To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Saturday, March 26, 2016

710 Freeway tunnel cost part of a bill to be heard by the state Legislature


By Steve Scauzillo, March 25, 2016

 The plan to build a $3.15 billion tunnel connecting two segments of the 710 Freeway will get consideration by the state Legislature with a bill sponsored by state Sen. Carol Liu.

 The plan to build a $3.15 billion tunnel connecting two segments of the 710 Freeway will get consideration by the state Legislature with a bill sponsored by state Sen. Carol Liu.

With the $40 million environmental analysis yet to be approved, the fight over the extension of the 710 Freeway will spill over into the state Legislature in April, when a bill by a local senator brings the cost and benefits center stage.

State Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, wants to force the hand of Metro and Caltrans, the two lead agencies on the 710 completion, by incorporating the 5 Commentsinto the project’s Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement.

By changing the status of the June 2015 cost-benefit analysis from a simple addendum to a technical study within the EIR/EIS, it would bring to light hundreds of comments on the cost study made by residents during last year’s public hearings and make them part of the public record. In addition, it would require Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to respond in writing to the report, which was labeled faulty by dozens of project opponents.

Without the bill, Metro and Caltrans could ignore the cost-benefit aspects of the tunneling alternative, said Liu in a prepared statement. “It is possible they will not respond to public comments on it, which were substantial,” she wrote.

Metro’s board on Thursday voted to oppose the measure, calling it unnecessary.

“Metro and Caltrans are committed to responding to comments on the CBA (cost-benefit analysis report). Metro is committed to an open and transparent process in its decision making and we believe the CBA has a role in the fund decision making process,” wrote Metro in a staff report to the board.
Joining Metro in opposition to Senate Bill 1018 is the city of San Marino, a proponent of the freeway tunnel. Metro and Caltrans are proposing to build a 6.3-mile single tunnel, costing $3.15 billion, containing two traffic lanes in each direction 250 feet under El Sereno/Los Angeles, South Pasadena and Pasadena. A twin tunnel proposal would have more traffic lanes but would raise the cost to $5.65 billion, according to the EIR/EIS. Either tunnel option would “close the gap” from the end of the 710 Freeway near Valley Boulevard to west Pasadena north of Del Mar Avenue at the 134/210 freeway interchange.

Metro also said it opposes SB 1018 because it could set a precedent requiring all future environmental impact reports to contain a cost-benefit analysis, “which is currently optional.” The Metro analysis says precedent-setting would raise the cost of environmental documents for future Metro projects. “The choice to do a CBA should be at the discretion of the agencies leading the process,” Metro concluded.

Anthony Portantino, a former state Assemblyman from La Cañada Flintridge and tunnel opponent, had asked the California Transportation Commission to produce the cost-benefit analysis for three years. When 5 Comments was released, it favored the single tunnel, saying the tunnel would trim up to seven minutes off a commute during peak hours and almost 14 minutes the rest of the time. By converting time into money, the benefit works out to about $1.6 billion over 20 years for 2 million people living in the San Gabriel Valley and parts of Los Angeles and the east San Fernando Valley, the report concluded.

Portantino and the cities of Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, South Pasadena and other called the CBA flawed and inaccurate. Portantino said Caltrans estimated the cost of tunneling at $500,000 per mile for the 710 tunnel but $1 million per mile for the Sepulveda Pass tunnel project connecting west Los Angeles with the San Fernando Valley.

He said the real cost of the 710 tunnel would be closer to $20 billion, something he said Metro is trying to hide by not being required to comment on the cost-benefit analysis study (CBA).

“Fundamentally, accurate costs is one of the most important components of good public policy, which is why they continue to not want to disclose information related to the cost. Because they know the house of cards will fall once the real information is revealed,” said Portantino, who is running to replace Liu in the 25th senatorial district in the June Primary. His foremost opponent is Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 6. After that, it most likely will be before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, said Suzanne Reed, a Liu aide.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Educator puts brakes on joint resolution opposing 710 extension


 By Sara Cardine, March 23, 2016

  The 710 freeway

 The disagreement marks another chapter in a tale of two perspectives about whether a multibillion-dollar tunnel project would be a boon or a burden to cities along the 710 and the Foothill (210) freeways and whether local elected officials should weigh in for or against it, or not at all.

Representatives from La Cañada Unified and neighboring school districts recently drafted a joint resolution opposing a potential tunnel extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway for the negative impacts they believe it would have on student and employee health.

They hoped the message that school leaders from La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena and South Pasadena — assembled collectively as the 5-Star Education Coalition — had regional concerns about the pollutant effects of the 4.5-mile underground passage proposed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would sound alarm bells to state lawmakers and compel the agency to refine its plans.

But that hope was scuttled Friday when Pasadena Unified School Board member Larry Montes opted not to support the resolution, blocking the unanimity required for the document to be officially adopted by the coalition.

The disagreement marks another chapter in a tale of two perspectives about whether a multibillion-dollar tunnel project would be a boon or a burden to cities along the 710 and the Foothill (210) freeways and whether local elected officials should weigh in for or against it, or not at all.

La Cañada Unified Governing Board Member Ellen Multari, whose district passed its own resolution against a tunnel option in July, believes the adverse impacts the project and its construction would bring to students, school staff and families is unquestionable and merits opposition.

"I think this is a bit more of a show of strength among the five of us," she said of the resolution when it was still being drafted, indicating all five member cities seemed interested in going that route.
"That's why the 5-Star was created — so we could have power collectively that we don't have individually."

But to Montes, the wisdom of educators speaking out against the project wasn't quite so clear. When he took the resolution back to the PUSD board for input at a March 10 meeting, he confessed he wasn't certain the 710 issue was relevant to educating children.

A former teacher in the Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno, Montes expressed his belief something needed to be done to address "the exceedingly troubling" problem of street traffic in and around Alhambra and surrounding environs.

"I'm of the opinion, probably where most folks are, that something needs to happen," Montes told the board. "I'm not sold that a tunnel is the answer, but I'm also questioning whether or not for me, as a school board member, this is a child-related issue."

His fellow board members largely agreed.

"I am personally opposed to the 710 tunnel, but I kind of agree with Larry," board member Patrick Cahalan said at the meeting. "I don't see this is an area of governance that we should be weighing in on as a school board. I also don't think there's a clear impact here that has to do with education."

Glendale school officials were of a different mindset Tuesday, when they unanimously approved their own resolution opposing the tunnel in anticipation that the 5-Star Coalition's resolution would follow.
"We are a part of the impact, there's no question about it," board member Greg Krikorian said at the meeting, according to the Glendale-News Press.

