A Tantalizing Preview of the Crenshaw/LAX Line

The $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project is scheduled for completion in 2019 but, thanks to students at Los Angeles Trade Tech College, we can catch a glimpse right now of what’s to come.

Working with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, LATTC students created a video simulating a bird’s eye view of the 8.5-mile light rail line that will travel between South Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport.

Construction is more than halfway complete. The project will serve passengers in the Crenshaw District, Leimert Park, Inglewood, Westchester, El Segundo, and points in between. There will be eight stations, with the northernmost connecting to the Expo Line and the southernmost to the Green Line.

The project is expected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000, and would be the first to serve the area since streetcars – dubbed “Yellow Cars” – stopped running in the 1950’s. It is funded through a loan from the federal government and Measure R, a half-cent transit sales tax approved by voters in 2008.

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Metro Transit Plan To Ballot

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On Thursday, The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved the updated Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan for placement on the upcoming November ballot. The sales tax measure calls for a sustained funding approach that, if approved by the voters, would accelerate and pay for a wide variety of transit and highway projects, roadway improvements and pedestrian and bike paths.

“Today’s action paves the way towards building and sustaining a world-class, 21st Century transportation system here in Los Angeles County to accommodate the region’s growing needs,” said Metro Board Chair and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The placement of this important measure before the voters in November is a giant step in order to improve mobility, create jobs and improve the quality of life for all of L.A. County.”

“This plan includes hundreds of local and regional capital improvement projects,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “But this plan goes far beyond building and delivering projects. It includes operating and maintaining the system we build, developing new services that meet
the shifting needs of our region and it creates a smarter system that takes full advantage of the technology that is out there today and technology of the future that has yet to be developed.”

The Board also adopted an ordinance that included the expenditure plan that will implement the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan through a transportation sales tax measure and also adopted a resolution requesting that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors place the ordinance on the ballot with specific ballot language for the November 8, 2016,
countywide general election. The Board also approved a Metro staff recommendation to add $10.9 million to fund election related and public information activities.

The new Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan is available at www.metro.net/theplan.

A Promise Zone in South LA

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The Obama administration has awarded South Los Angeles a federal Promise Zone designation, giving it priority access to federal funding as well as technical assistance to address the area’s 46 percent poverty rate.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Nani Coloretti made the announcement during a press conference at Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC). She said the goal of the Promise Zone initiative, created by President Barack Obama in 2013, is to significantly reduce poverty by providing greater resources to serve residents.

The new South L.A. Promise Zone is home to nearly 198,000 residents in parts of Vernon-Central, South Park, Florence, Exposition Park, Vermont Square, Leimert Park, and the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw neighborhoods. It is one of one of 13 urban Promise Zones in the nation, and the second in the City of Los Angeles.

IMG_0656 (1)A coalition of 53 community partners and more than 50 allies who developed the winning application call it the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z). They seek to capitalize on opportunities that new light rail lines bring for economic development and neighborhood revitalization.

“SLATE-Z represents an unprecedented partnership among dozens of diverse organizations with the collective vision of improving the quality of life in South LA,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This place-based approach aims to transform distressed neighborhoods into destination neighborhoods.”

Larry Frank, president of LATTC and convener of the SLATE-Z coalition, said, “With preference points on most federal grant opportunities and a partnership with HUD staff, the existing LA Promise Zone received more than $100 million in grants since designation in 2014. It is now South L.A.’s chance to step up.”

The federal designation will bring crucial benefits to residents. For example, students at the 11 comprehensive high schools in SLATE-Z will receive increased support to prepare for colleges and careers. Currently, more than half of residents older than 25 have less than a high school education and only nine percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The coalition also plans to tackle the 12 percent unemployment rate and under- employment to move more residents into living wage jobs and career pathways.

One of the coalition’s early victories was securing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s unanimous approval to create the Universal Pass or U-Pass pilot program, making more part-time students eligible for fare discounts. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Metro Board chair, carried the motion.

“The Promise Zone designation will help build on the incredible things already happening in South Los Angeles,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “This will bring new resources, energy, and urgency into our movement to expand opportunity in all of L.A.’s neighborhoods.”

