Metro staff recommend three northern route options for further study for Artesia to DTLA rail project

UPDATE: Two Metro Board Committees — Planning and Construction — have sent this item without recommendation to the full Board for their consideration at their May 24 meeting.

At the Board’s Planning Committee, Metro CEO Phil Washington explained that there are two different tranches of money for the project to be built in two phases several years apart. He explained that Metro is hoping to secure a public-private partnership (PPP) to accelerate the project and build it all at once.

In order to do that, Washington asked that the Board keep this project’s studies moving along and that he will brief everyone on the PPP efforts at a later date. There was also considerable public testimony at both committees about routes and modes.

Here are links to the webstreams for the Planning Committee and the Construction Committee for those who want to watch.

***

Metro staff are recommending three potential routes to be studied further for the northern part of the Artesia-to-downtown Los Angeles light rail project known as the West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor (WSAB).

The big decision to be made at a future date is selecting one of the routes as the “locally preferred alternative.” All three routes proposed for further study would have a station in the vicinity of Alameda and 7th streets to serve the Arts and Industrial districts in DTLA.

The Metro Board of Directors will consider the staff recommendation this month. Here’s the staff report. The next step is to continue to analyze potential routes as part of the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report.

The three routes recommended — see the map above — are:

Concept E: Union Station via Alameda Underground

Concept F: Union Station via Alameda Underground/Center Aerial

Concept G: Downtown Transit Core Underground

The big picture view of the entire 20-mile route between DTLA and Artesia. South of DTLA, the route will follow the purple or brown line along the Blue Line and then the pink and gray lines. Click to see larger.

 

Metro has identified a route for the project south of DTLA. From the north the line would follow the Blue Line to Slauson Station and then run along Randolph Street to Huntington Park and then use a pair of old rail right-of-ways to Artesia (the southernmost alignment was a streetcar line called the West Santa Ana Branch, thus the project’s name).

The northern part of the route has been more challenging. With concerns raised about construction and visual impacts for the original four northern routes (particularly in Little Tokyo), the Metro Board earlier this year approved looking at additional northern options. Community meetings were held this spring to gather more public input.

Staff are recommending the three routes above based on which best meet the project goals, technical analysis, feasibility and overall community/stakeholder support. If the Board approves the recommendation other route options would be eliminated from further study.

Three other points I’d like everyone to consider:

•The Measure M spending plan proposed building the project in two phases — with the first opening 2028-2030 and the second 2041-43. Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation is working to potentially accelerate building the entire WSAB project in one phase with a project delivery strategy from the private sector. Those arrangements are called public-private partnerships (PPPs). No deal is done yet — but there is definitely interest. Stay tuned.

•Some advocates have proposed this project be built as a heavy rail line — i.e. a rail line that can handle larger and longer trains similar to the Red/Purple Line subway. Staff determined that would cost $12.3 billion to $18.4 billion and be cost prohibitive. There is currently $4 billion in funding from Measures M and R and other sources.

•Each of the three recommended northern routes would result in an estimated total project cost higher than the currently available funding. Also, the cost estimates are expected to rise as the alternatives are refined and studied more intensively. As mentioned above, a PPP is a possibility. The environmental studies for the project will meet both state and federal requirements to make the project eligible for federal funding. A $300-million state grant was recommended for this project.

Metro staff will present their recommendations to the Metro Board’s Planning Committee at 2 p.m. on Wednesday (May 16) and at 10 a.m. to the Board’s Construction Committee on Thursday (May 17). The public is welcome to attend the meetings at Metro headquarters. You can also listen/watch the webstream. Links will appear on this page once each meeting begins. The full Metro Board is scheduled to consider the item at their May 24 meeting, which begins at 9 a.m at Metro HQ.

More about each recommended option from the staff report: Concept E – Union Station via Alameda Underground 

Description: Extends approximately 7.9 miles between LAUS and the Florence/Salt Lake Station along the Metro Blue Line and Alameda Street.

