Harriet Paves the Way

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority paid homage to a civil rights heroine while preparing to clear a path for the Crenshaw/LAX Line about 80 feet beneath South Los Angeles.

Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas led a dedication ceremony on February 1st to name the Line’s tunnel boring machine (TBM) after abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who delivered dozens of slaves into freedom via a network of secret routes and safe houses called the Underground Railroad.

MVA_1658“I can think of no better way to kick off Black History Month than to name the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s tunnel boring machine after Harriet Tubman, the legendary conductor of the Underground Railroad,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “I am confident that this marvel of engineering now known as ‘Harriet’ will carry on its namesake’s legacy of forging new paths to greater opportunities.”

Like ships, TBMs are named before being put to work for the first time, to bring good luck.

With a front end resembling a 20-foot tall cheese grater, and as long as 10 school buses placed end-to-end, “Harriet” still has to be lowered underground, and then assembled over several weeks. It would then spend just over a year drilling twin mile-long tunnels to connect three underground train stations where Crenshaw Boulevard intersects with Exposition Boulevard; Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard; and Vernon Ave. near Leimert Park. The Line ascends to street level beyond that point.

“Today is about more than just launching the tunnel boring machine, it is about the promise we have made to help our communities move forward,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “The Crenshaw/LAX Line will serve riders who have been historically underserved and, in doing so, it will ease congestion and get Angelenos to the people and places they love.”

Slated for completion in 2019, the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line would be the first to serve the Crenshaw District and Inglewood since streetcars were decommissioned in the 1950’s.

MVA_1367It will have eight stations – the northernmost connecting to the Expo Line, and southernmost to the Green Line, where passengers will be able to  get on a people mover to the Los Angeles International Airport. It is projected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000.

Metro held a contest to name and embellish its TBM. Students submitted more than 230 essays and artworks, which drew 50,000 votes online. Harriet, proposed by 11th grader Calvin Mosely of City Honors High School in Inglewood, emerged as the crowd favorite. The winning artwork was a colorful drawing by 3rd grader Brittany Hernandez of Lloyd Owen Knox Elementary School in Los Angeles.

In honor of the TBM, local restaurants Earlez Grill, Brooklyn Deli, Jordan’s Hot Dogs and Southern Girl Desserts have each named a dish “Harriet.” Metro Board member and Inglewood Mayor James Butts said Metro would continue to provide support to businesses along the route while construction is ongoing and thanked the businesses for their patience.

“The progress we’re seeing today is only the first of many exciting milestones we’ll experience in 2016,” said Metro CEO Phillip Washington. “In March, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa will open and in late spring we will cut the ribbon on the Metro Expo Line extension to Santa Monica. These developments demonstrate that investment in transportation moves our County forward now and in the future.”

Rendering of the Leimert Park Station, which will be underground.

Rendering of the Leimert Park Station, which will be underground.

Metro Line to Goal Line

image006 (1)With the Rams back in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to make sure fans can catch a ride to the games, as well as to the various entertainment, dining and retail centers expected to pop up around the stadiums.

“The bottom line is the return of the National Football League will bring tremendous economic opportunity and civic pride to the entire region,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the Metro Board of Directors, which he chairs. “Facilitating the transport of thousands of spectators for games and other events will require significant synergy within our growing transportation system.”

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LA County Supervisor, Metro Board Chairman and Coliseum Commission President Mark Ridley-Thomas with Rams owner Stan Kroenke

The Rams are building an 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, not far from Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Line, which should have trains running by 2019. Stadium, slated for completion in 2019, will be the centerpiece of the City of Champions Revitalization Project, which includes a performance venue, hotel, restaurants, shops, parks, and thousands of residential units.

Until then, the Rams and USC Trojans will share the Coliseum near Metro’s Expo Line. There is an option for either the Charger or Raiders to join them. In 2018, they will be neighbors with Los Angeles Football Club, which is building a soccer stadium at the former Sports Arena.

To look at strategies for connecting commuters to the stadiums, the Metro Board approved a Ridley-Thomas motion to create a “Metro Line to Goal Line” task force.

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Rendering of renovated LA Memorial Coliseum

Coauthored by Inglewood Mayor James Butts, Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Duarte Councilman John Fasana, the motion also called for ensuring Metro can accommodate a possible surge in ridership. It also called for promoting public transit to events, and expediting development projects in surrounding neighborhoods.

The Metro Board approved a separate motion to consider building a new north-south light rail line, potentially along Prairie Avenue. This would link both the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Green Line to the City of Champions Revitalization Project, and extend into the South Bay.

“Creating ‘transit oriented communities’ means making sure our transportation system serves emerging communities and job centers,” Supervisor and Metro Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas said.

Inglewood Mayor and Metro Director Butts was the lead author of the motion, with Ridley Thomas, Antonovich, Fasana, and Supervisors Don Knabe and Sheila Kuehl as co-authors.

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Rendering of Rams stadium in Inglewood

Expanding the Reach of the Silver Line

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There’s a new and faster way for commuters to travel from the San Pedro waterfront to downtown Los Angeles and onto El Monte.

“Today, we unveil a new and improved Silver Line,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority board chairman and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said during a press conference set against the backdrop of the historic battleship USS Iowa.

