Blog

Forward Motion, January 2021

Mobility 21 Advisory Board Member Spotlight:
Emily Freund
Business Development Director
Flatiron

Emily Freund brings 24 years of transportation industry experience focused on alternative delivery project pursuits, including strategic teaming, business development, and best-in-class proposal submissions focused in California and the western U.S. Currently, Emily serves as the Business Development Director at Flatiron for the West and Central Divisions of the company responsible for growing alternative delivery project opportunities, building client relations and developing teaming strategies to support the organization’s strategic growth.

Previous to her role at Flatiron, she served as Vice President, West Region Alternative Delivery/Business Development for a leading global AEC firm and as Business Development Manager for a leading California contractor. Emily also serves as a board member for Women’s Transportation Seminar Los Angeles Chapter and board member for the Associated General Contractors of California, Los Angeles District.

Emily holds both an M.P.A. in Public Administration/Policy and a B.S. in Political Science from California State University Northridge.


Mobility 21 Advisory Board Member Spotlight:
T
om Kim
Business Senior Vice President and Southern California Transportation Business Group Director
HDR

Tom Kim is a Senior Vice President and Southern California Transportation Business Group Director for HDR. With over 31 years of industry experience, Tom has proven to be a visionary leader who passionately engages many of our clients and business partners toward a common goal of delivering several major transportation infrastructure projects in Southern California.

Tom has extensive technical and management experience that led to the successful completion of the nationally award-winning Colton Crossing Rail-to-Rail Grade Separation Project. He is currently managing the LA Metro Link Union Station, which is considered the most important project for the Southern California regional rail system, as well as the Port of Long Beach’s Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility. Tom is passionate about creativity, accountability, drive and leadership. He received his BA in Civil Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona and MBA from UCLA. He was also a past president of ACEC Los Angeles Chapter, received the Outstanding Civil Engineer of The Year Awards from both American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) OC and LA Chapters.


Metro Answers Rider Questions and Concerns
About Recent NextGen Bus Service Changes,
COVID-19 and Crowding

On Sunday, Dec. 13, Metro began implementing its NextGen Plan to provide more frequent bus service on many routes.

Metro also adjusted some routes to better meet riders’ needs and launched its new Metro Micro on-demand service in two areas — Watts/Willowbrook and LAX/Inglewood — to complement bus and rail lines and provide better local service.

Metro has received some feedback from riders since Dec. 13. One frequent concern amongst riders thus far is that buses are too crowded to accommodate social distancing.

A few points Metro wants everyone to consider:

  • The ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County is regrettably impacting bus service and is a significant reason some wait times are longer than normal and some buses are more crowded.
  • For example, this past Monday, Dec. 21, Metro had to cancel about 7.7 percent of its bus trips because of bus operators calling in sick. Some are quarantining, some are caring for family and some have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The canceled trips are not evenly distributed among Metro’s 13 bus yards around the county as staff absences vary from day to day and have increased significantly in recent weeks in line with the regional spike in COVID cases. That means that on some days certain parts of the bus system are hit harder than others — and some bus lines are impacted more than others. A canceled trip or two on any bus line is likely to result in more people aboard the bus than Metro has planned for.
  • To put it another way, the crowding riders are sometimes experience is due to COVID-19 and not the recent NextGen service changes. These impacts to bus service will likely continue to happen until the number of COVID-19 cases decrease in our region and more bus operators are able to return to work. We’re not alone among transit agencies — LADOT yesterday issued an alert about impacts to their bus service due to COVID-19.
  • We encourage riders to use Transit — Metro’s official smartphone app — to plan bus and rail trips and check crowding predictions. We also suggest allowing some additional time for your travel.
  • We also received some comments concerning the eight corridors where we combined rapid and local lines — and we know that will take some getting used to after running the rapids for so many years.The goal of combining rapid and locals is to improve door-to-door travel time for all riders by running a single bus line with improved frequency, more optimal bus stop spacing (so bus stops are not too close together or too far apart) and more green lights for buses. Combining the rapid and local lines was supported by public feedback as part of the NextGen process and our data showed it would lead to better service.

    As for crowding on these combined bus routes, our data does not show any sustained periods of crowding. But there have regrettably been some bus trips in these corridors due to missed trips stemming from COVID-19.

