Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 6

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Grove developer wants to extend trolley beyond shopping center (L.A. Times) 

The trolley at the Grove. Photo by Prayitno, via Flickr creative commons.

The trolley at the Grove. Photo by Prayitno, via Flickr creative commons.

Rick Caruso says he wants the trolley that ferries people around the Grove to possibly run all the way to the Beverly Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the new movie museum being installed at Wilshire and Fairfax — where there will be a future Purple Line Extension subway station. He also says he’s willing to put some of his money behind such an effort.

Not so fast, says others. One prominent homeowner group says no way, there’s already too much traffic on local streets without streetcars and railroad tracks. And the city of Los Angeles says an environmental review would be needed.

As for Caruso, he wrongly cites the cost of the subway to the sea (his words, not ours) at $1 billion and the Times fails to bother to correct him. The cost is $6.3 billion to build nine miles to Westwood if the project is not accelerated. And he seems to suggest that putting people underground in our balmy climate is somehow inappropriate and that it would be better to move them at street level.

All that said, it is absolutely an interesting idea precisely because of the fact that the new subway station is being built and it would surely help ridership if the subway offers easy connections to businesses and homes along/near Fairfax and Beverly Boulevard (of course, the Metro Rapid 780 bus stops at both Wilshire/Fairfax and Fairfax/3rd). The current forecast is that the first segment of the Purple Line Extension will open in late 2022, so if the city of Los Angeles is serious about anything, the time to get moving is now.

Developer has big plans for Macy Plaza (L.A. Times) 

The fortress-like shopping mall along 7th Street is scheduled for a serious makeover that would open it to the street — i.e. shops would be accessible from the street, not from inside the building. The current glass roof over the atrium would also go.

The reporter also weirdly says that plans are to connect a new plaza to a “planned subway station.” What the what? The existing 7th/Metro Center station is across the street. Yikes. Not a good day for transit facts in the Los Angeles Times!

At DTLA Rising, Brigham Yen elaborates on why this is an exciting proposal — and he’s especially happy about the prospect of an underground connection between the station that serves the Red, Purple, Blue and Expo lines and the mall.

Dodgers owner says it’s trying to bring second sport to Chavez Ravine (Curbed LA, following L.A. Times)

In a court filing related to former team owner Frank McCourt’s divorce, Guggenheim Sports Management says that it’s in sensitive negotiations with a major entity over the use of the land around Dodger Stadium. The Times broke the story and Curbed does a nice job of summing it up. The major entity is likely the National Football League, which has long coveted the site over existing stadiums in the region and other potential sites (next to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles or the City of Industry, a site that will have 25,000 parking spaces according to its developer).

Here’s what I don’t get. The owners of Dodger Stadium and its acres of parking lots certainly have the right to pursue plans for their property. But it would sure be nice to know what the people of Los Angeles want and to have that solidified in the city’s zoning code. As I’ve written many times, Dodger Stadium and Chavez Ravine are far removed from the core of downtown Los Angeles, separated by topography, the 110 and 101 freeways and the street grid. I’m unaware of anyone having plans at this time to extend rail service to the stadium, a proposition that is both very expensive and somewhat impractical given that the ballpark is only used relatively few hours out of the year.

On a related note, have fun finding the words “City of Industry” on the “Los Angeles Stadium” website.

25 ideas for transforming Los Angeles (Frying Pan News)

Occidental professor Peter Dreier has a robust list of things-to-do for the mayor-elect, including transportation. Excerpt:

Los Angeles outgrew its suburban roots years ago when the freeways became parking lots. Now Los Angeles needs to grow up around transit stops. Making public transit a real possibility for people trapped in their cars means both building up Los Angeles’ bus and rail system and building up the areas within walking distance of that system.

Los Angeles needs to grow up around transit stops.

In recent years, traffic flows have improved, and new rapid bus routes are in place. The city is now in the early stages of a large-scale expansion of public transportation, which will be the largest land-use change in the city since the build-out of the freeway system. Garcetti’s job will be to help manage land-use policies around that expansion so that they create livable, walkable neighborhoods and maximize use of the transit system, thereby reducing traffic congestion, pollution and harmful gas emissions. Such goals require that working families and core transit riders be able to live around the transit stops and do not get displaced or shut out of those areas by rising rents and home prices.

The success of Measure R in 2008, the “30-10” plan to accelerate implementation of our transit revolution and the 66 percent “yes” vote on Measure J in 2012 (just short of the two-third needed for passage) demonstrate that Los Angeles voters are ready to invest in a transportation transformation. Garcetti should build on this voter trust – and on the partnership between elected officials and labor, business, environmental and community groups – to expand our transit system into one that is robust, environmentally sustainable and financially sound, and that contributes to economic prosperity.

