How the Crenshaw Line may work

A Crenshaw light rail line would run between the future Expo Line and the Green Line

A Crenshaw light rail line would run between the future Expo Line and the Green Line

I posted yesterday that Metro staffers have released their recommendation that the future Crenshaw line be a light rail line that runs between Exposition Boulevard and the Green Line, with a key stop adjacent to LAX. The line is scheduled to open by 2018, according to the long-range plan recently adopted by the Metro Board.

Here is a link to the staff report that opines that light rail would be faster, attract more riders, create more jobs and attract more economic development than the other major option under consideration — a bus rapid transit line. The bus rapid transit line would have run further north — all the way to Wilshire Boulevard and a possible junction with the subway extension — but the bus line would have also had to share the road with regular traffic in some places.

An excerpt from the staff report (LRT stands for light-rail transit and BRT for bus rapid transit):

“The LRT represents the long-term investment that would generate the greatest benefits to travel time along the corridor. The LRT Alternative would allow for travel times between the Exposition Line and the Metro Green Line of 20 minutes, a savings of 29- 33% from the equivalent BRT travel time of 28-30 minutes and a 43% savings from the equivalent ISM travel time of 35 minutes.

“As a result of the improved travel times and reliability, the LRT alternative would generate more riders along the segment between the Exposition Line and the Metro Green Line with a base estimate of 12,700 as compared with 9,700 for the BRT Alternative.

“Additional passengers are estimated to be attracted to the system as more projects enabled by Measure R are implemented and as more airport passengers take advantage of connections to LAX terminals. As ridership grows in response to growth patterns and increased connections in the corridor, the LRT Alternative is able to increase capacity to accommodate this growth and to maintain travel times and reliability.”

I think there’s several points worth discussing about the Crenshaw Line with the caveat that the Metro Board of Directors must first approve the recommendation before anything is built. In this case, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas — who as part of that job sits on the Metro Board — on Monday quickly endorsed the selection of a light rail line by Metro staff.

Crenshaw Green Line connection-LRT_r

1. Will trains on the Crenshaw line be able to connect to tracks on the Expo Line and the Green Line?

The answer is yes and no, according to Roderick Diaz, a transportation planning manager with Metro’s South Bay team.

On the northern terminus for the Crenshaw line, the plan for now is that Crenshaw Line trains will terminate there and passengers will have to switch to Expo Line trains for the trip east to downtown Los Angeles or west toward Santa Monica.

The reasons that Crenshaw trains are not planned to continue on the Expo Line tracks are twofold: 1) Metro staff think it’s better to work on northern connections for the line (see below), and; 2) There is only so much room on the Expo Line’s tracks for trains and the plan is to run Expo Line trains at frequent intervals during some parts of the day.

The current plan is that the Crenshaw Line and Expo Line will share a street-level station at the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw, but that has to be studied further, Diaz said. One big issue will be determining the impact on vehicular traffic of a shared station at the intersection of Crenshaw and Exposition.

At the southern end of the line, the Crenshaw line will join the Green Line tracks near the Green Line’s Aviation station. Crenshaw trains will continue south on the Green Line tracks into the job-rich office and industrial park area south of LAX. But the tracks will be reconfigured so that Green Line trains from Norwalk can switch over to the Crenshaw tracks and continue toward LAX. The graphic at right explains the Green Line-Crenshaw Line connections.

The LAX stop will be at the intersection of Aviation and Century. A people mover that airport officials have talked about building would take train passengers to the airport’s terminals.

2. What about the project in Measure R that would connect the Green Line to the airport? Does the Crenshaw Line fulfill that purpose?

“The Crenshaw Line does create a connection to LAX with the airport’s people mover at Aviation and Century,” Diaz said. “The project in Measure R is theoretically an extension beyond Aviation and Century closer to LAX.”

Diaz said that Metro will look at whether the light rail line could actually be pushed into the terminal area of LAX, as some elected officials have proposed. If that could be done, the Measure R project could build that leg of the line.

3. Why doesn’t the Crenshaw line go all the way to Wilshire Boulevard, where it could hook up with the Purple Line or a future subway extension?

The short answer is cost and the need to actually connect with something. Crenshaw Boulevard is too narrow north of the 10 freeway to accommodate light rail at street level and putting the line underground or elevated from there all the way to Wilshire is too expensive, according to the agency’s draft environmental report. Plus, without a Westside extension toward Westwood that is actually built, there wouldn’t be enough ridership yet to justify the northern Crenshaw extension, Diaz said.

In the meantime, those traveling north on Crenshaw will have to get off the train at the junction with the Expo Line and continue north on bus — the good news is that Crenshaw Boulevard has a rapid bus line (the 710 bus), which connects to the Metro Purple Line at its Wilshire & Western terminus. One other salient issue: It has not yet been decided if there will be a stop at Crenshaw on the Westside extension of the subway.

The draft environmental document leaves open the possibility that the Crenshaw line could be extended one day — and Metro actually did a separate feasibility study that looked at different routes (I’ll provide a link to that document as soon as I get one). “It’s not a funded project, but we’re designing so that a future connection could occur,” Diaz said. “That’s the first stage.”