LA CityWatch contributor Matthew Hetz previously wrote an article condemning the TAP system as sloppily enacted and cumbersome. Hetz directed particular scorn towards the TAP website, where transit users (allegedly) could refill their cards online but instead proved buggy and useless. Since then, however, Metro responded to Hetz’s concerns and showed them how the agency is cleaning up the mess this has caused. Hetz was impressed with the sincerity agency officials expressed. During the meetings between Metro and TAP users, Hetz included, staff stated that Metro is working with the third party contractor in charge of the website to improve functionality. Metro also demonstrated vending machine schematics that promise to be more user-friendly, according to Hetz.
Finally, the Southland blog takes a look at the forest of oil derricks that once peppered the landscape of Los Angeles. Today, oil extraction is done in more subtle ways through creatively designed buildings that hide the wells, but such was not possible back in the day. Also, KCET explores the communities that will one day house the South Bay Extension of the Green Line. Some of the destinations include Eastgate Plaza, a shopping center that has become a de facto gathering place for the local Japanese community, and the Madrona Marsh Nature Center.
Confusion has arisen as to how the locking of turnstiles at Metro Rail stations has affected ridership numbers. A survey by the Los Angeles Times determined that the turnstiles have reduced as many as 800,000 monthly boardings, to 4 million boardings a month. Currently, Metro does not use turnstiles to count boardings as other agencies do. Instead, Metro relies on staff counting a sample of passengers at stations, then interpolating the data according to the time of day and adding seasonal adjustments. However, turnstile and sample counts have differed greatly, with turnstile numbers much higher than what was sampled, and vice versa. Metro depends on these counts to receive federal funds and hope that turnstile counts can be incorporated to ridership numbers in the future.
Metro has also begun discussion as to how to bring about a new ballot measure that could bring transit and highway projects about at a faster pace. Though Metro tried to extend the existing Measure R by 30 years in 2012, the ensuing ballot measure, Measure J, failed to cross the required 2/3 supermajority by the thinnest of threads. Pundits attribute the failure to the lack of new projects, apart from what Measure R would fund, that soured some voters. Hoping to learn from their mistakes, Metro will craft a new measure with input from other communities and officials that may make the measure more palatable to voters. The new measure may possibly enact an outright sales tax increase instead of an extension of the Measure R tax. The Los Angeles Times believes proponents should take their time to write up the measure, which could come to voters either in 2014 or 2016.
Metro has started rolling the ball on general fare restructuring with a discussion brought about by the agency’s Finance, Budget & Audit Committee. With TAP now fully implemented and subway station turnstiles latched, Metro believes an opportunity is at hand to bring about distance-based fares on rail lines. However, Metro staff is also considering more innovative schemes that would encourage transfers that in turn would help make commuting faster and free up resources. Financial pressures have made discussion of the subject a necessity, since a lower farebox recovery ratio (currently at 26%) would lead to reduced federal grants and less service. It will be several months before Metro can divulge more concrete plans and discuss them at public hearings. In the meantime, view the agenda item to see what Metro has in mind.
For a long time, Metro Rail abided by the honor system. However, this past summer, gates and turnstiles were locked at 16 Metro subway stations to monitor riders and prevent commuters from riding for free. Audits conducted for these stations concluded that there was a 5% to 6% fare-evasion rate following this implementation. Despite efforts, it appears that many of the smaller light rail stations will remain on the honor system, as many are too small to have gates. Metro is examining plans for future stations to see how newer stations can be gated and locked. The agency also contracts approximately 400 deputies and 100 inspectors from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department to check patrons for tickets and patrol stations and trains.
In a peculiar twist to the ongoing design of the Metro Regional Connector, Metro staff disclosed renderings of a proposed pedestrian bridge for the future 2nd/Hope Station at a recent Community Leadership Council meeting for the project. Metro added the bridge in response to Bunker Hill groups that wanted a better connection to the Broad Museum under construction and nearby attractions. Metro estimates that the bridge will cost at least $7 million and would avoid conflicts between drivers and pedestrians on Hope Street. Metro also mentioned that a contract to build the station will be awarded in April. Meanwhile, workers laid down the first piece of actual track on Phase II of the Expo Line.
Councilmember Mike Bonin of the 11th district appears ready to tackle transportation issues facing the Westside of Los Angeles. Bonin, who is also Vice Chair of the Expo Construction Authority and Chair of the City Council Transportation Committee, acknowledged the need of more ways for commuters on the Westside to move north and south. He does not particularly support the 405 expansion, and said what should have been done instead is work on the LAX rail connection into the San Fernando Valley. Bonin, along with San Fernando Valley Councilmember Paul Krekorian, were appointed to the Metro Board of Directors by Mayor Eric Garcetti along with affordable housing advocate Jacqueline Dupont-Walker. Listen to the LA Streetsblog interview here.
Last week, the Metro Board approved a plan to accelerate Measure R transit projects but did not include a bid to update the financial picture for completing the Gold Line to Claremont. This left state lawmakers, Congressmembers and representatives from San Gabriel Valley cities steamed. These groups formed a coalition to support a request made by Boardmember Mike Antonovich to essentially include the project in the final list. That request failed to muster the necessary votes by the Board to pass, which means that Metro will not accelerate completion of the Gold Line to Claremont.
Now that the Metro Board doled out the contract for construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line, citizen advocate Damien Goodmon remains flustered from the failure to move a portion of the route underground. While Goodmon admits that the best chance to stop the project without the subway was at the Metro Board meeting last month, he remains hopeful that Metro will reconsider its decision as the Crenshaw Subway Coalition lawsuit goes before the courts. Goodmon also believes that Metro has various avenues of financing that the agency can pursue to make a subway through Park Mesa Heights happen. In response, upon receiving the CEQA lawsuit, Metro asked a state judge to toss it.