The Board took action on two other notable items on Thursday:
A project that has long been on the chalkboard but could never gain political or funding traction took a major step forward Thursday when the Metro Board of Directors selected a route for the Regional Connector.
Directors, as expected, voted 9 to 0 to select a 1.9-mile fully underground line that will connect the Gold Line to the Blue Line and future Expo Line. The existing gap between the end of the Blue Line and the Gold Line requires transit riders on both lines to take a subway or the bus to reach destinations beyond the end of either line.
That results in longer trips — usually requiring an extra 10 to 15 minutes — and makes transit less competitive with private vehicles time-wise.
The Board of Directors also voted to launch a final environmental study for the project. Construction could begin in 2014 with an opening date of 2019 under the agency’s Measure R plan. There is the possibility that date could be advanced if the 30/10 Initiative to use federal loans and other financing to accelerate the construction of Measure R projects is approved by Congress.
Like the Westside Subway Extension, the Regional Connector was one of the transit projects approved by county voters in Nov. 2008 as part of the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase. Metro is seeking federal New Starts money to help build the subway and connector.
The Board of Directors also approved three stations for the Regional Connector: a new underground Little Tokyo station that will replace the current street-level Gold Line station; a station at 2nd/Broadway to serve the Civic Center area; and a station at 2nd/Hope near the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, MOCA and the western end of the Civic Center.
A station studied for 5th/Flower was eliminated by the Board of Directors to save $185 million on a project expected to cost $1.245 billion in 2009 dollars; the actual cost will be more due to inflation between now and when it’s built. Metro staff said that station was proposed for elimination because it was close to the existing 7th/Metro Center — the walking distance between 5th/Flower and 7th/Metro Center is about a quarter-mile. Continue reading
After literally decades of talk, false starts, community resistance and funding dead-ends, a route for an extension of the subway to the job-rich Westside was selected by the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday in a vote called historic by several Directors.
The Board of Directors voted 10 to 0 with one abstention (Supervisor Mike Antonovich) to select “alignment two” of the five routes studied over the past year-and-a-half in a draft environmental study of the Westside Subway Extension. The 9.5-mile route, as shown above, with seven new stations begins at the current Purple Line station at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue and runs mostly on Wilshire Boulevard to a station near the VA Hospital in Westwood, just west of the 405 freeway.
It would take about 25 minutes to ride the subway from Union Station to the VA Hospital station. A trip from the North Hollywood Red Line station to the VA Hospital station is estimated to take about 36 minutes plus the necessary transfer at Wilshire/Vermont. Journeys between those locations by bus and often by private vehicle are often twice as long. The area to be served by the subway extension has the second-most jobs in L.A. County outside of downtown Los Angeles.
The Westside Subway Extension is among a dozen transit projects to be funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in Nov. 2008. Without the $4.2 billion provided by Measure R, the subway extension would not be possible.
The Board also voted to launch a final environmental study and preliminary engineering of the project, which will take place over the next year. The target date for the beginning of construction is 2013. Metro hopes that selecting a route will help secure federal New Starts money to help build the project in next year’s federal budget. The estimated cost of the project in 2009 dollars is about $4.36 billion, but it will likely cost more depending on the year built and inflation.
The opening date of the project depends on different funding scenarios.
With a mix of Measure R funds and New Starts dollars, Metro plans to open the subway in three phases: to Fairfax Avenue in 2019, Century City in 2026 and Westwood in 2036.
If additional federal loans and other financing can be obtained — a plan called the 30/10 Initiative to speed the construction of Measure R projects — the entire subway would be built at once and would open to Westwood in 2022. It remains to be seen whether segments could be opened earlier.
Supervisor Don Knabe, the chairman of the Metro Board of Directors, said the vote was historic and that the vote would help the subway secure federal funding and “fulfill the promise of Measure R and the accelerated timeline of 30/10.”
