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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Potential future ballot measure discussed at Move LA conference today

 From Sylvia Plummer, March 29, 2014:

I attended the Move LA conference yesterday.  There were six of us that went.  
The article fails to tell you what took place in the afternoon.  Apparently there's a law that sales tax in the County of LA can never exceeded 9.75%. There are currently 4 cities in the County of LA that would exceed the 9.75% if that measure was passed. There is also the concern of The City of LA placing their measure to repair potholes etc, on the ballot and therefore Measure R2 would have problems. 
The difference between Measure R and Measure R2:  Measure R = 30% for highways, Measure R2 = 10% for highways
Measure R = 30 years, Measure R2 = 45 years

I spoke to Denny Zane when the meeting was over.  He told me that the tunnel is a good idea.  I gave him an ear full.  


By Steve Hymon, March 28, 2014

I spent the morning at Move LA’s annual conference, held this year at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. The activist group led by Denny Zane, the former Santa Monica mayor, this year focused on Measure R 2, an interesting choice given that the Metro Board has yet to decide whether to put an extension of the existing Measure R or a new sales tax on any ballot.

That said, some Board members have certainly voiced support and Metro is in the process of collecting transportation wish lists from cities across Los Angeles County for a potential ballot measure that likely wouldn’t happen until November 2016.

Four Metro Board Members spoke at the conference:

•Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he wants to pursue more regional transportation solutions and that he wants to lead a more humble city of Los Angeles that can work with other cities, both following their advice and taking the lead when appropriate (perhaps in that spirit he indicated his support earlier this week for extending the Gold Line to Claremont). He indicated he was open to a ballot measure but didn’t dwell on it.

Garcetti also said he wants to get a rail connection in our lifetimes to Los Angeles International Airport and that he supports the LAX Connect proposal by the airport to bring Metro Rail into a facility where passengers could check their bags and then transfer to a people mover that would run every two minutes and stop at each terminal. 

•Metro Board Chair and Lakewood Councilmember Diane DuBois said any new ballot measure would be on the 2016 ballot in order to give time to build a consensus across the country. She said she wanted a process that was transparent, inclusive and followed a bottoms-up approach focusing on the needs of neighborhoods. Any potential measure, she said, must include subregional mobility projects.

Chairwoman DuBois also urged a note of caution, saying it’s appropriate to consider the impact of higher sales taxes and how they might impact retail sales and where businesses decide to locate. “Please don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I’m not opposed to asking if the voters of L.A. County to decide. However, I do believe that we should fully consider the impacts of increased taxation.”

•Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, serving on a long panel discussion (literally — the table was at least 100 feet long and the discussion lasted longer than a Hobbit movie), also talked about the Airport Metro Connector project as being one of his top priorities. As he has said before, he explained his support for the LAX Connect idea, believing it will be the most convenient way for passengers to travel from Metro Rail to the individual airport terminals, and thus the option with the ability to attract the most riders.

In a discussion about possible alternatives for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project, Bonin offered a couple of interesting nuggets. First, he said he would have preferred to see a transit project built instead of the current I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project that is adding a northbound carpool lane. Second, he said he would be leery about any public-private partnership deal that would prioritize building a toll tunnel for vehicles over a transit tunnel — his concern being that the transit tunnel may never materialize due to funding woes.

•Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said that any potential ballot measure must be fair, equitable and clear with a laser-like focus on what it would accomplish. He said that while building big transit projects is a worthy goal, it can also be enormously disruptive for local businesses and that any kind of Measure R 2 must include a business mitigation program and a local and targeted hiring component to gain his support.

Ridley-Thomas was also more specific about the type of projects that he wants funded and built. Saying he was still haunted “by the ghost of the Green Line,” he indicated his support for further study of bringing light rail all the way into LAX. “You can’t get the best option unless you study all the options,” he said.

Ridley-Thomas also said it is time to consider extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line north to a junction with the Purple Line subway — an idea, he acknowledged, that has been kicking around for a quarter century and which would make it far easier and quicker for Crenshaw/LAX Line riders to reach Westside destinations such as Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood and UCLA.

There was also considerable discussion from a wide variety of panelists (did I mention it was longer than a Hobbit movie?). My takeaway: among those interested in transportation, there certainly seems to be some interest in funding a wide variety transportation projects, but it’s also obvious that list will likely grow long and may have to be narrowed at some point in order to not spread the money too thin.

Yaroslavsky motion pushes for creation of San Fernando Valley-Westwood Express bus


By Steve Hymon, March 27, 2014

We posted last month about proposed route changes for buses in the San Fernando Valley. One of the proposals is for the creation of a new 588 bus that would operate at peak hours that would run between Westwood and Nordhoff Street in North Hills, mostly along the 405 freeway and Van Nuys Boulevard. This new line still requires funding.

Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky submitted a motion to the Metro Board today about the 588 bus; the motion was approved unanimously by the Board today and asks that staff continue the studies needed for the line and to report back to the Board in May. Here’s the text of the motion:
Motion by Director Yaroslavsky
Valley-Westside Express Bus
The San Fernando Valley and Westside are two of Los Angeles’ largest economic engines—places where millions live, shop, work and play. However, there is currently no express transit connection between the regions, which are separated by the Santa Monica Mountains.
This summer, the 405 Project is expected to complete construction and open High Occupancy Vehicle lanes that will create a new avenue for express bus service through the Sepulveda Pass.
Earlier this month, the San Fernando Valley and Westside/Central Local Service Councils held public hearings and made recommendations on proposed changes to bus service in their respective regions. Among the recommendations was the creation of Line 588, an express bus offering nonstop service through the Sepulveda Pass via the I-405 HOV lanes. The line would connect Westwood to the Orange Line and extend north along Van Nuys Boulevard to North Hills. When Phase 2 of Expo Line opens, it would extend south to meet it, providing a connection to Santa Monica, USC and downtown L.A. The proposed line received strong support from the public.
Line 588 promises an immediate solution for Metro patrons while plans for a more extensive future project through the Sepulveda Pass are being evaluated. Because funding has not yet been identified for the bus line, staff is not currently conducting the tests, studies and analyses that are needed to operate it. While efforts to fund the line continue, staff should make these preparations to ensure that Line 588 can begin serving the public as soon as possible.
I, THEREFORE, MOVE that the Board direct staff to:
1.    Prepare studies, tests and analysis for launching Line 588, an express bus connecting the San Fernando Valley and the Westside via the I-405 HOV lanes; and
2.    Report back on the status and progress of the preparations at the May, 2014 full Board meeting.

Bullet train won't meet target travel time, lawmakers told

A panel of outside experts says it's unlikely for the bullet train to make regularly scheduled trips of two hours and 40 minutes between Los Angeles and San Francisco, as promised to voters.


By Ralph Vartabedian, March 27, 2014

 Bullet train

 This image provided by the California High-Speed Rail Authority shows an artist's conception of a high-speed rail car in California. Experts say it's unlikely the bullet train will be able to make regularly scheduled trips of two hours and 40 minutes between L.A. and San Francisco, as promised to voters.

Regularly scheduled service on California's bullet train system will not meet anticipated trip times of two hours and 40 minutes between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and are likely to take nearly a half-hour longer, a state Senate committee was told Thursday.

The faster trips were held out to voters in 2008 when they approved $9 billion in borrowing to help pay for the project. Since then, a series of political compromises and planning changes designed to keep the $68-billion line moving ahead have created slower track zones in urban areas.

But Louis Thompson, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, a state-sanctioned panel of outside experts, testified that "real world engineering issues" will cause schedules for regular service to exceed the target of two hours and 40 minutes. The state might be able to demonstrate a train that could make the trip that fast, but not on scheduled service, he told lawmakers. If public demand for the service supports additional investments, travel times could be improved after the currently planned system is built, he said.

Critics of the project have long disputed whether travel times between the Bay Area and Los Angeles will meet the mark of two hours and 40 minutes. Projected trip times for the bullet train are a point of contention in a court fight that could block the state's access to the voter-approved bond funds.

Rail authority officials said after the hearing, held by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, that they would meet the requirements of state law, but did not specifically say that trains would operate at the faster travel times. State law requirements may be open to legal interpretation. Language approved by voters says the system must be "designed to achieve" trip times of 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Thompson's assessment came as lawmakers consider a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to allocate $250 million in greenhouse gas taxes to the controversial project next year, and a third of all the revenue from so-called cap and trade revenue in future years. If all of the greenhouse gas fees were allotted to the bullet train system, it would leave a shortfall of up to $16 billion in required construction funds, Thompson said.

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), the transportation panel chairman, warned rail officials that they may not have the votes needed to pass Brown's request. DeSaulnier said he would probably vote against it himself.

Jeff Morales, chief executive of the high-speed rail authority, downplayed the risks to the program, arguing that the agency's business plan provides a sound path forward to complete the system. He added that federal programs could provide future grants and said that the project has helped create 6,700 jobs.

William Ibbs, a UC Berkeley civil engineering professor who has consulted on high-speed rail projects around the world, predicted that the program will cost substantially more than the $68-billion estimate.

Paul Dyson, president of the Rail Passenger Assn. of California, told DeSaulnier's committee that the state's plan to start service between Merced and Palmdale is "completely wrong" and will attract a fraction of the riders the state expects. Instead, the state should have begun building the system between Union Station and Bakersfield, which would bridge an existing gap that separates Los Angeles from the rest of the state's existing passenger rail network, he said.

Long Beach Transit, BYD cancel $12.1 million contract for electric buses


By Andrew Edwards, March 27, 2014

 This bus is produced by BYD which canceled a $12.1 million contract to produce 10 electric buses for Long Beach Transit.

LONG BEACH >> Long Beach Transit’s board voted unanimously during a special meeting this morning to cancel its contract with bus manufacturer BYD Motors for the provision of 10 electric buses.

