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, September 30, 2014

Zocalo Public Square tackles the can-we-fix-traffic question at last night’s event

http://thesource.metro.net/2014/09/30/zocalo-public-square-tackles-the-can-we-fix-traffic-question-at-last-nights-event/

By Steve Hymon, September 30, 2014


 From left, UCLA's Brian Taylor, FAST's Hilary Norton, Metro CEO Art Leahy and KCRW's Kajon Cermac. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
 From left, UCLA’s Brian Taylor, FAST’s Hilary Norton, Metro CEO Art Leahy and KCRW’s Kajon Cermac. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Zocalo Public Square and Metro held a panel discussion Monday night at the Petersen Automotive Museum with an appropriate topic for the venue: what, if anything, can be done to speed up traffic in our region?

A podcast of the discussion is above (see website). KCRW traffic reporter Kajon Cermac served as the moderator with the panel including Metro CEO Art Leahy, UCLA Director of Transportation Studies’ Brian Taylor and Hilary Norton, executive director of Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic.

Can traffic be fixed or seriously improved? The short answer: probably not much can be done unless the region embraces drastic and politically unpopular measures such as heavier tolling across all lanes on freeways to reduce peak hour traffic, passing laws to greatly restrict driving, building many billions of dollars of new freeways (which includes the challenge of finding places to put them) or going the Detroit route by shedding jobs, residents and the local economy.

In other words, as UCLA’s Taylor put it, the status quo of traffic congestion is the least bad option for the politicians who frequently ask him how to fix traffic.

Which is not to say that things can’t be done to improve mobility and even some traffic.

Taylor praised the congestion pricing projects on freeways in our region (which Metro’s ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110) and said they are improving capacity and speeds in the toll lanes, as well as Metro’s Rapid Buses and the Orange Line. Norton pointed to the increasing number of people taking transit to big events.

And Leahy noted that thanks to Measure R, Metro is currently in the midst of the largest transit building boom in the nation (one that will include a subway station next door to both the Petersen and LACMA on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile). He said the goal is to keep expanding the transit network and making it work better so that people can use it travel far and wide and get out of their cars.

The conversation covered a lot of ground and I’m interested in feedback and comments from those who listened or attended the event.

My three cents: I felt like it was a good, albeit brief, adult conversation about traffic and urban planning — and the fact that traffic is not something easily “fixed” without serious consequences. I also thought UCLA’s Brian Taylor did a good job pointing to the fact that a lot of the traffic stereotypes about our region are total bunk and that concentrating density around transit and high activity centers may not fix traffic — but often makes places nicer, happier places to live and visit.

APTA: 2.7B trips taken on public transportation

http://www.metro-magazine.com/news/story/2014/09/apta-2-7b-trips-taken-on-public-transportation.aspx?ref=Express-Tuesday-NEW-20140930&utm_campaign=Express-Tuesday-NEW-20140930&utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Enewsletter

September 30, 2014




More than 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the second quarter of 2014, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) — a 1.1% increase over the same quarter last year, representing an increase of 30 million more trips. Public transportation ridership outpaced urban vehicle miles traveled (VMT) which grew at 0.97% for this quarter.

Noting that in five of the last eight quarters, ridership on U.S. public transportation has increased, APTA President/CEO Michael Melaniphy said, "Public transportation ridership continues to grow nationally, showing that federal investment in public transit is paying off. With greater travel options, peoples' lives improve and communities grow."

MetroRail, the commuter rail line for Austin, Texas, reached record ridership for the second quarter. Its ridership has quadrupled since it was launched in 2010. With the new light rail system that opened in April 2013 in Denver light rail ridership reached record numbers with an increase of 8.1% in the second quarter. Seattle's five year old light rail line saw another record quarter with a quarterly ridership increase of 17%, marking 20 consecutive quarters of double digit growth.

Ridership reached record numbers in several systems across the country. For example, Capital District Transportation Authority (Albany, N.Y.), Spokane Transit (Spokane, Wash.) and Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (Canton, Ohio), saw quarterly record ridership numbers, as did San Mateo County's commuter rail line Caltrain (San Carlos, Calif.). New York’s Long Island Rail Road saw the highest ridership for the month of June since June 2008 when gas prices were very high.

Ridership increases were due to a number of factors including high gas prices and recovering local economies. Nationally, the average cost of a gallon of gas in the second quarter was $3.75.
Nationally, heavy rail ridership increased by 3.2%; light rail ridership increased by 2.8% in the second quarter of 2014; commuter rail systems increased by 3.1% in the second quarter; bus ridership decreased nationally by 1.2%, although in cities with populations of less than two million, bus ridership increased; demand response (paratransit) increased in the second quarter of 2014 by 2.2%; and trolleybus ridership decreased by 3.8%.

To view APTA’s ridership report, click here.

Ground is broken for Regional Connector project to link Blue, Expo and Gold Lines

http://thesource.metro.net/2014/09/30/ground-is-broken-for-regional-connector-project-to-link-blue-expo-and-gold-lines/

By Steve Hymon, September 30, 2014


RegionalConnectorMap
RegConnectorPlan

The official groundbreaking for the $1.42-billion Regional Connector project is being held this morning in Little Tokyo. The 1.9-mile underground light rail line will link the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines, allowing for faster and more frequent service on Metro’s light rail lines to and through downtown Los Angeles.

The project will also eliminate the need to transfer for many light rail riders. Riders on the Expo and Blue Line will be able to continue north on light rail from 7th/Metro Center to other downtown neighborhoods such as the Financial District, Civic Center and Little Tokyo. Likewise, Gold Line riders will no longer have to transfer to the Red/Purple Line subway at Union Station to reach the heart of downtown.

The project is currently forecast to be completed in 2020. When done, Metro plans to run trains between Long Beach and Azusa on a north-south light rail line and east-west between Santa Monica and East Los Angeles. Metro continues to work on potential naming and color schemes for its light rail lines to be used in the future.

Three other Metro Rail projects are already under construction: the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line, the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line to downtown Santa Monica and the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension to the Azusa/Glendora border. The 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway is in pre-construction with utility relocations underway.

The Regional Connector, like those other projects, is receiving funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in November 2008.
Below are the station renderings. We’ll add more pics to The Source from today’s media event later and will be posting photos to our Twitter and Instagram streams during the event. Media, bloggers, anyone: feel free to use/share any photos or renderings that we post.

Here is the news release from Metro:

Federal, State & Local Elected Officials Join in Groundbreaking Ceremony

Metro Breaks Ground on New Regional Connector Light Rail Project in Downtown Los Angeles

Metro joined U.S Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx along with state and local elected officials today to officially break ground on the $1.420 billion Regional Connector Light Rail Project in downtown Los Angeles that will better connect the Metro Blue, Gold and Expo lines with the rest of the region.

“This project will mean people can take a one-seat ride through Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, the Eastside and points in-between,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “Bringing our rail lines together and making transfers simpler will make it easier for people to use rail and will help take more cars off the road.”

The Regional Connector Project completes a 1.9-mile segment between the Metro Blue and Expo Lines and the Metro Gold Line by providing a direct connection with three new stations planned for 1st Street/Central Avenue, 2nd Street/Broadway and 2nd Place/Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Regional Connector will dramatically improve passengers’ daily commutes,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina.”It will provide them with better connections to the rest of the Metro Rail system without requiring them to transfer from one line to another. The Regional Connector is a major step forward in transforming Los Angeles County’s mass transit network into a truly world-class system.”

The Regional Connector Project is an important rail connection project overwhelmingly approved by the voters and funded by the Measure R half-cent sales tax ordinance for LA County transportation improvements. In addition to Measure R funding, a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the federal government secures $670 million for the project. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted Metro a loan of $160 million for the Regional Connector project from a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan (TIFIA) to complete the project.

