It’s no secret that new residential and commercial development is soaring in the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles. Several projects are underway and a lot more are in the planning pipeline for approval by the city of Los Angeles (see this Curbed LA post for a map).
As it happens, Metro’s rail yard and maintenance facility for subway cars sits between the Arts District and the Los Angeles River between 1st and 6th streets (it’s called Division 20). With increasing interest in adding a station or stations to serve the Arts District’s growing population and businesses, the Metro Board earlier this year asked for a more holistic study of Metro’s long-term needs at Division 20 to determine how a station might fit into the bigger picture.
That report has arrived and it’s posted immediately below (pdf here). To cut to the chase: there is no imminent decision on building a station for the Arts District, nor is there funding for it at present. But there is this: in the past Metro staff have tended to say that improvements within Division 20 would not “preclude” a station. This report, on the other hand, spells out a shift in thinking with Metro now doing the necessary work to actually find space for a station or stations.
There’s a lot to unpack in the report. For those who don’t wish to wade through the entire thing, here are the essentials:
•The highest priority for Division 20 is to find space for a growing fleet of subway cars. With the passage of the Measure M ballot measure in November, Metro is aiming to complete the Purple Line Extension to Westwood as early as 2024 (prior to Measure M, the subway would not have reached Westwood until 2035). That means Metro needs space for up to 100 new subway cars, especially because the agency is also aiming to offer service as often as every four minutes on both the Red and Purple Lines.
•Going forward, Metro will be looking at different configurations of tracks in the rail yard, the idea being to find more space for new rail cars, space for a “turnback” facility that will allow subway trains to turn around more quickly at Union Station and space for a new station. The aim is to complete that work later this year.
•Metro has heard loud and very clear that there is a lot of stakeholder interest in a 6th Street Station and that’s absolutely on the table. The agency will almost certainly need to partner with the community to help find funding for a station project. It should be noted that as the report explains, building two stations (with the other near Third Street) would be much more complicated and expensive than one station.
•And the answer is no, there is not a cost estimate yet for this project. That will come later and will depend on finding a rail yard configuration that satisfies the above operational needs and figuring out what, if any, property may need to be acquired.
One last thought. I think it’s important to understand that putting a station in the midst of an active rail yard is not as easy as simply building a new concrete platform in Division 20 and extending a sidewalk to the platform.
Division 20 is an active rail yard with trains in movement throughout the day and night — and it’s the ONLY rail yard for the Red and Purple Line and will remain so. There’s also an important safety issue. Subway trains are powered by a third rail that sits at ground level and Metro cannot have people walking anywhere near that third rail. That likely means aerial walkways and/or elevators will be needed to get people from the neighborhood to a station platform(s).
The report will be discussed at the Metro Board’s Planning Committee at 2 p.m. Wednesday (the 19th) and the Board’s Operations Committee at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday (the 20th). Live webstreams will be available of both meetings — links will appear in the far right column of this page. You will also be able to watch and listen to these meetings at a later date.
UPDATE: The Board’s Planning Committee held the item until May, when it will be discussed.