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 a pair of 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:

Below 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, Tuesday, September 23

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! 

North Hollywood/Zev Yaroslavsky Station? Stop the political madness! (L.A. Times) 

Op-ed writer Kerry Cavanaugh says renaming two Metro Rail stations after two current Metro Board Members is a sour idea that “smacks of self-congratulatory back-slapping among politicians.” She urges the two Board Members to be honored — Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky — to say ‘no thanks.’

The motions proposing the station renaming are by Metro Board Members Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor. Read the motions by clicking here. A Board Committee supported changing the station names last week and the full Board will consider the motions at its Oct. 2 meeting.

Portland will still be cool but Anchorage may be the place to be (New York Times)

A variety of scientists take educated guesses about cities that will remain comfortable later this century. No one sounds too optimistic about East Coast cities or Southern California — way too hot, they say. The strip of land along the coast between San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest, however, may remain buffered with cooler temperatures because of the proximity to the ocean and little impact from rising sea waters because of already steep terrain. In other words, Sasquatch and Mendocino may be two big winners!

As we’ve noted before, reducing the number of car trips by walking, biking and taking transit is one way to reduce your carbon footprint — all better than driving alone in the average vehicle.

In other climate change news, I forgot to include coverage of the climate change marches this past week in yesterday’s headlines. Jon Stewart does a funny job catching up with the news and explaining displacement, although I have to offer the usual warning: there’s adult language and Congress is insulted. If those sort of things bother you, don’t click on the link!

And this: the number of wildfires in California is — not surprisingly — up this year, according to the L.A. Times. Fire officials blame the ongoing drought.

Kushner pulls the plug on L.A. Register effective immediately (LAObserved) 

The new newspaper covering Los Angeles croaks before reaching its six-month birthday. Too bad. More eyeballs on our region, the better. That said, the Register’s transpo coverage was mostly a low-grade mix of old news or news releases rehashed in short stories and/or columns and it never looked like the publisher got around to actually creating a plan for what the Register would cover and how it would be covered.

Your electric car isn’t making California air any cleaner (Grist) 

Government subsidies for purchase of electric cars is mostly going to wealthy zip codes in big metro areas, Grist reports — and not necessarily the zip codes where there is the most air pollution (i.e. in the San Joaquin Valley). Fair enough point, but the headline is a bit misleading — seems to me it’s still better to have an electric car on the road than one with a conventional gasoline-powered engine.

A cyclist’s plea to motorists (High Country News)

Good essay by Jonathan Thompson. Excerpt:

Cyclists must take some responsibility here. We need to abide by the rules of the road, not ride like idiots and ride defensively, as if we were invisible. The one time I got hit by a car, it was probably my fault as much as the driver’s. More caution on my end could have prevented the accident. Still, 40 percent of fatal bike/car collisions entail the car hitting the bike from behind. Those bikers, now dead, never saw it coming. They were powerless to save themselves. So, motorists, a plea: Pay attention, slow down and remember that, as annoying and gaudy as those lycra-clad bikers might be, they are dads, moms, daughters and sons. And that car you drive, no matter how much you adore it, is a deadly weapon. Treat it that way.

 

Atomic gaffes (New York Times) 

Review of my next transit read, “Command and Control” by Eric Schlosser on some of the accidents and perils involving America’s arsenal of nuclear weapons. I picked up a copy at the great Vromans (Metro Bus 180/181, 256, 687/686 to Colorado & Oak Knoll in Pasadena) over the weekend, largely because I read the first chapter standing in the aisle and it managed to scare the transit pass out of me, so to speak. Feel free to share a transit read recommendation in the comments or on our social media (links above).

I’ll hop right on it as soon as I finish up the excellent “The Lost Dogs” by Jim Gorant on the fate and rehabilitation of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs. Quasi-related: it’s accepted fact that the New York Jets are a historically repulsive enterprise (even worse than the Ravens, Browns and 49ers, IMHO) and the fact that they are paying Vick a lot of Benjamins to hold a clipboard makes them somehow even more unlikeable. Go Patriots, Bills and Dolphins!