“With increased frequency and service now extending all the way into San Pedro, the Silver Line provides a premiere path for Angelenos to access all of the unique destinations in the South Bay and beyond that is easy, convenient and affordable,” he added.

IMG_1448 (1)Launched in 2009, the Silver Line has an average of 16,000 boardings daily. Metro has extended its regular route and added express service, which can shorten rush hour commutes by up to 20 minutes. It will serve the following stops and stations before arriving in Downtown LA: San Pedro, Pacific Coast Highway Station, Carson Station, Figueroa/190th, Harbor Gateway Transit Center and Harbor Freeway Station.

The Silver Line Express 950X will make limited stops along the I-110 Freeway between San Pedro and downtown Los Angeles during the weekday morning and evening rush hours, before proceeding to El Monte.

The Silver Line 910 will run the same route daily, but with a few more stops. It will also run during off-peak hours, including evenings and weekends.

“Expanding the Silver Line saves time for commuters, connects people to communities and links workers to jobs,” Los Angeles Mayor and Metro board member Eric Garcetti said. “Frequent service between San Pedro and the heart of downtown means fewer people in cars — getting them to their work, family and fun more quickly, while reducing carbon emissions and easing congestion.”

Fare for both the Silver Line and Silver Line Express will remain the same at $2.50, and includes a free transfer with a TAP card. To celebrate the new service, the Pacific Battleship Center will offer discounted admission to the USS Iowa.

“The Silver Line Express is a great example of how Metro is exploring new ways to make service better for our customers,” Metro CEO Phil Washington said.


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TAP Cards at County Libraries

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The Board of Supervisors is making it easier to get TAP cards to pay fares on public buses and trains throughout Los Angeles County.

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the Board approved a pilot program to sell TAP cards at the Lancaster, San Fernando, Paramount, El Monte and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Libraries starting in January.

“Making TAP cards conveniently available helps those who already use our buses and trains, and can encourage others to try catching a ride on public transit as well,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who chairs the board at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“With a TAP card, one can get all the way from Lancaster to Long Beach without having to fumble in pockets for change,” he added. “They can sit back and let Metro and the rest of the County’s two dozen public transit agencies do the driving.”

“The easier we make it for Angelenos to take public transit, the more likely it is that they’ll use it,” Supervisor Kuehl said.

“Now folks can buy or reload their TAP Cards while accessing all the great services our libraries have to offer,” said Kuehl. “A lot of new riders have difficulties figuring out how to buy Tap Cards, so having library staff onsite to help will make it a lot easier.”

TAP cards have an embedded computer chip, and can be reloaded and reused for up to a decade. Once registered at www.taptogo.net, lost or stolen TAP cards can be replaced along with any remaining cash value.

If the pilot program is successful, TAP cards may be sold additional libraries in the future.

“Providing Metro TAP cards is just one way we’re expanding our menu of services beyond books,” said Acting County Librarian/Chief Deputy Yolanda De Ramus.

“Whether we’re hosting flu vaccination clinics, offering passport acceptance services or providing Metro TAP cards, the County of Los Angeles Public Library is tailoring its mission to fit the needs of local communities we serve,” she added. “Plus, if people who rely on mass transit can get Metro TAP cards at our libraries, they’re more likely to see the library as a community resource – and to become regular library patrons.”

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Transforming Blight Into A Bike Path and Walking Trails

Efforts to transform the blighted Slauson Corridor into a safe, attractive and accessible bike and pedestrian trail just got a $15-million boost.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded a $15 million grant to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the Rail to Rail Project.

“I want to thank the Obama Administration for sharing Metro’s vision that this blighted right-of-way can and must be transformed into a corridor where walking and biking can be done safely,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, chairman of the board at Metro.

“With this investment, Angelenos will be able to efficiently access the Blue Line and the future Crenshaw/LAX Line,” he added. “The proposed improvements will make a meaningful difference in the quality of life of the hundreds of thousands of people who live, work and visit the surrounding areas.”

The Rail to Rail project will convert an unused 6.4-mile railroad corridor through South Los Angeles into a bike and pedestrian trail, linking the Blue, Crenshaw/LAX and Silver Lines. Metro’s ultimate goal is to extend the corridor as far as the Los Angeles River, under a plan dubbed Rail to River.

DOT Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez said the Rail to Rail project was chosen to receive a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Act (TIGER) VII federal grant because it “achieved the goals of helping communities coordinate innovative, multi-modal transportation project that serves the diverse travel needs of residents and businesses.”

The decision drew praise from Senator Dianne Feinstein.

“Whether ports, roads or rail, California’s economic health relies on modern and efficient infrastructure,” she said. “That’s why I’m thrilled the DOT has once again decided to invest in highly worthy projects to expand transportation options for Californians.”

The Rail to Rail corridor is home to about 108,000 residents and has a population density more than six times the County average. More than 20 percent of the households within a half-mile of the project corridor do not own a vehicle, and 17 percent of the workers in the area commute to their jobs via public transit, bicycle and/or walking.

The $15 million federal grant will cover almost half of the $34.3-million total cost of Rail to Rail. Metro plans to contribute up to $19.3 million in local and state money.