Foothill Extension Construction Authority approves route for Gold Line from Azusa to Montclair; project still needs funding

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The Board of the Construction Authority on Wednesday approved the route, which covers 12.3 miles along an existing rail corridor from Glendora to Montclair with stations in Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair.

The Gold Line is currently being extended from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border — that part of the project is being paid for by the Measure R sales tax increase approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. This is the second phase of that project, which is in Metro’s long-range plan. As the news release notes, funding will need to be found in order to build this part of the project.

It’s an intriguing project. If completed, the Gold Line could eventually run all the way from Montclair to downtown Los Angeles and then to Long Beach via the Regional Connector project (not to mention the other leg of the Gold Line from Union Station to East L.A. and eventually either South El Monte or Whittier). The trip from Montclair to Old Town Pasadena is estimated to take about 40 minutes — it would be an alternative to the increasingly congested 210 freeway. The trip from Montclair to downtown Los Angeles about 64 to 70 minutes depending on the station in downtown.

Here’s the final environmental study for the project. And below is the news release from the Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the independent agency that is planning and will build the project:

MONROVIA, CA – At their meeting last night, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority (Construction Authority) board of directors approved the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail project from Azusa to Montclair. The 12.3-mile light rail extension includes future stations in the cities of Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair; as well as two new grade-separated crossings (at Lone Hill in Glendora and Towne Avenue in Pomona). The project would extend light rail service between Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, terminating the line at the multi-modal TransCenter in Montclair where multiple bus lines from throughout San Bernardino County and Metrolink already connect. The proposed extension is planned to run mostly at street level and parking is planned at each station.

“This is an important next step in our effort to connect Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire by light rail and a very exciting milestone,” said Doug Tessitor, Chairman of the Construction Authority board of directors. “The Construction Authority is steadfastly committed to completing our mission of building the Gold Line out to Montclair, and hopefully further to Ontario Airport. Our decision last night allows us to move forward with designing the project as we seek funding to build the line east of Azusa.”

The Foothill Extension from Azusa to Montclair is part of the county-wide program of rail service expansion made possible by the passage of Measure R in 2008. One of several rail projects approved by voters in 2008, the Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Montclair is being planned and built in two segments – Pasadena to Azusa (currently under construction) and Azusa to Montclair. Measure R provides $810 million for the 24-mile project; however, completing the project from Pasadena to Montclair will need approximately twice that amount.

“We continue to have overwhelming support from our corridor cities and our elected officials at all levels,” added Tessitor. “The board is committed to working through all unresolved issues as we continue to work through the details of this important and large-scale project and start to design elements. We truly appreciate the open communication and working relationship we have with our regional and city partners.”

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About the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension – The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension is a nearly $2 billion 24-mile extension of the Metro Gold Line light rail system, being overseen by the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, an independent transportation planning and construction agency created in 1999 by the California State Legislature. The project is planned in two segments – Pasadena to Azusa and Azusa to Montclair. The Pasadena to Azusa segment is fully funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure R and is on schedule to be completed in 2015. The Azusa to Montclair segment is not fully funded and will seek funding opportunities following project approval and environmental certification.

29 replies

  1. I like how the current lack of funding doesn’t even faze the cities along the route.

    Glendora and Laverne are already building TODs near their stations… as if Phase 2B will be built for 100% sure.

  2. This demonstrates what is possible when an area is able to come together and govern locally. The Gold Line was under performing and even had service cuts making it possibly an unwise investment. But with community and local government support, the Gold Line has increased ridership, obtained additional funding for an extension and TOD, and has approved another extension up to and possibly through another County.

    Compare that with other areas which do not have their own construction authority, support of the their County Supervisor, or their own city government to lobby on their behalf, and you can see how successful the San Gabriel Valley is. They have done a great job at controlling their future.

