rush-hour length trains for the event and continue thru the evening:
  • Red & Purple Lines will each run every 10 minutes (increased service) with 6-car (full length platform) trains.  This means combined service every 5 minutes between Union Station & Wilshire/Vermont.
  • Gold Line will run every 7-8 minutes (increased service) with mostly 3-car (full length platform) trains.
  • Blue & Expo Lines will run every 12 minutes (regular Weekend schedule) with 3-car (full length platform) trains.
  • Green Line will run every 15 minutes (regular Weekend schedule) with 2-car trains.
  • Expect limited bike rack availability on Orange Line. Use adjacent bike path where available.
  • Extra staff will be present to assist patrons at select stations throughout the route.
  • Anticipated stations to be busiest include Union Station (Red, Purple, Gold), 7th St/Metro Ctr (Red, Purple, Blue, Expo), Wilshire/Vermont (Red, Purple), Wilshire/Western (Purple).  
  • Consider using other nearby stations along the route to avoid potential wait times, including Pershing Sq (Red, Purple), Westlake/MacArthur Park (Red, Purple), Vermont/Beverly (Red), Wilshire/Normandie (Purple). 
  • Use entire platform length when boarding for more seating and bike space availability.  Large groups should separate and enter through different doors to reduce crowding and delays.
  • Board with bikes using doors marked with yellow decals.
  • Always walk your bike within Metro stations or onboard trains.
  • For everyone's safety, do not bring bikes on escalators; use the stairs or elevators instead.
  • Elevator priority will be given to passengers with disabilities.
  • Do not use emergency exit gates at turnstiles except during emergencies or unless directed by law enforcement or Metro personnel.
  • Observe all Bikes on Metro guidelines.
  • Here are some Safe Bicycling Tips.
  • Please visit CicLAvia's website for more event information.
Line 18
Westbound:     Regular route to 6th St. and Hobart Ave., continue via 6th St, to (R) Private Right of Way, Layover zone just east of Wilton Pl.  DISCHARGE ALL PASSENGERS PRIOR TO ENTERING LAYOVER ZONE
Eastbound:      Depart temporary layover via Private Right of Way to (L) 5th St, (L) Wilton Pl, (L) 6th St, to Western Ave. and regular route.
Line: 20
Eastbound:      Regular route to Wilshire Blvd. and Crescent Heights Blvd. then via Wilshire Blvd to (L) Fairfax Ave. (R) 6th St. (R) Grand Ave (L) 7th St. and regular route.
Westbound:     Regular route to 7th St. and Hill St. then via 7th St. to (R) Olive St, (L) 5th St.- 6th St. (L) Fairfax Ave, (R) Wilshire Blvd. and regular route.
Line 60
Northbound:    Regular route to 7th St. and Hill St. then via 7th St. to (R) Olive St, (L) 5th St., (R) Figueroa St. and regular route.
Southbound:    Regular route to Flower St and 4th St then via Flower St. to (L) 6th St., (R) Grand Ave, (L)7th St. and regular route. 
Line 66
Eastbound Only:      Depart 6th and Oxford layover via east exit gate to (L) Oxford St, (L) 6th St, (L) Western Ave to Wilshire and regular route.
Line: 206
Northbound:    Regular route to Irolo St and James M Woods; then continue via Irolo St. to (L) 8th St.,   (R) Western Ave,  (R) 6th St,(L) Normandie Ave and regular route
Southbound:   Regular route to Normandie Ave and 4th St; then continue via Normandie Ave to (R) 6th St, (L) Western Ave, (L) 8th St, (R) Irolo St and regular route
Line: 210
Northbound:   Regular route to Crenshaw Blvd and Olympic Blvd; then continue via Crenshaw Blvd to (R) 8th St, (L) Western Ave, (L) 6th St, (R) Rossmore Ave and regular route
Southbound:  Regular route to Rossmore Ave and 3rd St; then continue via Rossmore to (L) 6th St., (R) Western Ave, (R) 8th St, (L) Crenshaw Blvd and regular route.
Line: 460
Eastbound:    Regular route to 5th St and Olive St; then continue via 5th St to (L) Grand Ave, (R) 8th St, (L) Flower St and regular route.
Westbound:   Regular route to Figueroa St and Olympic Blvd; then continue via Figueroa St to  (R) 9th St., (L) Olive St., (R) 6th St and regular route.
Lines: 487
Westbound:   Regular route to Grand Ave and 4th St; then continue via Grand Ave to (R) 5th St.- 6th St, (L) Witmer St.. (R) Shatto St, to temporary layover after right turn.
Eastbound:    Depart temporary layover zone via Shatto St to (R) Valencia Ave, (R) 6th St,  to Hope St. and regular route.
Line: 603
Northbound:  Regular route to 7th St and Lake St; then continue via 7th St to (L) Alvarado St (L) 6th St. and regular route.
Southbound:  Regular route to 6th St and Lake St; then continue via 6th St to (R) Alvarado St (R) 7th St. and regular route.
LINE 720
Westbound:   Regular route to 6th St and Witmer St; then continue via 6th St to (L) Fairfax Ave, (R) Wilshire Blvd and regular route
Eastbound:   Regular route to Wilshire Blvd and Crescent Heights Blvd; then continue via Wilshire Blvd to (L) Fairfax Ave, (R) 6th St to Valencia and regular route.
Silver Line 910
Northbound:  Regular route, to Figueroa St and Olympic Blvd; then continue via Figueroa St to (R) 9th St, (L) Olive St to 6th St and regular route
Southbound:  Regular route to Grand Ave and 4th St; then continue via Grand Ave to (R) 8th St (L) Flower St and regular route.