“Los Angeles is a world-class city and deserves a world-class transit system. Today’s groundbreaking for the Regional Connector represents the coming together of federal and local efforts to invest in our rail system and put Angelenos to work building our city. These new improvements will provide significant economic and environmental benefits for Angelenos not just in downtown L.A., but throughout Los Angeles County,” said Congressman Xavier Becerra.

“The Regional Connector is an example of our commitment to develop transportation projects that serve the entire County,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Don Knabe.  “This project will make it easy and seamless for commuters to get to their destination, which has a huge impact on their quality-of-life.  Linking lines that cover nearly every corner of the County will vastly improve Metro’s network and the experience of our riders.  This is exactly the type of project voters asked for when they approved Measure R – expanding transit to serve all residents.”

The Regional Connector Project, expected to be completed in 2020, will attract nearly 17,000 new daily riders and provide access to more than 88,000 passengers saving commuters up to 20 minutes off their daily commutes. It will provide a one-seat, one fare ride for commuters from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica without the need to transfer between rail lines for major east/west and north/south trips.

“The groundbreaking for the Regional Connector is another welcomed step in increasing the efficiency of our Metro system,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard. “When the Regional Connector is completed, many of my constituents commuting through Downtown will have a chance to reduce their commuting time by 20 minutes.  I hope that Metro Rail’s expansion plans will continue to bring rail service to new parts of L.A. County.  Many of the communities I represent, including the Southeast cities, would benefit greatly from further Metro expansion.”

The new Metro Rail extension will offer an alternative transportation option to congested roadways, provide significant environmental benefits and spur economic development throughout the County. Through improved connectivity, riders will be better able to use the entire Metro Rail system, municipal bus lines and other regional transportation services.

“While its execution will be grand in scale, the Regional Connector’s true aim is simply to make the lives of those who depend on public transit better,” said Los Angeles Councilmember and former Metro Board Member José Huizar. “From helping parents get home sooner to be with their children, to taking the stress out of being stuck in traffic, to reducing pollution so the air we breathe is cleaner – these quality of life attributes will be the true legacy of this great project and I am proud to help bring the Regional Connector to Downtown L.A.” 

In April, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors approved a $927.2 million contract to Regional Connector Constructors, a joint venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc. and Traylor Brothers Inc. to design and build the Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project.

In awarding the contract, it was noted that Skanska/Traylor had the overall highest ranking including the highest technical score and the highest evaluated score for pricing, based on the criteria in the request for proposals. In recommending the award of the contract, staff noted that Skanska/Traylor indicated that they plan to finish construction 115 days early and will absorb the cost of any delays caused by Metro or subcontractors.

Most Americans Still Driving, but New Census Data Reveal Shifts at the Metro Level

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/the-avenue/posts/2014/09/29-americans-driving-census-data-metro-tomer-kane

By Adie Tomer and Joseph Kane, September 29, 2014

Driving to work has been a staple in the American commute for decades, but it appears the country’s love affair with cars is stalling in many places. After years of sustained growth, driving levels are flat-lining, while more young people are opting for alternative transportation modes.

Newly released Census data from the 2013 American Community Survey offers additional insight into the shifting nature of our daily commutes.

To be sure, the car is still king for the United States as a whole. Based on the new Census estimates, over 85 percent of all workers still get to their jobs by private automobile. That amounts to over 122 million commuters, the vast majority of whom travel alone rather than in a carpool. It’s also relatively consistent with our commuting patterns from 1980, when nearly the same percentage of workers commuted by car.

But those long-term trends mask real changes over the past few years. The share of national commuters traveling by private vehicle is edging down for the first time in decades—from 86.5 percent in 2007 to 85.8 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, other transportation modes have grown in relative importance. Public transportation, which just recorded the most passenger trips since 1956, saw its share jump to over 5 percent, reaching levels not seen since 1990. The share of those bicycling and walking to work also continued to rise, now representing nearly 4 percent of all commuters. The biggest gain, however, came from those workers who didn’t technically commute at all. With the help of burgeoning broadband coverage, nearly as many people now work from home as ride public transportation to their jobs.

Leading these national trends are the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.* Over two-thirds of these places experienced driving declines between 2007 and 2013, while also simultaneously seeing a rise in commuters walking, bicycling or working at home. 

Metropolitan Share of Non-Car Commuters, 2007 to 2013Metropolitan Share of Non-Car Commuters, 2007 to 2013
Source: Brookings analysis of American Community Survey data

From Los Angeles and Seattle to Boston and Miami, this shift in commuting patterns is taking place all across the country, even in traditionally car-centric locations. Large metros like New York and San Francisco grew their transit shares, but so did Tucson and Albany. Similar shares of people now bike or walk to work in Columbia, SC, as they do in Portland, OR.

Over time, these evolving commuting habits will help influence—and be shaped by—the built environment of our communities. The proliferation of pedestrian-scaled developments, for instance, represents one way in which many metropolitan areas are stitching together their urban fabric and responding to a new geography of innovation. As more individuals work from home, stroll to their office, or even engage in widespread bike sharing and car sharing, metropolitan areas will need to consider a range of plans and policies that further address these multimodal needs.

*: Due to changing metropolitan definitions and limited county-level data, we can only compare 69 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas between 2007 and 2013. For a more thorough technical explanation, see Elizabeth Kneebone and Natalie Holmes’ report on the same data issues.

Los Angeles Is Building an e-Highway

The road would eliminate truck emissions, and is being tested in a corridor that connects the port to downtown.

http://www.citylab.com/tech/2014/09/los-angeles-is-building-an-e-highway/380914/

By Nate Berg, September 30, 2014

Image



 The neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach bring in roughly 40 percent of the goods shipped to the United States. Once there, the first leg of their journey to warehouses and stores and cities across the country is a 20-mile stretch of roadway between the ports and downtown L.A. known as the Alameda Corridor, used almost exclusively by large trucks hauling goods between the ports and various freight rail links. The corridor's high concentration of diesel-truck traffic has created a similarly high concentration of pollution in the surrounding areas, causing health and air-quality concerns for nearby residents and the region as a whole.

But a new road design project dubbed the e-highway is aiming to reduce and maybe even eliminate the pollution problems caused by all this truck traffic. The experimental system is being built along a mile of the corridor to test how highly polluting diesel truck traffic could instead run on emission-free electric power. If successful, this demonstration could offer a solution to pollution-related problems along the Alameda Corridor and other high-traffic roadways all over the world.

The e-highway consists of an overhead catenary system that will run along the outside lanes of both sides of the road, sort of like the overhead wires that provide power to electric buses, trolleys, and trains in cities. Specially outfitted hybrid or all-electric trucks can attach to the system using automated current-transfer devices called pantographs. Once connected, the trucks will pull all their power from the overhead lines, effectively becoming emission-free vehicles.

The $13 million project is a collaboration between the electronics and engineering company Siemens and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the public agency tasked with controlling air pollution in Orange County and the urban parts of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. Construction is underway, and officials behind the project expect the two-way, one-mile system to be operational by July 2015. SCAQMD will then conduct a yearlong test of the system using up to four different trucks, each with a different engine type and fuel source. Though four trucks are just a small fraction of the corridor's traffic on any given day, they could pave the way for a larger-scale transition of port truck traffic from diesel to electric—in L.A. and beyond.

"It makes a lot of sense to deploy this system where you need to bridge a short area, where the distance isn't too long, where you have heavy traffic from trucks," says Matthias Schlelein, president of Siemens' mobility and logistics division in the U.S.

Schlelein says the project has three main goals: to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, to preserve the flexibility of trucks in the goods movement chain, and to be operationally cost-effective. He's confident the system will work, because Siemens has been testing a prototype of this overhead system at one of its German facilities. Schlelein says the L.A. ports complex is an ideal place to use the technology in the real world.