Ridership: It has estimated daily boardings of 81,000 of which includes an estimated 27,000 new riders.

Connectivity: This alignment allows for a direct connection to LAUS.

Cost Estimate: As a mostly underground alignment, Concept E has a preliminary capital cost of $5.8B (2017$).

Overall Evaluation: Concept E received an overall score of High and is recommended to move forward.

Other Factors: This option would provide a one seat ride to the west side of LAUS, providing transfer opportunities to Metro rail and bus and regional rail services. The alignment addresses community concerns expressed as part of the Scoping process. The alignment also includes an optional station at 1st/Central providing a connection to the Regional Connector future north/south and east/west connections. The alignment could serve an Arts District Station in the vicinity of Alameda and 7th Streets.

Concept F – Union Station via Alameda/Center:

Description: Extends approximately 8.1 miles between LAUS and the Florence/Salt Lake Station along the Metro Blue Line, Alameda Street and then Center Street.
Ridership: It has estimated daily boardings of 74,500 of which includes an estimated 26,000 new riders.

Connectivity: This alignment allows for a direct connection to LAUS and therefore one transfer to the future north-south line and regional rail services.
Cost Estimate: As a partially underground alignment, Concept F has a preliminary capital cost of $5.4B (2017$).

Overall Evaluation: Concept F received an overall score of Medium/High and is recommended to move forward.

Other Factors: This option would provide a one seat ride to LAUS, providing transfer opportunities to Metro rail and bus and regional rail services. The alignment addresses
community concerns expressed as part of the Scoping process; however, an aerial configuration would be required on Center Street to terminate at Platform 2. The alignment could serve an Arts District Station in the vicinity of Alameda and 7th Streets.

Concept G – Downtown Transit Core

Description: Extends approximately 8.0 miles between the Downtown Transit Core and the Florence/Salt Lake Station parallel to the Metro Blue Line then primarily under Alameda, 7th and 8th Streets.

Ridership: It has estimated daily boardings of 78,500 of which includes an estimated 25,000 new riders.

Connectivity: If the terminus allows for a connection to 7th/Metro Center, one transfer can be made to Red, Purple, North-South and East-West lines. If the terminus allows for a connection to Pershing Square, then two transfers are required to access the future North- South and East-West lines. Two transfers are needed to access regional rail services.

Cost Estimate: As a mostly underground alignment, Concept G has a preliminary capital cost of $5.8B (2017$).

Overall Evaluation: Concept G received an overall score of Medium/High and is recommended to move forward.

Other Factors: This option would support connectivity for emerging Transit Oriented Communities at South Park/Fashion District and the Arts District South Station, and provide access to very high population and employment densities. It best serves transit dependent/Environmental Justice communities. Extending WSAB to a potential 5th/Flower station at the Regional Connector creates significant problems in allowing for a station connection at Pershing Square. Therefore, this alignment does not allow for a future direct extension to a future 5th/Flower station.

I bet some of you may have opinions about this. Comment please!

47 replies

  1. I don’t like the idea of overlapping part of the Blue Line. It seems redundant, and the Blue Line’s ridership has been falling, so it shouldn’t need extra capacity any time soon. This new line should serve new areas to the east.

    The line should directly connect to Union Station and the Regional Connector. This will maximize convenient connections to other rail services.