Transportation headlines, Monday, September 22

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: I believe someone on our comment board recently suggested renaming a Gold Line station the "King Taco Station." Almost certainly not going to happen people, but the train is very close to  the Maravilla Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: I believe someone on our comment board recently suggested renaming a Gold Line station the “King Taco Station.” Almost certainly not going to happen people, but the train is very close to the Maravilla Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Dear MTA: I love your trains…but (Los Angeles Register)

Columnist’s David Medzerian’s not-quite-love-letter to my employer begins:

Before I get into anything else, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love your trains. I take them several times a week. I can’t remember the last time I drove into Los Angeles from Long Beach. The last two times I flew from LAX, I took the train to the airport (well, almost to the airport).

But, I’m starting to think that – how I can put this nicely? – you have no idea what you are doing.

David levels complaints about the fare increase that took effect last Monday, the subsequent shutting down of four Blue Line stations in downtown Long Beach for refurbishment work, confusing ticket machine screens and prompts and luggage-blocking turnstiles at Willowbrook Station.

Those who follow us on Twitter have certainly seen these complaints echoed by other riders. I’ll certainly send David’s column around.

Semi-related: the Register’s future may be in doubt at the same time there are some big questions hovering over other local papers, according to L.A. Weekly. Our unwavering view here: the most newspapers covering Los Angeles and the surrounding area, the better.

If so many people support mass transit, why do so few ride? (CityLab) 

About five percent of Americans use transit frequently to commute to work. But polls and transit ballot measures over the years have indicated that many more residents are willing to tax themselves to pay for more transit even if they don’t ride it. In this excerpt, Los Angeles County is used as an example of this conundrum:

One of the clearest examples of the disparity comes from Los Angeles County. In 1980, about 7.5 percent of commuters used transit. That year, voters approved a permanent half-cent sales tax increase to pay for transportation initiatives, including lots of transit upgrades, but by 1990, the share of transit commuters had declined to 6.5 percent. That year, voters again approved a half-cent increase by a two-to-one margin, with nearly all the money going to transit. But the transit commute share was still at 7 percent come 2008, when yet another transportation ballot, Measure R, was passed by two-thirds of the vote.

So why do so many people support transit—not just with their voices but their wallets—when they have no intention of using it? The conclusion reached by Manville and Cummins largely echoes that of the Onion: people believe transit has collective benefits that don’t require their personal usage. Maybe voters think transit will reduce traffic congestion, or improve the environment, or help low-income residents, or translate into economic development. So long as someone else uses transit right now, everyone else will win in the end.

The potential problem with all this is what happens when residents tire of paying for transit they don’t use — perhaps because the perceived benefits failed to materialize? The answer: in some places, city bus riders could suffer as the money that does exist is funneled into suburban rail projects. Pretty interesting stuff.

BTW, the most recent Census Bureau American Community Survey numbers show that 6.9 percent of commuters in L.A. County commute to work by transit, down from 7.1 percent in the 2008-2012 average of the roundups. With population growth factored in, 6.9 percent today is more total people than seven percent in 1980 but here’s my question: what would it take to bump that number up? Could it ever get to 10 percent here?

On a related note, the Census Bureau’s news release on L.A. County led with this:

The Los Angeles metro area’s 2013 median household income ($58,869) decreased since 2010, the first full year after the last recession, when it was $60,409 in 2013 dollars, according to new statistics released today from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the nation’s most comprehensive data source on American households.

One Santa Fe and its 438 apartments in the Arts District (Downtown News)

Good look at the 438-apartment development in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District that will also include about 25 retail stores and restaurants and 525 parking spaces for residents — a fair amount of parking, I think, for a downtown development. All in all, I think this is a good development for downtown which should help local businesses prosper.

I also suspect it will increase the demand for building a subway platform in the adjacent maintenance yards for the Red and Purple Line — something Metro has discussed in the past. That would allow Arts District residents to take a fairly quick (albeit circuitous) ride to other downtown destinations and beyond. The new underground light rail station being built in Little Tokyo will also help connect residents to trains running to the San Gabriel Valley, East L.A., Santa Monica and Long Beach.

