To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Metro yanks Fox TV show bus ads branded as racist, offensive to women


By Soumya Karlamang, Sepember 18, 2014

Octavia Spencer

 Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer stars in the new Fox series "Red Band Society."

An advertisement for the new Fox television show “Red Band Society” was abruptly pulled from Los Angeles Metro buses Thursday after activists complained it was racist and offensive.

The ads for the series that premiered this week show actress Octavia Spencer next to the words “Scary Bitch.” Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Mark Littman said the agency decided to remove the ad because that label “denigrates women.”

“That speaks for itself,” Littman said. “That was not acceptable.”

The ads, which have been up for five weeks, will be removed from 190 Metro buses as soon as possible, said Metro spokesman Dave Sotero.

The announcement was made Thursday at a Metro committee meeting where a few dozen protesters showed up to speak against the ads. Among them was Jasmyne Cannick, who said the nickname perpetuates negative stereotypes about black women.

“I don’t know if I find it more offensive because I’m black, or more offensive because I’m a woman,” said Cannick, 36. “I sometimes think our city forgets that there are black people that still live here and call Los Angeles home.”

A Fox spokeswoman said in a statement that network executives were notified Thursday morning of the concerns around the ads and “immediately offered to remove the language.”

“Metro Los Angeles ultimately decided to take down the ads, and we respect that decision,” the spokeswoman said. “We sincerely apologize if the copy was offensive to viewers.”

Littman said though the decision was made public Thursday, Metro chief executive Art Leahy had chosen Wednesday to take down the ads after hearing about the complaints. Littman said CBS Outdoor, which handles the agency’s advertising contract, usually flags possibly questionable ads for review, but these were not flagged.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also serves on the Metro board, said at the Thursday meeting that he wanted the ads taken down, and that the agency needs to tighten its advertising policy. Garcetti requested that Metro staff report back to the board on ways to avoid a similar situation in the future, said Jeff Millman, Garcetti's spokesman.

This Is What California's Autonomous Vehicle Driving Permit Looks Like

The state's new autonomous vehicle laws went into effect this week, and Audi was the first carmaker to receive a permit. Here's what it looks like.


By Andrew Del-Colle, September 18, 2014

On Tuesday, Audi became the first car manufacturer to receive a California autonomous car driving permit (as of this writing, Mercedes-Benz and Google have also filed for and received permits). The permit was presented to Audi by Sen. Alex Padilla, who signed the state's new autonomous vehicle laws that went into effect Tuesday; the law will allow for the legal testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

According to Brad Stertz, Audi's corporate communications manager, Audi has two cars registered on the permit, both capable of Level 3 autonomous driving, the official classification for a car that can handle many of the driving responsibilities but isn't fully autonomous (Level 4.)

"We had been doing testing in California because there were no regulations in place," Stertz says. "But now that the state enacted laws on Sept. 16, it was crucial for us to get the permit right away because our Electronics Research Lab in Belmont, Calif., is a key player in the development of our technology globally."

We got a look at the actual permit today, and its wording pretty much reiterates the new state law. Someone must be in the car and able to take over all functions at all times, and there must be a clear mechanism for engaging and disengaging autonomous mode. But there are a few nuggets worth exploring. 

One is the specific mention of a visual indicator that clearly signals to the driver when autonomous mode is engaged. Making sure the driver is completely familiar with the technology and understands when the car is under machine control versus human control is something carmakers must get absolutely right. Consider what GM is doing with its Super Cruise technology, which allows the car to take over steering and pedal operations in certain highway conditions. Earlier this month GM announced that Super Cruise will be available in select 2017 model year cars. Those cars will likely have the same indicator that we experienced when testing Super Cruise—a large light bar on the top of the steering wheel that indicates when the car is in control (green), when the driver needs to take over (red), and when the driver has control (blue). Hard to miss that. Oh, and it issues an audible alert as well.

Something else to consider: According to the permit, should the driver be unable to take control of the vehicle during an emergency or system failure while autonomous mode is engaged, "the autonomous vehicle shall be capable of coming to a complete stop." Pretty important! But also a little scary when you think about a car just stopping on the highway. After all, the permit doesn't say the car must be able to safely pull off the road and come to a complete stop. And in reality, that's probably asking a lot for now. It's a reminder that if we want to test autonomous vehicles in the public domain seriously, we have to understand there will be risks. It reminds me of something interesting Chris Urmon, head of Google's self-driving car project, said about insurance and autonomous cars when I interviewed him two years ago:

"As we develop technology that is self-driving, we're responsible for that. If we're telling someone riding in one of our vehicles that they're safe to not pay attention to driving, then during that phase that we've kinda told them that's okay, then we're responsible for that action. I think it'll be quite clear. I think in the longer term that there are things we can do that will feed the evolution of this technology in the same way.