Commuter Rail Ridership Declining Despite Increase in Lines

Though the number of rail lines has jumped, the number of people riding them has fallen. The solution, as New York City found, is bumping up service.


Rail Runner. Northstar. Trinity Railway Express. Music City Star. America’s newest generation of commuter rail lines certainly have catchy names; they’re also sprouting up at a record pace. More than a dozen new lines have opened in the last 10 years, creating what could be characterized as a new golden era of passenger rail in America’s biggest urban areas—except it’s not.

In 2012, commuter rail accounted for 466 million passenger trips in the U.S., making it a vital cog in public transit. But while last year may have been a banner year for public transportation, with a record 10.5 billion trips—the second-highest annual ridership since 1957, according to the American Public Transportation Association—commuter rail ridership barely budged (up 0.5 percent) and 10 out of 28 systems lost riders. More troubling, the decreases occurred at some of the newest commuter lines, including Albuquerque (down 9.09 percent), Dallas-Fort Worth (down 7.73 percent), Minneapolis (down .47 percent) and Nashville (down 6.37 percent).

Read the rest of this month's magazine issue.

So what’s going on? The biggest problem commuter rail faces is that its customer base lives in far-flung suburbs where cars are used for just about everything. “You are trying to attract people who are the least likely to use transit in the first place,” says Yonah Freemark, editor of The Transport Politic. Furthermore, service is mostly limited to a not-so-frequent hourly schedule and the final destination is often not the central business district. It all adds up, says Freemark, to a series of impediments to growth.

Want more urban news? Click here.

While the public may love the notion of commuter rail lines, they are perhaps the least popular form of transit for politicians. The subsidies for commuter rail are tremendous, says Michael Smart, a researcher with the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. A study of the Minneapolis Northstar line concluded that taxpayers were paying a subsidy (which included capital costs) of $89 per passenger. Other studies showed subsidies of much lower rates, but still significantly higher than those for bus or subway riders.

The answer to commuter rail’s problem may sound counterintuitive, but it involves more service. That’s what New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) discovered last year. After watching ridership decline for decades on its Metro-North Railroad line, the MTA added more off-peak and weekend service, as well as another 187 trains, representing the most ambitious service expansion in its 30-year history. As a result, ridership has grown robustly.

That doesn’t surprise Freemark, who argues that the success of a commuter rail line is best measured by the number of riders it carries. And the only way you get more riders, he says, is by offering frequent service throughout the day and on weekends. “Too many of today’s commuter rail lines are wasted infrastructure. Can you imagine a highway where the lanes are only open during rush hour?”
A Los Angeles Primer: Wilshire Boulevard by Bus


By Colin Marshall, June 18, 2013


Should you get in the mood to read a book on public transit for nonspecialists, I unhesitatingly recommend Jarrett Walker's "Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking About Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives." Though Portland-based, the transit consultant Walker makes many a clear observation about Los Angeles, its transit, its communities, and its lives. Toward the end of the book, he imagines the tantalizing street of one day this city's future, which "feels more like a Parisian boulevard in many ways, including generous sidewalks, shade trees, and of course a transit lane" in which "bus and streetcar technologies have converged into a long snakelike vehicle lined with many doors, so that people can flow on and off as easily as they do on a subway," which is "guided by optical technology" and which, "mostly transparent above waist height," "feels like a continuation of the sidewalk."