 

Hard to argue with that! One note: The 30/10 plan was renamed America Fast Forward a couple of years ago to help build its national appeal. Congress approved part of the plan by expanding a federal loan program known as TIFIA in the most recent multi-year federal transportation bill. Metro is currently lobbying Congress to adopt the other equally important half that would give transit agencies access to interest-free loans in exchange for tax credits for those who invest in the bonds. Here’s a more detailed explanation.

18 replies

  1. Yeah LA TImes what the? It’s supposedly an underground transit connection to 7th/Metro. I hear they have knockout panels to accommodate such a connection….So much for Farmers Field, the NFL coveted the parking of Chavez Ravine. Doubt they would invest in viable transit options. Maybe they could work with Metro to build a people mover from Union Station, but seriously doubt they would want people taking transit when there is money to be made from parking/tailgating.

  2. Putting an NFL stadium out near Dodger Stadium may be better than the Farmer’s Field plan, really. It could have lots of room for tailgating–and tailgating is one of the main draws of NFL games.

  3. The trolley idea is silly. Metro already has ample Local/Rapid/DASH service along the Fairfax/3rd routes. Besides, this is one of the most walkable neighborhoods in the city (from the Grove to BevCen or LACMA is 20 minutes, tops; I walk this almost every day), and that’s where the emphasis needs to be.

  4. As far as I understand, Caruso’s proposed trolley would run on track laid down on a lane shared with automobile traffic–much like the trolleys in San Francisco. Big difference is that Caruso’s trolley wouldn’t require overhead cables, making it prettier. It is probably no worse from a traffic perspective than having buses like the 780 running the same corridor. Keep an eye on this and see how much the developer is willing to pony up. If he pays 2/3 or more of the cost the city should consider stepping up with the remainder. If he’s looking for a bigger subsidy than that, he should consider building a football stadium next to Beverly Center.

  5. I don’t see anything wrong with private companies and individuals funding their own mass transit line.

    If Rick Caruso can build a trolley serving the Miracle Mile area without relying on taxpayer dollars and funding construction and operations fully with his own money, I think that’s a good thing. Less cost to taxpayers, a better transit system serving the public, it’s a win-win.

    In fact, what LA should do is to encourage forward thinking entrepreneurs like Rick Caruso who is able to use his own money to build a trolley line that serves and benefits the public. That’s how Henry Huntington built and ran the Pacific Electric railway back in the 1900s: purely out of his own pocket.

    If we’re ever going to bring back a great transit system we once had, LA should be encouraging pro-mass transit private entrepreneurs like Rick Caruso, not get in the way of him with bogus things like environmental reviews and other BS that bogs down moving things forward.

    How about a private partnership deal with Rick Caruso? If he builds his trolley line fully on his own dime which benefits the public, he gets a tax break. By doing so, it sets an example for other entrepreneurs and corporation to do their part in building mass transit on their own that benefits everyone.

  6. Baron V,

    I disagree. Rick Caruso is a self-made billionaire. If he wants his own transit line that he’s willing to put down his own money for something that serves the public good, then we should let him do it. It helps everyone because he’s doing it with his own money, not our tax dollars.

    Metro will take years going through the government backlog and securing funds from federal and state lawmakers.

    Rick Caruso doesn’t have to worry about who’s in charge in Congress for transportation funding – he already has the money. If he wants to build it, let him. He’ll get it done faster than Metro.

  7. I’ve always thought the mall should have a tunnel connecting the two, which would reduce surface traffic. I wish the new development on Wilshire Vermont came with a tunnel, considering two lines run across the street. Will the 7th st connection actually happen though?

  8. Well one thing Rick Caruso has going for is the ability to buy out the homes and business properties of the NIMBYs that get in his way. He’s rich enough that if anyone complains, he can just buy the complainers’ homes and businesses that are in the way for more than they’re worth to solve the NIMBY problem. You can’t do that with taxpayer funded Metro.

    In a way it makes sense for him. He owns the 8500 Burton Apartments, The Grove, Beverly Center, and a lot of the properties in that area. He needs a more efficient transit system that connects the residences, businesses, and the shopping centers that he owns in that area. He can wait forever for the Purple Line to get built and cross his fingers that the City of LA will win the Beverly Hills NIMBY legal battles that is hindering progress, or he can build one on his own, let alone something that he’s already running on his own – the Grove Trolley, extend it with his own money right now and deal with the NIMBYs himself.

    The NIMBYs complain because they aren’t getting anything out of mass transit. That’s why they make ridiculous statements like oh it’s going to cause more traffic or won’t someone think of the children underneath our high school, waah-waah-waah. Metro can’t get past this and the legal issues that arises.

    In contrast, Rick Caruso can just throw money at them to sell their homes and businesses for more than they’re worth, shut them up and move them out. Caruso’s solution is much faster than waiting years in expensive frivolous legal battles. And he can do all of this without relying on tax dollars.

    Heck, I’m all for it. LA should be backing him 100%!