“We’ve discussed the subway as I understand it for 50 years,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a member of the Board of Directors. “A lot has been said that this project will never happen. And now the only question is when.”
Today’s meeting of the Board of Directors started 45 minutes ago and public testimony on the Westside Subway Extension is underway.
If you would like to listen to the meeting, 213-922-6045.
The Board is scheduled today to select a route for both the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector, two big projects receiving funding from the Measure R sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008.
photo by ExpoLightRail, via Flickr photostream
That’s a view looking east from the bridge over La Brea for the Expo Line, taken a couple of weeks ago. I thought given the main topic of today’s Board of Directors meeting — building more transit, i.e. the Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector — this image was an appropriate pick for pic of the day.
To submit a photo or photos of something transportation-related, post them to Metro’s Flickr group or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The photos we’ve featured can be seen in these galleries on Flickr. Or click on the ‘art of transit’ below.
Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board of Director member Antonio Villaraigosa just finished up a phone call with members of the local press about the 30/10 Initiative and tomorrow’s Board vote on selecting routes for the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector projects.
The 30/10 plan seeks to build 12 Measure R transit projects in the next 10 years and also accelerate the construction of road projects by using federal loans and financing. Villaraigosa first floated the idea for the plan last year and the Metro Board of Directors subsequently voted to make it official agency policy.
A few highlights:
•Dan Weikel and Rich Simon of the L.A. Times asked Villaraigosa about the possibility of getting the 30/10 plan through Congress if Republicans next week win a majority in the House of Representatives next; Simon pointed out that Republicans in the House have vowed to cut federal spending. The mayor said that although he’s had a tougher time getting necessary funding for the city from Republicans, he’s hopeful he would still be able to win bipartisan support for 30/10 — and he sees support from Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) for expanding the federal Tifia loan program as a sign it’s possible.
“My hope is that no matter what happens in the election we’ll get bipartisan support for this,” Villaraigosa said. “I recognize that we’ll have to go make the case. I think that both parties recognize that the infrastructure need [in the country] is great and we’re not competing with the developing world….and in that world we still need to fix or our roads and highways and build public transit and in that world this [the 30/10 plan] is the best way to address that need. The philosophy around 30/10 should be embraced by Republicans. I’ve heard some of the statements about what’s going to happen after Tuesday and that means I’ve got my work cut out for [me].” Continue reading
Print readers of the Los Angeles Times saw something unusual in their morning paper today: a full-page ad imploring the Metro Board of Directors to vote on Thursday for a route that would take the Westside Subway Extension all the way to downtown Santa Monica. The ad was purchased by a group called LA Neighbors United.
The group’s website describes itself as “a loosely knit organization of individuals and groups concerned about a variety of community issues. LA Neighbors United helps ensure citizens’ views are heard and respected by policymakers.” The group was also featured in this recent LA Business Journal story about a dispute over changes to the city of Los Angeles’ planning code.
Attentive readers already know that the Metro Board is scheduled to vote at their meeting on Thursday (9 a.m. at Metro headquarters in downtown L.A.) on a route for the subway extension project and to also launch a final environmental study for the line. The Metro planning staff has recommended to the Board a route that would take the subway from its current Purple Line terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to a station near the VA Hospital in Westwood, mostly via Wilshire Boulevard.
Here’s a brief Q&A on the subject:
Why is the subway only going to Westwood?
The short explanation comes down to one word: “money.”
Between expected federal funding and Measure R sales tax dollars, Metro only has the funds at this time to build the subway to Westwood. Extending the subway all the way to downtown Santa Monica and adding a line between Hollywood and Beverly Hills via West Hollywood were also studied to see how much they would cost and how they would perform.
How did they perform?
Actually, pretty well by federal standards — but not quite well enough to meet the criteria for federal funding of the project. Generally speaking, the issue is that both lines would certainly attract riders, but not enough to justify the cost of a subway, which is far more expensive than, say, street-level light rail or a busway. The chart at right shows the ridership projections.