(Siemens)
It's also a place in need of new solutions. A 2010 study from the University of California Transportation Center estimated that the annual cost of health impacts from exposure to pollutants in the major freight corridors around the ports—measured by increased incidence of respiratory illnesses and premature deaths—was roughly $900 million. And another study by researchers at the University of Southern California, in 2005, found striking correlations between childhood asthma and proximity to major corridors and freeways.

"For our region, on-road, big, heavy-duty trucks contribute the most NOX emissions, which in turn form smog or ozone," says Matt Miyasoto, deputy executive officer for science and technology advancement at SCAQMD. Miyasoto says the worst polluters are heavy-duty diesel technologies like trucks, bulldozers, graders, marine vessels, and locomotives. "They're all conventional, big diesel engines," he says, "and they're all related to the goods movement chain."

The impact of this pollution is being felt on the ground in the communities surrounding the major corridors leading out of the ports. "We think there's a disproportional impact on the areas that run along these major corridors," says Miyasoto. "We do believe it's an environmental justice issue, and technologies like these which give us zero emission miles in areas where you need it are necessary to ensure not only that the economic engine of our region, the ports, can continue to do business and grow but that the communities aren't adversely impacted."

Funding for the project is coming from a variety of organizations, including the California Energy Commission, the California Environmental Protection Agency, SCAQMD, the Port of Long Beach, and potentially the Port of Los Angeles. Some community groups in the areas immediately adjacent to the ports and the Alameda Corridor have also contributed.

Miyasoto says it's in everyone's best interest to start looking for and implementing this type of solution to freight emissions. If the EPA implements stricter standards on the amount of allowable pollutants in the air, as he expects, more high-traffic areas across the country will find themselves in non-compliance. The e-highway could be a relatively quick way to transition from heavily polluting vehicles to those that are emission-free. "We can look at any long stretch of corridor that is near populated areas and envision that this could be a solution for that area," Miyasoto says.

The one-mile test of the e-highway system may just be the start. Miyasoto says the various funders are hoping to expand the system along the remaining three miles from the ports to the major railhead, and there are discussions underway about a 20-mile northwest corridor that could connect the ports with inland warehouse complexes. If this first mile test works out, it could help provide a healthier future for high-traffic corridors around the world.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti: We Will Be the First City to Do Autonomous Vehicles Right

He says Angelenos "might not own cars" in as soon as a decade.

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/09/la-mayor-we-will-be-the-first-city-with-true-autonomous-vehicles/380915/

By John Metcalfe, September 29, 2014

 Image

 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at The Atlantic's CityLab 2014 summit.



It's no secret that Eric Garcetti has a thing for autonomous vehicles. At a conference last winter, L.A.'s self-proclaimed "tech mayor" shared his dream of having an entire neighborhood devoted to whirring, driverless machines.

Today at The Atlantic's CityLab 2014 summit in downtown Los Angeles he doubled down on that vision, saying that L.A. "could be the first place really in an urban center where we have autonomous vehicles that are able to be ordered up [like] a car service, right away in a real neighborhood, not just in a protected area."

Garcetti's future-gazing came in the context of the city's ongoing, massive expansion of its transit system. A slew of new rail lines are in the works, and beleaguered air travelers are finally getting a cheap and direct conduit to LAX. The mayor said it was not enough to ponder the current construction projects, and not even what comes next, which he said might be more bus rapid transit lanes. Garcetti's interested in what Michael Lewis might call the new, new thing, which he painted as inevitable as the rising of the sun.

“While we're building out this rail network, we simultaneously should be looking at, I think, bus rapid transit lanes, not because BRTs are [good]of course they've been proven successfulbut because autonomous vehicles are going to be here," he said. "How do you spend billions of dollars on fixed rail, when we might not own cars in this city in a decade or a decade and a half?"

Such bus lanes could come in handy when the age of autonomy arrives, he added. "A bus lane today, may be a bus and an autonomous vehicle lane tomorrow."

That's not empty talk: Garcetti says the city is working with UCLA to develop a neighborhood for driverless vehicles, perhaps around the university in Westwood. He's also working on something secretive-sounding with the brains at Xerox—"kind of like the Skunk Works guys who brought us the mouse and everything else"—to manage such a driverless network, as well as more traditional manned vehicles from bus down to bicycle.

The basic idea is that commuters would be allowed to purchase a dollar amount of transit (say, $500 a month) and then use their phones or computers to order transit in the way they might a pizza. Here's Garcetti's explanation of what this platform might involve:
"Now through a single app, I could order a taxi, an Uber, a Lyft, a Sidecar; I could get on the bus, I could get on the rail, I could take out a shared bike, I could get a shared car like a Zipcar or something like that. And you never have to stress out anymore about how you're going to get some place. You know you have the options.... And maybe the city makes a small transaction fee off of that, or MTA, so it's actually in our interest to build that and then share that open-source again with the rest of the world."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Madrid to Eliminate Cars from City Center

http://www.archdaily.com/552269/madrid-seeks-car-free-city-center/

September 2014




 


Starting January, the City of Madrid will close off 190 hectares of its central core to traffic, expanding its restricted vehicular areas to 352 hectares. Vehicles not belonging to residents within the city’s four most central barrios will be restricted to large avenues. If a vehicle enters the car-less zone, and does not have access to one of the 13 official parking lots, the owner will be automatically ticketed €90 ($115 U.S). The new legislation is part of a larger goal to completely pedestrianization central Madrid by 2020. 


At the moment, the goal is to reduces vehicular traffic by more than a third in restricted areas. As Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón describes: ”The main objective is to reduce traffic passing through neighborhoods and looking for parking agitation, while increasing parking spaces for residents.”

Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct: King of the Highway Boondoggles

http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/09/26/seattles-alaskan-way-viaduct-the-king-of-the-highway-boondoggles/#more-100869

By Phineas Baxandall and Jeff Inglis, September 26, 2014

The Alaskan Way Viaduct, damaged decades ago, will be rebuilt as a double-decker highway, even though a transit-heavy alternative would have been at least as effective at reducing congestion. Photo: Rootology/##http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaskan_Way_Viaduct#mediaviewer/File:The_Alaskan_Way_Viaduct.jpg##Wikimedia##

 The Alaskan Way Viaduct, damaged decades ago, will be rebuilt as a double-decker highway, even though a transit-heavy alternative would have been at least as effective at reducing congestion.



A recent report by U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group, “Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future,” examines 11 of the most wasteful, least justifiable road projects underway in America right now. Here’s the latest installment in our series profiling the various bad decisions that funnel so much money to infrastructure that does no good. 

Seattle’s aging Alaskan Way Viaduct is a crumbling and seismically vulnerable elevated highway along the city’s downtown waterfront. After an earthquake damaged the structure in 2001, state engineers decided that the highway needed to come down, but the question of how (and whether) to replace it sparked nearly a decade of heated debate. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) rejected calls to replace the viaduct with a combination of surface street and transit improvements, choosing instead an option that would result in more capacity: boring a mammoth tunnel underneath the city’s urban core. At 57 feet in diameter, it would be the widest bored tunnel ever attempted, with the full project carrying an estimated cost of at least $3.1 billion and perhaps as much as $4.1 billion.

Digging a double-decker tunnel was always the riskiest option for replacing the viaduct. The tunnel carried a high risk of going over even its exorbitant budget. In 2010, WSDOT acknowledged a 40 percent chance of a cost overrun, with a 5 percent risk that overruns could top $415 million.

With Bertha trapped underground, cost overruns could go into Big Dig territory. Image: U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group
With Bertha trapped underground, cost overruns could go into Big Dig territory. Image: U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group

Shortfalls from tunnel tolls represent an additional financial risk: Soon after settling on the tunnel, the state cut its tolling revenue projections in half. State officials later suggested that further reductions in estimated revenue might be forthcoming. Together with other potential revenue shortfalls, some estimates projected that the funding gap could reach $700 million.

