Purpose

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Metro Board meeting preview: several items — including project acceleration — could determine how billions of dollars are spent

 http://thesource.metro.net/2013/06/25/metro-board-meeting-preview-several-items-including-project-acceleration-could-determine-how-billions-of-dollars-are-spent/

By Steve Hymon, June 25, 2013

 


The Metro Board of Directors meeting on Thursday should be both interesting and longer than a cold winter’s night with a broken furnace and no firewood, matches or a blanket. The Board has a lot on its collective plate, including several items that taken together will determine how billions — yes, billions — of dollars will be spent by Metro in the coming years.

As it happens, the items are also indirectly or directly related so please allow yours truly to attempt to explain how the pieces of the puzzle fit together:

ITEM 52 The Board will consider awarding a $1,272,632,356 contract to Walsh/Shea Corridor Contractors to build the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the 8.5-mile light rail line between the Expo Line and Green Line. The Board voted last month to add two optional stations to the project at Leimert Park and Hindry before the staff contract recommendation had been released.

As it happens, the cost of the contract was higher than expected, in part because of the cost of the new stations. That, in turn, has resulted in the overall cost of the project increasing to $2.058 billion. That also means that Metro has to put aside more contingency money — specifically, $160 million.
In order to cover that cost, staff has proposed moving some Measure R funds around: $47 million from the South Bay’s ramps and interchanges project, $47 million from the Airport Metro Connector project, $55 million from the Call for Projects for the Central Area and $10 million from the Wilshire Bus Lane project (an older project not to be confused with the peak hour bus lanes that are scheduled to fully open in 2014). STAFF REPORT

Please keep reading — much more after the jump! 


ITEM 70 The proposal to move the $160 million to the Crenshaw/LAX Line project has been controversial and has caused unhappiness among several cities, including some in the South Bay. As a result, four Board Members are now offering this substitute motion that would pay for cost increases on the Crenshaw/LAX Line and other projects with Prop C funds and/or borrowing against Prop C funds. Prop C is the half-cent sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 1990.
Which brings us to

ITEM 12 This item updates the cost of projects in Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan, adding more than $1.7 billion to those costs. Much of this — $750 billion — is for a project to keep Metro equipment and facilities in a state of good repair, a priority for Metro CEO Art Leahy. There is also money to cover increased budgets for a number of projects, including the the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project.

The main question here is how to pay for the increases and whether Metro could use Prop C or borrow against Prop C to cover these costs. STAFF REPORT

But wait! There’s another wrinkle. Metro Board Chair Michael D. Antonovich has also offered an amendment: he wants Metro staff to issue a report on changing the 405 project’s carpool lanes to congestion pricing/toll lanes to cover the cost over-runs on that project. His rationale is that Metro is seeking to accelerate the construction of new carpool lanes on the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley by making them toll lanes and Antonovich has said that he doesn’t believe it’s fair that one part of the county has to pay for new lanes while the other does not.

Still, the main issue here is the use of Prop C, which relates to….

ITEM 10 This item is a financial strategy that Metro could use to accelerate Measure R projects. Here’s an earlier Source post (including the staff report) explaining the strategy, but the gist of it is that Metro would use an assortment of loans and bonds to accelerate the building of second- and third-decade Measure R projects.

Part of that strategy involves using Prop C to help pay back money that Metro borrows to accelerate road and transit projects.

If you’ve made it this far, then you can probably surmise that Board discussion will likely revolve around the cost of borrowing and whether Metro can afford to accelerate projects while also absorbing increased costs for the Crenshaw/LAX Line and several other projects. That’s the meeting in a nutshell.

In addition, there will be consideration of an amendment by Board Chair Michael D. Antonovich to change the expenditure plan to show the full costs of extending the Gold Line from Pasadena to Claremont. Measure R only funds the line as far as Azusa and project proponents hope that such an amendment would make it more likely that Metro would fund the Azusa-to-Claremont segment as part of any acceleration strategy. The challenge is that other Measure R road and transit projects are also not fully funded.

Bottom line: these are going to be long, technical discussions.

Another consideration, too, is that this is the final Board meeting for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his three appointees (Board Members Jose Huizar, Richard Katz and Mel Wilson), all of whom have been pushing for project acceleration the past few years.

It’s still a big task. Extending Measure R for another 30 years received 66.1 percent of the vote last November in Los Angeles County and narrowly lost, while the State Legislature has discussed — but for now abandoned — efforts to decrease the voter threshold for such votes from two-thirds to 55 percent.

Report: MTA blocking contractors from bidding on Crenshaw Line project

 http://www.prnewschannel.com/2013/06/24/report-mta-blocking-contractors-from-bidding-on-crenshaw-line-project/

June 24, 2013

 In a shocking turn of events, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition has uncovered startling new evidence that proves the Metropolitan Transit Authority has stood in the way of the Crenshaw Boulevard tunnel and Leimert Park Village station from day one.