Multari remained firm in her district's conviction that the tunnel could pose a health risk to many schools situated near the 210 Freeway, which would see an increase in truck traffic were the 710 gap filled.

"We felt it was a legitimate concern for our districts to address," she said in an email Tuesday.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Here’s how Metro wants to spend $120 billion over the next 40 years



Metro unveiled an ambitious list of rail, road and bike projects Friday, part of a $120 billion tax measure proposed for the November ballot.

Projects prioritized for the first 15 years include: a people-mover into LAX; completing the subway to Westwood; toll lanes on the 105 Freeway and a second extension of the Gold Line Foothill train from Azusa to Claremont.

The project list and tax measure will go before the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) in June.

One project not included in the plan is extension of the 710 Freeway.

Metro’s most recent extension to its rail system, the Foothill Gold Line Extension that debuted earlier this month, was funded through the half-cent sales tax increase in Measure R now runs from Pasadena to Azusa.

Metro wants to extend Measure R to raise billions more to fund its next projects. That proposal will be on the November ballot.

Here’s Metro’s entire plan that was revealed on Friday.


From Sylvia Plummer, March 18, 2016

The No 710 Action Committee is calling for everyone to attend the Metro Board of Directors meeting next Thursday, March 24th at 9 a.m.  The Board will address the project list for the proposed tax increase/extension ballot measure R2.   

How you can help:   We need as many No 710 people as possible to attend next Thursday's Metro Board Meeting to help send our message to the Metro Board that the 710 tunnels MUST be removed from all documents and consideration or we will actively work against Measure R2, which will be on the  November  ballot.  Come and speak for one minute or support those that will speak.

Thursday, March 24, 2016 @  9 a.m

at Metro Headquarters (behind Union Station)

3rd floor, Metro Board Room

One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA  90012

We will all meet outside the Metro Board Room before 9am on the 3rd floor.

Directions:  See this link for directions to the Metro Headquarters Building:


No 710 Action Committeee Letter to the Metro Board.


GUSD joins coalition of school districts against proposed 710 Freeway tunnel extension project


By Arin Mikalian, March 18, 2016

GUSD joins coalition of school districts against proposed 710 Freeway tunnel extension project : School board votes to side with neighbors against freeway extension.

The Glendale Unified School Board took an opposing stance to a potential tunnel extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway on Tuesday, siding with concerns from neighboring districts over possible adverse impacts to student health.

The unanimous vote by the local board is aimed at aligning Glendale Unified with the Pasadena, South Pasadena, Burbank and La Cañada school districts within a group called the 5-Star Education Coalition.

The collective will then vote to pass along its concerns to Gov. Jerry Brown's office in hopes the state government will intervene and compel Caltrans and Metro — the key principals on the potential tunnel project — to refine their proposal. The tunnel itself may end up being as long as 4.5 miles and would connect the 710 Freeway to Pasadena.

 In the adopted resolution, Glendale Unified is challenging the findings of a draft environmental impact report conducted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"The [coalition] finds that the [report] does not adequately address the adverse health and potential cancer impacts and risks to school students, staff and parents given a potential route's close proximity as proposed in the study," the resolution states.

Increased traffic was also raised as a possible negative quality-of life-impact.

"The [coalition] does not agree with the [report's] findings that the building of a tunnel and the expansion of State Route 710 will not bring additional traffic," according to the resolution.

The draft environmental impact report was released last year, and more than 2,500 public comments about it were submitted. Metro officials are currently working to respond to all the comments.

The root of the concerns is over an increased number of trucks passing through the Crescenta Valley, bringing additional pollution to schools along the Foothill (210) Freeway in La Crescenta and La Cañada.

Join the conversation on Facebook >>

"We are part of the impact, there's no question about it … I think it does help the Crescenta Valley community to go shoulder to shoulder with them on this issue," said board member Greg Krikorian.
The city of Glendale is part of a five-city alliance that has already spoken out against the 710 tunnel extension. Other nearby groups have also expressed concerns.

"I've gone to the Crescenta Valley Town Council, and they talked about the health issue and the impact and all that," said board member Armina Gharpetian.

The coalition — made up of representatives from each school district — will vote Friday whether to adopt a final resolution to forward to Brown's office.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

RTP/SCS Public Comments and Responses Now Available


 Public Comments and Responses Now Available

SCAG thanks the many individuals and organizations that provided comments on the Draft 2016 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (2016 RTP/SCS), our long-range visioning plan that balances future mobility and housing needs with economic, environmental and public health goals, and the Draft Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR).

We wanted to share with you that all public comments and staff responses related to the Draft 2016 RTP/SCS and the Draft PEIR are now available online. Over the 60-day comment period (Dec. 4, 2015 – Feb. 1, 2016), SCAG received a total of 158 verbal and written comment submissions on the Draft 2016 RTP/SCS and 81 comment submissions on the Draft PEIR. The documents now available include a listing of comments alongside staff responses as well as separate volumes containing source letters and submissions by organization and individuals and transcripts of the public hearings. In future editions of the Plan, these documents will be included as addendums to the Public Participation & Consultation Appendix for the 2016 RTP/SCS.

We appreciate your feedback on the Draft Plan. On Thursday, March 3, SCAG staff presented to the Regional Council a recommended approach to addressing comments in the Plan. A new Proposed Final 2016 RTP/SCS and Proposed Final PEIR will be presented to the Joint Meeting of the Policy Committees on Thursday, March 24, for consideration and recommendation to the Regional Council for approval. At the end of this week, we’ll send out another update email with links to download the Proposed Final 2016 RTP/SCS and Proposed Final PEIR.

Thanks again for your participation!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Will Metro’s tunneling under Los Angeles spur a 710 Freeway tunnel?


By Steve Scauzillo, March 12, 2016

 A construction worker surveys inside the giant tunnel boring machine named Harriet during the Metro unveiling ceremonial celebration at the Expo Construction yard in Los Angeles Feb. 1. In a few months, Harriet will excavate two twin tunnels for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project.

 A construction worker surveys inside the giant tunnel boring machine named Harriet during the Metro unveiling ceremonial celebration at the Expo Construction yard in Los Angeles Feb. 1. In a few months, Harriet will excavate two twin tunnels for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project.

When Bertha, a giant tunnel-boring machine, stalled and nearly caught fire beneath downtown Seattle, opponents of a similar tunnel proposed for the 710 Freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena would point to the drill’s troubles and say if they can’t do it there, they can’t do it here.

But after a two-year delay, Bertha is back in business as of March 7, churning out a roadway tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct (SR-99), an old freeway with structural problems.