    Again, we feel like the crowding that has happened in these corridors has more to do with COVID-19 than with the NextGen Plan. As with all the NextGen changes, we will definitely keep an eye on how bus service in these corridors performs.

  • We are trying to provide as much room for social distancing on buses as is practical within the financial and staffing resources we have. We are trying to keep buses at no more than 75 percent of seated capacity — lower than the 130 percent standard we used prior to the pandemic.
    Metro has also joined the American Public Transportation Association and transit agencies across the nation in committing to specific measures to help ensure the safe return of riders to our system.
    As part of that effort, we’re requiring all riders to wear face coverings, we’re ensuring good ventilation on buses and trains and we’ve enhanced cleaning of our system with an emphasis on high touchpoint areas.
  • We also want to remind everyone that Metro Micro on-demand service is now running in the LAX/Inglewood and Watts/Willowbrook service areas. Metro Micro uses small vehicles to provide rides within the service areas shown below.

Metro Micro’s Watts/Willowbrook service area.

Metro Micro’s LAX/Inglewood service area.

  • • Metro Micro rides are currently $1 (not including transfers to buses or trains). Service hours are: 
    • Watts/Willowbrook from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
    • LAX/Inglewood from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • To book a ride, use the Metro Micro app for smartphones (available now by clicking the following links in the Apple Store and Google Play stores), this website or Metro’s call center at 323.GO.METRO (323.466.3876). Metro Micro will only pick up riders within the service areas above.
  • After you order a ride, the app will provide a pickup location near your present location. Metro Micro is also taking several precautions to keep riders safe during the pandemic, including reduced capacity in vehicles and requiring all riders to wear face coverings.
  • Metro Micro provided more than 200 rides during its first week of service and the app currently has positive ratings from customers.

Finally, we want to make clear that Metro takes seriously the need to provide essential service during the pandemic and we absolutely will continue to run as much of our scheduled service as we safely can. This is also the reason we want our frontline staff to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Many people rely heavily on Metro to get them to their essential jobs and other critical destinations — and we want to continue to be there for them.


First District Supervisor Andrew Do
Elected as New OCTA Chairman

Orange County First District Supervisor Andrew Do was unanimously elected in January as the new Chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors, which is responsible for planning, funding, and delivering transportation-improvement projects and public transit for all of Orange County.

Chairman Do served as the OCTA board’s Vice Chairman for the last year. He replaces outgoing Chairman Steve Jones, the Garden Grove mayor, who remains on the board.

“It is an honor to be selected by my colleagues to lead OCTA’s Board of Directors this year,” said Chairman Do. “I look forward to working with them and the public to provide a balanced, sustainable, and innovative transportation system to keep Orange County moving. Considering the challenges of the past year, I recognize how essential public transit and improvement projects are to ensuring our communities are safe, healthy, and financially sound.”

He began serving on the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2015, representing the residents of Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Westminster, Fountain Valley, and Midway City. That same year he also began serving on the OCTA Board. He has represented OCTA at the Metrolink Board of Directors since 2018.

Born in Vietnam, Chairman Do fled to the U.S. with his family after the Fall of Saigon and grew up in Garden Grove. After attending the University of California at Davis for his undergraduate degree, he attended the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and received his Juris Doctor. He taught for three years as an Adjunct Professor at Cal State University, Fullerton and served as a Judge Pro Tem at Orange County West Municipal Court.

After several years providing legal representation to poor and indigent defendants, Chairman Do worked as an Orange County Deputy District Attorney. He has also given back to his community by serving as a Garden Grove City Councilman, the President of the Asian Bar of California, and an elected member of the Orange County Bar Association’s Board of Directors.

Elected by the board to serve as Vice Chairman was Director Mark A. Murphy, also the mayor of Orange. Murphy has served on OCTA since 2017. Murphy has served as chair of OCTA’s Regional Planning and Highways Committee, as a member of the Executive Committee and SR-91 Advisory Committee.

Sworn in today as new members to the OCTA Board were Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento and Mission Viejo Mayor Brian Goodell.

Sarmiento serves as president of the Orange County Water District Board of Directors and was sworn in as Santa Ana mayor in December 2020.

Goodell is a two-time Olympic swimming champion and was elected to Mission Viejo City Council in 2016 and won re-election in 2020.