Citing MTA sources, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition’s report claims that three of the four finalists for the $1.3 billion construction contract has requested to build a Crenshaw Line project with a tunnel spanning the entirety of Crenshaw Blvd, including the final 11 blocks being routed underground.
MTA staff, specifically CEO Art Leahy refused the engineering firms requests. Additionally, the report states that at least one of the finalists proposed a build that included both the Leimert Park Village station and the Park Mesa Heights tunnel and remained under budget.

“Metro has continued to demonstrate that the public’s best interests aren’t at the heart of their decision making process,” said Lisa Korbatov, Beverly Hills Unified School Board member. “By denying the publicly supported Crenshaw Blvd tunnel and standing behind faulty data regarding the Constellation Boulevard stop, Metro has clearly shown that something else is driving their decisions.”
So far, MTA has stood behind their decision to build a station on Constellation Blvd that would route a line directly under Beverly Hills High School.

During a May 23rd MTA Board meeting, the body finally approved an amendment to their budget that adds a Leimert Park station to the Crenshaw-LAX Line by a 10-1 vote.

“Even though the MTA has finally approved the Leimert Park Village station, it’s disturbing to see that they didn’t stand behind a measure that is so widely supported by the people,” said Jake Manaster, BHUSD’s Board of Education President. “Seeing the uphill battle that the Crenshaw Subway Coalition has fought only serves to demonstrate how hard we need to fight to protect our school.”

Citing scientific research claiming unsafe faults under the school and on Santa Monica Boulevard, MTA has gone against widespread public support to not build under the historic Beverly Hills High School.

Blindsided by MTA’s decision, the Beverly Hills Unified School District commissioned acclaimed researchers to investigate the matter. Backed by the California Geological Survey, the BHUSD’s research effectively refuted MTA’s scientific basis for deeming the school unsafe and routing the line the way they did.

Faced with incontrovertible scientific evidence against them, the MTA has continued to stand behind their initial findings.
In a shocking turn of events, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition has uncovered startling new evidence that proves the Metropolitan Transit Authority has stood in the way of the Crenshaw Boulevard tunnel and Leimert Park Village station from day one.
Citing MTA sources, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition’s report claims that three of the four finalists for the $1.3 billion construction contract has requested to build a Crenshaw Line project with a tunnel spanning the entirety of Crenshaw Blvd, including the final 11 blocks being routed underground.
MTA staff, specifically CEO Art Leahy refused the engineering firms requests. Additionally, the report states that at least one of the finalists proposed a build that included both the Leimert Park Village station and the Park Mesa Heights tunnel and remained under budget.
“Metro has continued to demonstrate that the public’s best interests aren’t at the heart of their decision making process,” said Lisa Korbatov, Beverly Hills Unified School Board member. “By denying the publicly supported Crenshaw Blvd tunnel and standing behind faulty data regarding the Constellation Boulevard stop, Metro has clearly shown that something else is driving their decisions.”
So far, MTA has stood behind their decision to build a station on Constellation Blvd that would route a line directly under Beverly Hills High School.
During a May 23rd MTA Board meeting, the body finally approved an amendment to their budget that adds a Leimert Park station to the Crenshaw-LAX Line by a 10-1 vote.
“Even though the MTA has finally approved the Leimert Park Village station, it’s disturbing to see that they didn’t stand behind a measure that is so widely supported by the people,” said Jake Manaster, BHUSD’s Board of Education President. “Seeing the uphill battle that the Crenshaw Subway Coalition has fought only serves to demonstrate how hard we need to fight to protect our school.”
Citing scientific research claiming unsafe faults under the school and on Santa Monica Boulevard, MTA has gone against widespread public support to not build under the historic Beverly Hills High School.
Blindsided by MTA’s decision, the Beverly Hills Unified School District commissioned acclaimed researchers to investigate the matter. Backed by the California Geological Survey, the BHUSD’s research effectively refuted MTA’s scientific basis for deeming the school unsafe and routing the line the way they did.
Faced with incontrovertible scientific evidence against them, the MTA has continued to stand behind their initial findings.
- See more at: http://www.prnewschannel.com/2013/06/24/report-mta-blocking-contractors-from-bidding-on-crenshaw-line-project/#sthash.tmoVyz6u.dpuf
Survey: People Hate a Gas Tax Hike, Unless It Pays for Something

 http://streetsblog.net/2013/06/25/survey-people-hate-a-gas-tax-hike-unless-it-pays-for-something/

By Angie Schmitt, June 25, 2013




 
 A survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute found that Americans become much more open to the idea of a gas tax increase if you name something it would pay for.