Since 2010, the financial risks of the project have only increased. “Bertha,” touted as the world’s largest tunneling machine, got stuck underground in December 2013 and is not expected to be able to resume work until March 2015 — and then only if precarious on-site repairs can be successfully completed. The project is also stuck in disputes over whether taxpayers or the project’s contractor must pay the estimated $125 million to repair the giant boring machine to get it going again, and in a lawsuit about whether the rescue operation should even be undertaken.

The expensive tunnel is not projected to improve traffic significantly compared with the rejected streets-and-transit hybrid alternative, a combination of a four-lane urban-scaled street on the waterfront, one additional lane on a nearby interstate highway, and hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements to city streets and area bus service.

WSDOT’s own statistics show that the tunnel, if completed, would likely increase traffic delays downtown compared with the rejected streets-and-transit plan. At best, the tunnel was projected to reduce traffic delays in the surrounding four-county region by only about 1 percent, compared with the rejected alternative; and those delays could have been further reduced by expanding transit service under the hybrid plan.

With the tunnel now stymied, some elements of the hybrid plan have been temporarily put into place to relieve congestion caused by the construction, and have even been extended to accommodate the construction delays. (Their ability to help is, however, hampered by the fact that other transit services in the community are on the chopping block.) According to WSDOT’s 2013 Annual Traffic Report data, traffic at one end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct was on the decline before tunnel construction began, and has since declined even more.

Even WSDOT acknowledges that the viaduct won't even carry as much traffic as the road is carrying now, while under construction. Image: U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group
Even WSDOT acknowledges that the Viaduct won’t even carry as much traffic as the road is carrying now, while under construction. Image: U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group
In the region, average daily traffic has dropped 23 percent, and transit ridership has leapt 42 percent.
If the tunnel is ever finished, and if a proposal to charge tolls on the tunnel goes through, the project will have spent billions of taxpayer dollars to attract fewer drivers than are using the existing roadways right now. Traffic projections for even the cheapest tolls are at least 8 percent and perhaps as much as 35 percent below what the traffic volume has become during construction.

While the money spent on the tunneling project thus far may never be recouped, state officials have an opportunity to revisit the scope of the project and select options that are less likely to cause financial and traffic turmoil.

No, Carmaggedon Is Not Inevitable

From Peak Time Tolls to Smarter Parking Meters, Some Ideas That Could Get Angelenos Moving

http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2014/09/27/no-carmaggedon-is-not-inevitable/ideas/up-for-discussion/

 September 27, 2014

 traffic


It makes sense now that the first movie ever filmed in Los Angeles was of nothing but traffic. The 30 seconds of shaky film, shot downtown on Spring Street in 1898, reveal the origin of an enduring issue for the city. L.A. is defined by its traffic, which is universally understood to move very, very slowly.
Today, drivers armed with smartphones use apps like Waze, darting on and off freeways to cut commute times by minutes. And this year, L.A. became the world’s first major city to synchronize all of its traffic lights. Yet in 2013, Angelenos still spent an average of 90 hours stuck in traffic. Could a recent infusion of $32 million for transit improvements in the city help recover this lost time? In advance of the Zócalo/Metro event “What Could Speed Up L.A. Traffic?”, we asked transportation experts the following question: What innovations have other cities implemented that could teach L.A. how to speed up traffic?

Matthew Turner

The price of fixing congestion


When a bakery in the former Soviet Union opened in the morning, it gave bread to the first person in line, and then the next, until all the bread was gone. Everyone still in line had to wait for the next batch. This meant that if you were going to get your bread for breakfast, you had to get there early. So there were long lines for bread (like this one).

We do something similar to allocate access to roads. The government builds roads and every morning, the people who want to use them line up. If you are early, there is lots of capacity for you, and you have a speedy trip. If you come a bit later, the capacity is all used up, and you need to wait for road capacity to become available (like cars on this on-ramp).

The Soviet bakery had a line-up problem because bread was handed out free to the first in line. But what if we could price access to roads, just like we price access to bread today? If that were the case, queuing would no longer occur.

In a number of cities around the world–London, Singapore, Stockholm, and even a few highways in L.A.–local authorities make drivers pay to access roads at peak times (but not at other times). In response to a peak hour toll, drivers rearrange their travel schedules. As a result, driving speeds increase and travel times decrease. By constructing a system of tolls, or prices, that are higher for congested roads and times than for uncongested roads and times, we can fix the traffic congestion problem.

The price of reducing traffic congestion is pricing access to roads.

Matthew Turner is professor in the department of economics at Brown University. His research focuses on the economics of land use and transportation. Current projects investigate the relationship between public transit and the growth of cities, whether and how smart growth type development affects individual driving behavior.


Francie Stefan

Streets are a limited resource


Our streets are a limited resource, like water or energy. We can use this resource more efficiently by reducing the need for car trips or by making trips on modes that take up less space. To find a few tools that boost streets’ efficiency, Angelenos can follow the lead of the city of Santa Monica.

Since 40 percent of trips in L.A. County are less than two miles, we know that there are opportunities to convert some vehicle trips to walking, biking, and active transportation. In Santa Monica, basic street restriping was able to convert excess lane width (without reducing car lanes) into over 40 miles of new bike facilities. In only two years, biking increased by over 50 percent.

The best transportation plan is a good land use plan. Santa Monica is focusing housing and jobs near bus and rail networks, taking advantage of L.A. County’s historic streetcar routes and the walkable streets that grew from them. And Santa Monica is building strong first-mile/last-mile walking, biking, and transit connections to future Expo Light Rail stops.

Private industry plays an important role too. New businesses, employers, and residential buildings can help sustain trip reduction strategies by providing commuter incentives, facilities for active commuters (like bicycle stations featuring showers and racks), transit pass subsidies, shared parking, and telecommuting options. These amenities reduce household transportation costs as well as demand on the transportation network.

These strategies will provide a more holistic management of our street resources and “speed up traffic” by moving people in more ways, reducing the bottlenecks for everyone.

Francie Stefan is the transportation & strategic planning manager for the city of Santa Monica, which has set a target of no net new trips for evening peak periods to support more sustainable street function, encourage wellness through active living, and reduce GHG emissions. 



Donald Shoup

Tax foreigners living abroad


Most people view parking meters as a necessary evil, or perhaps just evil. Meters can manage curb parking efficiently and provide public revenue, but they are a tough sell to voters. A new kind of meter, however, can change the politics of parking–and reduce traffic–by allowing cities to give price discounts for residents.

In Miami Beach, residents pay only $1 an hour at meters in areas where nonresidents pay $1.75 an hour. Some British cities give the first half hour at meters free to residents. Annapolis, Maryland, and Monterey, California, give residents the first two hours free in municipal parking lots and garages.
Pay-by-license-plate technology can automatically give discounts to all cars with license plates registered in a city. Cities link payment information to license plate numbers to show enforcement officers which cars have paid or not paid. Pay-by-plate meters are common in Europe, and several U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh, now use them.

Like hotel taxes, parking meters with resident discounts can generate substantial local revenue without unduly burdening local voters. The price break for city plates should please merchants because it will give residents a new incentive to shop locally. In big cities, the discounts can be limited to each neighborhood’s residents. More shopping closer to home might then reduce total vehicle travel in the region.

Parking meters with resident discounts come close to the most popular way to raise public revenue: tax foreigners living abroad. More money and less traffic will help any city.

Donald Shoup is distinguished professor of urban planning at UCLA, where he has served as chair of the department of urban planning and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. His book, The High Cost of Free Parking, explains how better parking policies can improve cities, the economy, and the environment.
 