• Graphic: The Tunnel Boring Machine

Besides Seattle’s renewed tunneling success, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority this month placed its own machine, nicknamed Harriet, under Crenshaw Boulevard, where tunneling for three new underground rail stations will take place during the next 15 months. In addition, Metro will soon tunnel under Wilshire Boulevard at La Brea, Fairfax and La Cienega to complete the first section of the Purple Line subway extension, and will tunnel beneath downtown Los Angeles for the Regional Connector rail project between Little Tokyo and Bunker Hill.

All this digging beneath different neighborhoods of Los Angeles, plus the resurrection of Bertha in Seattle, has buoyed those in favor of extending the 710 Freeway underground for cars, possibly trucks, as part of a long-awaited extension from the freeway’s end at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, through El Sereno and South Pasadena to the 134/210 interchange in west Pasadena.

“Yes, its doable,” said the leading 710 Freeway tunnel proponent, Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina. “It was doable when they tunneled under the English Channel. Plus, look at all the subway tunnels (in L.A.) we’ve built successfully.”

Metro’s next three rail projects are tunnel-ready. In mid-Wilshire, the large transit agency is prepared to move forward no matter what the obstacles may be.

“We will be tunneling through the La Brea Tar Pits. Talk about complex,” said Dave Sotero, Metro spokesman. “There you may have gassy grounds and oil deposits.”


With the 710, two freeway tunnel options have been explored in a 26,000-page draft environmental impact report released in March 2015. Twin-bore tunnels would be excavated side by side — one northbound, one southbound — and each tunnel would have two levels, with two lanes of traffic per level, for a total of four lanes in each tunnel. A single-bore, double-decker tunnel would be one tunnel with two levels: northbound traffic would use the upper level and southbound traffic the lower level, amounting to two lanes in each direction for a total of four lanes.

Caltrans and Metro estimate the cost of the tunnels between $3.2 billion and $5.6 billion.

Alhambra is a leading force in the 710 Coalition, which calls for “closing the gap” of the freeway that starts in Long Beach and is considered the missing link in the 14 Southern California freeways.

Caltrans first proposed the extension in 1959. Other cities in the group include San Marino, Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel. They say the congestion raises the level of air pollution in their cities and that a tunnel would ease gridlock and air pollution.

Opponents include the cities of South Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale, Sierra Madre and Pasadena, which say tunnels are unfeasible, dangerous, too costly and not a solution to local traffic. Two analyses, one by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and one by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, say the tunnel option would adversely affect air quality. The AQMD analysis says the tunnel would raise the cancer risk to unacceptable levels. The EPA said that a dual-bore tunnel carrying 180,000 vehicles a day would add to the load of PM2.5 particles, which are fine particles that can reach the lungs and cause disease.

With groups entrenched on both sides, neither the EIR nor the project itself has received approval from Metro or Caltrans. Some say the vote, expected this spring by the Metro board, will be postponed until after the November election.

But until then, can anti-710 groups still say tunnels are not possible?


Opponent Anthony Portantino, a former member of the state Assembly and a La Cañada Flintridge resident, says transit tunnels are smaller than roadway tunnels and therefore easier to complete. In short, with tunneling, size matters.

“Are any of those tunnels (being dug by Metro in L.A.) this size? That is the key difference,” he said.
Engineering consultant and civil engineer Thom Neff, who worked on the Big Dig project in Boston and wrote a feasibility study for Seattle’s Highway 99 project, agreed. Neff, president of his own firm OckhamKonsult, said the larger a tunnel’s diameter, the more difficult it is to build. The size of Seattle’s tunnel is one reason for the delays, he said.

L.A.’s Harriet is 21.5 feet in diameter, compared with Bertha’s 57 feet. “(It’s) big, but not as big as Bertha,” says Metro in its tunnel graphic of the Crenshaw project.

Either tunnel option for closing the 710 Freeway gap would require a tunnel of an excavated diameter of about 60 feet, according to the EIR. Both the single-bore and dual-bore variations would be about 6.3 miles long, with 4.2 miles of bored tunnel, 0.7 miles of cut-and-cover tunnel and 1.4 miles of at-grade portions, according to the EIR. The interior diameter would be 52.5 feet and the outside diameter would be 58.5 feet. The extra width is required so the machine can maneuver. The 710 EIR cites the Highway 99 project in Seattle as similar in terms of size of tunnels needed for freeway tunnels.

Twin tunnels would require cross passages to allow first responders to reach each tunnel in an emergency, the EIR states. A single-bore tunnel would need emergency exits and ventilation pipes throughout, something Neff says adds to the cost.


“No tunnel is easy, first of all,” said Neff, who spent 15 years with Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the largest engineering firms in the world. “You have to deal with Mother Nature, and she is unpredictable. Any work underground has a higher level of uncertainty than any kind of civil engineering structure.”

Neff said Los Angeles has other soil-related issues.

“You have two additional problems: earthquakes, and you have a lot of deposits of oil and gas. Those pose problems in tunneling,” said Neff, who has examined project specs for the 710 tunnel.

In Seattle, Bertha only moved 1,000 feet when on Dec. 6, 2013, it stopped when the machine overheated and reached high temperatures, said the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The damaged machine was repaired by its manufacturer, Hitachi Zosen, between March and August 2015. In December, tunnelling restarted but was stopped when a giant sinkhole opened up in the middle of the street. Also, excavated dirt placed on a barge caused the boat to crash into the pier. The transportation department suspended the work, then lifted the suspension March 7 and declared Bertha to be working.

The 1.7-mile Seattle tunnel was not finished by December 2015 as promised. A report from an independent panel said the two years the machine stopped working caused the delay. The earliest completion is set for April 2018. The transportation department filed a lawsuit against the developers and estimated it is costing the state $78 million in overruns.


Oxford University researcher Bent Flyvbjerg studied so-called megaprojects that include bridges, tunnels and skyscrapers. In his research paper from April 2014, he concluded that nine of 10 projects produce cost overruns and some “of up to 50 percent in real terms are common.”

The Boston Dig, the Channel Tunnel connecting the United Kingdom and France and the Denver International Airport all saw costs rise 80 percent to 220 percent, for example.

One theory is called the “lock-in” or “capture,” whereby commitment to large multiyear projects continue despite obvious problems, “leaving analyses of alternatives weak or absent,” he concluded. A similar phenomenon is known as “optimism bias,” in which managers of megaprojects proceed despite massive, negative events he calls “black swans.”

“As a consequence, misinformation about costs, schedules, benefits and risks is the norm throughout project development and the decision-making process,” he concluded.