The federal gas tax hasn’t been raised in decades, but the idea of doing something about it seems like a political nonstarter in Washington because everyone knows how much people hate higher gas taxes. Shane Phillips at Network blog Better Institutions says maybe public sentiment is a little more nuanced than that, if you look at a recent survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute:
It’s taken as axiomatic at this point that attempting to raise gas taxes is political suicide, so we want to know what alternatives might be palatable to the American public, and whether gas taxes are really as anathema as they’re often portrayed.
When poll respondents were asked how they felt about a ten-cent gas tax increase (from 18 cents to 28 cents per gallon), support was abysmal at just 23%. However, support increased when a use was specified for the additional funds, and every suggested use received greater than 50% support:

This encompasses basically every possible use of gas taxes, including some that are arguably illegal under current law, but Americans support it all when you actually tell them what it’s for. Most people, of course, aren’t aware that the Highway Trust Fund has been a net recipient of tens of billions of dollars over the last several years (or that there is a thing called the Highway Trust Fund, probably). But really, what do people think gas taxes are currently spent on? Medicare?
Elsewhere on the Network today: Transitized explains why advertising by car companies is so deceptive. And Urban Milwaukee reports on the city’s demo bike-share station, which could lead to a 25-station system soon.
Transit Funding 101 — County-Wide Edition 

 http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/06/25/84789/

By Dana Gabbard, June 25, 2013

 
Thursday at the Metro Board monthly meeting with little fanfare or media attention one of the most important agenda items for the entire year will be dealt with and approved most likely without any discussion or public comment via a single consolidated vote as just one of 27 items being handled as “consent.”
Who doesn't want to read a long fiscal report?

The item I am referring to is agenda item #15, FY 2014 Transit Fund Allocations. Ever year as part of the budget process Metro must divvy up transit capital and operating funds from federal, state and local sources for use by Metro and the 16 included and eligible transit operators in Los Angeles County, collectively known as the munis who constitute the membership of the Bus Operations Subcommittee.

This is a trickier operation than it may appear on the surface given the inherent tension over Metro’s role as both a Regional Transportation Planning Agency and an operator of bus and rail service itself and thus a recipient of the process that they also administer. Prior to April 1993 these functions were handled separately by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and the Southern California Rapid Transit District. The LACTC and SCRTD are the entities whose merger created Metro and in the process placed it in the unenviable position described above.


The consent portion of the agenda is set by the Board Chair and Metro staff via Government Code section 54954.3 (a) (“… the agenda need not provide an opportunity for members of the public to address the legislative body on any item that has already been considered by a committee, composed exclusively of members of the legislative body, at a public meeting wherein all interested members of the public were afforded the opportunity to address the committee on the item, before or during the committee’s consideration of the item, unless the item has been substantially changed since the committee heard the item, as determined by the legislative body”).

For those of you with an interest in delving into the arcane and complicated world of transit funding in Los Angeles County, I have shared enough links in this post that you can to some extent actually trace the process and make some sense of it. To the extent that is possible. Happy reading!

LA Shutting Down Pink-Mustachioed Lyft Rideshare Service

 http://la.curbed.com/archives/2013/06/la_shutting_down_pinkmustachioed_lyft_rideshare_service.php

 

By Neal Broverman, June 25, 2013_06_lyft.jpg2013

 

 
Just as we got used to seeing the sight of pink-mustached cars driving around LA, the city is working to dump Lyft, the rideshare service owned by San Francisco-based Zimride. Department of Transportation taxicab administrator Thomas Drischler sent Lyft and two other rideshare companies--Uber and Sidecar--cease-and-desist letters, LA Weekly reports. The city accuses the companies of "operating an unlicensed, for-profit commercial transportation service in the City of Los Angeles. In the interest of public safety, Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are hereby directed to cease and desist from picking up passengers within the City of Los Angeles." Lyft requires a smartphone app that allows people to find nearby drivers--they charge about 30 percent less than cabs and they're vetted; however, they're apparently "not required to pass background checks or have their vehicles inspected for safety." Taxi companies are obviously no fans of these new rideshare companies and rallied against them at City Hall this morning, though their point may be moot anyway.

 

Ride App Services Told to Shut Down in L.A.

 http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2013/06/uber_lyft_illegal_los_angeles.php

By Dennis Romero, June 25, 2013

 

lyft_girls.JPG

How can ride-app outfits like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar operate in a town with strict rules about how and where taxis can do business?

It's a question we've been asking here at L.A. Weekly world headquarters. And Los Angeles Department of Transportation taxicab administrator Thomas Drischler this week came up with an answer.

