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.
Will the Gold Line Foothill Extension improve traffic on the 210 Freeway in the San Gabriel Valley?
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
“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
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.
do not find any consistent significant impact on average speed or travel
time reliability along the experimental segment of the I-10 freeway,”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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While the Gold Line Foothill will work for some, it won’t for most, she said.
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
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