Metro and Caltrans have called for private investors. If private money is obtained, the 710 tunnel portion would be a toll road.

In February, Metro hosted its first forum soliciting banks, engineering firms and high-tech companies to come forward and suggest how they can help. About 400 companies showed up at the J.W. Marriott in L.A. Live.

Messina says two private investors inquired about the 710 tunnel project but were told to wait and see due to the project’s hot political environment.

Metro would neither confirm nor deny any interest in the 710 tunnel project, so far.

Joshua Schank, Metro’s chief innovation officer, spoke in general terms about the benefits of private investors in public transit and roadway projects. He said adding private investment can speed up projects and can also reduce the cost.

Also, private companies may shield Metro and the taxpayer from paying cost overruns. But Schank said financiers usually want something in return.

“Some projects are toll based, such as a highway project where you pay back investors,” he said. “In the private sector, when there is a toll involved, the private sector is attracted because that toll can go up.”

New CEO Phil Washington has opened the door for private dollars. That door remains open for short-term and long-term projects, Schank said.

“I’m seeing three or four different ideas (from private investors) a day,” he said. “Most so far have not been about major capital projects, but we are expecting to see that later on.”

High costs, delays and even conflicting environmental benefits have not stopped the popularity of transit and roadway tunnels. Experts say they are more popular than ever.

“Tunnels are being built all over the world,” Neff said. “Everybody wants a tunnel. Around urban areas, they are becoming more desirable because they are environmentally friendly.”

Friday, March 11, 2016

Metro's LA Transit Wishlist Has Something For Everyone

Metro outlines the projects it would fund with a new ballot measure tax increase, and they span the region


By Jeff Wattenhofer, March 11, 2016


It's shaping up to be a busy year for Los Angeles at the ballot box this year. Angelenos are already poised to vote on the future of city planning in LA (in two competing measures), and now it looks like they may be deciding on the future of mass transit as well. Metro is seeking to get a measure on the ballot that, if passed, would fund their next 40 years worth of transit projects.

Metro's new ballot measure is similar to 2008's Measure R, which generated funds for the transit agency through an increase in sales tax. Revenue from that ballot measure has been used primarily to extend the Gold Line to Azuza, as well as the upcoming Expo Line Phase 2 expansion to Santa Monica.

The new ballot measure would both extend the Measure R sales tax past it's 2039 expiration and introduce a new half-cent sales tax increase in LA County lasting at least four decades. In the process, Metro expects to generate $120 billion, one third of which will go to creating five new transit lines and the extension of six existing transit lines.
The structure of Metro's sales tax increase as shown to Metro stakeholders in October.
Metro Stakeholder Report
Metro's board of directors will decide in June if they want to pursue the ballot measure in November. Getting voter attention amidst an already crowded ballot could be difficult, and the ballot measure requires a two-thirds majority to pass (an insane restriction on all new California taxes, and one that tanked the last version of this measure). To peak voter interest, Metro has focused on several ambitious plans that will transform public transportation throughout all of LA County, and they're certainly very attention-getting.

The LA Times has obtained a list of projects Metro is expected to include in the measure—Metro's wishlist of projects they'd like to fund with a sales tax increase is a cornucopia of transit goodies that spans the region. As a rep for the agency says, "What we’ve been saying is, everyone is going to get something, and no one is going to get everything."

Tunneling the Sepulveda Pass

This is the big one. Metro wants to connect the Westside with the San Fernando Valley by tunneling underneath the Sepulveda Pass. This massive north/south connection could be used to link the Orange Line in the Valley to the Purple Line or Expo Line to the south. Estimated costs for the tunnel project hover around $7 billion to $9.5 billion.

The Valley Might Get Some Rail

The San Fernando Valley stands to gain several transit projects as part of the Metro ballot measure. One would connect the Orange Line with the Metrolink station in Sylmar by way of Van Nuys Boulevard—that project would be either light rail or bus.

The Orange Line busway will get new bridges and signal upgrades to minimize the time buses spend idling, and, speaking of the Orange Line, some of the ballot measure funding could be used to convert the popular bus route to a light rail system. The conversion would cost between $1.2 billion and $1.7 billion, so additional funding would have to be secured to go ahead with that project.

LAX Train Station Gets Funded

Construction on Metro's long-awaited LAX connection is already planned to begin in 2017, but the transit agency still needs some serious funding for the train station itself. $200 million is needed to build the state-of-the-art Crenshaw Line train station that would act as the LAX Metro hub. For that hefty pricetag, Metro expects the station to be an LAX gamechanger, cutting traffic at the airport by 40 percent.

Train riders will have easy access to airport terminals and rental car facilities through a system of people movers. With the ballot measure funding, Metro would further integrate the station and airport by installing flight check-in counters, a currency exchange, and flight information boards.

A Train Line for West Hollywood

For years, WeHo has been clamoring for a Crenshaw Line extension to pass through its neighborhood, and they just might get it with this ballot measure. Metro would build a six-mile north/south connection from the Crenshaw Line that would link to the Purple Line on Wilshire before traveling up to the Red Line station at Hollywood and Highland.

A Train for Vermont Avenue

To alleviate bus traffic on one of its most congested routes, Metro wants to put a train line under Vermont Avenue. It would run about three miles and connect the Purple Line at Wilshire with the Expo Line to the south.

The Purple Line Extension Gets a Speed Boost

Mayor Eric Garcetti is keen on getting the expanded Purple Line up and running by 2024 in case LA hosts the summer Olympics that year. Metro has already tried to get some federal money to speed up the extension, but if that doesn't come through, it would get the money from the ballot initiative.

Green Line Extension into Torrance

The Green Line would push a little further to the south, traveling along the 405 to Torrance. The extension would add 8.7 miles of track to the Green Line, stopping near Crenshaw Boulevard.
Metro may also put some funding into closing the 2.8-mile gap between the Metro Green Line station and the Metrolink station in Norwalk.

More Metro Rapid Bus Routes

Bus routes along Lincoln Boulevard in Venice and Santa Monica, as well as the North Hollywood to Pasadena route would become Bus Rapid Transit Projects. No word yet on whether that means dedicate busways (like the Orange Line), temporary rush hour "bus only" lanes (like on Wilshire Boulevard), or some other iteration.

More Gold Line Extensions

The northbound Gold Line would get an extension all the way to Montclair, stopping in Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona and Claremont along the way. Southbound Gold Line trains would get an extension too, but a proposed route has not been confirmed yet. Two options exist at the moment, one that goes along the 60 Freeway to El Monte and the other that travels along Washington Boulevard to Whittier.