Namely, they can't:

In a cease-and-desist letter sent to those three companies, Drischler accused them of ...
... operating an unlicensed, for-profit commercial transportation service in the City of Los Angeles. In the interest of public safety, Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are hereby directed to cease and desist from picking up passengers within the City of Los Angeles.
Of course, Lyft, for one, calls what it does "on-demand ridesharing." Sidecar has a similar business plan; Uber appears to be a straight-up car and taxi service.
The LADOT seems to be arguing that Lyft and Sidecar allow anyone to become an instant cabbie without having to adhere by the city's strict regulations on cabs. (Drivers can sign up to give rides in exchange for cash.)

lyft.JPG
Lyft
Of course, the taxi companies aren't too pleased with the services. A statement from a rep for the firms says:
Drivers for Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are not required to pass background checks or have their vehicles inspected for safety.
The local cabbies are planning to rally at City Hall against the newcomers today at 9 a.m.
William Rouse, general manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab:
These rogue taxis are bypassing all safety regulations created to protect riders and drivers. Not only are these high-tech bandit cabs unsafe, they are breaking regulatory standards and disenfranchising safe, legal taxi drivers.

 

Keep Lyft, Uber, Sidecar Apps in L.A., Change.org Petition Says

 http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2013/06/changeorg_petition_ride_apps_lyft_uber_sidecar.php

By Dennis Romero, June 25, 2013

 uber_facebook.jpg

The city of Los Angeles has ordered the hipster ride app companies Lyft, Uber and Sidecar to stop operating locally because they don't have specific permission from City Hall.

The companies -- we talked to two of them -- claim they don't need permission. Now a Change.org petition is backing their side and urging the city to back off on its cease-and-desist order against the ride apps:

The petition to city taxicab administrator Thomas M. Drischler says that the taxi system in L.A. is overpriced, dangerous and broken, and that the people want these apps to continue to operate in our town:
Alternatives to traditional Taxi service in Los Angeles such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar offer residences a transportation solution that is much more convenient, safer, more pleasant, and often times cheaper than traditional cab service in Los Angeles. ... Citizens of Los Angeles will not standby while an effective transportation solution is pushed out due to political pressure from Taxi companies.
So far the petition has more than 3,500 signatures.

uber_mexicans_facebook.jpg
Uber / Facebook
Lyft and Uber told us that they have an agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission that allows them to operate basically as limo services. The PUC says that's true, but that cities can also make the companies jump through additional hoops if they so desire.

But the city's case seems to be that the companies are sometimes operating as taxis, which can pick up people who hail cabs on the street, and not as limos, which have to adhere to strict state rules, including a mandate that they keep clear records on ride requests.

We'll keep you posted on the controversy. Stay tuned.


Lyft and UberX to keep operating in L.A. despite city orders

 http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-lyft-uberx-continue-operating-la-cease-and-desist-letters-20130625,0,7930489.story

By Salvador Rodriguez, June 25, 2013Lyft

 Despite receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Los Angeles, Lyft said it plans to continue to operate. 

 Lyft and Uber said they will continue operating their ridesharing service in Los Angeles despite receiving cease-and-desist letters from the city's Transportation Department.


The city sent the two companies, as well as Sidecar, the letters Monday, saying they do not have the permits or licenses to operate and are in violation of the city's municipal code.

The three services enable users to request rides using smartphone apps. The apps locate users by GPS, and they are then picked up by others who are using their own cars to give the rides. At the end of the ride, the users pay for the ride through the smartphone apps.

"Your company and all drivers and vehicles dispatched via your mobile app sysem (sic) are hereby directed to cease and desist from picking up passengers within the City of Los Angeles," the letter to Uber reads.

But Lyft and Uber said they have agreements in place with the California Public Utilities Commission that permit them to operate statewide. Both companies said they plan to continue operating in Los Angeles.

"We already signed an agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission explicitly stating that Uber services, including the eco-friendly UberX, are authorized to operate statewide," an Uber spokesman said.

The letters from the city said drivers of the services may be subject to arrest and could have their cars impounded for as long as 30 days. The letters were  followed Tuesday by taxicab driver protests at City Hall against the ridesharing services.

"These companies have no permits, and that's a real concern to us,” said Thomas Drischler, the city's taxicab administrator. “That raises safety issues.”

Without those permits, Drischler cannot verify that the services conduct inspections, background checks or are insured. He also said that because these companies are making money off their rides, they are commercial vehicle for-hire services and fall under the jurisdiction of the city, not the state. Drischler said the city plans to make arrests.

But Lyft co-founder John Zimmer said he isn't worried and that drivers or riders shouldn't be either. He said Lyft has experienced the same kind of opposition in its home city of San Francisco, where drivers were not arrested and continued operating.

“The state has demonstrated that it's a state issue and not a city issue,” he said.