That day, alas, has yet to come. "I thought about the bus in Los Angeles," narrates Richard, the hapless young Englishman in Richard Rayner's novel "Los Angeles Without a Map." "It was the way to travel. Once I had waited for over two hours at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights Boulevard when a driver with a cowboy hat and and a drawling voice like Harrison Ford decided he was sick of his job. His solution to the problem was to stop the bus and make everyone get off." Richard goes on to tell of enraged aisle-prowlers, robberies by prepubescent thugs, and passing motorists shouting "Lo-sers, asshole losers!." His blonde, ├╝ber-Angeleno girlfriend asks him if he really likes riding the bus. "It's democratic," he replies. She snorts and asks whether democracy arrives on time. "'Never had to wait more than five minutes,' I lied."
Rayner, of course, wrote that book in the mid-eighties, and Los Angeles transit has, on the whole, come an astonishingly long way since then. Still, when unable to walk, cycle, or take a train, I've boarded a few buses in this town myself, but when I do it, I usually ride a Metro Rapid, where Richard had to deal with the poor old fleet of the Los Angeles RTD -- whose R stood for "Rapid," but never mind. Specifically, I ride the line Metro Rapid 720, a long red bus that goes up and down Wilshire Boulevard, from downtown to Santa Monica and back again. Get crowded though it may -- standing-room-only seems more rule than the exception, even though they occasionally really do turn up every five minutes -- I value the 720 as an unusual way to see what Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne recently called the boulevard we think of "as synonymous with Los Angeles -- as our Main Street."
I once spotted a poster advertising Metro's Rapid lines depicting a twentysomething girl naming the places they go and asking, rhetorically, "What's not to love?" I couldn't resist tweeting a few suggestions: its lack of an offboard payment system, its lack of all-door boarding, its lack of its own lane -- all recognized features of BRT systems going back to the first in mid-seventies Curitiba, Brazil. Metro tweeted back that they guessed they would add me to the "not in love list," a response so dismissive I began trembling with rage. The lane should one day materialize, but for now we have only 1.9 non-contiguous miles of it, and then only during certain hours. The brochures announcing it read like brochures announcing proudly that in June 2013, man will discover fire, but to be fair, the 720 has its advantages: it spaces its stops quite far apart, and I've heard tell of an electronic device in use that keeps green lights green a bit longer than they would have stayed without a bus approaching.

Whether and how the latter actually works has provided the stuff of near-Talmudic debate among bus-riding Angelenos -- we only know for sure that it definitely doesn't work within Santa Monica city limits -- but it makes for an interesting echo of Wilshire Boulevard's earliest innovation: synchronized traffic lights. Those went up in the twenties, thirty years after prominent capitalist and socialist Henry Gaylord Wilshire originally envisioned his eponymous fifteen-mile boulevard connecting downtown to Santa Monica. Much else has grown up from it in the interim, as a westward ride reminds you: the average height, density, and newness of the buildings steadily rises right up until you find yourself deposited into eastern Santa Monica's now-retro fading colors and low-rise eighties architectural style of quasi-beach-adjacency. A little has even gone on under it, with the Purple Line subway scheduled to begin making its way from the intersection at Western Avenue to the one at La Cienega any year now. This gives reason for excitement that the many, many parts Wilshire Boulevard puts on display, impressive even when glimpsed through a smudged bus window, might in our lifetimes come to a sum.

Study shows LAX does not exceed air pollution standards


By Dan Weikel, June 18, 2013


 Take-off at LAX

 A China Southern Cargo jet takes off from Los Angeles International Airport. Although LAX remains a significant source of air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin, researchers found that efforts by the airport and airlines to reduce emissions have been working.


Los Angeles International Airport is a focal point of air pollution in Los Angeles County, but the emissions from aircraft and motor vehicles do not exceed state and federal standards, according to a groundbreaking study released Tuesday.