A Downtown LA/Artesia Connection

Either a train or bus would connect Union Station to Artesia and several other communities in southeastern LA County.

Metro Gold Line opening: subdued


March 8, 2016

I journeyed to Azusa for the first time yesterday. Why, you may ask? It was not to cheer on the Azusa Pacific volleyball team or to take a hike up to Mt. Baldy but to experience the "Foothill extension" of the Gold Line, which opened for service yesterday.

I had a lot of fun. I not only got to see new towns and landscapes (including stunning views of the San Gabriel mountains) but sample excellent beer at the various pubs placed conveniently along the route.

With that said, small but pertinent operational flaws checkered my experience (and my optimism for the line's success).

For one thing, getting to the Gold Line by public transit was not easy because bus service on arterials headed to Downtown was rather infrequent (due to scheduling) and prone to traffic delays. Though I am a fan of expanding Metro's rail coverage, I believe that such expansion must be coupled with initiatives to improve the utility of its buses, which carry three times the ridership of Metro's trains.

The litter arrayed around the seats on the Red Line (which I took for the second leg of my pre-ride journey) and the odious smells that permeated the train proved to be another blot on my experience. As I discussed in one of my recent posts (and frequently brought up by public commentors on articles like this), Metro could boost transit use and ridership significantly simply by increasing maintenance (and heightening onboard security) on vehicles.

Then when I first boarded the Gold Line at Union Station, I was surprised (and a bit worried) to see Sierra Madre Villa listed as the destination on the train's front monitor, as well as on the maps posted in the interior. Even the programmed announcer which blared upon departure from each station still parrotted Sierra Madre Villa as the "final destination". Only when the train passed Sierra Madre Villa without making a "final stop" announcment (or dispensing of all its passengers) did I know for certain that this was not a "Short Line" service.  

Most disappointing of all, the neighborhoods the stations served displayed little semblance of the transit-oriented, walkable "third Los Angeles" Metro is supposed to work towards. The Duarte station was surrounded by suburban office parks. Monrovia station tempted with a grass-covered commons in the immediate vicinity (called "Station Park") but this gave way, as I moved away from the station along Myrtle Avenue, to a desolate strand of auto body shops, office park complexes and gas stations, encasing a sea of single-family homes: the Monrovia "Old Town", which wayfinding signs pointed to as if right at the station's doorstop, lay a good mile-long walk away, uphill (and under a freeway overpass). Irwindale station, as expected, amounted to little more than an island in an industrial wasteland. On the other hand, the Arcadia station is snug in the heart of a commercial strip that appeared nonetheless (on both approach and departure), depressingly car-centric.

Only the Azusa station opened out immediately onto a commercial and retail corridor along Azusa avenue, though this "downtown" was none-too impressive. There seemed to be as many vape shops as eateries (I counted only five restaurants and bars in three blocks). The early 20th-century Spanish Colonial-style> buildings charmed but none integrated a residential use into the district (whether exclusively or as a mixed-use project). Copious parking suggested that most people drove here.

I shouldn't have been too surprised. Eric Brightwell's 2013 exploration of the line's course noted Arcadia's dearth of sidewalks and the Monrovia and Duarte stations' distance from those cities' pedestrian cores.

But I had hope that Metro learned in its 20-odd years of constructing rail lines from debacles such as the Green Line and that its planners had some awareness of the common (transport planning) knowledge that mass transit requires residential density and walkable urban design to be profitable.

With a subway along the region's densest commercial corridor not slated for completion until mid-century and the Sepulveda Pass rail project not even on the table of Metro's 25-year plan, one can only assume that Metro cares little about workable transit.

What Will the Future of L.A. Transit Look Like?


By Gene Maddaus, March 10, 2016

 The Expo Line in downtown L.A.

 The Expo Line in downtown L.A.

 What does the future hold for Los Angeles transit? We will know a lot more tomorrow, when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveils its plan for a new half-cent sales tax measure. (See update below. The MTA has delayed the release of the plan.)

 The MTA has been eyeing the November 2016 ballot for years, hoping to win the two-thirds vote needed to approve a new tax and raise $120 billion for new rail projects. The agency has been soliciting input from cities and community groups throughout the county, in what it calls a "bottom-up" process.

Last fall, the agency received a massive list of projects — with an estimated cost as high as $273 billion. Since then, staffers have been culling the list based on projected ridership and other performance criteria.

We don't know exactly what's on the list, but we can make an informed guess. Here is what the MTA calls its "shovel-ready" projects. This is probably a pretty good starting point:

What Will the Future of L.A. Transit Look Like?

The big theme here is providing north-south connections, which would turn the current hub-and-spoke system into more of a grid.

The big-ticket item — the one that should get the lion's share of attention — is marked "G." That's the Sepulveda Pass tunnel, which will connect the Orange Line to the Wilshire subway ("F") and the Expo Line. Mayor Eric Garcetti has talked about having a seamless route from the north San Fernando Valley, through the Sepulveda Pass, all the way to LAX. So a key thing to pay attention to is whether that project gets extended past the Expo Line down Sepulveda Boulevard to Westchester and the airport. That segment does not appear on the above map, and it would be a pretty big deal if it were included.

Another big one to look out for is marked "J" — the Crenshaw northern extension. West Hollywood has been clamoring for access to the rail grid, and this is its big chance. E Expect to see the Crenshaw Line extended north to the Purple Line and on to the Red Line.
 Further east is the Vermont Avenue bus rapid transit line ("H"). Decades ago, there were plans to build a subway down Vermont. Now the plan is to build a dedicated busway, akin to the Orange Line, down the center median of Vermont. It's possible, though it would be a surprise, that this could be turned into a light-rail line.

Speaking of the Orange Line, another question is whether the Orange Line bus ("K") will be converted to light rail. The San Fernando Valley also is expecting funding for the Van Nuys Boulevard light-rail project ("B"). San Fernando Valley leaders and groups like the Valley Industry and Commerce Association are pushing hard for both these items, arguing that the Valley got screwed on Measure R, the 2008 transit tax.

And speaking of inequities, the Southeast cities (Maywood, Huntington Park, South Gate, etc.) are lobbying hard for the Eco-Rapid Line ("C"), which would run from Union Station down to Artesia. They also feel they got left out before, and they're looking to make up for lost time. This route might also include a stop in the DTLA Arts District.

It'll also be interesting to see whether the South Bay extension to Torrance ("D") is left as is, or if the MTA tries to reroute it to run down Prairie Avenue past the new Inglewood NFL stadium. And Glendale and Burbank are keeping an eye on the North Hollywood–to-Pasadena connection ("I"), which right now is slated as a busway.

