Ground is broken for Regional Connector project to link Blue, Expo and Gold Lines

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The official groundbreaking for the $1.42-billion Regional Connector project is being held this morning in Little Tokyo. The 1.9-mile underground light rail line will link the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines, allowing for faster and more frequent service on Metro’s light rail lines to and through downtown Los Angeles.

The project will also eliminate the need to transfer for many light rail riders. Riders on the Expo and Blue Line will be able to continue north on light rail from 7th/Metro Center to other downtown neighborhoods such as the Financial District, Civic Center and Little Tokyo. Likewise, Gold Line riders will no longer have to transfer to the Red/Purple Line subway at Union Station to reach the heart of downtown.

The project is currently forecast to be completed in 2020. When done, Metro plans to run trains between Long Beach and Azusa on a north-south light rail line and east-west between Santa Monica and East Los Angeles. Metro continues to work on potential naming and color schemes for its light rail lines to be used in the future.

Three other Metro Rail projects are already under construction: the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line, the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line to downtown Santa Monica and the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension to the Azusa/Glendora border. The 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway is in pre-construction with utility relocations underway.

The Regional Connector, like those other projects, is receiving funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in November 2008.

Below are the station renderings. We’ll add more pics to The Source from today’s media event later and will be posting photos to our Twitter and Instagram streams during the event. Media, bloggers, anyone: feel free to use/share any photos or renderings that we post.

And here is video from this morning’s event:

Here is the news release from Metro:

Federal, State & Local Elected Officials Join in Groundbreaking Ceremony

Metro Breaks Ground on New Regional Connector Light Rail Project in Downtown Los Angeles

Metro joined U.S Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx along with state and local elected officials today to officially break ground on the $1.420 billion Regional Connector Light Rail Project in downtown Los Angeles that will better connect the Metro Blue, Gold and Expo lines with the rest of the region.

“This project will mean people can take a one-seat ride through Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, the Eastside and points in-between,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “Bringing our rail lines together and making transfers simpler will make it easier for people to use rail and will help take more cars off the road.”

The Regional Connector Project completes a 1.9-mile segment between the Metro Blue and Expo Lines and the Metro Gold Line by providing a direct connection with three new stations planned for 1st Street/Central Avenue, 2nd Street/Broadway and 2nd Place/Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Regional Connector will dramatically improve passengers’ daily commutes,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina.”It will provide them with better connections to the rest of the Metro Rail system without requiring them to transfer from one line to another. The Regional Connector is a major step forward in transforming Los Angeles County’s mass transit network into a truly world-class system.”

The Regional Connector Project is an important rail connection project overwhelmingly approved by the voters and funded by the Measure R half-cent sales tax ordinance for LA County transportation improvements. In addition to Measure R funding, a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the federal government secures $670 million for the project. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted Metro a loan of $160 million for the Regional Connector project from a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan (TIFIA) to complete the project.

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, September 17

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Union ploy may throw Kinkisharyo off track (Antelope Valley Press)

The firm hired by Metro to build new rail cars wants to build an assembly plant in Palmdale. This editorial chastises the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 and other Antelope Valley residents for using legal tactics to try to force Kinkisharyo to hire union workers or do a full blown environmental impact report for the facility — which may mean the facility has to be located elsewhere. The new light rail vehicles are needed sooner rather than later for the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and as replacement cars for the Blue Line.

Kuehl, Shriver square off in L.A. County Supervisor debate (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of last night’s debate in the race for the third district, currently held by Zev Yaroslavsky. The Purple Line Extension was one issue discussed.

An eye in the sky, accessible to the hobbyist (New York Times)

A new drone with camera attached sells for about $1,300 — meaning these things are just going to get more popular. I recently watched a photographer use a drone at CalTech to photograph wedding pics and I’m curious how long it will be when drones are used to either photograph transit and/or the transportation industry.

On the hunt for fireflies in Utah (High Country News)

Not a transportation article, but a good read for those interested in or fascinated by the American West. Scientists have known for 30 years that fireflies — most often seen in the Midwest — were in Utah, but it wasn’t until recently that they secured proof.