"When the first airplanes flew, there was a balance on the liability that an airline has in events of accidents or lost luggage or whatever. Then as a society we said, 'Well, there are risks inherent to air travel and we want to further the adoption of air travel so we're going to introduce legislation that puts the limits on the liability so that we encourage this industry to blossom.'

"I can see down the line that something like that might happen because we'll look at the societal benefit of this technology, the freedom for people to move that don't, the reduction in congestion, the increase in safety, the happiness and wellbeing brought by the fact that you didn't spend an hour cursing life in commuting and we'll say, 'You know what? It's worth kind of defraying the risk across a broader base than just the manufacturers of this technology, assuming they meet some kind of bar." No, I don't think [Insurance] will be the thing that stops this from happening.'"

Lastly, it's worth noting that the permit calls for an extra device—separate from the data recorders already required in cars—to specifically monitor and record the autonomous systems and their sensors. On top of that, the information must remain accessible for three years. As optimistic as lawmakers and auto manufacturers are about the potential for autonomous vehicles, they also know that one bad accident could stymie progress and reaffirm the public's worst fears. In case an accident does happen—and eventually, it will—at least they'll know exactly what went wrong.

Besides, they'll need that information to know whom to blame.


Here's the Possible New Look For a Reimagined Union Station


By Bianca Barragan, September 18, 2014


 The new location of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza on the east (right) with Union Station to the west (left); images via The Source

Metro has begun to finalize plans for the dramatic Union Station Master Plan, which will preserve the wonderful and historic Union Station that Angelenos know and love while making enormous changes—they'll start in the near-term by replacing the northern parking lot in front of the station with a pedestrian plaza, but a slew of other improvements over the next several years should finally give LA a "world-class transit facility [and] a destination that serves everybody."

Step one of the big Master Plan will be "perimeter improvements" like the new pedestrian plaza, intended to "soften the edges of the station, create better connections to the Civic Center and historic and cultural communities surrounding the station, and welcome transit riders and visitors," according to a Metro staff report (via The Source). Step two will be private development surrounding the station and "major transit improvements," including moving the Patsaouras Bus Plaza to an elevated spot between the back of the existing station and railroad tracks. Step three is a high-speed rail station, assuming that mess of a project ever reaches Downtown LA.

The staff reports says that the final Master Plan "include[s] a series of open spaces, terraces and connecting features that allow transit riders and visitors to easily span the site, with the choice of crossing at grade level or going above the rail platforms for a view of the transit services and the City." Besides the elevated bus plaza, the existing tunnel that connects the main station to train platforms and buses will be madeover into a "multi-modal concourse" for passengers to wait for transportation.

The Master Plan is on the Metro Planning Board's agenda for next month's meeting; the full Metro Board still has to vote on the plan as well. Meanwhile, Metro's already got trendy restaurateur Cedd Moses (Cole's, Seven Grand) moving into the lovely old Harvey House restaurant space.

  • Facing Vignes Street, the new look for the station's east entrance
  • A view of the "sunken" part of the new concourse
  • A pedestrian bridge over the train tracks that will join the eastern and western parts of the station
  • The new plaza
  • This map shows the new passenger concourse's connection to high-speed rail. The Source notes that "[t]he USMP could support other approaches to a HSR station as well."


Testing on Expo Line to the Beach Starts in Just a Few Months


By Neal Broverman, September 18, 2014




The Expo Line light rail extension from Culver City to Santa Monica is now 70 percent complete, the Expo Line Construction Authority announced at a community meeting this week. The line's seven stations are 63 percent finished; of the Santa Monica stations, the Twenty-Sixth Street/Bergamot station is farthest along. The platforms have been poured for the Seventeenth Street and Downtown Santa Monica stations, but the latter is more complicated as it's the line's last stop and will have to accommodate a crush of patrons (the city is working on a big public esplanade around the station).

Track installation along the entire line will be finished this fall and the remainder of this year's work will center around train control and traffic control installation, street improvements, and the installation of poles, wires, and station elements; testing should start at the beginning of 2015 and an opening could happen sometime next year or, more likely, in early 2016.