  2. I know folks have mentioned this but there are a fair amount of issues about the Alameda alignment aren’t there? Little Tokyo has had rail construction for the last several years and this would be the third time in the last 15 years that they would have to deal with this. A tad bit too much methinks for such a small yet significant neighborhood. Furthermore, folks have mentioned that there is a high-pressure crude oil pipeline that may be a significant risk should there be an earthquake. The one benefit that I can think of is that such an alignment could be connected to the Metro Red/Purple lines. Sure, there hasn’t been formal talk about running heavy rail trains for this project, but Streetsblog L.A. wrote about it and it seems quite fascinating- imagine the Red Line running from North Hollywood to Artesia and the Purple Line from Westwood to Artesia- trips that could run about an hour yet be incredibly faster than the current rail-bus mix that can run upwards of 3 hours. It would be like BART but in a much more dense environment. Costs would be lower but only because tunneling would be reduced. I suspect it is too late to pursue this. Barring costs, I’d rather the line be sent direct to Pershing Square but perpendicular to the station as opposed to right next to it- according to the renderings. It can allow for an extension to a future Flower/5th infill station for the Blue/Gold line and beyond.

    • The heavy rail extension of the Red Line should be reserved for the higher demand Vermont corridor. Underground to Gage. Elevated south of Gage.

      WSAB will be served fine by light rail.

  3. Why is the HRT option estimated to cost 3x what LRT does, if it would only have to reach 6th Street rather than Union Station or the Financial District? Both the HRT and LRT option would be grade separated for a majority of their lengths, so I’m having a hard time figuring out the massive difference in costs.

    • I think this crazy cost estimate is mainly designed to keep it off the table for consideration.

  4. ‘F” is a non-starter to me. No connection to the east/west Gold Line.
    On all lines the station should be Alameda and 6th- as 6th is really Whittier Blvd and major east west bus route.
    7th street only seems to be because of the Greyhound Station (?). What if Greyhound moves its services to Union Station?

    “G” would work as a connection at Pershing to Purple/Red as I feel it has more capacity thatn 7th/Flower. It does miss light rail connections- an issue had the 5th/Flower Financial station stayed on the Downtown Connector route. Than after Pershing (for Subway) and 5th/Flower (for light rail), WASB could have continued under the Harbor Freeway and up into Echo Park/Silver Lake area.
    The 8th/Flower Station for “G” works- new concourse to transfer to both light rail lines and then (I Assume) , a passageway would go over to 7th/Flower as the connections to the subway lines.
    Also if properly sited, this line could still extend westward under the Harbor Freeway (and under the subway), before turning northwest up to Echo Park/Silver Lake.
    I would accept this version of the “G”

    I still vote “E”.
    Connections at Washington for Blue Line to LATC- Staples
    6th street station for major east west bus lines
    A MUST have station at 2nd/Alameda to have eastern transfers on the Gold (remembering it could go to either Rio Hondo/605 or Citadel/South Whittier or BOTH.
    Also passengers could transfer at 2nd/Alameda and go west to the Broadway Station or even 2nd/Hope.
    Union Station as a destination needs to be designed so the WSAB could someday be extended through Chinatown Station and up to Eagle Rock or Glendale. Also of course, transfers at LAUS or Chinatown to the Blue out to Azusa and Claremont.

    I really hope some private partnership can expedite this line.

  5. I really like the idea of sending into 7th Street Metro, but how?

    I also really like the idea of combining blue line service. This will create additional transfer points and also local express service. Think Expo to Pico, or the Red/Purple line options between Union and Wilshire Vermont.

    These are going to be the success stories of Metro. Not that building entirely new lines is a fault, but also beefing up existing service in ways that improve the ride(s).

    Its too bad that the red line doesn’t already have infrastructure in place to add express service, so that leaves our light rail lines which are above ground. This can be a major drawback when interacting with nature, however there is increased flexibility since most of pieces are from a kit of parts that can be added much easier than digging a tunnel and moving utilities, etc.

    Transportation systems are as successful as their reliability and frequency, most everything else is secondary. I hope I can ride this for use when it is open.

  6. The route going through downtown heart/core, like the primary & main lines, can’t be beat. it is the best one…..

  7. What plans are there to extend the HRT/Red and Purple lines if ever, beyond the new turn back project?

    • Hey Erik;

      Nothing concrete at this time. Here is the last update: https://thesource.metro.net/2017/11/16/arts-district-station-update-smog-bears-vs-cars-hwr-nov-16/.