Zimmer also stressed that his service does indeed do criminal background checks, Department of Motor Vehicle checks and has excessive liability insurance that covers drivers for as much as $1 million.

Uber said it uses drivers' Social Security number for background checks and checks drivers' criminal history for the last seven years and their driving history for the last 10 years. Its insurance covers drivers for $2 million.

The Public Utilities Commission and Sidecar could not immediately be reached for comment.


To Toll or Not: Could the Feds Lift a Ban on Interstate Tolling?


If Patrick Jones has his way, you could wind up paying a toll every time you drive on the interstate.
If that sounds shocking, it should. Historically, tolling on the interstate has been prohibited, except for a few roadways -- mainly on the East Coast -- that were grandfathered in when the interstate system was created.

But Jones, who leads the trade association representing toll owners and operators and the businesses that serve them, says it's high time for a change. "For more than 50 years, we've relied pretty heavily on the gas tax to fund the construction and maintenance of roads in this county," Jones says. "Now the well has run dry. We're not generating as much revenue from the fuel tax as we have before. We really see tolling as an alternative to the gas tax -- a very powerful alternative."

Indeed, the 18.4 cents-per-mile gas tax has remained unchanged for 20 years. Come 2015, the Highway Trust Fund won't be able to meet its obligations, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And federal lawmakers -- facing political pressure -- are struggling to develop any big new sources of revenue for roads and transit.

To that end, Jones wants Congress to simply lift the ban on interstate tolling, allowing states and cities to generate their own revenue. He and a growing number of transportation experts argue that if Washington won't step up and develop ways to provide more funding, it should at least empower other jurisdictions to do so.

Of course, Jones' organization, the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), has a stake in the fight. The private-sector companies that IBTTA represents would ostensibly see expanded business opportunities from increased tolling.

Several independent organizations, however, back the cause as well, including Building America's Future Educational Fund and the Bipartisan Policy Center. Both were among the groups that signed a letter sent to leaders of the congressional transportation committees last year arguing that in the absence of new funding sources, Congress should ease up on interstate tolling rules. "If states and metropolitan regions are going to be asked to do more in transportation," they wrote, "and if more of the funding and investment responsibilities are to devolve to them, it is essential that this legislation remove the restrictions to their capacity to innovate."

Critics of interstate tolling argue that it's tantamount to double taxation, since the roads would have already been paid for with gas taxes. Others note that adding tolling to existing interstates would be unfair to people who already own homes and businesses along those routes.

But tolling supporters say given the need for constant maintenance and inevitable upgrades, reliable and sufficient funding is necessary. "Our argument is a road is never paid for," Jones says. "When someone says to me, 'When should the tolls come off?' My response is never."


Federal tolling prohibitions have been relaxed since the 1990s, primarily by granting states greater flexibility to toll the interstate in cases where they're building new lanes. Last year's highway bill further expanded tolling by easing requirements that states get federal approval in those cases, but it kept the underlying principle -- no tolling of existing interstate capacity -- intact.

Since 1998, the one major exception has been a pilot program that allows states pursuing major rehabilitation to interstates to toll them. The program is in just three states; it applies to I-95 in Virginia and North Carolina, and I-70 in Missouri.

In the case of Missouri, for example, the interstate is in need of a complete rebuild that could cost as much as $4 billion, according to a recent blog post by HNTB, an architecture, civil engineering consulting and construction management firm that is involved in the undertaking. The figure is so high that if the state didn't have the unique tolling option, It would have needed to shelve most of its other scheduled transportation projects for a decade. Jones argues that other parts of the interstate will get to the point that they'll be unusable unless someone is willing to put up the money to fix it. "Essentially, we'd say it's new capacity because unless we rebuild it, we'll have to close it," Jones says.

Still, the prospect of expanded tolling isn't without its flaws. If the ban on tolling existing capacity was ever lifted, federal officials would still have to play some sort of coordinating role to ensure that the mismatch of tolls didn't inhibit interstate commerce. Skeptics of interstate tolling also note that states may very well be tempted to toll the parts of their highways that are most likely to be used by out-of-towners.

Joshua Schank, head of the Eno Center for Transportation, says the authors of the original interstate highway legislation specifically chose to fund the system via the gas tax as opposed to tolls because they recognized that some parts of the network would need to subsidize others. "There will never be enough money for tolls to fund I-90 through Montana," Schank says. He says tolling existing capacity has more promise in urban areas, where it can also be used as a tool to mitigate congestion.

