However, other news is not-so-positive. For example, the City of Los Angeles is suing American Airlines for $21.5 million, alleging that the airline has underpaid the airport since December 2010. In 2006, LAX adopted a calculation that increased costs for maintenance and operating fees for airlines that operate out of LAX. The airport reached long-term agreements with all airlines except American in 2012, and the airline continued paying a lower fee from a prior interim agreement. The parent company of American Airlines filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 29, 2011.
Omnitrans was placed in the media spotlight, specifically on the sbX bus rapid transit project that would provide a speedy transit alternative along a major local corridor in San Bernardino. Currently, Omnitrans Route 2 serves the north/south E-Street corridor; however, getting between the major destinations along the route is slow because its local stops are heavily used making longer distance bus trips slow. sbX will address this, emulating the Metro Orange Line through the higher density areas and Metro Rapid elsewhere. Much of the sbX debate now centers on whether choice riders would switch from their cars and use the bus and whether developers would be inclined to build and invest along the bus route with the abundance of street crime.
We’ll analyze the detailed reporting, remarks from those interviewed, reader comments, and constructive criticism from skeptics. Be sure to follow our Inland Empire Transit Blog for input this week to read updates.
The Metro Finance, Budget and Audit Committee this week will review a report on the rate of fare evasion on the Orange Line busway. According to the report, 22% of riders do not pay a fare at all, while 9% of riders fail to tap their TAP cards before boarding. To that end, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will step up inspections along the line, while the above committee and, in turn, the Metro Board take additional steps to reduce fare evasion.
The Metro Blue Line is in for an upgrade. Over the next several years, Metro will invest more than $850 million for 78 new train sets and to the renovation of 52 train cars. New cars will take on an appearance different from that of current ones, as they will be mainly gray (rather than white with a yellow stripe) with bright yellow fronts and backs. Of the funds for this upgrade, $13 million will go toward new overhead power lines, which flatten with use, causing power shortages and outages. Also, much excitement abounded when it was reported that the contractors in charge of building the Gold Line extension to Azusa installed the first station canopies. The construction authority behind the project hopes to open the line as early as 2015. Meanwhile, the same agency also issued a request for proposals for engineering work on the Montclair extension of the line.
During December, the LAPD cracked down on jaywalking in Downtown LA, with officers handing scofflaws tickets for even the most minor infractions. What was more troublesome, however, are the outrageous fines levied onto those who were ticketed. This could not have come at a worse time, as Downtown LA is reinventing itself as a pedestrian-friendly destination and an explosion in the residential population has made street-side businesses more viable. The Los Angeles Daily News editorial board expressed its discontent, stating that the crackdown seriously jeopardizes efforts to make LA more comfortable for people who walk.
However, the lack of safe sidewalks across Los Angeles has also hampered the creation of an attractive walking environment. City leaders are currently crafting a ballot measure that would authorize the city to issue $3 billion in bonds for street repairs. Those interested in better pedestrian environments see this proposal as an opportunity to repair and install sidewalks. The proposal could also set aside money for bike facilities, if advocates clamor for their inclusion in the bond measure.
Even as the Purple Line extension gets most of the attention, the LADOT will start major work on a series of bus lanes along Wilshire Boulevard. One such set of bus lanes opened last year in Koreatown. Notably, the bus lanes will run only within the boundary of the City of Los Angeles, meaning that no such lanes will exist in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. Moreover, a portion of Wilshire Boulevard through Westwood will not get such lanes either due to community opposition. When complete in early 2015, the lanes could reduce travel times by as much as 24%.
Governor Jerry Brown will release a proposed budget on Friday that will prominently feature revenues from the cap-and-trade auction held last year. Part of the budget calls for spending $250 million this year on high-speed rail, irking some environmentalists and pundits. This is despite the fact that the $250 million represents only 17% of the cap-and-trade funds. The rest will be spent on initiatives that would combat climate change such as forest management and home improvements.
The new year will prove pivotal for the HSR project, as Brown will most likely run again for office amidst a wave of support from prospective voters. Whoever challenges Brown to the governorship is bound to use his support of the controversial project as an expression of his perceived lack of fiscal control. Opponents will cite declining support among voters as a means to undermine his potential campaign. Additionally, the authority in charge of overseeing construction has yet to make a definitive decision as to when the project will break ground, frustrating project observers.
Recently, the LA Times published an article about a woman, Carmen Mendoza, who must use as many as 8 bus lines to transport her children to disparate schools across Los Angeles. One reader was so moved by the story that he decided to help out by giving the supercommuter her own vehicle. The donor noted how Mendoza’s experiences reflected his own rise from humble beginnings to become the owner of a growing air conditioning and refrigeration equipment business. The donor pooled funds from himself and others, delivered the used but well-maintained 2004 Kia Sedona van to Mendoza and later gave her family money to purchase a car insurance policy. This act of generosity is a far cry from what transients must now deal with thanks to Metro’s new policy of limiting the use of Union Station waiting areas to those who possess a train ticket. While no easy solutions exist for this thorny issue, Times readers were divided on how this new policy should be interpreted.
The future of Los Angeles transportation aesthetics continues to intrigue the minds of urban designers. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne takes a look at Metro’s efforts to develop a design template for all of its transit stations. Known as a “kit of parts”, this new template would bring uniform designs for station portals, ticketing machines, street furniture and turnstiles. While the kit of parts will undoubtedly save Metro funds in the long run by keeping materials and maintenance methods consistent, the effort is more geared towards giving the Metro system a recognizable global brand that is in tune with transportation systems in other cities. However, Hawthorne fears that the kit of parts as currently conceived is too sterile and would take years to fully implement. Our September 2012 issue of Moving Southern California discussed this concept.
Hawthorne also turned his attention toward the ongoing discourse of public space in Los Angeles. In recent years, new architectural marvels and open spaces have lifted the city’s global profile. However, with more people using public transportation and thus making last-mile connections by foot, there is still plenty to do to make the experience inviting. According to Hawthorne, such efforts should also extend to connecting Los Angeles with its neglected river and adding park space even as demand for improvable property increases. Meanwhile, the same newspaper’s editorial board gave glowing remarks on an effort to convert the former Harbor Subdivision into a bike trail that would connect to the Los Angeles River.
In a county designed for motorists, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez delves into the life of Carmen Mendoza, a Bell Gardens resident who relies entirely on public transportation. Her 15-hour days consist of a total of eight buses. She takes two of her children, Andy, 14, and Nicole, 11, to two different schools and also goes to work. After school, Andy attends soccer practice and Nicole takes dance lessons. Mendoza chose schools outside of where she lives because she wants her children to have a better education and more opportunities. She and her husband did not complete school in Mexico and she wants it to be different for her kids. While commuting on buses for such long distances has its disadvantages, Mendoza highlights how it allows her to be together with her children. Furthermore, if her kids went to schools in their neighborhood, she said, they would have too much idle time.