      In the meantime, the Little Tokyo Station for the Regional Connector project is close to the northern part of the Arts District and all three recommended northern options for this project would add a station in the vicinity of 7th/Alameda that could serve the southern part of the Arts District and the Industrial District. Option F would also have in the 3rd/Alameda area. I’m certainly interested in hearing from readers how they think the eastern part of DTLA should be served in the future.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. To me the only route that makes any sense is Route F. Route G is totally unacceptable as does nor connect directly with Union Station,
    That is why we have the Red Line to serve downtown LA..

    By serving Union Station it could even be through-routed with the Blue Line on selected Rush Hour trips.

    Also, it does not add congestion to the Regional Connector as does Route E, but rather serves new territory,.

    I also agree with others that the Southern Portion of the route should not share tracks with the Blue Line but perhaps could be on a shelf above the Alameda Corridor, and then along the UP La Habra (former Pacific Electric Whittier Line) and San Pedro Sub Divisions to where ii intersects with the former PE ROW..as currently envisioned.

    And, of course it goes without saying that ANY WSAB route should eventually serve San Ana directly in the same way that the Gold Line is being extended into San Bernadino County., Why else is “Santa Ana” part of the line name,

    In the interim, are there any plans to join with OCT to connect this line to Orange County If Not, Why Not?

  9. Personally, as a young resident of Huntigton Park, it seems like southeast LA lacks a connection to the heart of the city/urban core. HP is a relatively close location to DTLA but the current infrastructure makes that travel extremely difficult. There is Vernon to the North causing congestion and lack of mixed use development means its a dead zone. The LA river is to the North and East and serves as a barrier to the more developed communities of DTLA, East LA, and Downey. The few river crossings makes commuting impossible from both directions and adds to the disconnect. The East LA interchange also adds a lot of congestion to the region and causes gridlock on streets as well as the freeways all around it for miles. The other downtowns that would be accessible (Long Beach and Pasadena) are made difficult to access due to the use of the 710 as a freight corridor and the sprawl of the surrounding smaller communities. It seems that this infrastructure is holding back the development of Southeast LA and does not offer any easy solution for its future. The lack of proximity to the ideal of West LA further isolates these communities from LA 3.0.

    The WSAB is a nice gift from the METRO dept, however I hope it continues to keep in mind the communities it will come to serve in between DTLA and the OC. Sharing track with the the blue line would likely do nothing to connect the southeast and ease the congestion through Vernon and over the LA River by the East LA interchange. The blue line takes a detour west and has too many stop before DTLA, failing to serve the people of the southeast. It also already shares track with the Expo Line and can only add to future congestion and inefficiency which could affect the WSAB.

    In terms of Northern route, I personally prefer the DTLA Transit Core route. Connecting to the 7th St Metro Center would be of most benefit to the community. It would alieve the lack of connection to DTLA by providing a direct line to the urban core. Routing through the Arts District would be unreasonable due to the lack of beneficial connection it would provide the many communities along the southern end of the rail. Many people do not need to travel to Union Station if they already live in LA and are not taking Metrolink, which already serves the OC. It can be reached indirectly if needed through the 7th st Metro center connection. Terminating at the Metro Center would also allow a nice option to visit the Westside by multiple means (Red, Purple, or Expo), which had not been easy before. It can also lead to a route to Glendale in the future, which is the next reasonable extension that LA would consider.

  10. Huntington Park and other southeast cities do not want to go to the Arts District. I dont know whos paying to have those ideas considered because they honestly do very little to attract riders and convince residents to begin using this line. The southeast wants connection to the greater city, not a new little neighborhood that thinks they are going to be relevant. Route to DTLA would be great, but bigger picture, access to the other lines at 7th st Metro Center would be the goal since it provides connection to the most attractive lines (Red, Purple, Expo). I hope that this could lend to extension for the underserved areas of Glendale and Burbank as well. Future connection to East LA through an eastern LA line would be nice as well.