 

Doris Tarchópulos

Reimagining the suburbs


Each city has its own urban characteristics. The dimensions of the streets, the block size, the shapes of the lots, and the type of housing all differ depending on the city and its origins. North American cities are very different from Latin American cities, but they also have common features. From the mid-20th century, Americans in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres have left the core of the city and gone to the suburbs, which has caused car dependency and a crisis of mobility.

In Bogotá, Colombia, we are working on research to create a mix between the current suburbs and human-scale neighborhoods that can be traversed by walking and bicycling. We are thinking of repurposing suburbs gradually, introducing commercial strips along the main roads within neighborhoods, using parking lots or streets to foster vibrant community life, and at the same time, moving people back to the old quarters of the city center.

These ideas are easy to write about but difficult to implement. Reshaping cities demands political will and public conscience. But we also need new definitions of a city model based on a reimagined mobility system. Los Angeles has long been a traffic-clogged city, but given enough time and public support, the way people get around it could be transformed.

Doris Tarchópulos is an architect, associate professor, and director of the master in urban and regional planning at the architecture school of Javeriana University.  She has published several award-winning books and scientific articles on housing and urban planning.

Beverly Hills Claims The Purple Line Will Encourage ISIS To Kill Their Children

http://laist.com/2014/09/26/beverly_hills_doesnt_want_the_purpl.php

 By Janet Bennett Rylah, September 26, 2014

bhhs1.jpg

 Beverly Hills High School

 Beverly Hills has come up with a new reason as to why we shouldn't expand the Purple Line through their dainty city: ISIS will murder their children.

There was some concern this week over a possible terrorist threat after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reportedly told journalists at the UN that Iraqi intelligence had learned of an ISIS plot to attack subways in Paris and the U.S. However, government officials later said that this was not an immediate threat, and that they didn't know what al-Abadi was talking about, CNN reports.

But in Beverly Hills, the terror alert is at red, and the only thing we can do to stop it is to thwart Metro's plans to build a tunnel beneath Beverly Hills High School to the Constellation station in Century City. A fear-mongering article in the Beverly Hills Courier alleges that the Purple Line running beneath Beverly Hills High is a direct invitation to terrorists to attack.
"Add terrorism to the list of woes future Beverly Hills High School students may have to deal with if the L.A. Metropolitan Transportation Authority doesn't shift course on plans to run two subway tunnels beneath the City's only high school."
Think of the children! The rich children!

Superintendent Gary Woods was especially concerned, but you have to skip to page 19 'Subway Threat' to find out why. There, you'll learn it's because, as Whitney Houston told us, the children are our future. And if someone were to attack those children "then in essence, they're attacking the core of our being, of our culture."

The article went on to fearmonger a little more, while acknowledging two very valid points: the construction on the Purple Line hasn't even started in Beverly Hills, and the threat of ISIS has not been confirmed. However, Board of Education President Noah Margo says that just because neither of these things has happened, it doesn't mean they won't. The Purple Line running beneath the school is set for 2026 and the ISIS attack is set for possibly never, but we're talking about a world with infinite possibilities here.

By expanding the Purple Line beneath the high school, Margo says "we may then be eligible to join an elite group of international cities with easily accessible targets that will result in larger catastrophes. In this case, our student population."

Margo goes on to say that, "In the mind of a terrorist, placing a subway directly under a high school is like pushing a baby stroller into rush hour traffic."

BHHS has already squandered $3.1 million in voter-approved bond money trying to the fight the Purple Line. In their arguments against the Purple Line, they've brought up terrorism before, along with methane gas pockets that might explode into giant fireballs and incinerate everyone. It was a good try, Beverly Hills, trying to exploit a global threat in which a brutal terrorist group is beheading people so that you could push forth your own NIMBY agenda, but you've fooled no one.

The Week in Livable Streets Events

http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/09/29/the-week-in-livable-streets-events-157/

By Damien Newton, September 29, 2014

A lot of big events going on in DTLA right now. This very second. Then things slow down. Then CicLAvia. Good week.
  • Monday – The Mayor’s Office, Office of Jose Huizar and a host of other Downtown interests host “Pop-Up Broadway” an extension of the already-in-place Broadway Dressed Rehearsal. This event builds upon and activates the recently transformed public space along Broadway with the principles underlying Great Streets. The interventions will take a variety of forms including local merchants, street art, live music, a bicycle zone, artist installations and nighttime projections. Get more details, here.
  •  
  • Monday, TuesdayThe Atlantic, The Aspen Institute, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, bring you CityLab, one of our most innovative programs of the year. The program brings together 300+ of the world’s top mayors, urban experts, city planners, writers, technologists, economists, and designers. It started yesterday and is going on right now. More details at the CityLab website.
  •  
  • Wednesday - It’s Walk to School Day! There are lots of folks organizing walks, or organize your own – with support from LADOT and others. More details here.
  •  
  • Wednesday – Former NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan speaks at UCLA. Free, but RSVP required. Details here.
  •  
  • Thursday – The Metro Board of Directors is going to meet. For real! The usual “end of September” meeting was pushed to this week. The agenda hasn’t been posted online yet, but when it is you can find it here.
  •  
  • SundayCicLAvia! Much more to come this week.

The 4 Transportation Systems You'll Meet in the Future

A new report offers a look at urban mobility circa 2030 that's both intriguing and frightening.

 http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/09/the-four-transportation-systems-youll-meet-in-the-future/380904/

By Eric Jaffe, September 29, 2014




 Image



We tend to think of transportation networks as the result of large public works projects—hello, Interstate Highway System—but lately, private hands have been tinkering at the edges of urban mobility. App-based e-hail car services like Uber and Lyft are disrupting traditional city taxi programs. Smartphones are changing the way we wait for and pay for public transportation. And, of course, Google is on the verge of reshaping movement as we know it with the driverless car.

It's time to get the public sector talking again, says Anthony Townsend of New York University's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management. To start the conversation, Townsend and the Rudin Center have released Re-Programming Mobility—a report intended to provoke city officials, urban planners, and the general public into participating in the future of transportation, rather than reacting to it. Otherwise, he says, decisions made in board rooms today will impact the civic arena for decades to come.

"Really, what we're trying to do is provoke a far-ranging discussion that's much less one-dimensional than the kinds of futures we're hearing coming out of a lot of these companies trying to disrupt the marketplace," says Townsend.

Re-Programming Mobility conceives four fictional-but-fact-based urban-mobility scenarios set in roughly 2030. The 15-year window is far enough away for mobility to be uprooted—the U.S. interstates were largely completed between 1955 and 1970, after all—but still close enough to be reshaped by public input. While each scenario feels a bit far-fetched in its own right, together they offer plenty of food for thought to anyone concerned with the future of urban movement.
The whole report worth a read, but brief summaries of each scenario will follow here. (Full disclosure: I received an honorarium to review an early draft of the report.)

Atlanta, 2028

For years, metro Atlanta suffered terrible traffic congestion, brought on in large part by sprawl and decentralization. In response, Atlanta decided … to sprawl more. This scenario supposes that Atlanta resisted calls for transit and transit-oriented development and instead tried to "grow its way" out of traffic problems. Facilitating this shift are solar-powered roads run by Google—G-Roads—were driverless cars connect commuters to the city at 90 miles an hour. Congestion does fall in this scenario, but exurbs and edge cities expand considerably. From the report:
Atlanta had become a garden city on a once-inconceivable scale, providing millions of people access to both urban amenities and the countryside.