One potential hiccup with the timeline is a union battle at Kinkisharyo, the Japanese manufacturer of rail cars that Metro needs for the extension. Kinkisharyo planned on assembling their cars at a Palmdale factory, but are threatening to sue over the factory's environmental reports if union workers aren't hired—if there's a lawsuit, it could delay both the plant and the Expo Line.

Millennials Love Transit Most, Boomers Still Stuck on Cars

A new study shows generations bucking their upbringings, with sheltered Millennials choosing the bus.

By Sarah Goodyear, September 18, 2014

In 2013, transit ridership in the United States hit a 50-year high, with the nation’s transit systems logging 10.7 billion rides. A new survey from the new transportation-focused philanthropy TransitCenter, seeks to discover who those riders are and what motivates them to get on the trains, buses, and streetcars of American cities.

The answer, according to Who’s On Board: 2014 Mobility Attitudes Survey? Transit riders are disproportionately young, members of ethnic minorities, and—most important of all—they live in relatively dense neighborhoods where high-quality transit is available. The most important factor for them in choosing transit is travel time and reliability, not fancier amenities such as wifi.

The survey, which gathered data from 11,842 respondents in 46 metropolitan areas, found that the generational divide over transit that many observers have noted over the past few years is real: People under 30 are far more likely to ride public transportation and to express positive feelings about it than older people, regardless of what part of the country they live in or what kind of neighborhood they grew up in.

The survey looked at five geographical categories: the South, the West/Southwest, the West Coast, the Midwest, and what it classified as “traditional cities,” which included cities with “mature and widely used transit systems”—San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C.

In the “traditional cities,” 43 percent of people under 30 reported riding transit at least once a week, compared with 12 percent of those between 30 and 60 and just 9 percent of those over 60. Even in regions with much lower overall ridership, the trend of young people using transit more held true: 20 percent of those under 30 in the South say they ride transit once a week, compared with 10 percent of those 30 to 60 and 2 percent of those over 60.

The preference for transit also showed up when those under 30 had kids, suggesting that the trend isn’t just about being childfree and easy. Across all income brackets, parents under 30 used transit significantly more than those between 30 and 60. Forty-five percent of the under-30 parent group with incomes above $75,000 said they use transit weekly, compared with 16 percent of parents between 30 and 60 in the same income bracket.

Interestingly, these same young people reported being raised in disproportionately autocentric environments: They were less likely to have been encouraged to walk or bike by their families as children or to have had easy access to transit, and were more likely to have gotten the message from parents that transit was unsafe (as well as the message from peers that it was uncool).
Still, they expressed disproportionately transit-friendly attitudes, even as their elders are continuing to reject the transit option. In the words of the researchers, “The Millennial generation seems to be defying its sheltered, suburban upbringing by delaying the acquisition of a driver’s license and choosing transit. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers, who grew up using transit and were encouraged to do so, are defying their upbringing by avoiding transit now.”


Another key finding is that many respondents say they would like to live in a different kind of neighborhood than the one where they do now. Nearly two-thirds, or 58 percent, of respondents said they would like to live in neighborhood with a mixture of residential, business, and shopping, rather than a strictly residential neighborhood. That didn’t mean that respondents wanted to leave the suburbs for the city, though—that figure combines those with preferences for urban, suburban, and small-town mixed-use neighborhoods.

Only 39 percent of those surveyed are living in such a neighborhood now, suggesting a mismatch between available housing stock and people’s desires. The neighborhood most often chosen as the “ideal” by respondents, with 28 percent favoring it, was a mixed-use suburban neighborhood.

“The findings indicate that attitudes among young people suggest there’s going to be strong and growing support for transit in the decades to come, across the country,” says David Bragdon, executive director of TransitCenter. “This study shows there’s a lot of demand for transit and our local officials need to step up and meet that demand.”

Other key points in the survey:
  • Respondents were five times more likely to take transit if they were offered pre-tax commuting benefits by their employers.
  • Transit use varied widely by race and ethnicity. Thirty-nine percent of African Americans reported using transit at least once per week, as did 37 percent of Hispanics; 32 percent of American Indians and Alaskan natives; 18 percent of Asian and South Pacific respondents; and just 10 percent of whites.
  • In general, transit use decreased as income increased, but respondents in the highest bracket—$150,000 and up—reported riding transit more than any other group except those in the lowest bracket, who make less than $25,000.
  • Concern for the environment ranked last among reasons to use transit across all age groups.