The $5.1-million effort -- the first of its kind done at a major commercial airport -- also called attention to the release of ultrafine particles in jet exhaust. The material is a potentially harmful pollutant that could be the next frontier in regulation.

Ultrafine particles are so small they can go deep into the lungs and make their way into the blood stream. There are indications they can affect human health, but the research so far is not conclusive.
The study, which began in 2008, was presented to the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners. It involved 17 monitoring stations, including sites in El Segundo, Lennox, Playa del Rey and Westchester.

"This is a very thorough report,” said Michael Lawson, the commission chairman. “From the looks of it and to an untrained eye, the study got into the weeds and pushed the envelope as far as it could be pushed.”

Although LAX remains a significant source of air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin, researchers said the study indicates that efforts by the airport and airlines to reduce emissions have been working.

They added that the study provides a trove of data for future research and satisfies requirements of airport agreements with the community as well as a 2006 court settlement that ended a legal challenge to LAX development plans.

L.A. Breaks Driving Addiction as Bike-Train Commutes Grow: Cars


By James Nash, June 19, 2013


L.A. Breaks Driving Addiction as Bike-Train Commutes Grow

Los Angeles has doubled its network of bike lanes to 292 miles.

Los Angeles embodied America’s love affair with the automobile in the last century. In this one it’s trying to kick the car to the curb.

The city that put drive-thru restaurants on the map has doubled its network of bike lanes to 292 miles (470 kilometers) and expanded light rail by 26 percent in the past eight years, with another 18 miles of track coming by 2015. Bus and train ridership is on the rise, while the total number of passenger cars registered has declined in Los Angeles County -- evidence more commuters are breaking their dependence.

“I feel pretty spoiled by the transit system in L.A.,” said Madeline Brozen, a 26-year-old transplant from New Orleans who uses a bicycle and buses to make a 12-mile trek from the Los Feliz neighborhood to the University of California, Los Angeles in Westwood, where she researches urban transportation.

The one-family car Americans grew up with, combustion-engined and gasoline-powered, is under assault from an array of options: electric cars, hybrids and alternatives like bikes, light-rail and car-sharing plans such as the one operated by Avis Budget Group Inc. (CAR)’s Zipcar Inc. Los Angeles, the largest market in the biggest U.S. state for vehicle sales, could be the ultimate test of the conventional car’s future.

Shrinking Allegiance

“The next 10 years will be as important to the auto industry and transportation literally as the invention of the Model T,” Scott Griffith, former chief executive officer of Zipcar and a strategic adviser to the company, said at the Bloomberg Link Next Big Thing Summit in Half Moon Bay, California, on June 17. “We’re now on the edge of all these new business models coming along and the intersection of information and the car and transportation. If you look out 10 years, I think we’re going to see a huge change, particularly in cities.”

While the new-car market has rebounded from the recession, Los Angeles County had 28,000 fewer passenger cars registered in 2012 than five years earlier, according to California Department of Motor Vehicles data. Boardings on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s buses and trains increased 4.7 percent to 41.3 million in May 2013, compared with May 2011.
Authority officials plan to spend $14 billion to accelerate that shift. A shrinking allegiance to cars in the region, where a two-car garage and freeway gridlock are a given for many commuters, would present challenges to automakers if it took hold.

Toyota, Honda

Americans are on pace to buy at least 15 million new cars and light trucks this year for the first time since 2007, led by General Motors Co. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)
Toyota, Honda Motor Co. (7267) and Ford have the most at risk if drivers in Los Angeles decide to park their cars. Combined, the three accounted for almost half the new cars and trucks sold in California in the first quarter, led by Toyota, with 21.4 percent and its top-selling Prius hybrid, according to the California New Car Dealers Association.

Honda’s sales are rising in Los Angeles County, Robyn Eagles, a spokeswoman for the automaker’s Torrance, California-based U.S. unit, said in a phone interview. The company offers alternative-fuel and fuel-efficient cars including the natural gas Civic, plug-in Accord and Fit EV, she said.
“We want to provide Angelenos with a range of options,” Eagles said. “There will always be a need for cars here.”