Meanwhile, despite the dire need for transportation funding in some places, there's no guarantee that states would even take advantage of tolling if it was allowed. The idea of having citizens paying tolls on roads that were once free -- at a time when gas costs more than $4 per gallon in some places -- would undoubtedly be a political challenge. The North Carolina General Assembly, for example, is debating whether to allow I-95 tolling, and earlier this year, lawmakers in Virginia enacted a rule that threatens the prospect of I-95 tolling as well. "There's still a great deal of backlash [against tolling]," says Greg Cohen, president of the American Highway Users Alliance, which opposes it. "Even though some government people, construction and engineering firms, and think tanks think it would be wonderful ... it's proven to be highly unpopular locally."

There was big debate on tolling in Congress last year, however, when a trio of moderate senators -- Democrats Tom Carper of Delaware and Mark Warner of Virginia, and Repubican Mark Kirk of Illinois -- introduced an amendment that would have lifted the cap on pilot projects allowed to experiment with tolling. But Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas countered with her own amendment that would have banned interstate tolling. Both sides ultimately withdrew their proposals.

Cohen says he doesn't expect a similar debate emerging when MAP-21, the authorization bill that governs federal surface transportation spending, expires next year. "There's very little desire to relitigate those issues again in a year," he says
.
Others say the timing could be right for that debate. Lawmakers used a convoluted patchwork of maneuvers to provide level funding in the current highway bill, and members of congressional transportation committees concede many of those were one-time options, which will make funding an even more pressing issue in the next bill.

Interestingly, interstate tolling tends to get support from the political center, while lawmakers who lean heavily to the left or the right have been the biggest opponents. Liberal Democrats oppose it for populist reasons, arguing that it's an onerous fee that low-income Americans can't afford, while hard-line conservatives oppose it as just another expensive government-imposed fee.

Bill Shuster, the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said every funding option is on the table when lawmakers start debating the highway bill next year. He hasn't revealed publicly many details of what he's envisioning, but tolling advocates are hoping he's open to ideas.

"If federal funding is going to be stagnant, then the federal government ought to get out of the way and allow states to innovate, to exercise discretion and to develop their own sources of revenue," says Emil Frankel, a visiting scholar at the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center.

Twelve lawmakers oppose MTA's project list, want a postponement 

They want board to revamp its rail-plan list and vote later, after L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa is gone

 http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_23531864/twelve-lawmakers-oppose-mtas-project-list-want-postponement

By Steve Scauzillo, June 24, 2013

 
Twelve members of the state Legislature from the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire are asking the county's powerful transportation agency to postpone Thursday's hearing on $16 billion worth of accelerated L.A.-subway and light-rail projects because the legislators contend the list is outdated, inaccurate and leaves off the Gold Line Foothill Extension from Azusa to Montclair.

Implicit in their request would be to deny outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a vote on how to build 12 projects in only 10 years, including projects he advocates: extension of the Westside subway under Wilshire Boulevard to the ocean, the Green Line subway extension into LAX, and a Regional Connector for the subways in downtown L.A.

The 12 lawmakers, who call themselves the San Gabriel Valley Legislative Caucus, want Metro's 13-member board to hold off on a vote until at least July 25, so that the staff can add the full cost of the second Gold Line Foothill extension as well as the real costs for other projects which Metro lists as "to be determined."

The project list amends the original list of projects contained in Measure R, a one-half percent sales tax measure for new transit projects approved by voters in 2008 and sent to the ballot by legislative mandate under AB 2321. In their letter dated June 19, the legislators say Metro's funding strategy "lacks transparency" and is in violation of AB 2321.

The legislators support acceleration of "vital transportation projects throughout Los Angeles County" but want Metro staff to rejigger the spending plan by providing more detailed information on costs, loans and project priorities to the public.

Most see the legislators' plea for more time as a way to allow a different Metro board decide which transit projects get built sooner rather than later during the next three decades -- presumably a board without Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa's eight-year term as mayor ends midnight June 30 when L.A. Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti becomes mayor and takes his seat on the powerful Metro board. Garcetti also gets to appoint three members. The remainder of the board is made up of the five county supervisors plus four representatives from the 88 cities within the county.

This strategy is similar to what some members of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority have been pushing. They want to see the list revamped without Villaraigosa, who some say controls the board and is pushing L.A.-city projects to the front of the line at the expense of suburban projects.

"Yes, that would be the ideal circumstance," said Doug Tessitor, chairman of the Gold Line Construction Authority and a member of the Glendora City Council. "I would hope some if not all of Mayor Villaraigosa's appointees will be replaced by the new mayor and they would have a much more regional approach."

Tessitor said L.A.'s "subway to the sea takes the oxygen out of the room" because it will be a costly and environmentally questionable project to build.

The lawmakers who signed the letter did not mention Villaraigosa. They are: state senators Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar; Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina; Carol Liu, D-Pasadena and Norma Torres, D-Pomona; assembly members Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park; Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills; Ron Calderon, D-Montebello; Chris Holden, D-Pasadena and Cristina Garcia, D-Artesia.