Rail will be only a fraction of the total $120 billion budget. A lot of it will go to highway improvements, especially as you get farther away from downtown L.A., as well as operations and maintenance. There also is likely to be some money to do the "Rail to River" project — a bike path down an old railbed on Slauson Avenue ("N") — as well as something to fill the gaps in DTLA on the L.A. River bike path ("P").

The current plan, subject to change, is to sunset the new tax after 40 years, in 2057. The Measure R tax, which currently expires in 2039, would also be extended to 2057. (Measure J, which would have extended the Measure R sunset by 30 years, narrowly missed the two-thirds threshold in the 2012 election.)

As the MTA plans projects for the next four decades, a key issue is going to be scheduling. For some participants in the process, it won't be enough to see their project on the list — they'll want it in the first decade.
The staff recommendation, which comes out tomorrow, is just the first step. The 13-member MTA board will take feedback and likely make modifications before voting sometime this summer to put the measure on the November ballot.

Stay tuned.

Update at 2:48 p..m.: The MTA was supposed to release the expenditure plan on Friday. That has now been delayed by one week. The word is that MTA executives have been briefing board members on the plan this week. It's possible that some are asking for changes or additional information before the plan is made public.

Update at 4:25 p.m.: "The fighting is about sequencing," says one person briefed on the expenditure plan. "It's who gets what when. It’s not whether we get it. It’s how soon it happens."


Thursday, March 10, 2016

It’s time to put LOS in the past. Will SoCal make it define our future?


By Jessicam, March 9, 2016

In January, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released draft guidelines that would usher in a new era of transportation planning that prioritizes greenhouse gas emissions reductions, improving public health, and providing more transportation choices over decades of sprawling auto-oriented development. The OPR’s guidelines would replace the prioritization of the Level of Service (LOS) with reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

But, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the region’s six county transportation agencies are resisting the change.

Many of our partners working to address climate change, support safer communities for walking, bicycling, and transit access, saw the OPR recommendations as a “rational next step, and a national precedent,” as written by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and Climate Plan (See their blog post here). Prioritizing the reduction of VMTs, overall, would result in more bikeable, walkable, healthy, and low-carbon communities. We couldn’t agree more.
“The new guidelines remove “Level of Service” (to cars) as a significant transportation impact of new development. The new measure is Vehicle Miles Traveled.” Bill Sadler at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
But, SCAG and their group are asking for exemptions from the revised guidelines. Specifically, they are asking to be grandfathered in all projects in the 2016 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS), State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), and voter-approved sales tax measures. However, many of those projects, including many road widenings, wouldn’t be subject to these new guidelines even though they will inevitably increase VMT. SCAG argues that these road widenings are necessary to accommodate future growth, and that any increase in VMT would be balanced out by VMT reductions in transit-oriented areas that will see growth. (See SCAG’s letter to OPR here)

Pushing back against the Governor’s OPR, SCAG recommended preserving LOS and congestion impact analysis. If we preserved this old-school method, projects that increase the amount of driving would further promote suburban sprawl and exacerbate public health problems rather than prioritize affordable housing, safe walking and bicycling infrastructure, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our regional transportation network.

The Governor’s OPR recommendations are a major milestone for battling climate change and advancing healthy, sustainable, and equitable communities across the state. Some cities, including Pasadena and San Francisco, are getting a head start and adopting these changes before OPR even finalizes these guidelines.

We welcome these progressive changes in Southern California, especially when the Governor’s office is leading the charge — let’s just hope SCAG jumps on board before we get left behind.

To help get Southern California back on track to become a leader in climate change and transportation equity, please sign your organization onto this response letter to SCAG by Friday March 12th by emailing jessica@investinginplace.org.

Fix California’s crisis-plagued transit funding


March 9, 2016

 Highway repair work causes drivers entering Sacramento on Highway 50 to come to a near stand still. The future problem will be funding such repairs. (AP file photo by Rich Pedroncelli)

 Highway repair work causes drivers entering Sacramento on Highway 50 to come to a near stand still. The future problem will be funding such repairs.

California transportation authorities have been warning for years about problems in our state’s gasoline tax-based structure of paying for highways and their repair.

That’s because the good news on so many fronts associated with higher-mileage and hybrid and electric vehicles — American energy independence, attacking global warming — also is the bad news when it comes to fuel-tax revenues coming into Sacramento’s coffers. California has a large backlog of roadway and transit-infrastructure repair, and that is why we have supported experiments looking at the best way to change the ways motorists pay for our highways, including moving toward a tax based on miles traveled, not just fuel purchased.

Until recently, the problem had seemed a looming one, but not a cause for institutional alarm.
That’s all changed. In a letter dated Jan. 27 sent to all members of the California Legislature, the California Transportation Commission called the funding situation a “crisis” that “continues to worsen.”

And the commission is using more than strong words. Charged with overseeing spending not only on roads but on state-funded rapid transit such as urban rail systems, its members announced a cutback of $754 million in available funding for projects that have already been approved over the next five years. Not only that — there will be “no new projects” funded, since no new money is available.

“There will be a significant delay (in funding) for the projects that remain ... almost all are at risk of delay,” commission Executive Director Will Kempton told the editorial board this week.
For California motorists, for users of rapid transit, for long-haul truckers, this is very bad news indeed.

The letter to legislators includes a list by county and legislative district of projects that may be delayed or terminated because of the funding crisis. For various bureaucratic and political reasons, the hits to road repairs come harder to tiny counties such as Lassen and Lake than they do to Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. There are only four at risk for “deletion and delay” in L.A. County, for instance, whereas Mendocino has 10. We may be OK without a couple of small boulevard-widening schemes. But then check out this line item: “Light Rail Vehicles. $102,400,000.” The CTC is warning, right as Southern California is on the verge of major new rail connections, that we may be short a few cars.

In San Bernardino County, the biggest of five projects at risk for cutback or elimination is the Kramer Junction four-lane expressway, with $155,095,000 potentially on the chopping block, along with projects to improve the 215 and 210 freeways. In Ventura County, planned HOV lanes on the 101 are threatened.

The problem of saving what the CTC calls California’s “crumbling transportation infrastructure” isn’t off in the future — it’s today. Last year the Legislature took up but failed to come to agreement on any bills that would address that problem. Senators and Assembly members, we realize you believe your constituents don’t want to hear about new taxes. But unless we change the way we fund both roadways and rapid transit, we fall into a pothole from which there is no escape. Do the brave thing and quickly adopt comprehensive improvements to the fuel tax to keep California on the move.

