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.
Both the Riverside Transit Agency and the City of Riverside have big plans to bring rapid transit along the city’s dense corridors. A light rail car to be delivered to San Diego made a stop in downtown Riverside. The Siemens S70 train was parked on University Avenue offering a real-time preview of what rapid rail transit might look like along the streets of Riverside. Based on a Riding in Riverside blog post, city officials hope that one day, Riverside will mimic Portland complete with multi-modal transit mobility and transit oriented development. The project at hand is Riverside Reconnects, a streetcar proposal advocated by the City of Riverside.
Public debate on this project has been robust. For Riverside Reconnects to work, it will need to be done right and coordinated with the Riverside Transit Agency. The finished product must not duplicate existing RTA bus service, proposed bus rapid transit, nor obstruct existing traffic flow. The technology used to move the citizens of Riverside must also be fact-based and cost-efficient. The local press has opposed the streetcar for those very reasons. RTA has recently proposed to phase in peak-hour limited stop runs of Route 1 within the next few years with long term plans for all day RapidLink BRT service with station stop amenities. The Transit Coalition originally envisioned dedicated transit lanes for the higher density areas for the RapidLink service so that the rapid buses neither obstruct existing traffic nor get stuck in congestion, much like how sbX system is being developed in San Bernardino. Also envisioned are RTA ticket vending machines at each of the RapidLink stations that will help accelerate the boarding process. We also have a blog post on how officials can speed up the BRT project. RTA and the City need to network and coordinate these two projects. We don’t want RTA to spend precious resources on RapidLink only to find out that a separate trolley line will scrape and replace BRT only a few years later.
The Transit Coalition has long been advocating for better Metrolink and bus service in Riverside through A Better Inland Empire. There is no question that both the Magnolia and University Avenue corridors are in need of better rapid transit options and a quick and speedy alternative to slower local bus service for longer trips. Both agencies need to work to get first-rate transit lines built for Riverside and both need to agree on which technology would work best in regards to transporting passengers and keeping costs in check, whether it be rail or BRT. The city also needs to ensure Riverside Reconnects doesn’t ignore the need to connect with Metrolink. In terms of connecting local transit to Southern California’s regional rail system, the sound idea of establishing the downtown transit hub at the Metrolink station with a pedestrian overpass across the 91 Freeway into the core has been on the drawing board for almost a decade.
As pictured here, developer incentives can transform the train station into a robust transit and marketplace employment hub with the transit center, a Riverside Reconnects station stop, and the bridge integrated into the development. The infrastructure would be fully paid for. Getting private capital and marketplace jobs into Downtown Riverside will be key to getting a funded, robust transit system for Riverside’s streets.
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.
The new Oakland Bay Bridge won the hearts of Bay Area motorists, cyclists and pedestrians for its multi-modal and elegant design roughly two months after its grand opening. However, the reality is that the project was plagued with cost overruns and structural deficiencies. As a result, state Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) announced that he will head a series of meetings by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee with the express intent of learning what went wrong during the 16 years the bridge was designed and constructed. DeSaulnier hopes that information attained from the meetings will help lawmakers craft future legislation that would increase accountability from Caltrans and improve project management.
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.
After much controversy, LADOT General Manager Jaime De La Vega will step down. A holdover from the Villaraigosa Administration, De La Vega came under scrutiny by department managers for his abrasive attitude. It is worth noting that De La Vega came in when the LADOT was dogged by numerous scandals, to which De La Vega succeeded in controlling the damage and addressing deficiencies. It was also under his leadership that the department took an increased interest in bicyclist and pedestrian needs. In the meantime, LA Department of Recreation and Parks General Manager Jon Kirk Mukri will serve as the interim general manager of LADOT.
A report requested by Congressmember Henry Waxman and recently released to the public outlines the causes of delay for the I-405 northbound carpool lane project. The report singles out failed retaining walls and their ineffective design as the major culprit, although other factors such as lawsuits and utility relocations also factored in. A near collapse of one such wall in 2011 led to the demolition and reconstruction of all 14 such walls along the route and a state ban on using related construction methods.
For its part, Metro stated that the project is 85% complete, with the 3-mile segment of the (temporarily mixed-flow) lane open already shaving minutes off of individual commutes. One letter to the editor provides some perspective, noting that the design-build method shaved years off the typical construction schedule. New bridges will open in the next few months, as well. Ultimately, this project will provide continuous carpool lanes between Orange County and north Los Angeles County.
Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern wrote several articles on the state of affairs with specific local transportation policies. In this piece, Alpern mulls as to how to make a rail connection to LAX both cost-effective and attractive for travelers. Another piece gives warning to policymakers who ask for tax increases yet don’t assure the public that the government is spending existing tax revenues responsibly. In a subsequent article, Alpern recognizes that any transportation project that aims to achieve a meaningful impact will have to be paid for by taxpayers and that everyone must share the burden in order to benefit.
In other news, the Los Angeles Times editorial board expresses its doubts about the proposed Downtown LA streetcar amidst clearer construction cost estimates… and the feeling is mutual in this response to the editorial. The Los Angeles Downtown News published a much lengthier editorial denouncing Angels Flight management for various lapses of judgment while operating the historic funicular, even as the National Transportation Safety Board faulted the funicular’s lack of safety features. Also, NBCUniversal continues to bring local audiovisual content to video screens across the Southland, with the venture now expanding into TransitTV. This means that bus riders will now have an hour of NBC programming piped into those ubiquitous TV screens and into their commutes, much to their dismay.