  11. How about an orange line style Busway! Or a Sepulveda line from Valley to Westisde, rhay loop should be closed. DTLA can wait but a conncecting loop would make sense first.

  12. Having a route to DTLA would be nice, but bigger picture, access to the rest of the city would be the goal. Connecting the line to 7th st Metro Center would be ideal since it would provide central access to the more desirable lines (Red, Purple, and Expo). Metrolink already serves the OC, making connection to Union Station unnecessary. It also leaves the door open to possible extension towards the underserved communities of Glendale and Burbank. Future development of a new north-south line serving the Eastside would ideal as well, connecting the Inland Empire to the options that are starting to materialize without a need to route through DTLA.

    On a personal note, people from Huntington Park and other southeast communities do not want to go to the Arts District. I dont know who is paying for these options to be honestly considered, because they do very little to attract riders to this new line and dont add to the overall transit system. We want connection to the bigger city not a small community of new relevance.

  13. As far as LRT is concerned I still vote for option G to 7th/metro. Also, upon looking at the ROW in the median of Randolph st. I am hoping the line doesn’t get downgraded to “street-running” there as it appears the ROW is wide enough to accommodate crossing gates even in some of the narrower sections. As far as heavy rail is concerned, I don’t see why building this line as such (to tie into red / purple at 6th) has to automatically drive up cost so much when there are examples of third rail systems crossing streets at-grade along outer segments of the Chicago “L” CTA and along much of the New York LIRR (long island railroad). It’s not exactly unprecedented. Since this is about cost then having at-grade crossings for this line could still work with heavy rail (so long as the tracks are fenced off sufficiently) while bringing the said cost down to be much closer to LRT’s. It would greatly increase capacity and would simplify the network by having it be an extension of red /purple. With the at-grade crossings in mind therefore reducing cost for HRT why cant this be done? Is there a federal law prohibiting newly built third rail systems from having any at grade crossings?

  14. That route g through downtown center is really something… really special, Its a no brainer…

  15. How did the Arts District/Union Station option get a higher ridership potential than the downtown core?

    Going to 7th/Flower (more likely 8th/Hope with an underground passage) would allow for greater regional connectivity and shave significant minutes off commutes.

    Pershing Square is intriguing, but that would require 2 transfers for those going towards Santa Monica or East LA.

  16. These routes are so lame. They need to serve new customers instead of running parallel to the Blue Line. They need more connections to the Red, Gold, and Expo Lines. I suggest to run parallel along Santa Fe and cut into a Gold Line Station and proceed further north to another Red Line Station (beyond Union Station).

  17. If Option G were selected, which seems the best honestly to me if we can’t have the heavy rail option, what is the point of having the overlay tracks with the Blue Line in the southern portion of the line? Those connections to the Blue Line seem to become redundant if the line is actually heading to the city center anyway. Alameda seems to be giving this line all kinds of problems.

    An extension of the Red / Purple line down the existing Santa Ana Right of Way could give everybody what they want (access to Union Station AND the City Center) and also wouldn’t have to run down Alameda at all.

    But if we can’t do what’s smartest and have to settle for second smartest, I think that option is definitely G. I don’t see why connecting to Union Station is that big a deal anyway when the LOSSAN corridor is already running semi-parallel to this line. Finish the Green Line to Norwalk for God sakes!

  18. This is a good time to point out that Metro’s choice to use a Third Rail for it’s heavy-rail network was very misguided in the first place (and I think came mainly from “well this is what NY and BART have”). Like are _any_ cities outside of the US building new rail lines with third rail technology anymore? It just seems to make at-grade running trains more difficult and is completely unnecessary.

