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Meanwhile, progress continues on the new bridge that will replace the outdated Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach.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.
A messy dispute between the Ventura County Transportation Commission and the Fillmore & Western Railway could bring an end to the latter’s vintage rail service. The VCTC owns railroad tracks between Ventura and Fillmore and has leased the tracks to the railway to operate a for-profit heritage passenger train. However, the VCTC wishes to terminate the lease, claiming that Fillmore & Western has not performed the maintenance that both sides agreed to and that the railroad overcharged VCTC for the maintenance that was performed. Western& Fillmore has since sued the agency in court in an attempt to block the termination of the lease, even as the two entities continue to work out a new lease that could potentially address the above issues.
Starbucks inaugurated its first in-train coffee shop in Zürich, Switzerland, complete with Starbucks logos wrapped around the train car. However, the design of this novel shop proved challenging for a chain that sells coffee at stationary shops. But ssssh! Don’t tell that to Congressional lawmakers who are all too eager to eliminate “money-losing” food operations on Amtrak and thus completely miss the point of their importance.
Negotiations between BART and its workers have hit a bump, as the agency accidentally included a certain provision in the tentative contract. The provision, which could cost BART up to $44 million in a four-year span, would allow workers up to six weeks of paid leave per year to handle health and family issues. At the moment, employees must use their sick days or vacation when they take time off to deal with such issues with pay. Two strikes have affected the Bay area this year. Nearly half a million people travel via BART each weekday, and both the agency and employees are working on coming to an agreement.
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.
Ridesharing outfit Sidecar announced that the company will end its current payment system where riders could “donate” but not outright pay for a ride. Instead, riders must now pay a minimum amount as determined by Sidecar. The system was apt for abuse as those who shared a ride with a driver could simply choose not to pay after the ride is given. The move comes as Sidecar is fiercely competing against Uber and Lyft for customers. In response, Lyft announced that it too will dispense with the “donation” method and obligate riders to pay a minimum amount. Sidecar believes that drivers would be more willing to drive farther and more frequently if there was a concrete way they could receive reimbursement for related expenses. The changes will apply only for California customers.
In the Bay Area, commuters celebrated the opening of the new fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel on Saturday, November 16. The new tunnel will improve connections between Oakland and eastern Contra Costa County communities. Safety tests were completed before the new tunnel opened. The fourth bore will feature the latest designs in tunnel safety, on top of the safety features in place inside the existing three bores. Said features helped drivers escape to safety and first responders to reach the tunnels quickly during a recent fire in one of the existing bores.
In other transportation notes, another milestone on the 405 Freeway carpool lane project is reached as all ramps of the interchange at Wilshire Boulevard are complete and open for business. In San Bernardino, officials revealed that estimates for an extension of Metrolink service to Redlands have increased from the original $156 million to a range of between $200 million and $300 million. However, the project is on schedule and ready to start construction next year as a request for proposals on building the first mile of track was sent out recently.