Traffic Jams

Angelenos have been among the most car-dependent U.S. commuters, with 67 percent getting to their jobs driving alone in 2009, compared with 24 percent for New York and 51 percent for Chicago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Detroit, home of the U.S. auto industry, the figure was 71 percent.

The region’s notorious traffic endures. Los Angeles had the longest congestion-related delays in the U.S. in April, according to Inrix Inc.’s scorecard, with the average driver wasting 5.2 hours, up from 4.5 hours in April 2012.

Los Angeles’ aim is go partway back to the future, 50 years after transit authorities ripped out the last line of the Red Car network of electrified streetcars that once rolled along more than 1,000 miles of tracks in four counties. A mass transit system that comprehensive would be prohibitively expensive today in a city that covers 469 square miles (1,215 square kilometers), about 55 percent more than New York’s five boroughs.

Under outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who accelerated funding for light rail and subway systems, Los Angeles is working to reach almost 115 miles of track, from the current 88 miles, by 2036.

Gates to be latched full-time at Union Station subway entrances beginning today; here is the Source’s Q&A about the turnstiles and TAP


By Steve Hymon, June 18, 2013

On Wednesday, the gates will be latched at all times at the two entrances of the Red/Purple Line subway at Union Station.

Gates at the 15 other Red/Purple Line subway stations will then be latched over the course of the summer. If Metro is satisfied with operations and results on the subway, gates at some Gold, Green and Blue line stations will be latched as early as this fall.

I know there is considerable interest in gate-latching and TAP among Source readers. My sense is that many readers of The Source believe it’s about time the gates are latched while others remain skeptical the program will benefit riders or the agency’s bottom line.
Click to see larger.
Click to see larger.

One thing that’s hard to argue: Metro Rail ridership has greatly increased in recent years and that hasn’t made the current way of checking fares any easier — especially at peak hours when there are a lot of people aboard trains and exiting and entering stations.

The following Q&A is intended to answer questions that many of you have about the program, as well as help new riders navigate the changes. As always, please feel free to comment and ask questions. We’ll do our best to get answers to the most salient questions.

Why does Metro say ‘latched’ instead of ‘locked?’
Locked implies that customers may be locked out, whereas latched implies customers will be able to pass through the gates. In other words, Metro feels like “latched” is a more accurate way of saying it.

What’s the goal of the gate-latching program?
Metro hopes to create a safer customer experience by reducing fare evasion. The agency also estimates that there will be an annual increase in revenue from the subway alone of $6 million to $9 million because more people riding the system will be paying fares. More on fare evasion below.

Can I ride Metro Rail without a TAP card?
No. You must have a TAP card from Metro or a TAP-enabled paper ticket from another agency.

Do I need to TAP the gates when exiting a station?

That could change in the future if Metro adopts time-based or distance-based fares.

Where do I get a TAP card? 
They can be purchased for $1 at ticket vending machines at Metro Rail stations. TAP cards can be purchased with a day pass when boarding buses for $6 — $5 for the day pass, $1 for the card.

Monthly (30 days), weekly (7 days), day passes and the regional monthly EZ Pass can be stored on TAP cards. You can also put different amounts of cash on the card (stored value) and use that money to purchase single fares or passes. The stored value is a great way for occasional riders to avoid having to deal with ticket machines every day they ride.

TAP cards are also available at 500 stores across Los Angeles County and can be ordered online at taptogo.net.

Is Metro doing anything about the taptogo.net website, which can be difficult to use?
Yes, it is being revamped and a newly designed website is expected to debut later this year. Booyah!

What if I am transferring to Metro Rail from a bus run by another agency?
When purchasing your bus fare, please ask the bus operator for a transfer to Metro Rail. Those transfers will be on paper TAP cards that you can use to pass through latched gates.

What if I want to take Metro Rail and then transfer to a bus run by another agency?
Visit a ticket vending machine and load a Metro-to-Muni transfer onto your card. If you are transferring to a bus run by an agency that doesn’t use TAP, get a paper transfer at the ticket vending machines.

How many agencies in L.A. County are using TAP cards?
Besides Metro and Metrolink, there are currently these eight: LADOT, Montebello, Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley, Culver City, Gardena, Norwalk and Foothill Transit.

Fifteen more municipal agencies are scheduled to begin using TAP in the next year or so. These include Long Beach Transit and the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.

