REGIONAL CONNECTOR: I think it was nice to see the final environmental study for the Regional Connector be released the other day. Although public review and approval from the Board of Directors is still required, it’s the fourth major environmental study of a Measure R project to be completed since the public voted for the half-cent sales tax increase in 2008 — the others are the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the Expo Line’s second phase.
The Westside Subway Extension’s final study is also due to be released soon. Yes, construction is sexier, but these exhaustive and furniture-sized studies are required by law and must be done first.
As for the Connector, I recommend taking a look at the study. When all is said and done in the coming years, Metro will have spent more than $3 billion on building the Expo Line to Santa Monica, the Gold Line to Azusa and the Blue Line to Long Beach.
The Connector ties those lines together in downtown Los Angeles and by greatly reducing the need for transfers and allowing more frequent service, the Connector will shave time off the commute of anyone traveling into downtown Los Angeles or through it.
THREE THOUGHTS ON HIGH SPEED RAIL’S LATEST SPEED BUMPS: Last week’s meeting of the Board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority was mostly a sleepy affair (judging by a few napping audience members) when the Authority’s CEO and Board Chair both announced they were stepping down. That, of course, inspired a fresh round of media stories about the project and whether it would be built.
My perspective — with an emphasis that these are my views and not the agency’s:
•There are clearly critics of the project in the state who suffer a failure of imaganation when it comes to California’s transportation future. There are clearly proponents of the project who suffer from their unwillingness to put actions behind words and propose a realistic way to fund the bullet train. At this point, it feels to me as if we’ve reached a stalemate without enough voices on either side to get it built or kill it.
•To me, the greatest problem to date is the lack of a Plan B. Flawed language in the state bill that allowed the high-speed rail bond package to go to voters in 2008 required that the train must be able to travel between San Francisco and the L.A. area in 2.5 hours. As this L.A. Times story explains, that kind of speed has greatly elevated the cost of the project to the point where it’s facing an $86-billion shortfall.
•And what could be a plan B? Perhaps a plan to build a train that would take five hours or so to connect San Francisco or Los Angeles. Amtrak is already enormously popular in California even though it takes half a day (literally — 11-plus hours) at present to travel between L.A. and Oakland on Amtrak. I suspect cutting that time in half would still result in higher-speed rail and attract many riders who would rather not drive or fly. Problem is, we don’t know how much that would cost because the bullet train studies have focused on the most expensive option — a 220 mph bullet train.
EXPO LINE: I’m pleased that today we’re publishing the first of many posts on destinations reachable via the first phase of the Expo Line. I still don’t know when it’s opening — sorry, no insider info here — but I do think as testing has ramped up it’s time to take a look beyond the actual project to the neighborhoods it will serve.