The OCTA board is comprised of 18 members, including the five county supervisors, two members from city councils in each of the five supervisorial districts, two public members and the Caltrans District Director serves in a non-voting ex-officio capacity.


Rail in the Desert: Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service Project Advances

Daily passenger rail service between Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley? Yes, please! While service is still in the distance and funding has not been identified, the Riverside County Transportation Commission is continuing to plan for this new travel option, with an opportunity for the public to view and comment on studies this spring or summer.

RCTC, Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration, and local partners joined forces in 2015 to make the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service Project a reality. The project team completed an Alternatives Analysis in 2016 and is nearing completion of a draft “Tier 1 Program” Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) and a Service Development Plan.

The draft EIR/EIS proposes twice-daily service from L.A. via Fullerton, Colton, and the San Gorgonio Pass to Indio or Coachella. The 145-mile route would take approximately 3.25 hours and offer an alternative to the often congested 91 and Interstate 10.

The Tier 1 environmental analysis addresses broad questions and impacts of the project but does not identify station locations or other specific infrastructure needs for the new service. More detailed studies would be conducted as part of a future Tier 2 environmental analysis, which would involve station selection and determining rail improvements required for the proposed service. RCTC and its project partners are exploring funding to develop the Tier 2 environmental analysis.

Other technical modeling also has been completed, including how the trains will travel through the higher elevations in the San Gorgonio Pass and maintain speeds for effective travel.

In the months ahead, RCTC will host meetings to invite public comment on the draft studies. Depending upon health conditions related to COVID-19, meetings will be either virtual or in-person, with multiple opportunities to offer feedback on this stage of the planning process. Following the public comment period, the team anticipates project approval by the end of 2021. If funding can be secured, work then could begin on the Tier 2 environmental studies, followed by detailed project design, and then construction.

To receive project updates and notice of upcoming meetings, visit rctc.org/CVRail and follow the project on Facebook @CVRailProject.


The State Route 11/Otay Mesa East Port of Entry Project is a joint venture between SANDAG and Caltrans, in collaboration with state and federal partners in the U.S. and Mexico.

SANDAG and Caltrans Celebrate FHWA Grant Award,
Look Ahead to 2021 Milestones

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the California Department of Transportation District 11 (Caltrans), are working in collaboration with state and federal partners in the U.S. and Mexico to develop a 21st-century border crossing that will enhance regional mobility, and fuel economic growth and binational trade across the San Diego-Baja California megaregion. The State Route 11 (SR 11)/ Otay Mesa East Port of Entry will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and wait times, and strengthen border security and resiliency.

To date, construction crews have made significant progress. In 2016 crews completed the northbound connectors linking SR 11/State Route 125 (SR 125)/State Route 905 (SR 905). This year, the southbound connectors linking SR 11/125/905 will be complete. And in a significant milestone event, crews have begun paving the final segment of SR 11, the future toll road that will lead to the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry. Combined, SR 11 and the northbound and southbound connectors will reduce congestion and improve mobility throughout the region.

In funding news, SANDAG and Caltrans just recently celebrated receipt of a $9.29 million grant on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration for Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment. This grant will further support the SR 11/Otay Mesa East Port of Entry Project and other crossborder efforts, helping SANDAG and Caltrans continue to implement technological transportation solutions that enhance the safety, efficiency, and reliability of the region’s transportation system. This funding will also help bring more equitable access to crossborder activities and economic opportunities throughout southern San Diego communities. 

Looking Ahead to 2021

In 2021, SANDAG and Caltrans construction crews will complete the last stretch of SR 11 and the SR 125/905/11 connectors. Combined, these projects will support the trade corridor, improve regional mobility, and play a vital role in delivering a 10-to-1 return on investment for the San Diego region.

Crews will also install a fiber optic network across the project site. This communication infrastructure will support intelligent transportation systems to provide travelers with live border wait time information across the region’s land ports of entry.

In the spring, San Diego County’s first divergent diamond interchange is expected to be completed along Enrico Fermi Road – the first of its kind to support freight movement. The innovative design is a new traffic pattern that will make traffic safer for drivers and pedestrians by reducing the conflict points for potential accidents.

In addition, the investment grade Traffic and Revenue Study is set to be completed later this year. This study is pertinent to the project and will estimate the traffic demand and subsequent toll revenue potential from the SR 11 border crossing facility and toll road project.