How are Metrolink riders going to get through the gates?
Metrolink passengers get free transfers to Metro with the purchase of a Metrolink ticket. In order to get customers through the Metro gates, Metrolink has developed a paper TAP card with a TAP chip inside. The new tickets are available from Metrolink ticket machines.

Please see this recent Source post about the proper way to hold the ticket to get through the gates.

So what’s the big picture here?
Nearly every large transit carrier in Los Angeles County will soon use TAP cards. That means those who use transit across the county can store all their fares on a single reloadable fare card.

Are there other advantages to TAP?
Yes. If you register your card online at taptogo.net it can easily be replaced if lost or stolen.

If all these carriers will soon be on TAP, will there soon be a single regional fare system?

There is nothing imminent and that’s likely a ways off. But TAP cards make it much easier for various agencies to share similar fare structures should they ever choose to do so.

What is the rate of fare evasion on Metro?
There is no firm or definitive number to cite. There have been a variety of estimates over the years but the emphasis should be on the word “estimates.”

Gate-latching tests over the past year have provided Metro with some interesting data. Specifically, when gates were latched at three subway stations, the sale of one-way fares, stored value and passes rose significantly from ticket vending machines while free entries through the latched gates declined (free entries are people who didn’t tap). This Source post includes some charts from the testing.
The Gate Help Phone at Union Station's subway station. The phone is located on a concrete column just a few feet before the entrance to the gates. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
The Gate Help Phone at Union Station’s subway station. The phone is located on a concrete column just a few feet before the entrance to the gates. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

What if I have a TAP card and the gates won’t let me pass through?
Gates can be remotely unlatched by Metro; all gates can be observed via closed-circuit television at Metro’s Rail Operations Center.

If you can’t get through a gate, there are Gate-Help Phones located near the turnstiles. Each phone is hands-free and also has a video camera and TAP pad to assist Metro in identifying the problem.

When you come close to a Gate Help Phone, watch for a red light that notifies Metro employees you are there. When the amber light comes on, the Metro employee can see and speak to you via the phone.

What if there is a fire, earthquake or other emergency?
In the event of loss of power, the gates are programmed to automatically free-spin and let everyone through without having to tap.

How will those with disabilities get through the gates?
There is a wheelchair accessible gate and elevator at every station where gates will be latched. If the gate won’t open or you can’t tap your card, please use the Gate Help Phones.

What about those with bikes or strollers?
Please use the wheelchair accessible gate, which is wider and provides more room to get through.

Why is Metro latching the gates?
The Metro system was designed to be a hybrid system with both barrier-free and latched stations. As the Metro Rail system has grown, along with ridership, there has been an increased interest by the Metro Board in latching gates.

But Metro couldn’t latch gates as long as paper tickets were still in use — the electronic gates only recognize TAP cards.

It took a long time to transition all the types of paper tickets to TAP cards. Now that it has happened, the gates can be latched.

How many stations will eventually be latched?
Forty-one of the existing 81 stations will be latched; here’s the list for the subway stations. Many of the light rail stations that won’t be latched lack sufficient room for turnstiles without taking needed space from pedestrians.

Even though not all the gates will be latched, civilian fare inspectors and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies will patrol stations where there are no gates and randomly check fares.

Why has it taken so long to get to this point?
The TAP system has the most regional partners and most fare products of smart card systems in use in the U.S., according to Metro officials. It’s a very complex system and it took time for other agencies in Los Angeles County to adopt the system. While there were definitely some bumps in the road, testing has gone well. There are also some 21 million transactions on TAP monthly, a sign that many people are using the cards.

It’s not exactly a secret that technology moves quick these days. The next challenge for Metro will be working with all of its transit partners to explore emerging technologies and select the best ones that will ensure seamless travel for all our customers.

How much have the gates cost Metro?
Metro is leasing the gates from Cubic Corporation for about $46 million for 10 years — with six years remaining on the lease. That figure includes the cost of handheld TAP card readers for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, software, computer servers for Metro, gating equipment and installation of the gates, among other items.

Since the inception of the TAP program in 2002, the Metro Board has authorized expenditures of $255.3 million with actual contract costs totaling $222.2 million. The TAP program has overall involved substantial contracts with five contractors and consultants: Cubic, ACS/Xerox, Booz Allen and Hamilton, CH2MHill and Systra.