US Rep. Karen Bass added, “This isn’t just an incredible victory for South Los Angeles, it shows that when our community leadership works together, we can accomplish great things for our neighborhoods.

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Fare Discounts for Students

IMG_0651Commuting to school is about to become easier and cheaper, thanks to a newly revamped Universal Student Pass or U-Pass pilot program being implemented by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority this fall.

Out of the County’s 1.4 million full-time undergraduate and graduate students, only 1 percent take advantage of Metro’s existing program for providing subsidized transit passes. It offered a 57 percent discount on a College/Vocational 30-day pass, but students balked at the lengthy application process and the requirement that undergrads enroll in at least 12 units

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To provide students with a greater benefit, Metro acted on a motion by Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas to launch a U-Pass pilot program at up to 10 community colleges, where students would receive a heavily discounted TAP card.

Starting in Fall 2016, undergrads enrolled with as few as eight units will be eligible for the discount, and Metro will work with schools to encourage sign-ups through the academic registration process.

“These reforms are a win-win, giving students access to safe, efficient and affordable transportation while also giving Metro a great opportunity to grow ridership,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“If students get hooked, there’s potential for them to become lifelong riders, which would then benefit schools by relieving parking issues,” he added. “I anticipate that schools will also step up to the plate by increasing the subsidy and making the pass even more attractive.”

All Aboard the Expo Line to Santa Monica

IMG_0450Commuters can now travel by train to the beach, with the opening of the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica. The 1.5-billion dollar project features seven stations, including several in Los Angeles County’s Second District, and the last stop is only half a mile from the iconic Santa Monica Pier.

“After the Pacific Electric Streetcars were decommissioned 63 years ago, many never believed that public transit would ever return to the Westside,” said Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. “But today, Metro has made the impossible possible.  Angelenos can now get from Santa Monica all the way to Downtown Los Angeles in just 47 minutes.”

IMG_0454 “Not only will the Expo Line extension improve mobility throughout the region, it will be an economic stimulus for all the neighborhoods that it passes through,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “Its construction has already created thousands of jobs, and I expect its operation will create even more opportunities for more people.”

Inglewood Mayor and Metro Board Member James T. Butts said, “We are changing the transportation landscape of L.A. County and providing a transit system for generations to come.”

The Expo Line now stretches 15.2 miles between downtown Los Angeles and downtown Santa Monica, with 19 stations in all. The extension makes up 6.6 miles and 7 stations: Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Expo/Sepulveda, Expo/Bundy, 27th St/Bergamot, 17th St/Santa Monica College and Downtown Santa Monica. Celebrations and ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held at each of the stations, as the people welcomed their new community asset. Ridership on the Expo Line extension is projected to total 18,000 to 20,000 weekday boardings after the first year of service.

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Thumbs up at the Downtown Santa Monica Station

“For the first time in a generation, Angelenos and visitors from around the world can travel from our skyline to the shoreline without setting foot in their cars, bringing needed relief to some of our most congested corridors,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Second Vice Chair Eric Garcetti.

“This is a really wonderful day for me, partly because I had the privilege of carrying the legislation to create the Exposition Construction Authority,” said Metro Board Member and L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “But the real winners today are all the residents of LA County who can bypass traffic in yet another segment of our region, and look forward to even more!”

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Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at the Palms Station

Service on the Expo Line begins each day at about 4:45 a.m. and continues until about 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Trains will run every 12 minutes until about 8 p.m., after which service will be every 20 minutes. A paved bike path runs adjacent to the tracks for most of the route between Culver City and the 17th Street/SMC Station.

A regular Metro fare is $1.75 and includes two hours of free transfers for those using a TAP card. A daily pass that is good for unlimited rides on Metro is $7 and monthly passes are $100. There are discounts available for seniors, the disabled, Medicare recipients and students. Please see taptogo.net for more information on how to apply for discounted fares.

“The opening of the Expo Line extension today is a great reminder that we have come a long way in a short time,” said Metro CEO Phil Washington. “But we still have more to do with easing everyday congestion. We will continue to strive to deliver our investments on time and on budget for the transportation network that Los Angeles County deserves.”

With the Expo Line extension, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail system now includes six lines spanning 105 miles.