NYU Rudin

Los Angeles, 2030

Driverless cars have arrived in the Los Angeles of 2030, but they don't play nicely together. L.A. roads carry a mix of tiny Google pods, bigger luxury models, and low-cost Chinese knock-offs—each with varying degrees of automation and poor overall connectivity. The result is enormous congestion. (Adding to the problem, driverless cars now circle in traffic to avoid paying for parking, increasing vehicle-miles traveled by 30 percent.) Youth interest in transit has waned, because digital disengagement is just as easy in a driverless car as it was on a train. From the report:
No one had ever considered the risks of incomplete automation, and now planners everywhere are trying to figure out ways to accelerate the adoption of these technologies and avoid getting stuck in transition like LA.


(NYU Rudin)

New Jersey, 2029

Major climate events have crushed New Jersey's road network, but from the wreckage has emerged an incredibly sustainable mobility system based on bus-rapid transit corridors. Commuters can arrange a BRT trip on demand or rely on predictive schedules developed by Big Data. The suburbs have collapsed around BRT hubs situated within walkable areas near bike-share stations. Private cars still exist, but they're heavily tolled to pay for BRT upgrades, and commute time into New York has fallen considerably. The scenario concludes:
The nation’s most densely populated state, which had reached the limits of sprawl ahead of all others, was now a model of planned, transit-oriented development. By crafting a novel, uniquely American approach to mass transit, New Jersey had preserved its economy and its landscape.


(NYU Rudin)

Boston, 2032

In this scenario, Boston becomes a dense city to the extreme degree. Freed of possessions by the sharing economy, young people flock to micro-apartments just 135 to 160 square feet in size. The possessions they do own exist in local warehouses, with a system of driverless valets to pick up or drop off items on demand—a sort of "goods cloud." Autonomous bikes thrive, reducing the need for car-ownership and creating streets friendly to pedestrians by day. At night, however, driverless urban freight vehicles take over the roads to replenish and relocate the shared stream of goods. From the report:
In less than a generation, Boston had splintered into two new cities, living side-by-side but rarely touching—one of people and one of stuff, one existing by day, the other by night.


(NYU Rudin)

There's something here for everyone to like (and hate). Townsend says no scenario is intended to be a favorite or ideal, and expects the "real outcome" to be a mixture of each. "Really, the purpose of the scenarios is to try to get people to understand the messiness of the future," he says. "There's not a single technology, or a single decision, or a single economic force that's going to shape the outcome. It's actually the interplay of lots of different forces, including the policy and planning choices we make. That's what we're trying to call people's attention to."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Syracuse, N.Y., and other U.S. cities are rethinking urban freeways

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-highway-teardown-20140928-story.html#page=1


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Help us respond to the SR-710 DEIR/DEIS

October 2014 WPRA Newsletter

The WPRA (Western Pasadena Residence Association) is forming a team to respond to the SR-710 Draft Environmental Impact Report DEIR) and Statement (DEIS), which is planned for release in February 2015. We're looking for experts or research-oriented amateurs to help review the following subject areas: legal, NEPA/CEQA, construction, geology, hydrology, transportation and traffic, air quality, water quality and usage, noise/vibration, hazardous materials and safety, global warming, human health, biological assessment, historic assets, cultural and social assets, economics and environmental justice. To volunteer or recommend an expert that might volunteer, contact Sarah Gavit at gavit@wpra.net.

Connecting Pasadena Plan (CPP)

http://www.wpra.net/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3421

October 2014

 
 Be sure to attend two visioning workshops to re-design the area between Union to California, the 710 stub, or what we like to call “the ditch.”  That’s right!  We’d like to ditch the ditch.  And many others in Pasadena are in agreement.  So let’s get together to make it happen ….

History:  50 years ago, the state seized a gigantic swath of Pasadena’s most valuable land in the center of the city, and demolished and razed countless people’s property for a barren road, and then stopped.  Countless stories of individual Pasadenans whose lives were affected by this seizure are rooted in this land that now lies vacant, dormant, silent, dead.   The time has come to awaken it.  What new stories will be told?  Do YOU have a story—old or new?  Please tell us, write to update@wpra.net.

Renowned architect and urbanist Stefanos Polyzoides will lead two sequential visioning workshops Saturday, October 25 and Saturday, November 8, 9-noon at Maranatha High School.

Transportation, economic and land use experts will provide information and answer questions.  They will lay the foundation upon which citizens’ ideas can be integrated to turn this fallow land into an economically and aesthetically viable district of Pasadena.
  • The 710 stub  needlessly cuts off Pasadena in two by an unsightly ditch
  • Metro’s 4.9 mile long tunnel will bring 8 lanes of car and truck traffic into the 134/210 interchange, into the heart of Old Pasadena
  • Let’s work together to transform this  36 acre, 25 feet deep ditch into an area of beauty and value for Pasadena:

    • What should we place there?
    • What economic and transportation challenges will it pose?
    • How can we make it viable, beautiful, useful, and vibrant?
    • How can we knit it seamlessly into its surroundings?

  • The product will be a draft master plan based on your ideas from the workshop
  • Connecting Pasadena Plan and the tunnel are mutually exclusive—one or the other

    • The CPP would be managed and built by Pasadenans for Pasadena
    • The CPP would eliminate uncertainty, trucks, threefold traffic increase, pollution, noise, and gridlock
    • The CPP would mean long-term LOCAL jobs, not imported workers
    • The CPP would be phased, not a decade-long continuous excavation and construction
    • The CPP would not cost California taxpayers $5.6 billion

  • To learn  more about the tunnel, we urge you to please review Metro’s and other resources and links at:  no710.com.   Find out the facts!
For more information about Connecting Pasadena Plan, click here.

To Sign up for a workshop, write to DPNAlist+RSVP@gmail.com

Uber driver arrested for hammer attack in San Francisco

http://abc7.com/news/uber-driver-arrested-for-hammer-attack-in-san-francisco/326747/

September 27, 2014

undefined A San Francisco Uber driver allegedly hit a passenger in the head with a hammer near Alemany Boulevard and Ellsworth Street in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco.




A San Francisco Uber driver has been arrested for allegedly hitting a passenger in the head with a hammer. The dispute allegedly began over the route he was taking, the San Francisco District Attorney's office said Friday.

Patrick Karajah, 26, picked up three people from a bar around 2 a.m. Tuesday. During the ride, there was a dispute about the route the driver was taking, the San Francisco District Attorney's office said Friday.

Karajah then told his passengers to get out at Alemany Boulevard and Ellsworth Street in Bernal Heights. Once the victim was out of the car, Karajah proceeded to assault the victim with a hammer, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said. He allegedly struck Roberto Chicas on the side of the head and drove away.

Chicas suffered facial fracture and trauma to the head. Doctors say he might lose an eye.

The suspect was arrested at his home in Pacifica, and plead not guilty Thursday to charges of assault with a deadly weapon and battery with serious bodily injury.

Uber released a statement saying: "Safety is Uber's #1 priority. We take reports like this seriously and are treating the matter with the utmost urgency and care. It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver's account following any serious allegations, which we have done. We stand ready to assist authorities in any investigation."

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ride-sharing companies targeted by authorities in L.A., S.F.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-ride-sharing-targeted-in-la-bay-area-20140925-story.html

By Ryan Parker, September 25, 2014





Uber protest
Uber drivers, supporters protest at Uber offices in Santa Monica. The group reached out to the Teamsters Local 986 to help form an association for app-based drivers, including those who utilize the Uber, Lyft and Sidecar technology platforms.


Ride-sharing companies have been targeted in Los Angeles and San Francisco by authorities for conducting businesses improperly, even dangerously, San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón confirmed to The Times late Thursday.

Although Gascón would not specify which companies were under investigation, he did say that it is more than one and that authorities had been working the case for the past few months.

“We support new economy and technology, but we have an obligation to make sure the public is protected,” Gascón said.


According to Bloomberg News, the ride-share companies under investigation are Lyft Inc., Uber Technologies Inc. and Sidecar Technologies Inc.

