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, January 9, 2015

2015 CA State Budget: for Transportation, More of the Same


By Melanie Curry, January 9, 2015

 California Governor Jerry Brown explains the need for fiscal restraint as he presents the preliminary 2015 state budget

 California Governor Jerry Brown explains the need for fiscal restraint as he presents the preliminary 2015 state budget.

Governor Jerry Brown released his preliminary budget proposal [PDF] today in Sacramento, missing the opportunity to articulate the connection between spending on roads and meeting the climate change goals he proposed Monday in his inaugural speech.

The draft budget holds no huge surprises for sustainable transportation advocates. It mostly follows last year’s budget for transportation spending. Brown made no move to change the allocations of cap-and-trade funds, which include a 25 percent for high-speed rail, with the rest of the expected $1 billion going to other projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The budget mentions the $350 million for last year’s Active Transportation Program, but makes no mention of increasing that amount.

At the press conference, Brown highlighted funding for road maintenance and repair, but failed to connect spending on roads with his stated goal of reducing fuel consumption by 50 percent over the next fifteen years. That goal won’t be easy to reach, and will take more than high-speed rail and electric cars.

“Getting people biking and walking is a critical part of that effort,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller of the National Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership. “Yet the Active Transportation Program is only one percent of the budget—less if you include cap-and-trade money,” which the governor’s office expects to add another $1 billion to next year’s budget.

“Yes, we have unfunded highway maintenance needs,” she added, “but as long as we keep building highways, we always will. We need to focus on shifting people to other modes.”

Instead Brown emphasizes high-speed rail as his main solution for reducing fuel consumption. His budget lists HSR among “healthy transportation alternatives,” alongside transit and walkable and bikable communities, that will receive half of cap-and-trade revenue.

But high-speed rail won’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions any time soon, and the amount of money allocated to it dwarfs the Active Transportation Program, which has the potential to increase the number of people who choose bikes and walking.

State sustainable transportation advocates are cautiously optimistic about the preliminary budget, at least in its summary form. “This budget shows that we can solve our climate problems while lifting up our most vulnerable communities,” according to a statement by Josh Stark of TransForm.

Brown refused to discuss details about what funding for infrastructure repair and maintenance might look like or where it might come from, saying, “I’m identifying the problem, I have a team working on infrastructure, and we’ll start engaging constituency groups and exploring what avenues of funding are available. I’m not going to preempt the discussions by predetermining what the outcome is.”

There will be plenty of discussions on the budget between now and the May revision. Meanwhile, with a new session, new legislators, and shifting committee memberships as well as staff assignments throughout the state capitol, there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment about how policy and funding will be shaped in the coming months.

For example, the new chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee is Jim Frazier, a Democrat from a town on the Sacramento River Delta. He was one of the legislators who signed a letter last July asking the Air Resources Board to exempt gas distributors from the cap-and-trade program, so it remains to be seen whether his interests will lean towards livability–or elsewhere.

The governor’s main emphasis during the budget presentation was the need for fiscal responsibility. “Our long-term fiscal health depends on wise and prudent decisions,” he said. Despite recent reports of rising revenues, he maintained that California will face difficult budget decisions in coming years. “Steady as you go—that’s what I’m aiming for,” he said.

Metro: what’s in store in the year ahead


By Steve Hymon, January 9, 2015

Last year was a little busy around here, ‘little’ being a vast understatement. I’m guessing 2015 won’t be much different. Metro is in the midst of a $14-billion capital program — thanks to Measure R — and, of course, the agency is running one of the nation’s largest transit systems.

A few things on the slate in the year ahead:

A Gold Line train before clearance testing began on the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
A Gold Line train before clearance testing began on the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

•The scheduled completion later this year of two rail projects, the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Once work is done, the respective Construction Authorities building the projects will begin the process of handing them over to Metro. Both projects are forecast to open in the first half of 2016.

•With Metro CEO Art Leahy announcing his departure earlier this week, a new chief executive will need to be hired. Art is planning on staying until April 5.

•Heavy construction will continue or begin on three other Metro Rail projects under construction: the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector.

•On the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the tunnel boring machine to be used on the northern section of the line will be lowered into the ground. The machine was delivered last year.

•The draft environmental document for the SR-710 project is scheduled to be released later this winter. The project aims to improve traffic caused by the gap in the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena.

The view of Division 13 as of 1:30 p.m. Friday. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

•The new Division 13 bus maintenance facility in downtown Los Angeles adjacent to Metro headquarters is scheduled to be completed.

•Work continues on the I-5 widening project between the 605 and the Orange County border. Caltrans is the lead agency; Metro is a major funder of the project.

•Also ongoing work on other transit projects, including the pedestrian tunnel under Lankershim to make it easier to transfer between the Orange Line and Red Line in North Hollywood and the bridge over Lankerhshim between the Red Line’s Universal/Studio City Station and Universal Studios.

A bike share station in the Bay Area. Photo by Naotake Murayama, via Flickr creative commons.
A bike share station in the Bay Area. 

•The Metro Board will likely consider a contract for a firm to run a pilot bike share program in downtown L.A.

•Work on the Wilshire Boulevard peak hour bus lanes project is scheduled to be completed later in the year. When done, there will be 7.7 miles of peak hour bus lanes between Wilshire & Centinela (the border between the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles) and Wilshire & Valencia, just west of downtown L.A. with buses running in regular traffic lanes in the Condo Canyon section of Wilshire and Beverly Hills.

•On the TAP front, Big Blue Bus is scheduled to start accepting TAP cards in March. Also, new screen prompts will debut on Metro ticket machines and a new regional TAP website is scheduled to premiere.

•Work is soon to begin on the installation of equipment that will allow for wifi and cell phone access in underground rail stations, with initial work in the Red/Purple Line in downtown L.A.

•Delivery of the first completed new light rail vehicles being built by Metro contractor Kinkisharyo.
•And the first delivery of new electric 40-foot buses built by BYD for Metro.

•Metro and the Metro Board will likely be discussing and possibly deciding whether to go forward with a ballot measure for November 2016 to accelerate or fund new projects.

•The Metro Board will have to consider contracts for policing the Metro system. The current contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department expires at the end of this fiscal year (the end of June).
•Metro and the Federal Transit Administration will continue to negotiate a federal grant and loan to help build the second section of the Purple Line Extension between Wilshire/La Cienega and Century City. The FTA recently gave Metro the go-ahead to enter into the engineering phase of the New Starts program, a positive sign for Metro’s grant/loan application.

Again, this is basic list of things-to-expect-in-2015. I’m probably missing a few things. We’ll certainly try to chronicle it here on the blog and Metro’s social media streams on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Check back often please for the latest updates!