How We Roll, March 24: big plans getting some attention

Art of Transpo

I’m a sucker of pics of roads and/or train tracks disappearing into the horizon. This one is California 190 between Olancha and Death Valley. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

Metro approves continuing work on Union Station run-through tracks (Streetsblog LA)

The agency’s Board on Thursday approved going ahead with further study of a plan to make it easier for Amtrak and Metrolink trains to enter and exit Union Station from both the south and north. The plan also includes locating high-speed rail tracks, tracks for the West Santa Branch project (i.e. light rail between Union Station and Artesia) and potentially an expanded concourse under the tracks.

It’s a great project and would speed up regional train travel and add capacity to Union Station. The big issue is price — it’s estimated to cost more than $2 billion and that’s money that will still have to be found and secured. Stay tuned. And here’s a project presentation.

Red Line subway could extend into South L.A. (Curbed LA)

The key word there is ‘could.’ The Metro Board, also on Thursday, asked for a subway alternative to be studied as part of the Vermont Avenue bus rapid transit project’s environmental study. Vermont is one of the busiest bus corridors in the county and the Red Line runs below Vermont between Wilshire and Hollywood boulevards.

Over the years there has been talk about pushing the rail further south. But the money and/or political will has never been there. Not sure either are there yet and money will certainly be an issue: there’s $425 million in funding available for the project. That’s a lot — but subway projects typically cost in the billions.

I’m guessing the study will also tackle operational issues of funneling trains from NoHo, Westwood and Vermont (south of Wilshire) into the set of tracks between Wilshire/Vermont and Union Station.

Related: a look at the Vermont Avenue BRT project.

Metro’s local return floor is a giveaway to the county’s richest (Urbanize LA)

Initially, 17 percent of Measure M revenues are being returned to local cities and unincorporated parts of the county on a per capita basis for their local transportation projects. As part of developing guidelines for how Measure M funds are managed and spent, Metro is exploring setting a ‘floor’ for smaller cities — to ensure they get enough money to be able to fund a project.

Not so fast, writes Scott Frazier — who doesn’t like the idea of helping smaller, wealthy cities that he believes could expand their tax base by other means (i.e. perhaps commercial development, perhaps something else).

The Metro Board is scheduled to adopt the Measure M guidelines at their June meeting. This topic came up at yesterday’s Board meeting and it’s pretty clear there are issues still to be chewed upon. Stay tuned.

L.A. Council backs plan to knock down Parker Center, build office tower (LAT)

Works for me. And wish they would knock down the awful below ground mall a block away, too. The Regional Connector will adds underground light rail stations in Little Tokyo and at 2nd/Broadway, making it far easier to get to the Civic Center — and this seems to me as good as any to keep developing. The L.A. Conservancy feels otherwise.

U.S., in reversal, issues permit for Keystone pipeline (NYT)

Some oil companies are no longer interested in the project — with oil prices slumping — while others see it as a smart future investment that will make it far easier to get oil from Canada’s tar sands fields to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Seems to me that the best way to keep gas prices and demand down and to help avoid future drilling is to drive a little bit less and, if possible, upgrade to a more fuel efficient vehicle. Another tip: try taking transit instead of driving every so often as, generally speaking, transit results in fewer greenhouse gases than driving alone.



3 replies

  1. Turning the Red Line into a north/south route heading south on Vermont towards the Expo line (and eventually beyond) while making all the subway trains out of Union Station into Purple Line trains seems like it could be a good idea. It would leave more headway for expanded Purple Line service as that line gets built out while simplifying the route map and reducing confusion. (It seems like every time I’m on the Union Station subway platform someone is trying to figure out which train to get on.)

  2. Subway down Vermont for the win! Would it be too much to ask for a study taking the ride up to Western/ Expo Rather than Vermont/Expo?*Grins* Crenshaw/LAX would be done by then. This project has the potential to reshape the city and really tie in how we ride in the core of things. So many people would be taken off of the road for short trips.

    With all due respect to every other project and region, this and the Arts District possibility should be shoved ahead of the line. The ridership results could be impressive.

    As we grow, it really is about looking at some of these short options to tie in gaps and pockets of our city; rather than build ten or twelve miles of problematic track in my opinion.

    Market it properly and I think a lot will go “heck yea”.

  3. The Union Station plan looks to be way short of capacity for the future. European stations in cities much smaller than LA, and with a smaller set of routes than the combined current Amtrak/Metrolink ones would use eight to ten tracks. There’s no provision for terminating trains at all, In the morning peak, for example, not every arriving Metrolink train would go on to another destination because the outbound traffic wouldn’t be there. Even if the train goes on to a yard somewhere, checking that it is empty takes several minutes, thus blocking the track for the next train. Likewise with High Speed: will every train from the north need to go on to Anaheim? There’s just no room for growth there at all, which will store up real capacity problems for the future.

    It would be better to find somewhere else for the Santa Ana branch to terminate (look at the Red Line and Expo/Blue line terminus problems with capacity already) and perhaps put the High Speed tracks underground. Regional and Commuter Rail will need more tracks. Any plan will cost serious money, but it is better to include room for expansion at the outset than have it cost millions more later.