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.
A report issued by LA city budget analysts revealed that construction costs for a port terminal upgrade soared from the $245 million approved by the LA City Council in 2009 to an unseasonable $510 million. Both Councilmember Joe Buscaino and port officials agreed that the problem stemmed from builders not asking for amendments to the project sooner and the port commission dismissing the changes as inconsequential. One particular change included the installation of rail-mounted container cranes instead of rubber-tired cranes. As a means to formally incorporate the latest project changes and to control future costs, city staff will consider amending the lease made with future terminal operator TraPac. The city expects to receive $2.3 billion over the life of the lease. The City Council has since approved the changes, much to their chagrin.
Meanwhile, progress continues on the new bridge that will replace the outdated Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach. It doesn’t feel that way since much of the construction is occurring well away from prying eyes. Unbeknownst to most, Terminal Island mainly consists of fill, which has sunk over the years on account of oil extraction. Currently, workers are capping oil wells and relocating utilities at the site of the future bridge, which has increased project costs by $240 million.
Trolley tracks formerly ran down the center of the 101 Freeway. A photo shared by the Metro Transportation Library shows this, and Nathan Masters explained that when dignitaries and others dedicated the Cahuenga Pass Freeway on June 15, 1940, its eight concrete lanes were divided by two sets of trolley tracks. Later on, the median was paved for more automobiles. Currently, the Red Line runs through the Cahuenga Pass.
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.
What happened to bikesharing in Los Angeles? The LA City Council voted last December to move forward with the plan, but nothing has come of it since. Much of the problem stems from permit issues and the advertising plan, which caused conflicts with previous advertising agreements between the city and ad purveyors. BikeNation, which promised to bring bikesharing at no cost to the city, initially banked on the idea that the concept could be built through advertising revenues. Now Metro has come into action, as its Board voted last week to find a vendor that would bring bikesharing to Los Angeles County and discern the state of the industry. However, bringing bikesharing to the county may add its own hurdles, particularly when it comes to working with municipalities on installing bike stations and hiring operators.
The Los Angeles City Council recently voted on a new growth plan for Warner Center, which would guide the transformation of the mainly auto-centric business hub into a transit village. The Warner Center 2035 Plan would focus on pedestrian-oriented design and environmentally sound transportation options. Unique to Los Angeles, this new plan calls for the installation of “slow vehicle lanes”, which offer dedicated travel lanes for vehicles slower than bicycles. The success of the Orange Line bolsters the notion that transit-oriented development will fuel future growth in the area, according to proponents. The plan also calls for “activity nodes” that encourage public gatherings. The plan has the support of various local groups.
When Metro and its predecessor agencies set out to build the local urban rail system, a decision was made to exclude restrooms in station designs as a means to cut future maintenance costs and reduce opportunities for crime. This decision traveled over to the Orange Line busway, which similarly has no restrooms. However, residents along the line are complaining to Metro that the lack of such facilities are forcing riders to attend to their human needs in nearby streets, alleys and landscaped areas. However, jurisdiction issues could hamper both the enforcement of laws concerning such activities and the installation of appropriate facilities in the future, which could include pay-to-use restrooms such as one installed at the North Hollywood Red Line Station.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar hosted a public meeting on the proposed downtown streetcar on November 4. Despite the surprise increase in the streetcar’s price tag, Huizar vows to continue championing for the project. A report from city staff concluded that the streetcar could cost at least $232 million, not the $125 million originally estimated. By contrast, Huizar stated that the project could be done between $125 million and $165 million, a price range that does not include utility relocation. If nothing else, proponents assert that they wish to be as transparent as possible when it comes to the true costs of the streetcar. A downtown parcel tax voted into effect would provide $62.5 million for the project, while Los Angeles can secure $75 million in federal grants if officials can identify other funding sources.
Huizar believes that building the streetcar will foster investment in Downtown LA, especially as part of an effort to restore Broadway to its original glory. To be fair, new shops and residences are sprouting along the corridor even in the absence of a streetcar. However, other cities that are merely constructing them at this time are already reaping in the benefits. This is what Riverside officials had in mind when they brought in an assembled streetcar for denizens to peruse, as mentioned below. Critics contend that the high price of streetcars that serve a small area should make cities averse to installing them, despite their proven ability to garner economic growth.
In fact, one mayoral candidate in Cincinnati won the office last week on a platform to stop advancement of a streetcar project in that city for the reasons cited above. Mayor-elect John Cranley and three new city councilmembers vowed to stop the project despite ongoing construction, secured local and federal funds, and locked-in contracts for both tracks and cars. Supporters swiftly gathered to devise a strategy that would keep the streetcar alive and under construction, with the hope that they can enlist business leaders and entrepreneurs to convince Cranley of the project’s merits and the concept’s successes elsewhere. In fact, streetcar proponents point out that it may very well cost more to eliminate the streetcar at this stage than to continue the project. Mind you, this is coming from the same city that has a half-built subway that has never been in service.
Talks of building a football stadium in Los Angeles have been ongoing for years, but now it looks like actual groundwork could start as early as January, city officials say. Ed Roski Jr., the billionaire head of Majestic Realty Co., said he planned on bringing an NFL team to LA in 2008 with a state-of-the-art $800 million stadium, but work has not started at the tentative site off Grand Avenue near the 60 and 57 Freeways. City Manager Kevin Radecki said a major reason for the delay was the dissolution of redevelopment agencies. But even with an NFL stadium, Los Angeles is not guaranteed a football team, according to City Engineer John Ballas.
Could Lancaster become an appealing location for Chinese investment? That’s what the city’s mayor, R. Rex Parris, is trying to do. Parris has spent time visiting China and talking with Chinese investors. He said he hopes Lancaster will become the biggest area of Chinese corporations in the state. So far, the city has managed to convince Build Your Dreams (BYD), a Chinese battery and electric bus company, to open up a factory there. Hopefully, this new investment will succeed in creating jobs and bringing in revenue. BYD, however, has already been cited for violating labor laws, such as paying employees below minimum wage and not allowing workers to take their second rest breaks, as required by California law. Christopher Tang, a business professor at UCLA, said while Lancaster isn’t well known like Los Angeles or San Francisco, it is becoming more and more expensive to invest in factories in the latter cities. Should Lancaster offer concessions for such investments, it may be more attractive to build there instead.