The Metrolink Board voted to award a $6.8 million contract to Wabtec Corp. that calls for a computer system designed to operate the agency’s positive train control system. The previous contractor, technology firm ARINC,failed to meet the deadline imposed by Metrolink to provide such a system. PTC would allow said computer system to communicate with radio and GPS and help control train movements with the intent of deterring crashes. A demonstration of PTC is scheduled for February 18.
Members of the Metro Board and other dignitaries were on hand last week to break ground for the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Project. The groundbreaking effectively begins heavy construction of the new line. The 8.5-mile line represents a return of passenger rail service to part of this corridor, which saw its last streetcars in 1955. Protesters gathered outside the event, however, expressed concern that Metro is not doing enough to hire local workers. Click here to learn more about the project and to receive construction notices.
The Metro Board voted to advance four peoplemover options for rail service to LAX into the environmental study phase, initially scuttling all light rail options. Airport officials have long cited the cost and security issues as the main reason direct rail service to airport terminals is impractical. However, the Board also voted to include two light rail options that would at least keep the possibility alive. As expected, no one is happy with this outcome, since the peoplemover options represent a complete disavowal to the notion of having a rail network directly connecting to LAX. Nevertheless, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern chimes in as to why the peoplemover may very well be the most optimal option for both the airport and Metro Rail.
A federal bill that would encourage transportation agencies to hire local contractors garnered the blessing of the LA Times editorial board. Pasadena officials contemplate placing a road diet and enhancing pedestrian amenities on the part of Colorado Boulevard that runs through Old Town. Union Station operators have opted to ease their restrictions on transients using the station. Finally, don’t become alarmed, but self-driving cars are already cruising around the Bay Area, albeit as part of a demonstration.
Just like the Arts District cited above, things are looking up for the rest of Downtown LA. That’s the conclusion of an article in GQ, which hailed the community as “ America’s Next Great City“. The boom in activity is largely attributed to loosened restrictions on redeveloping older buildings approved by city officials during the previous decade. Previously, businesses opted not to operate downtown, only to reluctantly open shop at the behest of officials and with the availability of incentives. Today, new businesses are sprouting up along Broadway and elsewhere out of their own initiative. This new vision is reflected in the Academy Award-nominated Spike Jonze film Her (2013), which takes place in a dramatically reimagined Downtown LA of the near future.
The LA County Board of Supervisors approved new design concepts for the Grand Avenue Project. The Board asserted that an older plan that they rejected in September did not leave much for pedestrians, while the new concept encourages pedestrian access from surrounding streets. The Grand Avenue Authority will consider approving the new designs this Wednesday. LA Curbed features additional renderings and models of the BOS-approved designs.
Down in the South Park district, things are looking even brighter. What was once a sea of parking lots and low-level industrial space is fast becoming a destination in its own right. New residential towers are already under construction, and many more are underway. The long-proposed Metropolis development on 9th Street, abutting the Harbor Freeway, may finally happen as well. Investors are also funding new hotels that would undoubtedly enhance the appeal of the LA Convention Center. Most notable, however, is the sale of the two parking lots immediately east of LACC and Staples Center, which were once slated for retail development but may morph into mixed-use developments. In fact, the last amenities missing in all of this are national chain stores that are recognized by the public but have been averse to opening shop in Downtown LA.
New transportation facilities are coming to the Los Angeles River. After 22 years of dreaming, plans to bridge the Elysian Valley with Taylor Yard are finally taking shape. Metro and LA City officials presented a model of the proposed bridge during a recent community meeting on the subject. The new bridge, a required mitigation for the Metrolink maintenance yard, would connect two disparate bike paths and provide previously inexistent connections to the two communities. The city is also working towards purchasing more property on the Taylor Yard side that would serve as open space. Nearby, demolition work on the Riverside Dr./Figueroa St. bridge will start. However, historic preservationists plan to make a last-minute attempt to preserve the bridge for recreational purposes, even though the new bridge that would replace it requires its removal.
Additionally, discussion continues on the possibility of converting the former Harbor Subdivision railway into a bike and pedestrian trail (see rendering) that would connect South Los Angeles with the LA River. Metro, in consultation with Alta Planning + Design, will launch a feasibility study that will address basic questions such as cost, possible designs and connections to other transit facilities. A presentation on the process this study would take is now available.
A recent report from the International Energy Agency concluded that worldwide demand for oil will increase by 1.4% thanks to renewed economic activity. 2010 was the last year the agency recorded a demand increase. The United States led the way in meeting the demand for oil during 2013, though pundits fear that existing laws placing export limits on crude oil may affect the nation’s ability to aid in satiating global demand.
With $8 billion in bonds held back by a court ruling, skeptics of the state high-speed rail project question how legislators will come up with the $180 million needed to match equivalent federal funds for the project coming in April. While the budget proposed by Governor Jerry Brown includes $250 million for HSR, said budget will not be finalized until June. This very question was the subject of a Congressional hearing on the project, where lawmakers critical of the project questioned how the state will fund the project since no private investor has come forward. CAHSR Authority Chairperson Dan Richard, who testified at the hearing, responded that a new business plan would address some of the issues brought forth in the above court ruling, which in turn would free up bond money.
As the court ruling further drags the project schedule, people are growing restless. A collection of letters submitted to the Los Angeles Times expressed anger at the developments and condescension at the very concept of HSR, employing red herring arguments that ask HSR money to be spent on unrelated initiatives instead. Cartoonist Ted Rall speculates that Brown could choose three ways to get more money for the project. Meanwhile, Hyperloop supporters have started to mull a state ballot measure that could fund their concept.
Our Inland Empire transit blog took a detailed look at how the sbX bus rapid transit system would benefit San Bernardino. Government officials hope choice riders will be enticed to leave their cars at home and take the bus. Long story short: Bus riders utilizing the existing local Omnitrans Route 2 for longer-haul trips to/from the high activity destinations certainly will patronize sbX as a speedy alternative to slower all-local bus trips. That has long been demonstrated when Metro Rapid was first rolled out.
As officials seek choice riders to use the new BRT line, a future transit project already in the works certainly will entice more commuters to leave their cars at a park & ride and take transit. That project is the extension of Metrolink into downtown San Bernardino where out-of-area train riders can seamlessly transfer to sbX at the E Street & Rialto Station to get to destinations like CSU San Bernardino and the Loma Linda University Medical Center area quickly. The same formula would work for outbound commuters too. It’s therefore safe to predict that sbX will be a successful bus route.
Remember our November 5, 2013 issue of our eNewsletter, which mentioned the increased prevalence of thinner seats on airlines as a means to shoehorn more passengers and, in turn, more revenue? Well, a new survey revealed that 83% of the sampled passengers who have knowingly used the seats were dissatisfied. Airlines contend that the new seats will become more comfortable over time. Curiously, even as the economic uptick has aided in the resurgence of business travel, most travelers are seeking cheaper meals found at Starbucks and McDonald’s according to another survey.