Huff, whose district includes parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties and stretches from La Habra to Diamond Bar and Chino Hills, wants to see the Gold Line Foothill reach not only Claremont, but continue over the county line into Montclair and eventually, all the way to Ontario International Airport.

If the Metro list of projects accurately reflects the total cost of the foothill extension of about $1.714 billion, and lists the project in its entirety, then San Bernardino County will take the baton and support bringing the light-rail line to the airport, making it the first east-west rail line to serve inside an airport in Southern California. (Metrolink from Union Station reaches just outside the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.)

"If we were to get it funded to the county line, there would be more pressure to complete that leg to the airport. It just makes sense," Huff said.




Bicycles outnumber cars on Thames bridges

 Transport for London has released new figures showing how cyclists make up a large proportion of all traffic at key river crossings and junctions.

 http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/6922

June 24, 2013

 

Map


TfL's new Central London Cycling Census shows that in the morning peak (7am-10am), up to 64 per cent of vehicles on some main roads are now bicycles.

Cycles make up almost half of all northbound traffic crossing Waterloo Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge.

62 per cent of all northbound traffic crossing Southwark Bridge – which carries Cycle Superhighway 7 – in the morning peak is cyclists.

They are the largest single type of vehicle on each of these bridges, outnumbering cars in each case.
Across the whole day (6am-8pm) 9,245 bicycles crossed London Bridge, the highest-volume all-day route counted, averaging 660 bicycles an hour or 11 a minute (in both directions).

On the highest-volume morning peak route, Elephant & Castle roundabout, 2,710 bikes passed in the northbound direction, an average of 903 an hour or 15 a minute in just this one direction. The figure excludes bikes using the cycle bypasses around Elephant & Castle, so the total number of bikes through this area is even greater.

In total, the TfL survey found 24 per cent of all vehicles at sites counted in central London during the morning rush hour are bicycles and make up 16 per cent of traffic across the entire day (from 6am to 8pm).

The survey was conducted at 164 locations in central London over a two-week period during April. Bikes and all motor vehicles were counted between 6am and 8pm on weekdays.
"These extraordinary figures show how enormous cycling already is in London and how urgent the task of catering for it properly has become," said Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor's cycling commissioner for London.

"The simple numbers explain why the Mayor is investing £913 million in a broad range of measures to support cycling, including the longest substantially-segregated urban cycleway in Europe.

"Cycling has often in the past been treated as niche or marginal. These figures show why the Mayor has stated that can no longer be the case, and that cycling must be treated as a core part of the transport network.
"They show why the commissioner for transport, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, has committed to funding the cycling infrastructure programme as one of TfL's highest priorities."

Ben Plowden, director of surface planning at TfL, said "Cycling is a great way to see the city and this new survey shows just how popular it is becoming in central London.
"By working with boroughs and local businesses across London, we remain committed to deliver the Mayor's cycling vision and cement London's place as a leading cycling city."
By Yuppies, for Yuppies? The Problems With Uber, RidePal and Other Gated-Off Transportation Systems

 http://nextcity.org/equityfactor/entry/by-yuppies-for-yuppies-uber-ridepal-leap-gated-off-transpo-systems?utm_source=feedly

By Bill Bradley, June 24, 2013



 
So you need a lift, huh? But you either (a) can’t find a taxi or (b) are insanely impatient. There’s an app for that. Several, in fact. And anyone who works at a start-up, or who uses the term “disrupt” in regular conversation without a hint of irony, will likely tell you that these apps are game changers. They’re innovative transportation alternatives.

But who are these apps good for? Not licensed, certified taxi drivers — the folks who make a living ferrying people around in yellow cars. And they’re certainly not of much use to non-wealthy people, regardless of race. (Also: Good luck getting Uber to come out to the South Bronx or Detroit’s eastside.)

There are scores of different transportation start-ups today, from the well-known Uber to San Francisco’s RidePal (a bus service that gets employees from San Francisco to Silicon Valley) to LEAP (another San Francisco commuter service). “Leap,” according to its website, “is the best way to get to work.” As opposed to, say, public transit like everyone else?

Which is what bothers me most about these so-called innovative approaches to transit. Sure, they are nice if you want to get to work quicker or hail a cab at your leisure. But aren’t we just creating more gated systems? We’re walling off services — especially in the case of LEAP and RidePal — to fellow citizens. “Say goodbye to your crowded commute,” RidePal preaches, right after a bit about leather seats and Wi-Fi. I don’t want this to come off as crying poor, but isn’t it a little cruel and unfair to the rest of us — even though users are paying their own way — to load up a bus with upper-middle-class folks and ship them off to work?