Action Alert! Support New CEQA Guidelines for Sustainable Transportation

From Sylvia Plummer, March 9, 2016

Voice your support for the revised CEQA Guidelines by signing on to this letter by 5pm Friday, March 11. Please email Bill Sadler at bill@saferoutespartnership.org with your name, organization and logo.

Goodbye, “Level of Service” for cars! It’s taken years to develop, but the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) has finally released its proposed update of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) guidelines on evaluating transportation impacts. The new guidelines are a major step forward. For too long, CEQA actually measured delay to cars as a negative environmental impact – as if cars speeding around was good for the environment. In fact, slowing cars down makes streets safer and helps get people into other, healthier forms of transportation. This step will advance the healthy, sustainable, equitable communities that sustainable transportation advocates across the state are working hard to create. But opposition to the guidelines is growing from government agencies and business interests who are happy with the status quo, especially in Southern California, which is why your support is important. You can read more about our support for the guidelines and our original comment letter to OPR here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Metro Opens Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa


By Joe Linton, March 7, 2016

Last Saturday, Metro extended its growing rail network, celebrating the grand opening of the 11-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension. The initial phase of the Foothill Extension includes six new stations in five San Gabriel Valley cities: Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, and Azusa. Additional future phases would extend the Gold Line to Ontario Airport.

The Foothill Gold Line will extend from Pasadena to Azusa, with six new stations slated to open in September 2015. Image via Metro
The Foothill Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa. Image via Metro

Kick-off festivities began at the Duarte/City of Hope station, where a crowd of more than a thousand gathered to hear remarks from Metro board members, numerous representatives of the cities along the route, Metro’s CEO Phil Washington, and other luminaries.

MRT xxx
County Supervisor and Metro board chair Mark Ridley Thomas hosting the Gold Line opening festivities, proclaiming “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

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Metro CEO Phil Washington announcing the opening of the extension that makes the Gold Line Metro’s longest rail line, in what is now nearly 100 miles of Metro rail.
County Supervisor and Metro board member Mike Antonovich welcomes the Foothill Gold Line.
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Elected officials cut the ribbon on the Gold Line Duarte Station platform. Photo by Aviv Kleinman

The initial train departed Duarte Station about 11:20 a.m. to celebrate at other stations along the line. Hundreds of people waited in line for the free train rides starting at noon. All afternoon, there were long lines to board trains, which were standing room only.

Hundreds of people wait to board the Gold Line in Duarte.
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Free Gold Line train rides began at noon on Saturday. Photo by Aviv Kleinman
The view from the Gold Line train operator's seat. Photo by Aviv Kleinman
A view from the Gold Line train operator’s seat. Photo by Aviv Kleinman

Cities along the line hosted popular opening day festivities, featuring family activities, food, music, information booths, and much more.

Chinese dragons dance at the Duarte Station.
Aboard a children’s train ride, watching an early light rail train arrive at Duarte Station.

Free rides and large crowds continued celebrating the new rail line all afternoon. Below is a photo tour of the new line from west to east, Arcadia to Azusa. For more pictures from on the train, see SBLA’s earlier preview post.

Gold Line crossing the new bridge over Santa Anita Avenue in Arcadia
IMG_0360 (2)
The Gold Line pulling into the Arcadia Station
Monrovia’s Station Square features a pedestrian plaza, outdoor theater and train-themed park.
Gold Line Monrov
Large crowds and large parking structure at the Monrovia Station
Westbound Gold Line train at the Irwindale Station
Gold Line opening day festivities at the Irwindale Station
Crowds waiting to board the Gold Line in downtown Azusa
Crowds waiting to board the Gold Line in downtown Azusa

All in all, the opening drew large crowds of people excited to experience and celebrate Metro’s newest line. Hopefully many of them enjoyed the ride, and, now that they are familiar with the Gold Line, they will make transit part of their ongoing travel choices in the future.

Unfortunately, a freeway crash closed a portion of the Gold Line yesterday, but repairs were completed in time for this morning’s commute.

Friday, March 4, 2016

How the new Gold Line route will impact traffic on the 210 Freeway


By Steve Scauzillo, March 1, 2016

 Commuters travel on the 210 Freeway during evening peak hours near Irwindale Avenue in Irwindale on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2016. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/ San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

 Commuters travel on the 210 Freeway during evening peak hours near Irwindale Avenue in Irwindale on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2016.

Will the Gold Line Foothill Extension improve traffic on the 210 Freeway in the San Gabriel Valley?
The answer may never be known because the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), Caltrans, and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority don’t show any interest in finding out.

“There aren’t any specific studies that analyzes traffic,” said Dave Sotero, Metro spokesman, when asked if the 11.5-mile addition from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border will make a dent in the traffic nightmare that exists daily on the 210 Freeway between Pasadena and western San Bernardino County.

“I don’t know. We always hope so. We have not measured what the potential impact will be on the freeway,” said Habib Balian, CEO of the Construction Authority.

While politicians who supported the $1 billion extension, set to open March 5, say it will help as more commuters choose the train and ditch their cars, there are no studies suggesting the Gold Line Foothill route will reduce the number of cars on the freeway. And none are planned.

One answer might be to look at other light-rail trains in Southern California.

A study released in November from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy found “no evidence of improved freeway traffic system performance” on the 10 or 110 freeways near the university, Coliseum or LA Live after more than a year of operation of the Expo Line.

“We do not find any consistent significant impact on average speed or travel time reliability along the experimental segment of the I-10 freeway,” researchers concluded.

The study did say arterial streets near the Expo Line “marginally improved.” Also, the study found light rail had a positive impact on overall transit use within the Culver City-to-Downtown L.A. corridor along the Expo Line.

The takeaways from this study and others that come to similar conclusions is that ridership on a light-rail line only has a small, if any, impact on massive freeway congestion.

If one does the math, the 210 Freeway at Lake Avenue carried 301,000 cars a day on average during 2014, according to Caltrans’ latest numbers. During a peak month, the same location had 315,000 vehicles per day.

The traffic volume on the 210 Freeway is growing and in 2014, it posted higher daily traffic volumes in the San Gabriel Valley — along where the Gold Line runs — than the 101 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley. In Arcadia, the 210 traffic volume is similar to those on the 101 in Van Nuys, though some exits in the San Fernando Valley show slightly higher traffic volume.

Overall, trips on California roadways increased in 2014 over 2013 by 2.64 percent, Caltrans reported, adding to a 1.86 percent increase in 2013. More people are driving and that may also be related to a drop in mass transit use in Southern California, experts say.