      • wait a second… this video is catenary and third rail combined. That would require a whole new train stock. The whole argument is that the heavy rail would be a cost competitive alternative- see Joe Linton’s argument below- and requiring new train designs is stock will not help that argument. Obviously heavy rail can run at grade… the issue is at-grade street crossings with third rail (I’ve been made aware of at least one example of this in Chicago… I don’t know of any in NY or on BART). I guess I’m just wondering if there’s ANY reason third rail beats catenary systems. I haven’t even ever seen a third rail in Europe… though I’m sure it must exist somewhere.

        • There are third-rail powered surface systems, with grade crossings, all over planet earth…just on Long Island and in Westchester County/New York there must be a 100 or so crossings like this, just do a little Google searching. London too. Dual modes are just another way (really, so if you add a second collection point on a train it becomes a whole new train stock?) Grade crossing elimination + fencing is another way if you want to isolate the ROW. These are called alternatives. Metro did not look at alternatives on this line or pretty much any other.

        • Easy to modify the existing trains, and add them to the design of the new cars coming from Communist China. The UK uses third rail a lot, Even the Eurostar was using third rail out of Waterloo before the HS1 Line was built to take the line from the Channel Tunnel to St. Pancras.

  19. Regarding Concept G, “Extending WSAB to a potential 5th/Flower station at the Regional Connector creates significant problems in allowing for a station connection at Pershing Square. Therefore, this alignment does not allow for a future direct extension to a future 5th/Flower station.”

    Is that with the route going up Broadway as shown in the map or going west on 5th from Alameda?

  20. Route G makes the most sense. Every downtown rail line doesn’t have to link up with Union Station. Little Tokyo won’t need another rail line after the Regional Connector is finished.

  21. At $18.4B, on a per-mile basis this would indicate that surface WSAB is 20% is a billion dollars per mile – more expensive than tunneling the Purple Line extensions. It’s difficult to believe that 18.4 miles of surface heavy rail on existing r-o-w could be estimated to cost 18.4 billion dollars. Would you please you post the background information involved in the cost estimate range you published? It feels like someone took a subway estimate (2/3 B-1B per mile) and multiplied it by the distance. Why not at least use a surface rail multiplier?

    • that first sentence got mangled – my bad – should say “At $18.4B, on a per-mile basis this would indicate that surface WSAB is a billion dollars per mile – 20% more expensive than tunneling the Purple Line extensions.”

      • Hi Joe —

        Here is the answer to your question about how the cost estimate was calculated for heavy rail for the WSAB:

        Without the benefit of reengineering and redesigning the project for heavy rail (HRT), Metro took the most recent costs we have for Metro tunneling projects. For aerial we applied the industry norm that aerial is approximately two-thirds the cost of tunneling. We then assumed that all 20 miles of WSAB would need to be grade separated, hence the range — all aerial or all underground.

        We assumed that a heavy rail alternative could not cross intersections at street level due to safety and other potential impacts. There are about 83 intersections along the entire 20-mile alignment, meaning that it would be difficult to run the line at street level for any length. Finally, there are equity considerations about what it would mean to run HRT through Southeast L.A. County at grade.

        Hope this helps,

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

        • Hence my comment: using a third rail for the Red Line was a stupid mistake that foreclosed this option 30 years ago. And I still believe the reason third rail was used was because that’s what legacy American systems use like the El and BART. But no modern European lines are using third rail, heavy or otherwise.

        • There’s a bunch here to quibble with. The length is 18.4 miles. The upper estimate ($1B/mile) is the tunneling cost (though it’s 20% above the tunneling cost for PLE1) – which is, by admission here, 33% more than the project in question. Including that excessive full-tunnel cost makes no sense. Even the “approximately 2/3rds” number appears excessive, compared to other aerial HRT projects (Hawaii $500M/mile). The other LRT estimates are, admitted in the report, the lower bound and expected to increase. This seems less like a cost estimate and more like someone saying “bug off, we won’t look at this.”