The cynic in me pictures normal, taxpaying citizens watching these shiny, Wi-Fi-equipped buses flying through both impoverished and middle-class neighborhoods. Which can’t be far from the truth. Companies reserve seats on RidePal for their employees. We want you to get to work unscathed. I can’t imagine small local businesses can afford that expense.

And what does it mean for cab drivers? Are their jobs at risk? Asim Akhtar, outreach coordinator for the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told me his organization was concerned at first, but has faith in its model. “A yellow cab is relatively cheaper than the black cabs,” he said. “So we feel the yellow cab rider will continue to take yellow cabs.”

Akhtar remains confident. But Matthew W. Daus, former chairman of New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission and current president of the International Association of Transportation Regulators, expressed his frustration with Uber in a December interview with the New York Times, calling it a “rogue” app that behaves in a destructive way. A March Mother Jones story said Uber was skimming driver’s tips.

The best argument I’ve seen against these apps, and Silicon Valley in general, was in a May New Yorker article by George Packer. “It suddenly occurred to me that the hottest tech start-ups are solving all the problems of being twenty years old, with cash on hand, because that’s who thinks them up,” Packer wrote.

There are most certainly people in their 30s taking RidePal and LEAP to their jobs in Silicon Valley, but it does seem that apps like Uber were designed by young professionals for young professionals. Although Uber doesn’t scare me as much as the fancy commuter buses. If someone wants to pay out the nose for a black car and the taxi workers alliance is fine with it, that’s OK with me. And, if you want to take the hard-line economics argument, innovation is part of capitalism.

But if private, Wi-Fi-equipped buses become more rampant, I fear that means less diversity on public transit and, more importantly, diminished ridership. Fewer people coming through the turnstiles means a smaller budget for the public transit that the rest of us rely on every day. You can’t force people onto a city bus. And if an employer offers a clean, alternative option, you can’t blame employees for taking it. But these services could turn out to be more disruptive then their developers think.

New York's Double Standard on NIMBYism

 http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/06/new-yorks-double-standard-nimbyism/6012/

By Eric Jaffe, June 25, 2013

 

New York's Double Standard on NIMBYism


There's a textbook case of urban NIMBYism at its finest, which is also to say its worst, unfolding on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

In early 2011, the tenants association of the Yorkshire Towers, a residential building on East 86th Street, sued the MTA over the placement of an entrance for the emerging 2nd Avenue subway line. (Transit blogger Benjamin Kabak of 2nd Ave. Sagas has tracked the story from the very start.) Yorkshire residents argued that placing the entrance near the building's circular driveway was arbitrary and injurious to tenants [PDF]:
Roughly the equivalent of an army regiment, nearly 3,600 passengers are projected to flood the sidewalk in front of Yorkshire Towers during the AM Peak Hour alone for entry and exit.
If riders can sack York, they can invade lower England!
To be fair, some of the elder Yorkshire tenants seem genuinely worried over the situation, and station accommodations have been made for some residential buildings along the line. At the same time, the 86th Street entrance could not be placed at the corner for structural reasons, and the stairs direct riders away from the building's driveway (below). In any event, a federal judge threw out the complaint in late 2011 because it had not been filed within the statute of limitations for an impact report.

Flash forward to April 2013, and Yorkshire had sued the MTA once again. The new suit was "remarkably similar" to the earlier one, writes Kabak, in every respect except the sub-paragraph of law under debate. But the attorney for the tenants unwisely tried to pass the complaint off as a fresh one, perhaps in an effort to put it before a different judge, which angered the court enough to threaten the attorney with sanctions.

Even then Yorkshire wouldn't admit defeat. The building hired a consultant who developed a plan to move the entrances to a sidewalk "bump-out" on 2nd Avenue. But the MTA wasn't having it; as a spokesman told DNA Info earlier this month, the transit authority "has no interest in delaying a project that will benefit hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in order to appease the parochial self-interests of a select few."

In a sense this is what city residents should want from a private objection to a public project: a fair and open consideration of the claim, followed by a firm ruling in the greater interest when that claim proves frivolous or otherwise unfit. One would even hope that similar efforts to displace bike-share stations would meet similar fates. But as the New York Post reported on Sunday, the city has moved at least 10 bike-share stations in recent weeks — in many cases because that's what some bigshot wanted:
“I’ve been disappointed to see Citi Bike stations moved in wealthier neighborhoods,” said attorney Jim Walden. “You would think [the city] would want to avoid even the appearance that struggling artists would be treated differently than highfalutin financiers.”
Now it's worth reminding ourselves that community relations and political power are complicated arenas of urban life, and that transit planners make plenty mistakes of their own. But if the Post report is true, then whatever progress New York has made against transit NIMBYism seems compromised by its simultaneous concessions to elitism. Benefiting thousands instead of appeasing a select few should be the aim of every city — not benefiting one select few instead of another.