  3. If this ever happens, I’d be curious how Metro and Metrolink would figure out fares since they would be sharing stations and potentially undercutting each other. Probably few people in Pomona, Claremont, and Montclair would want to pay $200+ for a monthly Metrolink pass when a Metro pass is less than half that and Metro might take them to their work in LA without a transfer.

    • Hi Michael;

      You raise an interesting point. If built, it will be interesting to see what degree the services compete with one another. The light rail line would take longer to reach downtown but offer far more frequent service. Metrolink is a straight shot into downtown but pricier. I think the markets will sort themselves out accordingly but we’ll see.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. No one likes mentioning that it is perfectly conceivable that Gold Line trains could run from the San Gabriel Valley straight to Santa Monica. Metro seems convinced that there is is more ridership potential to Long Beach than to Santa Monica, but given the realities of employment patterns, you kind of scratch your head and wonder where they got that idea from. Of course, they’re experts and have performed expensive studies on this this whereas I’m just applying basic common sense, so they must be right and I must be wrong. 🙂

    No matter. The point is that there is absolutely no technical obstacle to doing this, so why not at least mention the possibility?

  5. Michael,

    An example of Metro and Metrolink sharing a station outside of Union Station already exists with the Metro Orange Line Chatsworth Station; one can go from Chatsworth to Los Angeles Union Station by either taking the Metrolink Ventura County Line or a combination of the Metro Orange & Red Lines to Downtown LA. I don’t know if the Orange Line has undercut Metrolink service (Metrolink hasn’t cut service), but Metrolink still has its advantages on speed and reaching further locations, but it’s not as frequent nor has the span of service Metro provides. I’m if extended to Montclair, the Gold Line and Metrolink San Bernardino Line would co-exist peacefully.

  6. I really can’t wait to see this get built. I have no doubt that it will be enormously successful.

    Seriously. If it takes 70 minutes to get to 7th/Metro from Montclair via Gold Line, that’s only 15 minutes more than Metrolink takes just to reach Union Station. Factor in time spent waiting for the infrequent trains and the long transfer to the subway at Union Station, and I could see a lot of people tempted by a one-seat ride.

    That being said, Metrolink is a plush trip. Comfortable seats, tables, power outlets, bathrooms, water fountain, and an on-board conductor in case of emergency. Plenty of people will still prefer that quality of service, even if it’s infrequent and more expensive. And a Metrolink Monthly ticket includes free transfers to Metro so I imagine plenty of people at those three stations will take advantage of both lines.

    @Alex: San Dimas is also building TOD near their future station and Claremont built a huge multi-parcel mixed-use addition to their downtown years ago in anticipation. Also of note is the HUGE potential at the Montclair station site.

    @Allon Percus: I’ve wondered that myself given how job rich the Westside is and how high Metrolink ridership already is on the San Bernardino Line. Also, as a former USC student who commuted from North Pomona to USC everyday, eliminating two transfers downtown combined with the higher frequency service would probably save enough time to make the Gold Line a superior choice.

    I think the main reason why the alternate routing is rarely mentioned is because the original plan for the Blue Line had it going through downtown as a subway and eventually to Pasadena. It took a lot of political maneuvering to get the current Gold Line built (I think Metro just has an internalized bias against the San Gabriel Valley). The Regional Connector was probably born out of those early plans from decades ago.

  7. How will Metrolink and Metro Gold co-exist? There is already a current examples when comparing Metrolink to bus service serving the same area:
    Metrolink will be used by the more affluent with Metrolink’s “premium” amenities such as a bathroom that may make a difference to some riders and sharing a trains with higher quality people that could seal the deal with A LOT of people–who can afford it. But don’t forget that most Metrolink riders get their pass subsidized–sometimes for the full cost–by their employer, so the cost may not be as big a determining factor as some think.
    Gold Line will be used by those on a budget, which would include those who smell more and have mental issues or just plain be lower on the evolutionary scale. These are the same reasons why some I have known have switched form the lower cost but less pleasant express bus to the higher cost more pleasant Metrolink experience even with Metrolink’s limited scheduling. Just about everybody downtown ( I know there are those who don’t) has flex-time and arrange their hours around their transit. Metrolink: Cadillac; Metro: Jitney. :).