And after the jump is a page from the subway’s draft environmental study comparing the different alternatives on a variety of measures.
How much would it cost to build those other alternatives?
In 2009 dollars — it will cost more when the subway is actually built — here are the costs:
Alt 1 (Wilshire/Western to Westwood/UCLA): $4.036 billion.
Alt 2 (Wilshire/Western to Westwood/VA Hospital): $4.358 billion.
Alt 3 (Wilshire/Western to 4th/Wilshire in Santa Monica): $6.116 billion.
Alt 4: (Wilshire/Western to Westwood plus WeHo line): $6.985 billion.
Alt 5: (Wilshire/Western to Santa Monica plus WeHo line): $8.747 billion.
Does this mean that a subway to Santa Monica or through West Hollywood will never be built?
No. But a lot of funding is going to have to be found to do so.
And at this point, that money is tied up in other Measure R transit projects, including the Expo Line to Santa Monica. A Wilshire subway in Santa Monica and the Expo Line — running down Colorado Boulevard — would only be one-half mile apart.
Since moving to Los Angeles 34 years ago, much of Robbert Flick’s work has centered on transportation, specifically extending the tools of the photographer to include the automobile. Robbert photographs much of his subject matter from the backseat of his minivan. And yes, he does this while driving. He has modified the back of his car to house a tripod with a motorized adjustable head and applied special screening to the window glass to keep reflections out of the images. A long extension cable is connected to the camera so the artist can photograph while his eyes are on the road. Continue reading
The $546-million federal loan given to the Crenshaw/LAX Line by the U.S. Department of Transportation was actually one of more than 70 “Tiger” grants awarded by the agency this past week.
More than 1,000 projects applied. The loan to the Crenshaw/LAX line was the largest.
Here’s the press release from U.S.D.O.T and here’s the full list of award recipients. The list is a long pdf document that has a nice description of each project. It’s an interesting read and gives you an idea of the type of road, transit and other transportation projects that get the interest of the U.S.D.O.T.
It’s also worth noting that the city of Los Angeles received a $16-million grant for its West Basin Railyard project, which would establish a rail link between the Port of Los Angeles and the Alameda Corridor freight tracks.
Two streetcar projects also received funding — in Atlanta and Salt Lake City. It’s worth noting that both connect with existing rail transit systems, such as proposed with the streetcar in Los Angeles.
On the cycling and pedestrian front, Contra Costa and Alameda counties in the East Bay received a $10-million grant to separate bike lanes from car traffic and to better connect their existing bike network to transit, as well as make some pedestrian improvements.
With the Crenshaw/LAX Line receiving a $546-million loan from the federal government last week to speed its construction, we’ve received some questions from readers about how the project will connect to the airport.
I spoke with Metro planners. Here is where things stand for now:
•The Crenshaw/LAX Line will include an elevated station at the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards — outside the main entrance to LAX. This stop is one mile closer to LAX han the current Green Line stop that is south of the airport. Shuttle buses currently run between the Green Line stop and the airport.
•It still needs to be determined how transit will connect the new Aviation/Century station to the airport terminals. Los Angeles World Airports — a city of Los Angeles agency — has talked about building a people mover between the station and the airport terminals as part of its long-planned renovation of LAX. But that project has not entered the formal environmental study phase.
•Extending the light rail line into the airport grounds has not yet been ruled out. But there are issues. An underground line would likely be beyond the funding Measure R could provide. Building at street level or above would be difficult because of existing parking garages and other buildings that are in the way and the tight turns of the airport horseshoe road.
•The Aviation/Century station is expected to be a major transit center, with bus service links to many areas, including the airport.
•When the Crenshaw/LAX line is complete, trains on the Crenshaw/LAX line will continue south on the Green Line to the current terminus in Redondo Beach. The train could one day go farther: a separate Measure R project proposes to possibly extend the Green Line four miles to a planned regional transit center in Torrance. Continue reading