Metro awarded $22 million in two federal TIGER grants to improve station access

 

Two projects to improve access to Metro Rail stations were awarded “TIGER grant” funding this week from the U.S. Department of Transportation:

•The Eastside Access Improvement Project will receive $11.8 million to help create a network of sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists to access the Regional Connector 1st/Central Station in Little Tokyo.

Proposed improvements include an enhanced network of crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists, improved pedestrian lighting, planting and street furniture along nearby streets. The above renderings show some of the possible improvements.

The Regional Connector is a 1.9-mile underground light rail line that will connect the Gold Line to the Blue and Expo Lines in downtown Los Angeles and is forecast to open in 2020. The Connector will allow Eastside Gold Line riders to take the train directly into the heart of downtown without first having to travel to Union Station and transfer to the subway.

•Metro also was awarded $10.25 million to fund a series of improvements for the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station that serves the Blue Line, Green Line, six Metro bus lines and other muni bus providers. The station sits under the 105 freeway, meaning it can be noisy, cavernous and dimly lit — all impacting the “passenger experience,” as Metro’s grant application noted.

Among the improvements to be funded by the grant money: increasing station capacity by lengthening the Blue Line platform and, according to Metro, “enhancing connections between rail, bus, bicycle and pedestrian facilities to create safer access to the station from the surrounding community.”

Metro continues to pursue a larger project that could include a new bus center, sheriff substation and pedestrian plaza. More funding will be needed for those improvements.

Please click here to see the news release from the U.S. Department of Transportation and here’s a nice USDOT map showing TIGER grants awarded around the country. Metro officials said they especially appreciated the support of Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein in securing the grants — the two largest awarded to agencies in the state of California.

A Better Blue Line: 30-day closure of four DTLB Blue Line Stations start next week

Anaheim to DTLB Closure

The 30-day closure of four downtown Long Beach Blue Line stations is set to start Saturday, September 20. During that time, bus shuttles will replace train service at Downtown Long Beach Station, Pacific Street Station, 1st Street Station and 5th Street Station. Above is the route map showing where the buses will stop.

Customers will be able to ride the bus shuttles from Anaheim Street Station to the four stations listed above at no charge. Shuttles will run at the same Blue Line service levels and will be scheduled to meet trains for transfers. At Anaheim Street Station, regular train service will continue northward to Los Angeles. Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Monday, August 25

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

ART OF TRANSIT: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gold Line Eastside project environmental document released (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Coverage of the release on Friday of the Eastside Gold Line Phase 2 environmental study.  As the article notes, the two light rail alternatives would extend the Eastside Gold Line from East L.A. to either South El Monte or Whittier. Metro staff at this time has not selected a preferred alternative — that will happen in November. Under Measure R, the project is not scheduled to be complete until 2035, but Metro is trying to accelerate funding for the project, including possibly through a sales tax ballot measure in 2016. Here’s our post about the study, with links to the document.

L.A. County Supervisor’s alternate bullet train route gaining traction (L.A. Times)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority seems to be considering a tunnel under the San Gabriel Mountains on equal footing with two earlier proposed routes along the 14 freeway — neither of which is very popular with communities such as Action, Agua Ducle and Santa Clarita. Bullet train officials say the tunnel-only option advocated by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich — which would require 18 to 20 miles — of tunnels may actually prove cheaper than the 14 freeway routes, which also require extensive tunneling anyway. If you want to dream about traveling from Palmdale to Burbank in 15 minutes, read the article. The usual bullet train caveat: securing funding for the project — which aims to eventually connect L.A. and San Francisco — remains a huge hurdle.

