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

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."