• Read More: Why new Gold Line stations mean local neighborhood changes are coming

The Gold Line Foothill Extension is estimated to carry 13,600 passengers a day by 2035, according to studies on ridership done by the Construction Authority. If each train carries 220 people, and there are five trains an hour, that equals 1,100 riders per hour. Figuring commuter hours run from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., or seven hours, that equates to 7,700 train riders.

That is not a large number when compared to 302,000 daily drivers on the 210 Freeway.

Catherine Burke, associate professor emerita at the Price School, was asked about the impact of both Gold Line Foothill on the 210 Freeway and Expo Line Phase II (opening at the end of May) on the 10 Freeway in Culver city and Santa Monica.

“My guess is there will be some reduction in traffic on both of those freeways but there is so much traffic it will hardly be noticeable,” she answered.

Some may park their cars at the Irwindale Station and ride the train the rest of the way, freeing up freeway lanes, she said. “The freeways seem to be getting much worse,” she said. “So if you have a long drive you will do that.”

• Read More: 21 things to do along the new Gold Line route

While the Gold Line Foothill will work for some, it won’t for most, she said.

This is the reason why many supporters talk about the Gold Line Foothill as another transportation choice instead of a solution to gridlock.

“It does not solve problems on all these highways,” Balian said. “It gives people a choice to get out of their vehicle and get on to transit.”

Doug Tessitor, chairman of the Gold Line Construction Authority board and a former Glendora city councilman, takes the long view. He talks about younger people whom studies show like public transit. Eventually, younger generations will use the train instead of driving their cars.

“As time goes on we’ll get a generation of Californians that are becoming used to public transit. Maybe for my generation it may not make a significant dent (in freeway traffic) but for our kids and grand kids — they will be the real beneficiaries,” he said.

SR 710 North EIR/EIS TAC Meeting No. 21

From Sylvia Plummer, March 2, 2016

Please be reminded that the next State Route 710 north EIR/EIS Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting will be held at Metro on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 1:00 pm .  The purpose of this TAC is to inform affected agencies and/or jurisdictions about the progress of the State Route 710 North EIR/EIS contract and key milestones, and to provide input on a wide range of planning and technical issues that may arise during the development of the EIR/EIS.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What you need to know about the new bus service connecting the San Fernando, San Gabriel Valleys


By Kevin Smith, February 29, 2016

 Michael D. Antonovich, L.A. County Supervisor, Metro Board member, left, Eric Garcetti, L.A. Mayor, Metro Board Member, Phil Washington, Metro CEO speaking at podium, Ara Najarian, Mayor of Glendale, Metro Board Member, and John Fasana, Duarte City Council and Metro Board member. San Fernando and San Gabriel Valley stakeholders launch the new

Michael D. Antonovich, L.A. County Supervisor, Metro Board member, left, Eric Garcetti, L.A. Mayor, Metro Board Member, Phil Washington, Metro CEO speaking at podium, Ara Najarian, Mayor of Glendale, Metro Board Member, and John Fasana, Duarte City Council and Metro Board member. San Fernando and San Gabriel Valley stakeholders launch the new "NoHo to Pasadena  Express" pilot bus line on March 1. The new express line will connect the Metro Red/Orange Lines in North Hollywood with the Metro Gold Line in Pasadena via 134 carpool lanes, making it possible to travel by transit between the two valley without having to through downtown L.A. Express bus makes limited stops i Burbank's Media District and downtown Glendale, two  major Valley job centers and provide connections to Bob Hope Airport from North Hollywood.

Transit officials and a group of elected representatives gathered Monday in Pasadena to unveil a pilot bus service that will ferry passengers between North Hollywood and Pasadena, offering easier access to rail lines and other key destinations in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s “NoHo to Pasadena Express,” also referred to as Line 501, will operate seven days a week utilizing carpool lanes on the 134 Freeway. Rides will be offered every 15 minutes during peak hours and every half hour during off-peak periods with a base fare of $2.50.

Travel times between North Hollywood and Pasadena are expected to be about 50 minutes during peak traffic times and 35 to 40 minutes during off-peak hours.

The express line will connect the Metro Red/Orange light-rail lines in North Hollywood and the Metro Gold Line in Pasadena, with limited stops in Burbank’s Media District and northern downtown Glendale.

“Today the missing link is no longer missing,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who is also a Metro board member. “The San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Valley are going to be connected. Everyone will have a better opportunity to have less congested highways and freeways when they go to work, to their entertainment, to the doctor or wherever they want to go.”

Antonovich joined with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, Metro CEO Phil Washington and others to launch the new line. The event was held Monday morning at Central Park in Pasadena, which is located across the street from the Del Mar Metro Gold Line Station.

The six-month pilot project is expected to cost $1.2 million to operate with an anticipated average daily ridership of 1,500 by the end of the six-month period.

“This is a very exciting moment for all of us because today we link together that thing that connects all of us,” said Garcetti, who also serves on the Metro board. “With this bus line we will offer the people of Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank, Los Angeles, North Hollywood and all of the surrounding communities that are close by a new way to cut your commute times.”

The new bus line will also link up with other municipal bus operators heading to Burbank Bob Hope Airport, Santa Clarita, downtown Burbank and a variety of local connections in Glendale and Pasadena.

Line 501 will make station stops at NoHo Station, Hollywood Way and Olive Avenue in Burbank, Buena Vista Street and Alameda Avenue in Burbank, Goode Avenue and Brand (westbound) and Sanchez and Brand (eastbound in Glendale), and the Gold Line’s Memorial Park and Del Mar stations in Pasadena.

“This line is the key,” said Najarian, also a Metro board member. “It might be small — it might just be a thin line that’s on our Metro transit maps — but it’s a connection that’s going to make everything work.”

The unveiling of the NoHo to Pasadena Express comes in tandem with this Saturday’s opening of the Metro Gold Line extension, which extends the Gold Line another 11.5 miles between eastern Pasadena and Azusa.

“It’s not every day that a transit agency opens a new bus line and a new rail line at the same time,” Washington said. “I was talking to the Pasadena mayor earlier and we were taking about exceeding all ridership projections. I think we will on this Gold Line Extension and also with this connection between the two valleys. We are investing taxpayers dollars wisely with improvements planned throughout the region. We are going to pull out all the stops in terms of Metro and working with the various cities and the stops to market this line. We think we will exceed that 1,500 average weekday boardings.”

Tornek said Line 501 will funnel more people into the city who will be drawn by Pasadena’s restaurants, multi-family housing, museums, surrounding mountains and other attractions.

“I think we’ll see a lot of millennials coming here,” he said. “Part of what makes Pasadena an attractive place for millennials is access to public transportation. And when employers are thinking about locating to a city that is one of the criteria they use in selecting a place.”