The Metrolink Board voted to award a $6.8 million contract to Wabtec Corp. that calls for a computer system designed to operate the agency’s positive train control system. The previous contractor, technology firm ARINC,failed to meet the deadline imposed by Metrolink to provide such a system. PTC would allow said computer system to communicate with radio and GPS and help control train movements with the intent of deterring crashes. A demonstration of PTC is scheduled for February 18.
Despite the rapid emergence of the Arts District in terms of residential development and amenities, transit access remains poor, with a Gold Line station placed at a distant corner of the burgeoning community. Talks of bringing Red/Purple Line service to the area using existing tracks have gone nowhere. Suddenly, however, Metro CEO Art Leahy announced that he has instructed staff into investigating potential new stations next to the Arts District. One possible station at Sixth Street would come close to the new and more accessible viaduct that will replace the existing bridge. Staff will examine possible sites, costs and initial designs, with their conclusions to be available within the year.
Foothill Transit will soon inaugurate its first new commuter bus line in seven years. Line 495 will run from the Industry Park and Ride to Downtown Los Angeles starting in January. The line will make use of the El Monte Busway and stop only at Cal State LA and the LA County Medical Center. The service will cost $4.90 each way when the service launches this January, a stark contrast to the $8.50 Metrolink riders must pay each way to reach the same area. The one-year pilot project is funded by Measure R and will cost $71,000 a month to operate.
The Metrolink Perris Valley Line project received a $75 million federal grant which clears the project for construction within the next two to three weeks. The new Metrolink branch will extend the 91 Line from Riverside to Perris with stops at the Hunter Business Park in Riverside, March AFB in Moreno Valley, the downtown Perris Station Transit Center and southern Perris. The $248 million project would serve a fast-growing region and has the blessing of USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin staff writer David Allen shared his experiences on Metrolink during the final weekend of the $10 Weekend Pass, which previously covered both weekend days but now covers just one. Metrolink explained that the change reflects the reality that less than 25% of passengers use the pass for multiple days. Thus, the $10 Weekend Day Pass, as it is now known, more appropriately matches existing travel behavior on the system, therefore, hardly anyone will notice.
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.
In the event that you have not yet seen it, Metro rolled out an “under construction” map of Metro Rail lines. The new map also shows proposed extensions that have guaranteed Measure R funds and have attained approval from the Metro Board. As a result, some other Measure R transit projects are notably absent, such as the Van Nuys Blvd. and Sepulveda Pass projects, as well as the Santa Ana Right-of-Way project. The map is reminiscent of highway maps of old, where proposed freeways were marked long before they were built.
What is happening with Alameda Corridor East? Find out in the spring issue of The ACE Report. This grade-separation program for the San Gabriel Valley has successfully secured $1.5 billion of the $1.7 billion it needs to complete various projects. Dignitaries held a groundbreaking for a new Nogales Street overpass in the City of Industry. Meanwhile, work has begun on a new grade separation at Baldwin Avenue in El Monte, requiring a 24-month closure of the existing crossing. Various utility relocations in San Gabriel are also underway.
The California State Legislature has some work to do to reform state environmental law. An April 1, 2013 court ruling on RCTC’s long-proposed Perris Valley Line Metrolink extension shows that Judge Sharon J. Waters ruled in favor of the opposing party on 5 of the 15 environmental concerns brought up in court: Negations to the soil, track lubricant usage, pedestrian safety, train wheel noise pollution, and construction related noise. This leaves the Perris Valley Line case in a complicated position under the current law, but the legislature has the power to avert further delays caused by broad court rulings through its power to change the law.
As reported, the state legislature has been working on and should follow through on its promise to close up California Environmental Quality Act loopholes so courts cannot delay, veto or overturn large projects which actually benefit the environment and reduce traffic congestion like the Perris Valley Line. Such lawsuits delay important projects which get paid for by the taxpayer. It is a common fact that a rail transit alternative for the I-215 corridor would reduce congestion and pollution by providing a multi-modal transportation option to single-occupancy automobile travel, thus fulfilling the goals and intents of state environmental law which is to protect the environment. To be fair, issues such as construction-related pollution should be dealt with by fining construction firms that excessively pollute. Same holds true for pedestrians who illegally trespass into an active rail right-of-way.
A bill to frame the investment of a significant portion of cap-and-trade revenues is beginning to make its way through the Assembly. AB 1051 would create the Sustainable Communities for All program with the goal of “providing transportation and housing choices that allow lower income Californians to drive less and reduce household costs.” The program would finance affordable housing in transit-oriented development, fund transit passes and add other ways to target high-propensity transit riders, energy efficiency improvements for homes affordable to low- and moderate-income Californians, and other vital programs and projects.
This funding is particularly important now that the state’s redevelopment funding has been eliminated and public transportation funding in California has been cut by more than $4 billion over the past decade. Cap-and-trade revenues are projected to reach nearly $4 billion per year by 2015, representing a critical opportunity to address the state’s mobility crisis while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving public health, and reviving our economy. The bill will be heard on April 17 in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee and the Assembly Transportation Committee on April 29. To learn how you can support this bill contact TransForm’s Cap-and-Trade Campaign Manager, Ryan Wiggins.