With signing of insurance bill, Lyft, Uber ridesharing loophole comes to an end


By Ben Bergman, September 17, 2014

  89851 full

Amid all the talk about cutting-edge technology, much of Uber and Lyft’s success actually owes to that fact the ride-sharing companies have been able to exploit a basic loophole: The companies foist the cost of insurance on their drivers, but the drivers' insurance companies don’t know they are underwriting cars for hire, and even if drivers wanted to be honest and get a policy that would cover ride-sharing, they couldn’t, because no such policy exists.

AB-2293, introduced by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) and signed into law Wednesday by Governor Jerry Brown, tries to close the loophole by paving the way for insurance companies to offer hybrid personal/commercial policies by next summer.

Uber once derided the bill as a backroom deal between insurance companies and trial lawyers.

"The bill does nothing to enhance safety, yet compromises the transportation choices and entrepreneurial opportunities Uber offers Californians," the company wrote in a June blog post that encouraged customers to contact their representatives opposing the bill.

However, the company backed down and supported the legislation when Bonilla insurance requirements were lowered.

AB 2293 also specifically bans drivers from using their personal policies and mandates drivers have to be covered from the moment they turn on their app and look for customers, which is a response to the tragic accident on New Year's Eve in San Francisco when an UberX driver hit and killed a six year old child.

Uber argued that because the driver was waiting for a fare he wasn't working for the company at the time, so he wasn't covered by the company's insurance.

Southern California Road Agency Courts Bankruptcy With Highway Addition


By Phineas Baxandall and Jeff Inglis, September 18, 2014

 California 241 needs an extension so more people can not use it. Photo: Transportation Corridor Agencies via U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group
 California 241 needs an extension so more people can not use it.

Today, U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group released a new report, “Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future.” In it, they examine 11 of the most wasteful, least justifiable road projects underway in America right now.

This week we’ve previewed the report with posts about the proposed Effingham Parkway in Savannah, Georgia and the harebrained scheme to widen I-240 through Asheville, North CarolinaHere we continue with an egregious example from the Golden State. 

Southern California’s toll road agency has proposed extending an existing toll highway that might eventually span inland Orange County and connect to Interstate 5. The number of cars on previous sections of the highway, however, have failed to meet projections. Also, the agency is already struggling to avoid default on its debts.

California 241 is one of several toll roads in Orange County built and operated by the legislature-created Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA). California officials enabled the creation of toll roads in the area in the late 1980s amid both a shortage of state transportation funding and the perception of insatiable demand for more highways.

Traffic on California 241, however, hasn’t met official projections for a decade. In recent years — and especially since the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007 — driving on existing sections of California 241 has declined.

The TCA measures road use by counting the number of transactions conducted by toll payers on the combined Foothill/Eastern Toll Roads, which include not only Route 241 but also Routes 133 and 261. The TCA’s count shows fewer transactions in fiscal year 2014 than in fiscal 2004. As indicated by the dotted trend line below, there were about 32 million fewer transactions in fiscal year 2014 than would have been expected if the trend from 2000 to 2006 had continued.

Fewer drivers means fewer tollpayers on California roads. Image: U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group
Fewer drivers means fewer tollpayers on California roads. Graph: U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group

TCA data do not allow measurement of traffic on Route 241 alone, but California Department of Transportation data do and show a similar trend: Traffic peaked in 2007 and has not shown a return to that level. By 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, traffic on Route 241 was lower than it was in 2002. (See Figure 7, below.) Traffic is 36 percent lower than it would have been if pre-2006 trends had continued. As a result, toll revenue has not met projections since 2007. The toll roads’ system-wide revenue has been so low that the TCA was recently at risk of defaulting on $2.4 billion in bonds.

Despite the trend of declining road use, the TCA has proposed a $200 million “Tesoro Extension” project to extend the road 5.5 miles, in what the agency intends to be the first stage of a 16-mile extension of Route 241. The project would add to the financial liabilities of an agency that is already in trouble.

The TCA’s financial woes come despite several attempts by the state of California to help the agency. The agreement between the Transportation Corridor Agencies and the state’s transportation agency, Caltrans, lets the TCA borrow money to build roads, and then collect tolls until its roads’ construction and operations debts are repaid, after which point the highways would become free to all drivers.

California 241 is getting less and less traffic.

