A report (really, an atlas of sorts) revealed that residents in certain neighborhoods are more likely to die at a younger age than those who live in other parts of town. The report cites, among other things, the lack of good sidewalks or any sidewalks, scant access to parks and high motor vehicle crashes with pedestrians and cyclists as contributors to the decreased life expectancy. The city plans to use the findings in preparing the city general plan, with officials hoping that the discovery can lead to a greater impetus in improving street spaces. The CSUN Transportation Tiger Team has been working on just such improvements for the northeast San Fernando Valley, which the report included as one of the neighborhoods with residents attaining a lower life expectancy.
The Tiger Team was very excited to present our Metro 741 bus extension to the Mission Hills Neighborhood Council. A great surprise was the fact that the new Councilmember Felipe Fuentes actually came and spoke on his first day. It was clear he understands his district and has passion for his constituents. We are hopeful of many great things to come regarding the needs of the community. After Councilmember Fuentes spoke and other business had been addressed, we were called upon and made our presentation to an attentive group that was interested in hearing the proposal. Councilmember Fuentes was also interested and listened to what we had to say. After our presentation, we heard a few questions regarding handicap needs. We also had the opportunity to mention another exciting project The Transit Coalition has, which is the Sylmar Complete Sidewalks project. The board ended up passing the measure with unanimous support.
This was the first neighborhood council meeting that we attended and it was a great experience. It was great to be able to be organized and clearly heard by people who are interested is what democracy and the political process is all about. Our plan is to gather as much support from the neighborhood councils, businesses and surrounding community as well as individual support so that we can present this idea to Metro to get the 741 Rapid Line extension approved. More great things are to come because we feel more comfortable presenting and communicating about the unmet transit needs in many communities.
- The Transit Coalition Government and Public Affairs team
Burbank recently began work on a new bike path that will connect Lake/Alameda with the Downtown Burbank Metrolink Station, with most of the path paralleling a tributary to the Los Angeles River. The $4.4 million project includes a pricey grade separation at Alameda Ave. Also, the City of Los Angeles has given approval to a major road diet on Broadway in Downtown LA as part of the Bringing Back Broadway initiative. $1.8 million will be spent on a small-scale road diet to be implemented this summer, while a much larger plan for the future is further refined.
Hundreds of LA taxi operators stopped at LA City Hall last week to honk their displeasure at the existence of smartphone apps that connect drivers with those who need a ride somewhere. The city had already sent cease-and-desist orders to Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, whom counterclaim that their business operates legally through state pacts. Not knowing how to respond to this new world of services, other cities have similarly prohibited these app companies from offering their services. In fact, LA transportation officials have been conducting stings in order to arrest drivers operating for the above companies and denounce them as “bandit taxicabs”.
Speaking of apps, Metro released an app that intends to provide transit riders a means to report crimes occurring on buses and trains. The app allows users to directly call the Sheriff’s Department and to send in online reports. The Source blog features more information on this app as well as download links.
The Transit Coalition has been keeping watch on the quality of life in the agricultural villages east of Indio in the southeastern Coachella Valley. Linked together by SunLine transit buses, numerous substandard mobile home parks and housing can be found throughout the area. One major development, the Desert Mobile Home Park (aka. Duroville) could be once described as a third-world slum housing up to 4,000-6,000 people all within a square mile. The federal government finally ordered the trailer park to close. Duroville and other trailer parks house the region’s agricultural workers. If you’ve ever eaten locally grown grapes or similar produce, chances are they could have been harvested by these laborers who work in blazing heat, only to come home in a hot and stuffy trailer. Their wages are low enough where renting an apartment or a room is out of the question.
Harvey Duro, Duroville’s operator, had plans to improve the living conditions of the trailer park, but claimed resources were instead spent on legal fees. According to local reports, most of Duroville’s residents relocated to a new trailer development, Mountain View Estates, with the help of Riverside County. Concerns over the mass relocation of Duroville’s residents were therefore averted, but getting to that point was far from smooth sailing in regards to securing public funding.
Fair-minded individuals recognize that taxpayer-funded redevelopment agencies are certainly debatable statewide, but there is no question that this agricultural region is neither an entitlement nor a me-myself-and-I society. The majority of residents here are hard-working farmworkers working in intense heat to provide for their children and give us the produce we eat. Numerous local non-profit organizations have been gracious enough to step in and help fix up the housing conditions in this area. To be fair, the region does need to be policed better to combat drug-related crimes and debates need to continue for solutions to improve wages with additional service-sector jobs, but nobody who works all day in 110 degree heat should be subject to come home without air conditioning or clean water.
Metrolink received the last batch of Hyundai Rotem cars, thus completing its initiative to replace its entire fleet with safer cars. Dubbed the Guardian Fleet, these cars use new crash energy management technology that better absorb the impact of crashes through crumple zones. Metrolink ordered the new cars in response to the tragic Chatsworth crash in 2008 and the Glendale crash in 2005, which horrifically showcased the shortcomings of the existing Bombardier fleet. However, Metrolink’s work in improving safety and regaining the trust of citizens does not stop there, as the agency continues to install positive train control throughout its network and refurbish the Bombardier cars still in service.
The Metro Board voted in favor of a plan to accelerate most Measure R projects through loans paid back by Measure R and Proposition C revenues. The plan is contingent upon advancement of America Fast Forward at the federal level, which would allow local governments to access hundreds of millions of dollars in federally-backed loans and low-interest bonds for infrastructure projects.
In approving the plan, the Metro Board asked that staff develop a new ballot measure that can aid in accelerating Measure R projects, which could be presented to voters in November 2014 or 2016.
The Metro Board also awarded a nearly $1.3 billion construction contract for the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line to Walsh/Shea Corridors Construction, signaling a major milestone for the project. On the table, however, was a proposal to move nearly $100 million dollars in Measure R money to the Crenshaw/LAX line. South Bay leaders decried the possible shifting. Metro justified the proposal by stating that the project partially is within the boundary of what the agency defines as the South Bay.
Officials representing the area charged that Metro quietly changed the boundary in 2009 to include LAX and inferred that the move would purposely shoulder much of the cost for the new line onto the South Bay area. Cities within the sub-region approved resolutions against the proposal, citing the need to use those funds for needed road and highway improvements and that Measure R already have relatively little to offer for the South Bay to begin with. Fortunately, the Metro Board listened to their concerns and dropped the proposal.
In other automobile news, researchers now have quantifiable proof that GPS navigators are not as reliable as drivers wish them to be, while some drivers continue to use tried-and-true methods such as using a paper map and asking for directions. Los Angeles Timescontributor Maria La Ganga elaborates on her recent experiences at a brick-and-mortar traffic school. Also, the uphill climb of gas prices has come to an end after 15 days, with a gallon of gas averaging $4.11 as of yesterday.
Southern California officials are making strides in finding ways to accelerate select transit projects. However, officials representing the San Gabriel Valley are miffed that the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont is not included in the acceleration plans. The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments tacitly supported the local transit projects described in the plan but made it clear that they want the completion of the Gold Line included. To that effect, 12 lawmakers representing San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire are asking Metro to postpone a Board vote on the list by at least a month, in the hopes that the Gold Line to Claremont is added to the list before then.