Stay up-to-date on the SR 11/Otay Mesa East Port of Entry project by following SANDAG – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, linkedIn – and Caltrans – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, linkedIn – on social media and make sure you’re subscribed to SANDAG’s email list for the latest project news and updates.


SCAG is committed to highlighting excellence in sustainable planning and projects in the SCAG Region.

Nominations Now Open for the 2021
SCAG Sustainability Awards

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is now accepting nominations for the 2021 SCAG Sustainability Awards. Each year, SCAG honors projects and plans that best exemplify the core principles of sustainability with awards. These projects and plans are integral to accomplishing the goals of Connect SoCal, the 2020-2045 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy, and they promote a cleaner, healthier and happier Southern California.

Now through Friday, Feb. 26, nominations will be accepted for the following award categories:

  • Active, Healthy and Safe Communities
  • Clean Cities: Alternative Fuels & Infrastructure
  • Efficient & Sustainable Land Use
  • Green Region Initiative: Resource Conservation & Climate Action
  • Housing Innovation

For more information on the SCAG Sustainability Awards including the award criteria and scoring rubric or to view past award winners visit scag.ca.gov/sustainabilityawards.


The Oso Parkway Bridge provides motorists with a direct connection between Los Patrones Parkway and State Route 241, improving safety and traffic flow on Oso Parkway.

Oso Parkway Bridge Project Opens to
Drivers, Pedestrians, Community

The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), County of Orange and Caltrans celebrated the milestone completion and grand opening of the Oso Parkway Bridge Project – a multiagency collaboration that improves safety, mobility and connectivity in the region. The occasion was commemorated with a virtual ceremony that was simulcast on TCA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The Oso Parkway Bridge offers six lanes of travel (three in each direction) and provides a direct connection between the 241 Toll Road and Los Patrones Parkway. The project also adds dedicated bike lanes, and a new sidewalk on the south side of Oso Parkway enhances safety for students and families accessing Tesoro High School.

The new bridge improves mobility and connectivity in South Orange County, diverting traffic from congested surface streets and providing improved access to businesses and restaurants in areas such as Rancho Mission Viejo, Ladera Ranch, Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita.

Previously, drivers were required to use an off-ramp, wait at a signalized intersection, then use an on-ramp to access the 241 Toll Road or Los Patrones Parkway.

The project, which began in 2018, was realized thanks to a partnership between TCA, Caltrans and the County of Orange. TCA funded the nearly $40 million project, with OC Public Works overseeing construction. This benefit to the community was implemented with zero taxpayer dollars.

“Today’s grand opening is about more than just a bridge; it’s about leveraging partnerships to create a safer environment for children who walk to school from surrounding communities, saving drivers time by increasing mobility, and connecting our cities,” said Lisa Bartlett, Orange County’s Fifth District Supervisor and TCA Board Member. “Improving quality of life for residents is why TCA prioritizes funding for projects like this one.”

“At Caltrans, our top priority is safety for all who access our transportation system. The opening of the Oso Parkway Bridge is critical in providing a safe path for bikers, scooters, drivers, middle and high school students on Oso Parkway, and others traveling State Route 241 and Los Patrones Parkway,” said Caltrans District 12 Director Ryan Chamberlain. “Building and enhancing stronger partnerships with TCA, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Surfrider Foundation, Orange County Public Works, Endangered Habitats League and others was essential in bringing the Oso Parkway Bridge from vision to fruition. I am proud of this collective accomplishment,” he said.

TCA Chief Executive Officer Samuel Johnson spoke to the vision and leadership that made the project successful: “Increasing mobility and finding innovative solutions to transportation challenges are part of TCA’s mission, and those principles motivate us today. The Oso Parkway Bridge offers numerous benefits for the community and was brought to fruition through our Board’s focus on regional mobility and leveraging TCA’s financial strength. We are extremely proud to have been part of a project that stands as a model for partnership and progress.”

Wednesday’s virtual opening included a unique virtual “ribbon-cutting” featuring local elected officials; remarks from Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and TCA Board Members; comments from stakeholders, including Caltrans; a project video; drone footage; and more.

To view the virtual grand opening, visit YouTube.com/TheTollRoadsOC.

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