While the bonds are not backed by the state of California, Caltrans, which maintains the TCA’s roads, must approve any refinancing that would extend the TCA’s debt repayment schedule. In 1997, the TCA got permission to extend tolling on California 241 and two nearby toll roads (Routes 133 and 261) from 2033 to 2036, to get more time to pay off the roads’ construction costs. In 2011, the TCA was allowed to extend that time further, to 2040. In 2013 it asked for and received approval to extend tolling even longer, to 2053. As a result of stagnant driving and the TCA’s financial woes, drivers in Orange County will be paying tolls on these roads for decades longer than originally anticipated.

The TCA has also raised toll rates, which, Businessweek reported, “helped the agency’s revenue reach a record $111.8 million… even as the number of vehicles using the roads fell to a 12-year low.” The TCA’s finances show no sign of improvement — income has been “about 75 percent of projections,” according to Businessweek.

These facts have led critics to assail the financial case for the extension plan. An analysis by the free-market-supporting Pacific Research Institute found “there is scant evidence that the viability of the 241, which is currently questionable, is improved with the extension.” Concluding that drivers are not willing “to pay a toll that is high enough to cover all maintenance, operational, and capital investments necessary to support the road,” the Pacific Research Institute declared, “spending money on plans to extend the 241… is not justifiable and should cease immediately.”

Peggy Drouet: I take the 241 when I drive to my sister's home in Rancho Santa Margarita. I love it as there is SO LITTLE TRAFFIC ON IT. However, the reason that I have heard as to why this is so is because of the toll cost of using it on a regular basis is more than people want to pay. I pay about $3 plus dollars for each use. I signed up over the internet for an Express Account which means that each time I use it the toll agency bills my credit card for the charge. I am emailed a statement from the toll agency every month. Very easy system. I would use the toll road to connect to the 5 as I often drive to San Diego after going to Rancho Santa Margarita. However, my once-a-month use of the toll road is not supporting it adequately. Incidentally, the 241 is such a great road that you just want to drive forever on it.

El Sereno Senior Center Metro 710 presentation September 18, 2014

Posted on Facebook September 18, 2014 by Joe Cano:

I have a feeling Metro was trying to pull a fast one by just coming to this group of seniors to claim they did outreach in El Sereno. Don't know for sure if it was intentional or just plain incompetence. Metro should have known better.

Notice for the meeting on door & this bulletin board.



 The technical level was toned down & presentation was very for this audience. The norm would have overwhelmed these folks.


 Long time freeway fighters.


 Jessie Granados veteran freeway fighter.


 Lots of paper printed on our taxpayer $ going nowhere.

Electric Vehicles Are Cleaner, but Still Not a Magic Bullet


By Paul Stenquist, September 16, 2014


 The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that an electric vehicle operating within the Midwest electric power grid is now as clean as a gasoline-engine car achieving 43 miles per gallon; an electric vehicle in New York achieves the equivalent of 112 m.p.g. 

The Union of Concerned Scientists said on Tuesday that in 60 percent of the United States, electric vehicles are now responsible for fewer heat-trapping global warming emissions per mile than even the most efficient hybrids.

In an April 2012 report titled “State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel Cost Savings Across the United States,” the group had concluded that electric vehicles were cleaner than hybrids in only 45 percent of the country. That was because in many areas, the majority of the electricity used to charge the vehicles was generated at coal-fired power plants.

Proponents of electric vehicles were not pleased. Automakers that had invested heavily in electric vehicle development were even less pleased. Just before the release of the 2012 report, the chief executive of Nissan and Renault, Carlos Ghosn, declared that electrics were cleaner than any car that burned gasoline, even in areas where all electric power is generated from coal.

The data said otherwise. The scientists group concluded that in an area where electric power was generated using a high proportion of coal — as it is in much of the nation’s midsection — an electric vehicle was no cleaner than a high-m.p.g. gasoline-engine subcompact.

In the two years since that report, some utilities have added clean renewable sources of electricity to their mix and, more important, electric vehicles have become more efficient.

“Electric vehicles are doing more and more to fulfill their technological promise,” Don Anair, research and deputy director of the scientists group’s Clean Vehicles Program, said.

The Union of Concerned Scientists says that the average battery-powered electric vehicle sold over the past year uses 0.325 kilowatt-hour per mile, a 5 percent improvement over the 2011 data that was used to prepare the original report. That means an electric vehicle operating within the Midwest electric power grid, which blankets several states in whole or in part, is now as clean as a gasoline-engine car achieving 43 miles per gallon. In 2012, that number was said to be 39 m.p.g.

