Patt Morrison for October 26, 2011

Ride along with Metro chief Art Leahy

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Metro CEO Art Leahy (L) with L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (C) and Department of Transportation District 7 director Mike Miles (R) posing with pieces of the Mulholland Bridge during L.A.'s first "Carmageddon" shutdown of the 405

President Obama’s visit reminded us: from point A to point Z, it’s all about getting around town. The head of the MTA is here to make the connection.

Join Arthur Leahy and KPCC’s Patt Morrison for the latest installment in a transportation series, with updates on the Metro’s plans for new high speed rail, highways, railways, and extensions of the existing Orange and Gold Lines.

Here’s some of what Leahy had to say:

$126 million in new federal grants for California: Where is it going?

“We have a very active program of construction, of highway projects, of transit projects, rail projects. […]They help create jobs, they help create mobility and they contribute to the recovery in California and in the U.S.”

“Specifically right now we’re working on the Crenshaw project, the exposition line is under construction and we’re in early design phases on the subway, the regional connector in Downtown Los Angeles, the expo line in San Gabriel Valley, as well as working on the I-5, the 405, and other major freeway projects around town.”

Crenshaw Project

“Right now we’re in the early design phases of the Crenshaw line that will run from Crenshaw and Exposition down through Inglewood near LAX on Aviation Boulevard just south of LAX."

“Part of that project we’d hoped [...] would have a station at Leimert Park. The problem right now is we don’t have enough money to pay for it, so we currently have three grant applications in place. […] All together, the Crenshaw project is around $1.7 billion, so it’s a very large project, even on a national scale.”

Metrolink

“Los Angeles pays for about 50 percent of the bills for Metrolink. We are a major funding partner.”

“We’re very interested in [Amtrak and Metrolink]. We want transportation between Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo down to Orange, and into San Diego. Los Angeles is the heart of all that. The rail service along that area really helps relieve the I-5 and the Hollywood freeway, so it’s very important to get people on those trains.”

Possible subway stop in Beverley Hills

“We’re just in the early design phase of a subway that would run from the current area of Wilshire and Western out, ultimately, through Beverly Hills over by UCLA to the Veterans' Hospital. Over in Beverly Hills, the school district has expressed concern about a subway stop going underneath the high school.”

“Just last week we got a report from a staff panel from project folks, which include geologists, seismologists and engineers […] At this point we’re not worried about which would be the most effective, because the first issue of course is to be safe, particularly in Southern California, where we have all the earthquakes.”

On integrating different transportation providers

“Well, they all have their own budgets. There’s a large amount of money involved and people want to be solvent.”

“We have increased the accessibility of bicycle riders on our buses and trains. They can now ride all day long, including peak periods. We’ve outfitted certain cars such that up to 20 people can go onto a rail car with a bicycle, and of course all buses have bike racks. We’re seeing a big increase in people riding on a bus and then getting on a train. I accept the challenge of working to improve the connections with the other carriers in the county.”

Frequency of subway service

“We want to run later night service more frequently; we’ll be talking about that in the coming month or so. In next year’s budget I want to talk with the board about trains running 'til perhaps 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. I should point out there are MTA buses that run 24 hours a day.”

Frequency of bus stops

“We try to have a bus stop or a bus line within two blocks of most people's houses. We think two blocks, a quarter mile, is typically a satisfactory walking distance. We are endeavoring to run more on-time service, in fact in the past two years, our on-time performance is up from 60 to 80 percent.”

Do the buses cause damage to streets?

“Well, it used to take place back in the old days with diesel buses, because diesel fuel, when it drips, can erode blacktop. That’s not true of the compressed natural gas buses that we have today, and we are the first transit system in the country to go all natural gas.”

“The MTA is investing a great deal of money in improving the street maintenance along Wilshire Boulevard.”

The next “Carmageddon” – the moniker for the July 2011 closing of a large section of Interstate 405

“We don’t want to close off-ramps unless we absolutely have to. We will be having closures at Getty Center Drive, at Mullholland and Skirball Bridge, things like that, but we’ve deferred the Wilshire closures 'til first quarter of next year.”

“I know it’s painful, I know it causes problems, but we’ve got to get this work on the 405 done, we’ve got to get the bridges rebuilt.”

Leahy said MTA would be glad to answer any other questions, comments or suggestions at www.metro.net

WEIGH IN:

How did Metro’s decisions to eliminate some bus lines and significantly reduce others affect its low-income ridership, even as gas prices continued to rise? Whatever came of the controversy surrounding the construction of a new station in Leimert Park? How’s Metro’s new online bus-tracking service, NexTrip, working? And has CicLAvia changed the way Angelenos think about getting around our vast landscape? Weigh in with your transit questions and comments.

Guest:

Arthur Leahy, chief executive officer, Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)


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