Gascón sent letters to all three companies, Bloomberg reported.

A “conversation” between authorities and the companies is going to occur within the next few days, Gascón said. Depending on the outcome of the talks, legal action may take place, he said.

“We want to make sure their behavior is corrected quickly,” Gascón said.

According to a letter sent from Gascón's office to Sunil Paul, chief executive of Sidecar, the company is accused of misleading customers about how thoroughly criminal background and driving record checks are conducted, and must remove all claims related to this matter on the company app and website.

Also, the company is accused of violating the law by offering the "shared ride" option, which allows strangers to split a single fare in order for the car to use the HOV lane, according to the letter. Sidecar was ordered to halt offering the option.

Ride-share companies offer quick access to transportation through smartphone apps. There have been criminal complaints about driver misconduct.

Gascón declined to comment further while the investigation is ongoing.  

Sepulveda Pass Transit, Part 3: Mode and Alignment Through the Pass

http://letsgola.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/sepulveda-pass-transit-part-3-mode-and-alignment-through-the-pass/

September 25, 2014

For an overview of transit between the Westside and the Valley, see Part 1. For a close-up look at LAX, see Part 2.

The most critical part of a north-south transit line between the Westside and the Valley is Sepulveda Pass – the section that roughly parallels the 405 between Wilshire and Ventura Boulevards. Services on the Westside and in the Valley will probably end up having several branches using the pass, in order to maximize the usefulness of the pass segment. Due to the distance (about 7 miles) and engineering challenges, we’re probably only going to get one line through Sepulveda Pass in the foreseeable future. It’s critical that we get this segment right, get the most capacity for our money, and set it up to flexible enough to accommodate many services on both sides.

The two planning questions that must be answered are:
  1. What modes should the project serve? This will determine who can use the project, be it cars, buses, or trains.
  2. What should the project alignment be? This will determine what service patterns can be operated on either side of the pass and how they will relate to each other.
Question 1 comes first, because the mode choice will affect the design criteria for the project alignment, such as curvature, grades, and ventilation.

A Multi-Modal Tunnel?

The concepts that have been floated publicly are all variations on a theme. They propose building a toll auto tunnel that would also provide lanes, perhaps dedicated, for transit. The project is often pitched as a candidate for a public-private partnership.

If the alternative includes a tunnel, I don’t think auto lanes should be part of the plan, for reasons explained here. If HOT lanes are going to be part of the project, they should be converted from existing HOV lanes (or, if you insist on new lanes, new at-grade or elevated lanes, but there’s no spare capacity on the 405, the 10, and the 101 for new lanes to connect to anyway). That leaves bus and rail.

The primary trade-off between bus and rail is implementation timeline versus capacity and operating costs. If the corridor is for buses, it can be used immediately by many bus services connecting all parts of the Valley and the Westside, while a rail link from Wilshire/Westwood to Sherman Oaks would be of limited use in isolation. Choosing rail would delay the usefulness of the project until feeder lines were built on both sides. However, as passenger volumes increase, which we would expect for a useful Sepulveda Pass project, rail offers higher capacity and lower operating costs.
Four options come to mind:
  • A guideway exclusively for buses
  • A guideway exclusively for rail
  • A hybrid guideway running both buses and trains (not as crazy as it sounds; Seattle is running a tunnel like this right now)
  • A larger guideway with four lanes, two for rail and two for bus (or hybrid)
The first two options just seem underwhelming for the context. We’re not talking about the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont or an improvement to an arterial corridor that’s got parallel arterials to be upgraded a mile away on either side. This is it – the one big project between the Westside and the Valley that we need to facilitate more growth between Sylmar and Long Beach. You don’t want it to end up like the MBTA Green Line, right?

Capacity Counts

Some more serious numbers: in the post on capacity, we estimated about 5,000 pax/hr per direction for bus (standing load, 60 second headways) and 15,000-20,000 pax/hr per direction for LRT (standing load, 2 minute headways, 3 or 4 car trains). For comparison, the five lanes of the 405 (we’re ignoring the climbing lane and auxiliary lanes) have a capacity of about 12,000 veh/hr per direction. Obviously, the passenger capacity depends on how many people are in each car; assuming 1.2 pax/veh (not unreasonable for commuting), that’s 14,400 pax/hr per direction.

That gives you an idea of the magnitudes of how many people can be moved by each mode. You can vary the assumptions as you like (double articulated buses, longer trains, higher occupancy in cars). Bus headways below 60 seconds are probably beyond the point where rail offers higher reliability and lower operating costs. The inclusion of bus would be mainly motivated by the desire to put the facility to use immediately, without waiting for long branch rail lines to be built.

That puts a transit option with one lane in each direction in the same league as the existing 405, so maybe that’s enough. On the other hand, the relentless congestion on the 405 suggests there’s a crap ton of latent demand – in other words, a lot more people would be traveling through Sepulveda Pass if it were easier to do. We want this project to relieve the 405, but also to facilitate economic growth on the Westside and in the Valley. With that in mind, a large diameter tunnel with four tracks may be the way to go.

To see why we might want a tunnel with two lanes or tracks in each direction, consider the effect of branching. Since Sepulveda Pass is a natural bottleneck, we should be serving several parallel north-south transit lines, bringing them together for a trunk through the pass and allowing transfers. In the opening post, we identified up to four corridors on each side to be served. With an operational headway of 2 minutes and one track in each direction, that’s 8 minute headways on the branches. This is short of Metro’s design criteria, which calls for operational headways of 5 minutes on LRT branches. With a large diameter tunnel and two tracks in each direction, operational headways of 4 minutes would be achievable on the branches.

Alignments
In the introduct
ory post, I defaulted to the assumption of a tunnel the whole way from Westwood to Sherman Oaks. Alon Levy rightly called that assumption out in the comments, prompting a look at some elevated and hybrid options.

Elevated

An elevated option is self-evidently going to follow the 405. This is both the best horizontal alignment and the best vertical alignment that does not involve a tunnel.

Sepulveda-405alignment

From a technical standpoint, the critical section of the alignment is the approximately 1.5-mile long 5.5% grade on the north side of the pass. Light rail vehicles (LRVs) can handle short 5%-6% grades without issue; in fact, there are 5%-6% grades in many places on the new Expo Line for grade separations. However, I’m not sure if vehicle braking performance would suffer on such a long downgrade, and it might be difficult to support the required headways.

Let’s assume 2 minute operational headway and 90 second design headway (Metro’s current design criteria for a trunk LRT line is 2.5 minutes operational and 100 seconds design). Safe braking distance, for signal design, must include (a) distance traveled during reaction time, (b) braking distance, and (c) a buffer between vehicles. If you’re using fixed signal blocks, the buffer might be the vehicle overhang; for Communications Based Train Control (CBTC), let’s use an assumed imprecision in the system’s knowledge of where the vehicle is located.

Metro’s current design criteria specifies 9.8 seconds of reaction time. This might seem like a lot, but it has to cover equipment reaction time, operator reaction time, and brake build up. This value isn’t atypical in US practice. For braking, Metro specifies a distance of 0.733*S2/(B+0.2G), where S is speed, B is the braking rate (assumed to be 2.0 mphps), and G is the profile grade. Let’s assume 200’ for vehicle location imprecision (more precisely, 100’ for each train, with the worst possible combination of errors.

For a design speed, let’s assume 60 mph. For safe braking, you need to assume the entry speed when braking starts is higher due to a combination of speedometer error and equipment tolerance. To keep things simple, let’s assume 65 mph. That yields a reaction distance of 934’ and a braking distance of 3441’, for a total of 4575’ (including the 200’ CBTC buffer). Using 0.2G underestimates the effect of gravity a little; if you calculate the braking distance based on a 2.0 mphps braking rate adjusted by the laws of motion, you’ll get 5029’.