  8. This project is a complete waste of money – just wait until the dismal ridership gains from the first phase. And to think people will ride more than an hour just to get to Downtown LA.

    Why are we building RAIL lines in the LEAST densely populated areas of the county (population AND employment) when there are so many corridors that are just choking with transit ridership (Vermont south of Wilshire or Santa Monica Blvd, just to name a couple)?

    Metro has its priorities skewed – you build RAIL in dense areas, and run BUSES in the less dense/sprawled out communities like the Foothill cities.

    While we’re at it, why don’t we just build the light rail all the way to Phoenix – it’s already going to past vast farmland and “no mans lands” of vast parking lots.

    IRWINDALE is getting rail before West Hollywood! You politicians that represent the boonies must be so proud. Too bad you’re stealing vital transit resources from the places that need it most. The Foothill cities will ALWAYS rely on the private automobile for most trips, as much as they “claim to ride”. The ridership numbers will prove them all wrong soon..

  9. Tony,

    I think you may have compared a bus route to a rail line. There was a recent story about how LRT poaches service from buses. But I don’t imagine bus routes poach riders from trains, especially a bus route that includes 1-2 transfers and takes over twice as long. It is more affordable though. So depending on whether one has more time or money, the bus may be more attractive. And of course, as others have mentioned, with Metrolink’s limited trips, buses are often ones only option.

    With the increasing popularity and general need for transit, I imagine there will be enough demand for all services. In fact, if I had a Metro backup that didn’t have an hour premium, I’d be much more inclined to use Metrolink since I wouldn’t be so concerned about missing the last train.

    Very important for Metro to not spend County transit funds in our Counties, however. Hopefully, there are laws against it.

  10. Beverly Hills, are you listening?

    These cities -want- transit and are planning for it.

    VoR and others, you know that WeHo, LA, and other places can form a construction authority to build a new line too.
    If I have my facts straight, it was only after Metro had trouble getting the Gold Line built was a Construction Authority chartered by the cities. This support from the cities was vital. Also, the authority helped during the early growing pains, tuning the crossing warnings, putting up new sound walls, etc.

  11. The Foothill Extension us being built because it’s the least expensive, simplest, and the fastest route we can build RIGHT NOW.

    There is no reason to have these foothill areas wait for decades for slower, more complex Westside routes to build when their foothill route can be built within a few years.

  12. Voice of Reason,

    “While we’re at it, why don’t we just build the light rail all the way to Phoenix – it’s already going to past vast farmland and “no mans lands” of vast parking lots.”

    And Metro will charge a flat rate of $1.50 for it, all the way from LA to Phoenix, no difference in fares between 7th Metro to Pico.

    And they’ll wonder why they don’t make money and why the train is so crowded between LA and Phoenix that there’s no room for the Union Station to Little Tokyo passenger.

    I’m all for mass transit in LA, but many things that Metro does just does not make any sense at all. The Foothill Extension makes sense, but only under a distance based fare system (those living in Azusa and Montclair working in Pasadena), not a flat rate system where going from Long Beach to Azusa will cost the same $1.50 as those who go from 7th/Metro to Pico.

    We’re expanding the system beyong the City of LA without a real business plan. And it’s a shame because if you do it right, mass transit can directly become profitable. Look at how the Asian cities run mass transit. They’re run at a profit! They run it like a business! They make their own revenues and they operate a profit to run their operations on their own without tax payer dependency! Why can’t we run mass transit like that?

    The lack of any business plan makes running Metro a huge waste on tax payers for years to come.