Some states that don’t depend heavily on coal for power generation fare much better. An electric vehicle in New York achieves the equivalent of 112 m.p.g., according to the scientist group’s data, while in California the number is 95 m.p.g. Others still lag behind. Colorado, which relies heavily on coal, is once again at the bottom of the list, with an E.V. achieving the same emissions as a 34 m.p.g. gasoline-engine car.

The group’s calculations are based on utility emissions data from a 2010 report from the Environmental Protection Agency, so the actual efficiency may be somewhat better because many utilities are adding renewable sources of electricity in order to comply with legislated mandates.

The updated report indicates that electric vehicles are not a cure-all that would eliminate overall fleet emissions. Still, said Mr. Anair, “If we want to reduce transportation pollution and oil use, a big part of the answer is to be like Bob Dylan and go electric.”

By Steve Hymon,  September 18, 2014
Where does power come from in California? Almost 19 percent is from renewables and another nearly eight percent from large hydroelectric (which, of course, has its own environmental issues related to changing the ecosystems of rivers). The more renewables used, the cleaner electric cars will get -- and the cleaner that transit powered by electricity (including all of the Metro Rail lines) will be.
Check out this chart from the state:

Thousands diverted onto 110 ExpressLanes, then fined by toll operator


Agency seeks to again refinance struggling San Joaquin Hills toll road


Valley-Westside express bus is a go


Zev Yaroslavsky's Blog, September 2014

Metro soon will be starting express bus service from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside.

Taking advantage of those brand-new 405 carpool lanes, Metro later this year will launch an express bus through the Sepulveda Pass, offering transit riders on both sides of the hill a speedier way through one of L.A.’s gnarliest commuting challenges.

On December 15, Line 788 will begin offering express nonstop service from UCLA in Westwood to the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley. It then will continue north on Van Nuys Boulevard, stopping at major intersections on its way to Panorama City. Because it will connect to the Orange Line rapid transit busway, the line will give people in places like North Hollywood, Woodland Hills and Chatsworth a faster path to the Westside.

According to Jon Hillmer, Metro’s executive officer in charge of bus service planning and scheduling, the new bus is projected to save commuters a lot of time.

“We’re being very conservative, but from end to end we are looking at 20 minute time savings in each direction,” he said.

Service through the Sepulveda Pass currently is offered via Line 761, but the buses are infamously slow, having to navigate traffic and wait for stoplights along Sepulveda Boulevard. It currently takes more than an hour to get from one side of the hill to the other in normal traffic.

Initially, express buses will depart every 20 minutes on weekdays during peak traffic periods—from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Hillmer believes the line will draw a lot of riders in short order. If that’s the case, the frequency of buses will be increased and more daytime hours will be added. “If this gets to be very popular and we have overloads, we will add service very quickly,” Hillmer said.

The line could prove particularly useful for UCLA students, who qualify for reduced fares from Metro. School spokesman Enrique Aragon said the university also subsidizes 50% of transit costs with six local agencies for students and employees.

Using the 405 Project’s carpool lanes for buses was first suggested last fall at two Local Service Councils—appointed bodies that give Metro a regional perspective during the annual process of adjusting bus routes.

“The public was very supportive of the idea,” Hillmer said. “It was virtually unanimous that there was a need for nonstop service between the Valley and the Westside.”

Then Metro’s Board of Directors in May requested that the agency prepare the studies and tests needed to launch the service. One potential roadblock was whether buses could maintain highway speeds while climbing the steep hill that separates the Valley and the Westside. Fortunately, Hillmer said, Metro’s 45-foot coaches—which are built with lightweight composite sides—proved able to maintain speeds of at least 55 miles per hour in each direction.

Further down the road, Metro plans to extend the express line south to the Sepulveda station of the Expo Line when the final phase of the light rail project opens in January, 2016. That will give people another option to reach destinations such as Santa Monica without having to deal with driving, not to mention the city’s notoriously difficult parking.

Line 788 may soon get a catchier name. Today, at Metro’s Executive Management Committee meeting, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and his Metro board colleagues Paul Krekorian and Pam O’Connor  introduced a motion to begin promoting the line as the “Valley-Westside Express.” That proposal will go before the agency’s full Board of Directors next Thursday, September 25.

Whatever it’s called, Hillmer said the line will give residents of a broad area a new way to get from the Valley to the Westside—and vice versa.

“This will be a very attractive service because it’s fast and easy to use,” Hillmer said. “Because it interfaces easily with the Orange Line, people who have destinations on either side of the 405 will have faster access over the hill.”

The bus line will roll though the Sepulvenda Pass via the new carpool lanes.