Fault lines in L.A. over new subway construction (Breitbart News) 

The city and school district in Beverly Hills are touting a new study from their consultants that claims that there are not any earthquake faults that would prohibit a subway station under Santa Monica Boulevard. Metro is sticking by its stance that active faults make building a station under Santa Monica Boulevard unsafe and it’s better from a safety and planning viewpoint to put the Purple Line Extension station in the center of Century City, under the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation boulevard. Beverly Hills officials want the station under Santa Monica Boulevard because it would not require tunneling under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. As you likely know, Beverly Hills has challenged the project’s environmental studies with a pair of state and federal lawsuits. The Superior Courts ruled in favor of Metro in the state case and Beverly Hills appealed. The federal suit is ongoing.

After earthquake near Napa, up to 100 homes labeled as unfit to enter (L.A. Times) 

The 6.0-magnitude temblor that struck early Sunday didn’t do much damage to major transportation infrastructure throughout the Bay Area — although there was certainly damage to homes and businesses and other key infrastructure.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Have Americans really fallen out of love with driving? (Fortune)

Consumer spending has risen steadily over most of the last decade — with a brief dip due to the Great Recession. But the number of miles driven by Americans has remained flat since late 2007 — even as the number of those with jobs has increased in recent years. What gives? The independent research firm Behind the Numbers suggests that driving less is a trend here to stay and is a combination of several factors including high gas prices, baby boomers growing older, millennials gaining in numbers (millennials are less interested in driving), more interest in transit and more desire by many to live in urban settings. Fortune is a little skeptical, saying that gas prices adjusted for inflation are not outrageous and millennials still don’t play much of a role in the overall economy.

My three cents: I’m certainly not a millennial (I’m 48) but I certainly don’t want to drive more or purchase more gasoline than is absolutely necessary. Nor do I like spending money on cars, which notoriously lose value very quickly. I think with good transit, biking and housing options in cities with good public spaces, driving will remain flat in America as along as it remains relatively expensive.

Here’s how easy it is to hack a traffic light with a laptop (Vox)

With permission from local authorities, hackers in Michigan were able to disrupt timing of traffic lights in an un-named city rather easily. Vox suggests that this is a security concern — and it is certainly illegal to tamper with lights. That said, in my neck of the woods (Pasadena), I’m not sure that the timing of traffic lights could be much worse, the reason other computer hacker targets inspire a little more fear.

 

A better Blue Line: 30-day closure of four Blue Line stations in Long Beach to begin Sept. 20

The track switch near Downtown Long Beach Station will be moved so trains can run more reliably. Photo: Anna Chen/Metro

The track switch near Downtown Long Beach Station will be moved and renewed so trains can run more reliable service. Photo: Anna Chen/Metro

Heads up, Blue Line commuters: Metro will start work on station and rail improvements in Long Beach on Saturday, September 20. The work will require a 30-day closure of four Blue Line stations in downtown Long Beach: Downtown Long Beach Station, Pacific Street Station, 1st Street Station and 5th Street Station. Metro will operate free bus shuttles in place of rail service in the Long Beach Loop during the closure.

Customers will be able to ride the bus shuttles from Anaheim Street Station to the four stations listed above at no charge. Shuttles will run at the same Blue Line service levels and will be scheduled to meet trains for transfers. At Anaheim Street Station, regular train service will continue northward to Los Angeles.

Work at the four Long Beach stations will include installing new tile, lighting, paint and extending station canopies. Other work will involve replacing a switch between tracks near Downtown Long Beach Station and rail inspection and replacement.

The work is part of the $1.2-billion overhaul taking place on the Metro Blue Line. Some of the updates have already been completed and many others, including major track improvement work, are now underway. Metro will make every effort to minimize disruptions to service while work is being done, but in this case, some disruption is inevitable. While dealing with any kind of service disruption can be a huge headache, please keep in mind that when the work is completed, the Blue Line should have more reliable service.

Buses in Long Beach will be detouring off 1st Street to Ocean Avenue during the closure. First Street will be closed from Long Beach Boulevard to Pacific Avenue during construction. Pedestrian and bicycle access on 1st Street will remain open.

We will continue to update The Source with more information on the project as it progresses. You can also check the Blue Line Upgrades page for rail alerts or follow Metro on Twitter @metrolosangeles or @metrolaalerts to get service advisories.