  13. Actually if you guys ever went more eastward than the I-5, you’d realize despite everything being more sprawled out, there is still a ridiculous amount of people out here, and farmland? are you kidding me? last time we had farmland out in the proposed area was over 40 years ago. It’s quite developed. Look at freeway traffic out here around 7-8 am and around 4-5 pm. It’s gridlock, just not as bad as LA as most of the freeways out here were built with some planning ahead (the freeway design in LA is the work of a madman) Most of the traffic in and out of LA is traffic heading back out to the San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire, where most people who work in LA live. Light rail, if advertised correctly, would help relieve a lot of stress along the 210 corridor that heads in and out of pasadena, and pasadena has routes going to LA and burbank, so right there helps traffic long the I-10 as well. More cars off the road is better for the already horrid air quality we have.

    Having been in LA, I can tell you, you guys need more than just public transit to fix your congestion problems. the city layout itself is the biggest problem.

  14. The area that the Gold Line Extension goes through is actually quite dense… most of the houses are on tract lots that are no bigger than 6000sq/ft.

    Just Google map the area and you will see that it’s really as dense as residential areas in SFV and South LA. It’s not all curvy and cul-de-sacy like newer suburbs, either. It’s all in grid layout just like other dense areas.

    The last piece of arguable “farmland” in the area was the Monrovia Nursery in Azusa, which was sold to developers to build hundreds of townhouses right where the extension’s terminus is going to be… ironically, sort of.

  15. What has distance based fares have to do with this article? The usual suspects with their usual rants?

  16. There are a lot of business parks along this route as well, so it’s not just going to serve the SGV to LA commuters, but intra-SGV commuters who have homes in SGV and works in business parks in SGV as well. So I wouldn’t call this a waste of tax dollars.

    But there is a point to those that say “how long is too long” to warrant system that runs within the existing fare structure. The Foothill Extension, along with the Regional Connector, will allow a one train ride all the way from Long Beach to Montclair for $1.50. At that point it’s getting ridiculous to be building a system around the flat rate system.

  17. @GaryB

    BART is a heavy rail system that is much more similar to our Metrolink system and should therefore not be compared to Metro. If SF Muni were the responsible agency for the extension it would be an apt comparison.

  18. @ in the valley:

    CalTrain is like Metrolink. BART is in it’s own league entirely.

    While BART is definitely heavy-rail, it’s also rapid transit. Therefore, it’s most similar to the Red Line if it were extended above ground and deep into the San Fernando Valley as was originally proposed. The Gold Line is more of a light metro than a true light rail.

    My point was simply that other cities provide rapid transit service (which does include the Gold Line) over very long distances and through suburban areas.

  19. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog
    loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the
    blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  20. Can anyone enlighten me on jurisdictional issues for public transportation? The MTA is LA County, so if the Gold Line some day extends to Ontario Airport — or if the Green Line some day extends into Orange County (e.g. to JW Airport) — does LA County contract with the other counties. I know that it works for bus transit since muni-buses operate outside of their city limits, but I don’t understand how it works. E.g., do Santa Monica and Culver City need special permission to have a bus stop within the the City of Los Angeles? I assume that this would be more complicated for rail.

  21. The reason why the foothill cities are getting this extension is because there were already stations and/or rail lines in those cities that went west. West Hollywood isn’t getting a rail line because too many businesses and NIMBY’s are going to block the construction of a rail line. See Beverly Hills as the classic example of a city, and in West Hollywood’s case a district, blocking/delaying the construction of a rail line.

    But, the question is how far is too far, is a valid one. Why the Gold Line needs to go almost to the 15 freeway is stupid. The real priority for the current Gold Line, is an extension from the Atlantic Station to Whittier, and maybe even connecting to the eastern end of the Green Line.

  22. The Gold Line East LA section needs to go to the Green Line. This would provide another path into Downtown from that area. If a stadium is ever built in Industry, a branch off the Gold Line to it and to Mt. SAC and Cal-Poly would be great. The different lines could be lettered, like in NYC.

  23. @David

    West Hollywood is an incorporated city.

    Also, props to the SGV cities for accomplishing such a high rail-to-worthiness ratio, while more worthy corridors cry out for rail. They have set an example that other strings of cities should look up to.