Reimagining Union Station (Washington Post)

Very thoughtful article on talk and preliminary plans for massive $7 billion expansion of Washington D.C.’s central train terminal — which in recent years (like our Union Station here in L.A.) has grown increasingly crowded.

The article thinks big and looks at the plans through the prism of urban revivals taking place across the United States. Excerpt:

With the era of exurban sprawl having run its course, people and jobs are moving back to more densely populated urban areas. That’s happening not just in Washington, but also in Boston, Austin, Seattle, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The only way these cities can accommodate such growth, and realize the economic efficiency that it will generate, is to dramatically improve their public transportation infrastructure and increase the density of land use around key public transportation nodes.

I agree. And the best part — as the One Santa Fe development shows — is that there is actually plenty of room in many urban areas for growth. It will be very interesting in the coming years to see what happens with Union Station here, the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, Penn Station in Gotham and Union Station in our nation’s capitol.

Titus seeks support to revive Amtrak in Las Vegas (Review-Journal)

With the latest plans to build a new rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas now pretty much dead (the Desert XPress high speed rail between Victorville and Vegas), Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) says reviving Amtrak service may be the way to go. Amtrak service between L.A. and Las Vegas and onward to Ogden, Utah, was discontinued in 1997.

I have zero interest in taking a train to Las Vegas — the unhappiest place on Earth, IMHO — but I’d take a train to St. George, Utah, if it could get me there in six to seven hours and there was a convenient shuttle bus to Springdale and Zion National Park.

Chinese city opens phone lane for texting pedestrians (Guardian) 

As far as I’m concerned this is just further proof that the apes will soon rule. And, yes, I thought “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was the best movie I’ve seen thus far this year. My only criticism: it was a little too plausible.

Hmmm, I don't think he's made because of the lines for the iPhone6. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Cesar probably has even less patience for humans who walk around while staring into their phones and bumping into things. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Metro Board to consider changing official names of two rail stations

I know readers are always interested in station naming news — and there are two station naming motions before the Metro Board of Directors this month:

•To rename the Gold Line’s East Los Angeles Civic Center Station the East Los Angeles Civic Center/Gloria Molina Station.

•To rename the Red Line’s North Hollywood Station the North Hollywood/Zev Yaroslavsky Station.

The motions are posted above. They were authored by Metro Board Members Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor. The Board’s Construction Committee approved the motions this morning and the full Board will consider them at its Oct. 2 meeting.

Here is Metro’s property naming policy. It’s worth noting that even when station names are named after people, the geographic names are the ones commonly used in announcements on buses and trains and on maps and agency literature.

Staff report on short- and long-term improvements to Orange Line

The Orange Line is Metro’s second-busiest bus line behind only the 720, the Rapid bus service along Wilshire Boulevard. With the Orange Line often crowded at peak hours, the Metro Board in July approved a motion asking Metro to investigate short-term fixes to speed up the Orange Line and add capacity, the feasibility of a possible bus rapid transit line between North Hollywood, Bob Hope Airport and the Gold Line in Pasadena and a possible conversion of the Orange Line to rail.

The above Metro staff report explains how the agency plans to go forward.

The gist of it: as for the question of rail conversion and extending bus rapid transit to Burbank and Pasadena, Metro plans to have those issues studied as part of an ongoing “mobility matrices” process. Yes, that’s a mouthful. In plain English, the matrices are evaluating potential transportation projects around Los Angeles County to see which should be included in an update of Metro’s long-range plan.

An update of Metro’s long-range plan, in turn, could be used to select projects to be funded by a possible ballot measure in 2016 that Metro is considering, as this report explains.

The matrixes are currently scheduled to be presented to the Metro Board in April.

The staff report also lists some possible immediate, short-term and long-term improvements that could be made to the Orange Line (see pages 3-4 of the staff report) and are in need of more study and/or work.

