Finally, KCET’s River Notes section offers a summary of what has transpired so far in regards to the Sixth Street Viaduct, which is slated for replacement. “Concrete cancer” has irreversibly compromised the condition of the existing historic structure. The City of Los Angeles selected HTNB as the designer of the new bridge in October 2012, and demolition of the old structure will begin no earlier than December 2014. Opinions are mixed as to what effect the new bridge and its construction will have on residents and business owners who depend on the bridge to access Downtown LA.
A lack of action in Congress could force the reduction of the transit commuter benefit back to $130 per month, a reduction from the current amount of $245. Both the transit and the parking commuter benefits (the latter also worth $245) are an employer-provided federal tax benefit designed to defray the cost of traveling for workers. The parking commuter benefit is permanent and rises with inflation, with the benefit increasing to $250 next year. By contrast, the transit benefit is usually extended, with the threat of returning back to $130 always present. However, an opportunity exists to let transit riders voice their opinion to their Congressmembers on the importance of either extending the transit benefit again or, better yet, making the higher transit benefit amount permanent and indexed to inflation.
The 91 Express Lane extension project entered into its construction phase with a groundbreaking ceremony. Riverside County officials have long proposed extending the HOT lanes from the Orange County line east into Corona with a direct access ramp at the I-15 freeway to/from the south. The groundbreaking was more ceremonial than literal as the event took place on the top deck of the Corona Transit Center parking structure, away from the actual freeway. Transit center and Metrolink station patrons were a bit upset that their parking structure was unavailable during a regular business day even as officials previously notified them to park at the neighboring train stations as an alternative.
Late public dissent over the high occupancy toll lane proposal has begun to surface, potentially caused in part by the negative public reaction of Orange County’s now-shelved I-405 HOT lane proposal. Project 91 is nearly identical to the I-405 Improvement Project. Proposals include doubling the capacity and converting the existing 2+ carpool lane into a 3+ HOT lane, add a general purpose lane, and add additional auxiliary lanes. Numerous bridges will be upgraded as well.
Ordinarily, the Transit Coalition would oppose the conversion of an existing carpool lane into a transponder-mandated HOT lane. Look at what resulted in LA last year. However unlike the I-10, I-110, and the I-405 corridors, when the 91 becomes congested–which it does during commute hours, many holidays, weekends, and hot summer days–the carpool lane is just as slow as the general purpose lanes. 2+ carpool demands are so high that they exceed capacity for the corridor. With the addition of a general purpose lane, the traffic chaos caused by the displacement of 2-person and non-registered 3+ carpoolers from the high occupancy lanes will be minimal for the short term. Meanwhile, Riverside officials should plan between now and opening day a strong marketing campaign to convert the 2-person carpools into 3+. At a later time, public officials from all levels can pay off the bond debt so that the 91 can financially support free non-transponder 3+ carpooling with robust transit infrastructure.
Thanks to the BART strikes and the ongoing cat fight between train operators and management and similar actions elsewhere, public opinion on unionized labor has taken a big hit. In a recent poll, 45% of respondents believe unions do more harm than good, up from 35% in March 2011. 44% of those polled believe that transit workers should not be allowed to strike, compared to 47% who believe they should. Not lost on this sentiment, State Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) proposed legislation that would prohibit transit unions from striking. Union representatives lambasted the proposal by noting that no similar checks are proposed for management.
Consternation continues over the recent rulings against the state high-speed rail project. To summarize, two state rulings prohibit the state HSR Authority from using bond money to fund construction of the first segment between Madera and Fresno, though design and property acquisition were allowed to continue. Another ruling, this time by the federal Surface Transportation Board, prevents the Authority from going through with construction because 5 miles of the previously approved route still require a completed environmental document. Undaunted, Authority CEO Dan Richard replied that these issues are typical of large public works projects. Richard believes that construction can start with federal grants and challenges can be countered in the coming months.
Stuart Flashman, an attorney who has represented clients in relation to HSR issues, asserts that the CAHSRA should start from scratch, scuttle the current route (which serves multiple population centers) and instead use a direct route using the I-5 and the Altamont Pass. Flashman claims that Central Valley cities should embrace upgraded Amtrak service as an alternative to HSR, despite the fact that even less funds for capital improvements towards the existing passenger rail network are available.
With gate latching at Red and Purple Line stations now complete, Metro focuses its attention to the Blue Line, where select stations will be latched starting this week. However, some Blue Line stations will not have latched gates because they are too small to host turnstiles. Thus, passengers entering through said stations will still use the honor fare system. (Contrary to the linked report, gate latching at Green Line stations has been delayed.) As with other latched stations, passengers must use TAP cards with loaded fares to enter the station.
A study performed by USC reaffirms what transit advocates have said all along: Providing quality rail transportation reduces vehicle usage and pollution. The study specifically looked at car use before and after the opening of the Expo Line to Culver City. Of note, those who live within half a mile of a station reduced their driving by 40%, traveled 10 to 12 miles less per day and increased transit use threefold. Access to transit also increased physical activity by adding time spent walking to stations. In turn, these same individuals reduced their carbon emissions by 30%. While it is not reasonable to expect the majority of Southern Californians to be within an earshot of a rail station, the study demonstrates that better transit can improve people’s lives in tangible ways.
KCET’s Social Focus section takes a look at an oddity in Downtown LA’s street grid: Broadway Place, a diagonal street that connected Olympic/Broadway with Main Street. Broadway once had its southern end at what was then known as Tenth Street, but business owners clamored for a direct connection to Main Street in order to enhance connections to southern Los Angeles, a connection that was ultimately provided by Broadway Place. However, a southward extension of Broadway proper made the connection redundant. Los Angeles eventually vacated the street, thus removing it from the street grid, during the last decade. The former street is now part of a parking lot.
The Transit Coalition advocates for a first-rate and robust transit system all throughout Southern California. Part of our advocacy work includes keeping our communities free from gang crimes so that our transit fleets and stations remain clean and safe which are patronized by a productive labor workforce, not mired in graffiti or crime.
In the Inland Empire, the Press Enterprise has been providing continuous coverage of independent groups peacefully fighting to take back their communities from local street gangs. The tactic that these groups are using is preventing vulnerable youth from joining the criminal culture in the first place. Gangs rely on new members to replace those either killed or incarcerated.
Last October following the murder of 6 year old Tina Ricks, groups in Moreno Valley worked on stepping up their efforts to connect with at-risk youth. More recently, a former Inland gang member who turned away from this culture after serving time in jail has been working very hard to provide a positive place for troubled teens. Terrace Stone founded Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy in 2001. There are centers throughout San Berardino County and Moreno Valley. In addition, numerous religious organizations provide mentors, job leads and help for incarcerated youth to prevent them from returning to the gangs upon release. Our Inland Empire transit blog goes into deeper detail of how stopping gang violence benefits transportation mobility.
Starting next year, the Los Angeles World Airports will launch at least four new FlyAway services across Southern California, with buses serving Hollywood, Torrance, Santa Monica and the Orange Line Sepulveda Station. However, to those who have a vision of how passengers can better access LAX, even a massive expansion of FlyAway service isn’t enough. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Mike Bonin contributed an op-ed explaining the need for a rail connection to the airport, which is partly funded under Measure R and under study by Metro. Garcetti and Bonin revealed that one prominent alternative that remains in play is the LAX Connect, which would create a spur of the Crenshaw Line to a new transportation hub on airport property, where passengers can check in and reach their terminals through a peoplemover.