From Stephen Lee Davis on the T4America Blog: For the first time in a decade, Congress is on the cusp of passing a 5-year transportation authorization bill that will carry us into the next decade. Though we await final floor votes and the President’s signature, it will almost certainly be approved in a matter of days. So how does the bill stack up against the pressing needs of our country? While the final bill has changed only slightly from the separate versions passed by the House and the Senate since July, we’re going to take a slightly different tack than our usual “ten things you need to know,” and break this bill up into the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Writes Oliver Wainwright: "Architects may have felt creatively stifled in the old Soviet empire — but there was one place where their imaginations were encouraged to run riot: the bus stop. Photographer Christopher Herwig went on a 30,000km odyssey to capture their strange beauty." See the astonishing photos in The Guardian.
South LA’s star is rising. It’s not just because of the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, though the increased mobility that a rail line brings — especially a rail line that comes within a mile of LAX — is a catalytic force that can bring all kinds of changes. It’s also because South LA has a powerful advocate at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, with County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas serving as chair of the board. (The Supervisor is photographed with students from LA Trade Tech, LA Community College District Board of Trustees Vice President Mike Eng, Denny Zane, and Michael Woo, dean of Cal Poly Pomona's College of Environmental Design, at a board meeting about the feasibility of a universal student transit pass program; more about that below.)Read more
October was a very productive month for moving toward Metro's 2016 ballot measure. First, Governor Brown signed SB 767 (De Leon), enabling Metro to go to the ballot and outlining a process that will balance local needs with regionally significant aspirations and appropriate funding goals. Then, at Metro’s October board meeting, staff provided a glimpse into the potential 2016 ballot measure and the long range transportation plan when it approved a staff report initiating the framework process: Now through the summer of 2016, Metro will engage the public in shaping both the measure and the LRTP. What was notable about the staff report:Read more
Congress has shown a decided lack of interest in raising or indexing the federal gas tax to pay for a federal transportation bill that now gets 30% of its funding from sources other than the gas-tax-funded Highway Trust Fund, which has been on the verge of insolvency every year. Meanwhile, voters across the country considered 16 ballot measures for transit, passing 11 of them, and another 2 are too close to call. Read more in these good stories on the Transportation For America blog and the Center for Transportation Excellence blog. One of the most notable victories, reports T4America, was in Seattle, where voters approved the extension of a property tax levy to fund 7 new bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors, three new light rail access points, 150 miles of new sidewalks, at least 16 bridge seismic retrofits, and the repaving of 180 miles of arterial streets.
Isela Gracian from East LA Community Corporation and Sandra McNeill of TRUST South LA write on NRDC's Switchboard blog that while low-income residents in East and South LA report using transit for most planned trips, owning a car is still necessary for last-minute trips. But with 1 out of 5 Angelenos making less than $25,000 a year, and the cost of owning a car in SoCal averaging at about $9,000/year, this means spending 40% of their household income. That's why, they write, low-income communities are increasingly interested in bikeshare and in the city's new low-income electric carshare program, coming soon to Koreatown, Westlake, Pico-Union, and to neighborhoods north of USC and near Hollywood and Vermont. Move LA sits on the Steering Committee. Read more on Fernando Cazares' Switchboard blog.
The Eco-Rapid Transit joint powers authority was created to link economic development and transportation along a 40-mile corridor from Artesia in southeast LA County northwest to the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, and to be a catalyst for transportation improvements including a 20-mile light rail line from Artesia to Union Station in downtown LA. This project, the West Santa Ana Branch Corridor, would stop in nearly a dozen cities and is projected to carry 70,000 riders—about the same as the Blue Line, the second-busiest light rail line in the US. Studies of the line were funded by Measure R. Eco-Rapid Transit is staging a Transportation Summit on Nov. 18 in Artesia at the Portuguese Hall. More information here.
We won't know which 10 projects win until later. But we were pleased that LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas retweeted our student transit pass video, which was part of our LA2050 proposal. He retweeted AFTER the voting was over, but we interpret it as a sign that he supports creating a universal student transit pass program at Metro! (He introduced a motion last September that directed staff to study the feasibility of such a program, and his motion passed unanimously.)
Spoiler Alert: Things are no better than you would have expected. The House version of the bill, which is being debated on the floor, is more or less in line with the Senate version passed last summer. The real disappointments in the House bill are: 1) The TIFIA low-interest loan program--from which LA County has benefited, and which had been hailed as a major victory because it leverages local investment--would be slashed by 80%; 2) While preserving transit’s historic share of funding the bill lowers the federal share provided for transit projects to 50% of the total cost, compared to 80% for highway projects. 3) There’s a new freight program, but 90% of the funding is for highways. 4) The much-loved TIGER program—that provided funding for the Crenshaw Line and the Rail-to-River project, for example--was not made a permanent program in the bill, as was hoped.Read more
The LA County Board of Supervisors took a bold step in addressing our crushing housing crisis last week: They approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl directing county staff to identify a permanent local source of county funding to build new apartments with affordable rents and to fund other ways of helping homeless and precariously housed residents. The goal is to immediately dedicate $20 million in new county funding, and increase the amount to $100 million each year within five years. More than 120 organizations — including business, health, religious, environmental, services, community and housing organizations — sent in 1,700 letters and postcards in support of this motion. (Photo: LA Times.)Read more