Among those: getting bus operators to maintain a more consistent speed to get more green lights, possibly extending peak hour service, possibly adding service between North Hollywood and Reseda stations, possibly increasing bus speeds across intersections from 10 mph to no more than 25 mph, possibly removing some seats on the bus to accommodate more bikes, studying whether buses longer than 60 feet can be used and investigating grade separation of some of the larger Orange Line intersections.

From the Department of From What It’s Worth: I spent the better part of a day in August riding and photographing the Orange Line. I think the bus is a very comfortable way of getting around, but it’s also obvious that the bus has mixed success hitting green lights consistently (some of the red lights did quickly turn green). Some pics I took on one ride between Sepulveda Station and Warner Center:

 

 

 

T&Y Bakery opens at Union Station!

coconut thingUnion Station’s has a brand new attraction. T&Y Bakery opened this morning with pastry and cookies and French macaroons and this amazing coconut confection that turned out to be the perfect way to calm a 3 p.m. hunger attack.

T&Y stands for Tbilisi & Yerevan (the capitol cities of Georgia and Armenia) and the bakery selections reflect that heritage. Pierogi, baclava, cannoli, breads, black and white cookies. What more could we want? Well, maybe ice cream but Ben & Jerry’s is just next door and Starbucks is across the concourse.

There are T&Ys in two other L.A. locations, in West Hollywood and at the Farmers Market at Fairfax and 3rd Street.

What with the Japanese convenience store Famima, Wetzel’s Pretzels and this new Russian bakery, Union Station is becoming quite the international destination … just like L.A. itself.

Here’s the T&Y Bakery video from The Farmers Market site.

 

Draft environmental document released for Eastside Gold Line phase 2 project

Eastside Map

Metro released the draft environmental study today for a project that could potentially extend the Gold Line from East Los Angeles to South El Monte or Whittier. In addition, the study also looks at a Transportation Systems Management (TSM) alternative which identifies potential bus upgrades and the legally required no-build option.

Click here to access the entire draft study, which is also known as the Draft EIS/EIR.

Metro will conduct four public hearings during the 60-day formal comment period, each of which will include a 30 minute open house where the public can view the Draft EIS/EIR, see project displays, get more information on the project and talk to Metro staff. Meeting date and times are: 

Saturday, September 27, 2014
Pico Rivera Senior Center
9200 Mines Avenue
Pico Rivera, CA 90660
Open House: 9am
Public Hearing: 9:30am – 11:30am

Monday, September 29, 2014
Quiet Cannon Banquet Center
901 Via San Clemente
Montebello, CA 90640
Open House: 5:30pm
Public Hearing: 6pm – 8pm

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Uptown Whittier Senior Center
13225 Walnut Street
Whittier, CA 90602
Open House: 5:30pm
Public Hearing: 6pm – 8pm

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
South El Monte Senior Center
1556 Central Avenue
South El Monte, CA 91733
Open House: 5:30pm
Public Hearing: 6pm – 8pm

The study process has been closely watched by communities along both potential light rail routes as an extended Gold line would provide an alternative to driving on the frequently congested 60 freeway or traffic in communities along the Washington Boulevard alignment. The two light rail options, shown above, would both begin at the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension’s current terminus at Atlantic and Pomona boulevards in East Los Angeles.

•The “SR 60″ Alternative would extend the Gold Line for 6.9 miles to South El Monte with four proposed new stations. The train would run adjacent to the 60 freeway, mostly on aerial structures, and include four new stations serving Monterey Park, Montebello and South El Monte.

•The “Washington Boulevard” Alternative would extend the Gold Line for 9.5 miles to Whittier with six proposed new stations. The train would follow the 60 freeway and then turn south, running on an aerial structure above Garfield Avenue until turning east on Washington Boulevard and ending near the intersection of Washington and Lambert Road. This alternative would serve Monterey Park, Montebello, Pico Rivera and Whittier.

Estimated ridership for the SR 60 alternative is 16,700 boardings each weekday with a cost estimate of $1.271 billion to $1.296 billion in 2010 dollars, according to the draft study. Estimated ridership for the Washington Boulevard alternative is 19,900 daily boardings per weekday with an estimated cost of $1.425 billion to $1.661 billion in 2010 dollars.

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