        • Steve, what “other potential impacts” are there with regards to HRT street crossings that LRT wouldn’t have, besides the third rail possibly being open to ROW intrusion by errant pedestrians (and assuming no LRT street-running)? I’m just curious and I think others would be as well regarding the more technical stuff. Would the extra 4 or 5 feet of width for the ROW (to accommodate HRT) be too wide for some parts of the route? Is it that there would be too large of a gap in the third rail on diagonal intersection crossings so the whole train would briefly loose contact? I understand the equity issues but that won’t always be the case for future projects. (lets say… an at grade red line extension along the orange line bus ROW 😉 Also, I would think there are automatic gates that would open only when a train is approaching that could keep people out of the ROW next to street crossings. Anyway just curious.

          • Grade crossings with Third Rail works in Illinois and New York State; is there something different about Californians that draws them on to rail tracks? If so, then use overhead wire when south of the Arts District by adding pantographs to the train cars (see Roger’s video above) Like they do in World Class cities like London, and Bush league ones like Boston.

          • Hi Kyle;

            We weren’t trying to mislead anyone. Metro’s cost estimate is in line with a project that Metro believes would have to be largely or entirely grade separated if it was built as heavy rail through a pretty dense urban corridor.

            Steve Hymon
            Editor, The Source

          • To clarify based on Steve’s comment below, I don’t think he was trying to mislead anyone, he was just reporting the figures as he received them from the rest of Metro. Steve is a great asset to Metro and the community.

  22. Quick question. Option E has an underground station for US. If the WSAB connected up with Little Tokyo, then went underground to union station, could it also carry the gold line? A new portal could be built on Alameda to connect to the Chinatown station. That would allow the WSAB to run further north, connect at US or Little Tokyo to Red, Purple, Gold/Expo, Blue. The Gold line platform could go back to other trains (the platforms will be rebuilt with the US plan, correct?), and it could speed up the Gold line by straightening out the alignment and getting rid of all the S-curves. Would this be possible given the Red/Purple station?

  23. The WSAB was originally studied as a part of the Echo system, a LRT from Santa Anna to Santa Clarita.

    This line needs to connect to Union station and the Gold line to the north (the Blue Line once the Regional Connector is finished) so the future Glendale – Burbank LRT can extend off to the north at the LA River/ San Firenado Boulevard.

    Where it shares the right away with the existing Blue line tracks they can share tracks on a completely elevated track line (this will allow for a tighter train interval) or at least have a switching track so trains can change between the two lines. This will allow for a more direct access to union station for a Blue Line Express and a bypass for delays when there are events at Staple Center or LA Live

    • I tried posting the following at Streetsblog but I don’t see it as visible and it was apparently detected as spam. This is Metro asking for clarification on Streetsblog’s post that cost estimates for heavy rail are too high. The link above is a new post. It’s worth noting that we have no problem posting links to Streetsblog articles in our comments even when they’re critical or contain what we think are errors.

      Anyway, here’s what I’ll post later on How We Roll:

      Metro staff has recommended three northern route options for further study for the Artesia to downtown Los Angeles light rail project (here’s the staff report and a Source post). The Metro Board will consider those recommendations this month.

      Streetsblog LA has advocated the project be heavy rail — and opined that Metro’s estimated cost for heavy rail, which ranged from $12.3 billion to $18.4 billion, is too high.

      Metro has asked Streetsblog to clarify two points in this article. Streetsblog has declined. Our points:

      •Metro never said its cost estimate for heavy rail for the West Santa Ana Branch was for a surface heavy rail project. The cost estimate was based on a heavy rail line that would have to largely be grade separated due to safety and other potential impacts. 

      •Streetsblog wrote: “Metro’s WSAB heavy rail estimates show a cost of $0.67 billion to $1 billion per mile. That means, on a per-mile basis, Metro is estimating that WSAB surface heavy rail could cost Metro more than it currently costs to tunnel heavy rail subway below Wilshire Boulevard.”