The decision, made in agreement with BYD itself, was made about one year after board members voted to give BYD the contract in the first place. Federal Transit Administration officials have asserted that BYD should not have been awarded the contract at the time because the company was not yet eligible to participate in contracts financed by federal grant funds. The now-cancelled $12.1-million deal with BYD depended on $9.6 million from Washington.

The board’s vote this morning makes it possible for Long Beach Transit to reopen the contract to new competition, which may now include BYD and other competitors.

“Federal funding is still available,” board chairwoman Freda Hinsche Otto said after the vote was taken on Monday.

Board members cast their votes after meeting behind closed doors for several minutes. Board members did not publicly debate the merits of the contract cancellation.

Long Beach Transit spokesman Kevin Lee said after the vote was official that agency staffers will likely spend two to three months to prepare for a new round of bidding.

“In an effort to demonstrate our good will to both the people of Long Beach and the FTA, we have agreed to mutually terminate the Long Beach Transit contract so it can be re-bid without delay,” BYD Motors CEO Stella Li said in a statement.

“We are confident that we will prevail in any competitive re-bid in the future for the same reason we prevailed last year: Our superior technology,” her statement continued.

BYD is a Chinese-based firm that maintains its North American headquarters in Los Angeles. The company has pledged to manufacture the buses that were to be assembled for Long Beach in Lancaster.

South Carolina-based Proterra was the second place finisher in last year’s bidding. The GOP-controlled House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform has requested documents from Long Beach Transit as part of an inquiry as to whether former Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat, inappropriately lobbied local officials prior to last year’s contract vote. Gore is now part of an investment firm that has invested in Proterra.

Long Beach Transit CEO Kenneth McDonald, who was not with the agency when BYD won the contract last year, said after the meeting that he was not aware of any attempts by the former vice president to lobby board members since the contract vote last March.

Lee said Long Beach Transit is cooperating with the congressional inquiry, which thus far has been essentially a request for records. Lee said no administrators nor board members have been deposed as part of the probe.

A Rare Non-Tragic Chance to Revisit the Idea of Driverless Trains


By Eric Jaffe, March 28, 2014

 A Rare Non-Tragic Chance to Revisit the Idea of Driverless Trains

It usually takes a tragedy of considerable proportions to reopen discussions of train safety in U.S. cities. But this time a mere video might do the trick. By now you may have caught footage of a Chicago blue line L train derailing and barreling up an escalator at the O'Hare station earlier this week, as if auditioning for a Bruce Willis movie. In part because the crash occurred at 3 a.m., and in part by great luck, none of the injuries were life-threatening, according to news reports:

In the aftermath of the crash, much of the focus has been on the driver who evidently fell asleep at the helm (for the second time this year). No word yet on why in this case, but broadly speaking, transit agencies would be wise to review their driver work loads on a regular basis. Driver exhaustion is not uncommon on city transit systems; Portland TriMet recently revamped its overtime rules, largely in response to a great investigative piece by the Oregonian's Joseph Rose.

The L train incident is also a rare fatality-free chance to revisit the idea of driverless trains. Late-night shifts only stand to rise as off-hour transit becomes more popular in U.S. cities. Accidents caused by human error are at the heart of federal legislation for improved "positive train control" technology; at the local level, with wee-hour operation indeed poised to increase, cities might consider the additional step of fully automating their trains.

As Stephen Smith wrote for Cities back in 2012, true driverless transit doesn't really exist in the United States outside of airport trams. But the technology is widely embraced around the world, especially Europe and Asia. Closer to home, Vancouver's SkyTrain serves hundreds of thousands of passengers each weekday without a driver. Even older legacy systems, like the Paris Metro, have shown it's possible to retrofit trains for driverless operation.

The advantages begin with safety; aside from eliminating (or at least dramatically reducing) human error, driverless transit systems free employees to improve crime surveillance in cars and on platforms. But efficiency should be just as much a part of the conversation. Much of the money that systems save on paying drivers can also go toward increasing train frequency — especially in the off hours and weekends — which in turn will generate new ridership and revenue.

Transit unions predictably oppose any move to driverless systems. That debate is playing out right now in London, where Mayor Boris Johnson recently approved plans to order driverless trains for the Underground subway. But it's possible to retain many workers in other capacities, and at the end of the day the unions are fighting a losing battle against technology. Far better to expand job options for members than pretend things will always stay the same.

U.S. cities weighing the idea of driverless transit might turn their attention to Honolulu. Construction is underway there on a 20-mile, 21-station rapid transit system featuring fully automated trains. It's expected to open in 2017, and could be a model for other American metros to follow.

We tend to reserve transportation safety discussions for the aftermath of tragedy. This week is a chance to have one with a clearer conscience. It's certainly not an easy subject. Despite big efficiency advantages, the initial cost of driverless transit is enormous — prohibitive for many cities. And despite the reduction of human error, there's no guarantee of perfection. Fortunately, very few people die in U.S. rail accidents as it is. And even fewer escalators.