  9. Oh, and another thing is that Rick Caruso is already making enough money from being a real estate tycoon. He’s already collecting a lot of rent from residences and businesses in that area and making tons of profit out of it. He could care less how much operational costs there is to run that trolley. He’s already running the 3/4 mi track for free today at the Grove.

    While Metro is talking about fare hikes down the road to solve their budget problems, he can run his trolley system free for riders because he’s already making billions every year from his real estate ventures and all he has to do is use a small portion of his profits to run his own trolley system each year.

    His trolley is free for riders, gets built fast, and he’s able to do it all with his own money. By extending his trolley line, it attracts more shoppers to The Grove, The Beverly Center, helps sell his apartments and condos, and helps the businesses in that area.

    What’s NOT to like about this idea?

  10. Speaking of Rick Caruso, there’s two billionaires named Philp Anschutz (owner of AEG) who is willing to use his funds and his company, as well to build the proposed Farmers Field next to Staples Center that is estimated to cost $1.2 billion with private funds, meaning no taxpayers will foot the bill for the cost and Ed Roski (owner of Majestic Realty) who is proposing to build the $800 million Los Angeles Stadium (Grand Crossing stadium) near the state route interchanges the 57 and 60, with over 600 aches for tailgating. Both sites have gotten their separate EIRs approved by city and county officials and are shovel-ready (meaning they can break ground anytime, should an NFL team(s) decide to relocate to L.A. anytime).

    If he and Caruso can use their own funds to build their proposed projects, than why Metro or the C.E.O. can’t come up with their funds to speed up their 12 main proposed Metro Rail projects, instead of waiting for Congress to send L.A. Metro at a later time?

    Ever why some people are moving out of L.A., to other cities or communities in the state or move elsewhere outside of California? Obviously, L.A. lacks proper transportation infrastructure, like seeing the Westside Purple Line extension to Westwood by now, and the Blue line linking to the Gold Line (as a whole line). And we still lack an NFL team. That’s totally unacceptable and delays can just hinder any progress being made.

  11. I think it’s important for LA county to have more transit oriented development. Anyone familiar with NYC, Boston or SF will know that the closer to transit you are, the higher your rent is. Why? becuase there is more demand than supply. However so far in LA, rents aren’t that much higher close to metro stations. So here demand doesn’t yet outstrip supply. The point is to build more transit oriented development to keep costs low (and to not require parking to get people into transit and out of cars).

  12. The Caruso trolley is a toy that will operate at about the speed of a horse drawn carriage on arterial streets, with the construction impacts of a light rail. I would strongly question the need to rip up a street to run a slow streetcar – this goes for Broadway too, although that is a waste of taxpayer funds.

    Los Angeles Stadium at Grand Crossing is still th best option for everyone – great access by car, adequate access by rail, and ability to develop a shopping and entertainment complex around it. It is just the LA-centric myopia of the NFL and LA City leaders that fails to make this a viable option.

  13. Building a new football stadium next to Dodgers Stadium is an embarrassingly inane idea. It will be pummeled by angry neighbors (and anybody who ever wishes to drive on the 110) at the environmental review stage.

  14. AEG willing to use their own funds to build Farmers Field? You’re joking right? If it’s such a great deal then let them acquire the property at fair market value rather than via corporate welfare! Build the football stadium at Exposition Park via a rebuilt Coliseum (retaining the outer shell) i.e. Soldier Field style. There’s already the Expo Line, with connections via Crenshaw Line and Regional Connector in a few tears.

  15. Anon Mike,

    Simple. Rick Caruso and Philip Anschutz make profit every year and therefore, they have the capital to do things with their own money, not a single cent of tax dollars used to build anything.

    Metro can’t get anything done because Metro doesn’t make any profit. It’s entire existence is reliant on taxpayer dollars because it makes no profit, therefore all they can do is wait for Congress to pass a transportation funding bill or hope people vote for tax hikes so they can get to do the things they want to.

  16. B. Kuo,

    The billionaires can easily shut the neighbors up by buying out their homes for more than they are worth. There’s a difference between government doing things versus wealthy private corporations.

    If government came over to your house and said they’re going to build a freeway/light rail/whatever right next to you and hope you’d understand to deal with the construction noise and the impact, what is your reaction? Heck no! I’ll sue the city.

    If a billionaire came over to your house and said he’s going to build a football stadium and he’s willing to pay twice the worth of your home and your moving expenses so you can move away, what is your reaction? KA-CHING! BOOYAH!

  17. Mike,

    AEG building a football stadium brings in jobs and long term revenue to the city. It only makes sense that the city should give AEG kickbacks because the returns are a substantial benefit for the economic health of this city. More jobs mean more money people have in their pocket More money in people’s pocket means more people being able to buying stuff. More people buying stuff means more sales tax revenue. It’s plain and simple.