Okay, so that’s the separation you need from the rear of one train to the front of the train behind it. If you want the theoretical headway, you need the distance from the front of the train to the front of the train behind it. In other words, you have to add the length of the train. In this case, that’s four 90’ LRVs for 360’. If you have fixed signal blocks, you also need to add the length of one clear block of track, as shown below, but since we’re assuming CBTC, we’ll ignore that distance.

headway

That gives a total distance, based on Metro criteria, of 5389’. At 60 mph, that’s 61 seconds of travel time, essentially a 1 minute theoretical headway. Even if you assumed fixed signal blocks and added a clear signal block distance, it would seem that a 2 minute operational headway is within the realm of possibility.

Note that this is still a simplification; the headway impact of having a station, presumably at Ventura Blvd, at the bottom of the grade would have to be determined by simulation. This analysis also ignores other potential physical constraints, for example the ability of the LRV to continually put out maximum braking force for that long or the impact of wet rails, that wouldn’t be an issue on shorter grades. Premature rail wear, such as rail corrugation, might occur. These issues are well beyond my experience. (Hint, hint, technically inclined commenters.)

From a route planning perspective, the elevated alignment is not ideal at either end. At the south end, you end up at the 405 and Wilshire, west of the proposed Wilshire/Westwood station on the Westside Subway. It wouldn’t be too hard to deviate west to the Veterans Hospital; however, this is bound to be a low demand station. Wilshire/Westwood is a much better location for the transfer, because it will eliminate the need for many people on the north-south transit lines to transfer in the first place. It wouldn’t be too hard to get over to Veteran Av by crossing the cemetery (they’re the abutters least likely to complain). That makes the transfer reasonable, but still puts the stop at the very margin of UCLA and Westwood. From there, the line would probably head back towards Sepulveda, but more on that another time.

Sepulveda-south-elevated

At the north end, the first stop would naturally fall at Sepulveda/Ventura. North of there, the line could hop over to Sepulveda Blvd at the 101 or at Burbank, and follow Sepulveda north through the Valley. Sepulveda is good corridor, and deserves a high quality transit service, but most of the interest in the Valley seems to prioritize Van Nuys over Sepulveda. Getting from Sepulveda to Van Nuys would require a one mile jog to the east, and the resulting zigzag would be bad route planning. However, Sepulveda/Ventura is a decent node in its own right.

Sepulveda-north-elevated

Hybrid

A hybrid alignment would follow the same route as the elevated alignment from Wilshire to the 405 just north of the Sepulveda Blvd ramps. This would require about 3.5 miles of tunneling, just a little more than half of what the full tunnel would require.

Sepulveda-hybridalignment-markup

This alternative would save some money over the full tunnel alignment, because elevated construction is usually cheaper than tunneling. It would also allow the northern approach to be constructed at a much gentler grade, around 1.0%, than the 5.5% grade required by the elevated option, and greatly reduce the length of the 3.0% grade on the southern approach.

From a route planning perspective, this alternative is also somewhere in between the elevated option and the full tunnel option. The southern end would suffer the same drawbacks as the elevated option, but the northern end would be in a better location, as described under the full tunnel option.

Tunnel

The tunnel alignment would follow the approximate route of the tunnel that has been proposed publicly, from Wilshire/Westwood to Ventura/Van Nuys. This route would be in tunnel the whole way. It might be possible to build some of the route at-grade through UCLA’s campus, but it’s probably not worth the effort to bring the line to the surface for such a short distance.

This alternative would cost the most, but it would have the best track geometry, with a ruling grade of 1.0%.

Sepulveda-tunnelalignment-markup

From a route planning perspective, it’s also the best option at both ends of the alignment. At the south end, it puts the Wilshire/Westwood stop in the right place for both transfers to the Purple Line and for local destinations at UCLA and Westwood.

Sepulveda-south-tunnel

At the north end, it lines up perfectly with Van Nuys, the highest priority north-south corridor in the Valley, and yields reasonable geometry for additional branches to the west towards Sepulveda, Reseda, and Balboa.

Sepulveda-north-tunnel

Boring Questions

Assuming a tunnel is going to be part of the selected alternative, the cross section of the tunnel is the next question. With the exception of the Blue/Expo Line tunnel on Flower Street, all of the transit tunnels in LA were constructed with the same cross section, consisting of two single-track tunnel bores, connected every so often by emergency cross passages. The stations are center platforms located between the two bores.

For Sepulveda Pass, you’d have a few options:
  • Four single-track bores, built in pairs either simultaneously or sequentially. In this option, you would probably build two tracks at the outset, leaving the next two tracks as a future project.
  • Two two-track bores, again likely leaving the second set of tracks as a future project.
  • One four-track bore.
Alon Levy pitched large diameter tunnel boring machines (TBMs) as money-savers because the station platforms can be located inside the bore; I’m not sure how much they’d save for an LA-type station, relative to the costs of the additional excavation.

However, I think a large diameter TBM might make sense for the Sepulveda Pass project for different reasons. For one thing, when you do two single-track tunnels, you have to make a decision about how many TBMs to buy. Do you buy two TBMs, at considerable up-front capital expense, and allow both bores to proceed simultaneously? Or do you buy one TBM, and bore each tunnel sequentially, paying the price of a longer construction schedule? Using a larger diameter tunnel means buying fewer TBMs and a shorter construction process.

Personally, I like the idea of one four-track bore with two tracks on each level. One level could be used for rail right from the outset, with the other level used for express bus services between the Valley and the Westside. In the future, the bus level could be converted to rail if needed for capacity. 

The advantages in time and cost are many: construction of launching pits is only needed once, the full capacity is available after completing one bore, working near an active transit line is avoided, and labor costs are reduced by minimizing complexity and shortening the duration of construction. This approach also avoids the tendency of future capacity improvements to remain forever in the future.

Some recent examples of large diameter tunnels include the M30 freeway in Madrid (inner diameter 44.13’), Line 9 in Barcelona (inner diameter 35.8’), and the Alaskan Way tunnel in Seattle (diameter 56’). The TBM in Seattle is, of course, currently broken down, but don’t let their crummy execution sour you on the concept of a TBM that large. Barcelona Line 9 was apparently built to be just large enough for a four-track section, to allow crossovers between stations, but that seems like a really tight section for four tracks. On the other hand, 56’ would probably overdo it and result in high costs for the launching pits and excavation.

A 45’ diameter tunnel would allow four tracks, along with space for breathing room to fit in mechanical and electrical equipment. In particular, with a long tunnel like Sepulveda Pass, it might make more sense to set up the ventilation like a freeway tunnel, with continuous clean air and polluted air levels below and above the travel ways, respectively. In contrast with most transit tunnels, which depend on the piston effect, this design would hopefully allow the ventilation system to meet the requirements of NFPA 130 without restricting the system to one train per direction in the tunnel between stations. Such a restriction would cripple a long tunnel’s capacity to the point that building it would be almost pointless. (The NFPA 130 requirement is actually one train per tunnel vent zone; relying on the piston effect means that each length of tunnel between consecutive stations is operated as one vent zone.)

Sepulveda-xsection

The space to the sides of the tracks would accommodate electrical and mechanical systems, emergency egress, and ventilation as needed.

For an overview of large diameter tunnel costs, see this post on long freeway tunnels.

Conclusion

There are several feasible alignments and mode alternatives through Sepulveda Pass. While an elevated facility following the 405 is theoretically cheaper, it may be less so in this case because it would have to be constructed over and around an active freeway. The hybrid and full tunnel options offer better routes, and might be worth the trouble, especially if a high capacity tunnel can be built in one bore (and we can reign in US tunneling costs a little). An option that has provisions for both bus and rail will allow higher utilization of the tunnel from the beginning, without needing to wait for all the branch rail lines to be finished.