As many of you know by now, the Regional Connector’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report was released last Friday. (News release and Exec summary here). The public review period begins today and the Metro Board of Directors will consider the report at their February meeting.
Here are some of the highlights of this key project — I can’t emphasize the word ‘key’ enough — which is funded in part by the Measure R sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008:
The 1.9-mile light rail line will connect the Gold Line to the Blue Line and Expo Line in downtown Los Angeles via a tunnel that will mostly follow 2nd and Flower streets.
As the above map shows, the project will allow for a one-seat ride for light rail passengers to downtown destinations and allow for trains to run from Santa Monica to East L.A. (and beyond) and from Azusa (and perhaps beyond) to Long Beach. That means fewer transfers and more time savings for Metro passengers — more on that below.
Three new undergrounnd stations will be built at 2nd/Hope, Broadway/2nd and in Little Tokyo in the block bounded by Central, Alameda, 1st and 2nd streets. The Little Tokyo station will replace the existing surface-level Gold Line station, which may be kept for use during special events. The tunnel entrances for the Connector will be on either side of the Little Tokyo station.
The project timeline: if the Metro Board approves the final environmental study in February, the Federal Transit Administration would then hopefully sign off on the document later this year. Engineering and design would take one to two years followed by four years of construction. The project is scheduled to open by 2019.
The report says that the Regional Connector is projected to create more than 17,000 new transit trips and will have a ridership of more than 89,000 users daily. Unlike other alternatives studied and considered, the fully underground line that Metro staff is recommending would obviously have no street crossings, be faster and would have fewer long-term impacts on the downtown community.
Other big benefits:
•This is not just a downtown-specific project. The reason that “Regional” is in the project’s title is because it vastly improves the individual light rail lines that Metro has built (and is building) at a cost of more than $3 billion. While time savings to passengers are in downtown L.A., the Connector means people will more likely use light rail lines across the county – in effect, widening the audience for transit, transit-oriented development and other similar benefits.
•Fewer transfers. Under Metro’s current fare structure, a passenger must buy a ticket in order to transfer or upgrade to a daily pass — even if going for a short distance after transfering. Reducing transfers puts money back in passenger’s pockets.
•Frequency. At present, the Blue Line and Expo Line dead-end at 7th/Metro Center, meaning there are only so many trains that can run on both lines. The Connector will allow for trains running through downtown up to every 2.5 minutes at peak times. In other words, it greatly enhances capacity of Metro’s light rail lines.
•The Connector connects the Eastside Gold Line directly to the Westside Subway Extension – a $5-billion-plus project — without the current detour and time-munching transfer at Union Station. To put it another way, it makes it easier for riders to access Metro’s most expensive project and thereby helps justify that investment.
•Many Metro passengers will see significantly reduced travel times because of the Connector. Here’s why:
Passengers on the Gold Line, Blue Line and Expo Line will no longer have to transfer at Union Station or 7th/Metro to reach their destinations. For example, someone boarding the Gold Line in Old Town Pasadena will be able to reach the Pico station — near Staples Center and L.A. Live — in about 30 minutes and will no longer have to transfer to the Red/Purple Line at Union Station and to the Blue Line at 7th/Metro. That’s a time savings of at least 10 minutes (and often much more).
Conversely, as stated above, passengers boarding the Gold Line in East Los Angeles, for example, will no longer have to ride to Union Station and then transfer to the subway to reach the heart of downtown L.A. — a detour that usually consumes 10 to 15 minutes, at the least. Metro surveys in the past have found that almost half of Gold Line riders need to transfer to another bus or train to reach their destination.
Blue Line passengers will be able to stay on the train at 7th/Metro to reach the Civic Center, Little Tokyo, Union Station and the Pasadena leg of the Gold Line. The same applies to Expo Line passengers who will have one transfer to reach Union Station and the Pasadena leg of the Gold Line — not the two required under the current set-up.
The Regional Connector is also expected to help alleviate some crowding on platforms at Union Station and 7th/Metro Center — where many light rail passengers now must transfer — as well as help relieve future crowding on the subway in downtown, which will one day run to Westwood.
The following chart from the report compares the time savings of the alternatives considered for the project. Metro staff is recommending the fully underground route.
The project is expected to cost $1.342 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars.
The chart below shows where the money is expected to come from to build the project; the Connector and the Westside Subway Extension are requesting federal “New Starts” money as a combined project.
The Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) would be inserted at the property northeast of 1st and Alameda Streets known as the Mangrove property (formerly known as the Nikkei development), and then transported underground to Central Avenue, where it would begin excavating westward.
The TBM will then tunnel under 2nd Street and help dig the tunnel all the way to Flower and 4th. The rest of the tunnel under 4th will be done by the cut-and-cover method.
A pocket track, which could also serve as a crossover, would be located beneath Flower Street between 4th and 6th streets. This would allow for a possible future station beneath Flower Street between 5th and 4th Streets — that would be funded and built as a separate project.
The Connector is obviously a signficant undertaking and some of the construction impacts are still being finalized.
One other point of interestingness