      The only heavy rail project that Metro is currently building is the Purple Line Extension — with sections 1 and 2 under construction. Section 1 is 3.92 miles long and has a budget of $3.154 billion. Section 2 is 2.59 miles and has a budget of $2.53 billion. That works out to $873 million per mile, which is more than the low end of the cost estimate ($670 million) for WSAB Streetblog complains about. (BTW, you can find current project budget estimates in this monthly presentation to the Metro Board’s Construction Committee: http://metro.legistar1.com/metro/attachments/070651a3-65df-4d48-a5cf-163c72692353.pdf)

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  24. Steve –

    Respectfully, your response above leaves much to be desired. The two points of clarification you’ve requested don’t come close to addressing the core issues. Rather, they serve only to distract from the underlying argument Streetsblog has advanced. As to the first request, Streetsblog hits that issue head on in the very article you have linked to above. To wit:

    “Metro assumes that the project would be “all aerial” because HRT “could not cross intersections at street level.”

    (We agree that HRT would need quite a bit of grade-separation. Because it’s faster and third-rail electrified, the public needs to be
    safe and the train needs to fly over many intersections or roads need to be diverted or lowered under the tracks. Options to make
    WSAB HRT work would probably include flyovers, street closures, and other measures. LRT would need some of this, too, though, if
    it’s going to be safe and effective.)

    But HRT does run at-grade all over the world — even third-rail powered HRT like Metro’s Red/Purple Line.”

    I’m not sure why there is any controversy around this point other than if there is an attempt to distract from the real issues at play. Metro has provided zero evidence that they seriously evaluated what it would take to use the existing surface ROW while utilizing safety measures that are widely and successfully employed in some of the leading transit systems worldwide.

    Your second requested clarification is even more unfortunate and, in point of fact, serves only to reinforce Streetsblog’s argument. As your original post stated, the high end estimate of $1B/mile was driven by comparisons to recent Metro tunneling projects. YOUR OWN DATA ABOVE indicates that this high end estimate is already inflated by about 15% ($873M vs. $1B) compared to tunneling through the most dense urban environment (and some of the trickiest geology) that Los Angeles has to offer. Why are we supposed to believe that tunneling through the far less dense and complex route of the WSAB would be more expensive per mile? At a minimum, the implication of your own analysis is that the high-end estimate should top out at $16B, and that’s before accounting for the far less complex environment WSAB would tunnel through vs. PLE1, 2 or 3.

    And again, what is the relevance of comparing your $873M/mile figure to the low-end estimate of $667M/mile that Streetsblog complained about? As you explained in detail in your initial post up thread, that $667M/mile estimate was based purely on standard back-of-the-envelope math that elevated HRT is 2/3 the cost of tunneling. So your second requested clarification includes a pretty transparent false equivalency by comparing the tunneling option to the aerial one. What possible justification could you have for this unless you’re trying to deliberately mislead, or have simply lost track of a relatively simple narrative. Neither explanation is all that flattering for you.

    Why was there no serious attempt to cost out an aerial HRT option specific to WSAB, let alone one that explored a cheaper hybrid approach with a substantial at-grade component borrowing from long-established safety practices in other cities? How much of the route would have to be grade separated? What options are there for closing off or trenching certain streets to avoid at-grade crossings? Are there potential options involving different types of rolling stock than current red/purple line trains? These questions are too important to explore on the back of a napkin.

    I’m naturally wired to assume good intent and rabidly pro-transit. Yet you have succeeded in tripping all of my wires here and leave me with no choice but to conclude that the selection of LRT was pre-ordained and all we are seeing from Metro to support it is misdirection, misstatements, and half-hearted (half something else) analysis. This only serves to create skepticism about Metro’s intentions and competency, even among people like me who should be your biggest advocates.

    What gives? Help me understand what I’m missing here.