In response to the growing problem of Orange Line users attending to their physical needs near stations, the Metro Board recently voted in favor of studying ways to discourage riders from turning stations to their own personal bathrooms. The Pierce College station received the most attention, where students often engaged in such actions and the nearest restrooms are deep within the campus, about a half-mile away from the station. Metro could install temporary restrooms, which would require Metro to bend its own long-standing policy of not installing restrooms at stations. Metro could also opt for self-cleaning pay restrooms as is done at the North Hollywood Red Line Station.
While we’re in that general area of Orange County, the OCTA Board recently voted to expand the 405 Freeway without the controversial toll lanes. Residents of the communities served by the 405 Freeway denounced the initial plan and successfully persuaded the Board to postpone a vote on the plan in November. Since then, legislators stepped in by threatening to prepare a bill that would bar toll lanes on this particular stretch of road. Even OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson acknowledged that the concept was forming a wedge within the agency itself. Nevertheless, OCTA will pursue a widening of the freeway, ending the controversy for most residents.
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.
BART management and train operators are at their throats again, this time on account of a previously reported glitch in the contract the two sides already signed in agreement. According to BART, the contract erroneously included a provision that would give operators six weeks of paid family medical leave. Now the union representing the operators is suing the BART Board of Directors to preserve the stipulation, claiming that any action to remove it would amount to a “betrayal”. BART maintains that the provision was a “mistake” that was overlooked when the two sides approved the contract.
The Metrolink Perris Valley Line project received a $75 million federal grant which clears the project for construction within the next two to three weeks. The new Metrolink branch will extend the 91 Line from Riverside to Perris with stops at the Hunter Business Park in Riverside, March AFB in Moreno Valley, the downtown Perris Station Transit Center and southern Perris. The $248 million project would serve a fast-growing region and has the blessing of USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The California High Speed Rail Authority received another setback when the federal Surface Transportation Board rejected the Authority’s request to approve 114 miles of new track between Fresno and Bakersfield. The Authority requested the approval because its contract with the consortium headed by Tutor Perini included work to be performed on 5 of the 114 miles in the Fresno-Bakersfield segment. This comes on top of two court rulings that hamstring the project’s finances. Columnist George Skelton believes Governor Jerry Brown should be more upfront about where the money will come from, citing how Authority CEO Dan Richard was more candid about the situation when Skelton interviewed him.
Not surprisingly, HSR critics are interpreting this collection of news as some kind of death knell for the project, even though design and construction was allowed to move forward. Others expressed more demeaning opinions in light of the new challenges. However, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association believes that the real culprit is the lack of a meaningful federal partner that can provide funds and vision for this and other HSR projects. To that effect, the MHSRA organization is asking advocates to write to their Congressmembers, who are currently debating both the annual budget and the long-term authorization for railroads, and ask them to include more funds for railroad infrastructure in their plans.
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.
Will LA Mayor Eric Garcetti reshape the transportation landscape of the city he leads? The mayor will oversee new rail lines and complete streets initiatives during his tenure, even though many of these initiatives were ushered in by his predecessor Antonio Villaraigosa. However, while Villaraigosa was seen as a visionary, Garcetti is considered more pragmatic in his approach to addressing transportation problems. Garcetti may very well focus on reassessing the relationship between the citizens of Los Angeles and its existing infrastructure. The same could probably be said of whoever is set to lead the city’s Department of Transportation, which one pundit feels Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner for the City of New York, would be more than capable for the job.
As the state continues its climb out of the recession housing affordability around the state is once again moving front and center. While much of the media’s attention is focused solely on the cost of housing there is much more at stake. For middle and low-income families, affordable housing options accessible to transportation choices, jobs, education, and other services and amenities are critical for their economic well-being and health as well as that of our regions and state as a whole.
As California’s regions invest in expanding transit systems and building walkable communities it is critical that housing in these areas is affordable to a diverse set of incomes. On average low and middle income residents ride transit at significantly higher rates than those at the higher end of the scale. In other words, in order to maximize carbon and air quality emissions reductions affordable homes in existing and future transit rich areas are critical. At the same time, the true measure of affordability is not the cost of housing alone but instead the combination of housing and transportation costs.
The most glaring example we are currently seeing is from San Francisco where there is a growing backlash against Silicon Valley “techies” that are driving soaring housing costs that are pricing out middle and low-income families. In our own backyard, rapidly rising housing prices in Silicon Beach are making news for the same reason. Of course housing prices in much of the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro regions have been out of reach for a large proportion of working families for a long time. The important lesson for us is that in order for us to achieve our emission reduction and economic goals we must invest in transit and affordable homes in an integrated, strategic manner. The result will be less sprawl, healthier communities, and enhanced economic opportunities for all and competitiveness for our regions.
Gas prices this Thanksgiving were expected to average $3.27 a gallon, down 16 cents from last year and 5 cents below 2011, according to GasBuddy.com. This would translate to an extra $1.93 billion for would-be shoppers during the start of the holiday shopping season ( although a little sharing wouldn’t hurt). For Californians, much of the decreases are attributed to increased availability and delivery of oil from locations within the country, aided by new infrastructure to transport and store crude oil. One example comes from San Luis Obispo, where Phillips 66 recently completed a draft environmental document for a new rail terminal that would send up to 80 tank cars of crude oil to Southern California and the Bay Area. Refineries elsewhere are either adding or improving rail facilities at their refineries to receive these deliveries. However, the railroad industry is also calling on the federal government to provide stronger safety standards for oil cars in response to recent crashes and increased reliance by oil extraction companies to transport crude oil via rail. In any case, gas prices climbed back up by 10 cents per gallon since bottoming out in November.