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Related Posts

A Better Blue Line
Test Demonstration of Track Work

Transportation headlines, Friday, August 1

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice pic taken last month on the Blue Line. Photo courtesy Matthew Grant Anson, via Flickr.

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice pic taken last month on the Blue Line. Photo courtesy Matthew Grant Anson, via Flickr.

The value of fast transit (Transport Politic)

As our very own Joe Lemon recently noted after a visit to the Twin Cities, the new light rail line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul is a crawler, taking 48 minutes to an hour to travel 11 miles. Yonah Freemark, in this new post, writes:

Of course, the Twin Cities are hardly alone in their predicament. Recent transit lines elsewhere in the country feature similarly leisurely travel times. The new Houston North Line, for example, is averaging 17 mph. Los Angeles’ Expo Line is slightly quicker at 18 mph. Bus rapid transit and streetcar projects popping up virtually everywhere are often significantly slower. Only the Washington, D.C. Metro Silver Line, which will extend that region’s subway deep into the Virginia suburbs, will speed commuters along at an average of 32 mph. It will do so while only stopping at 5 stations, all of which will be located in the middle of expressways.

With speeds like those light rail lines or services like the Silver Line, it’s little wonder that it’s so difficult to convince people to get out of their cars in so many places. The fact of the matter is that services like this often do not provide much mobility improvement over the bus services they replace. That’s particularly true for large regions where too many destinations are simply too far away to be accessible by transit that averages such slow speeds.

The post goes on to note, very correctly, that the problem is that fast transit usually means putting transit on bridges or underground and that makes it prohibitively expensive at a time when there is only so much help the federal government in the U.S. will provide. As a result, less expensive and slower versions of transit get built.

Meet the worst transit project in America (Vox)

Writer Matthew Yglesias wags his finger at a streetcar line in Washington D.C. that’s under construction. Not only will it share a traffic lane with cars, the streetcar will likely block faster buses. This kind of slow transit project, Yglesias writes, not only harms the low-income riders who most rely on public transit (i.e. they’re stuck on transit instead of doing something else useful), but also creates a backlash against expensive transit projects that turn out to be of little use to motorists seeking an alternative to driving. Concur.

The missing link: exploring the Regional Connector transit corridor (KCET)

Nice summary of the neighborhoods and sights along the future Connector’s 1.9-mile route through downtown Los Angeles between Little Tokyo and the 7th/Metro Center Station. The Connector, as the name implies, will connect the Gold Line to the Blue Line and Expo Line. That will allow trains to run straight through downtown and should allow for faster rides and fewer transfers for most riders.

L.A. is working on a major zoning code revamp (L.A. Times) 

Good primer on efforts to revise the citywide code and, more importantly, the community plans that really dictate how neighborhoods look and what kind of development is allowed. This has been in the works for quite some time and looks like there are several years to go. At the end of the day, these plans will decide what gets built near transit.

Does Eric Garcetti have a big enough vision for L.A.? (Governing)

Very interesting profile on the mayor of Los Angeles, who is also the Chair of the Metro Board of Directors for the next 11 months. Garcetti makes a persuasive case that a back to basics approach is the best way to persuade people to believe in government again. Not much on transportation until the final graph. Excerpt:

Eric Garcetti wants to win big — he just believes that the way to do it is to bring the city’s fundamental management processes under control as a first step. Not until 2016 do most observers expect to see Garcetti himself put a controversial proposal before voters: That’s when he is expected to back an updated version of Measure R, the 2008 sales tax initiative that jump-started construction of the so-called Purple and Crenshaw subway lines.

 

The Metro Board has been discussing the possibility of a ballot measure in 2016 and the agency has asked local cities for their input. Nothing has been decided yet, including whether Metro would ask voters to extend Measure R or seek a new sales tax increase in order to accelerate projects and fund new ones. This is obviously one of the big storylines this blog will be following for the next two years.