Metro Board OKs further study of two northern routes for Artesia to DTLA light rail

pdf here

The Metro Board of Directors approved further study of two alignments in downtown Los Angeles for a 20-mile light rail line to run between Artesia and DTLA, known as the West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor. The routes are E and G on the map below.

The key difference between the routes: if traveling from the south, E would run below Alameda Street to Union Station whereas G would run to the DTLA core, where riders could transfer to other Metro Rail lines to travel to Union Station or other destinations.

Here is the staff report with links to the appendix items).

The next step is to continue to analyze the two potential routes as part of the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report. A final decision on the project’s route will be made at a late date.

Metro has identified a route for the project south of DTLA, where the line would follow the Blue Line to Slauson Station and then run along Randolph Street to Huntington Park and then use a pair of old rail right-of-ways to Artesia. The project’s name comes from the southernmost right-of-way, which was an old streetcar line.

The big picture view of the entire 20-mile route between DTLA and Artesia. South of DTLA, the route will follow the purple or brown line along the Blue Line and then the pink and gray lines. Click to see larger.

Planning for the northern part of the route has been more challenging. With concerns raised about construction and visual impacts for the original four northern routes (particularly in Little Tokyo), the Metro Board earlier this year approved looking at additional northern options. Community meetings were held this spring to gather more public input.

Earlier this month, Metro staff proposed the further study of alternatives E, F and G. But Alternative F drew considerable ire in Little Tokyo where F would run at street level. Community members said that would be too disruptive given that Little Tokyo has endured almost 15 years of construction of the Eastside Gold Line and Regional Connector. The Board agreed to drop this option.

Board Member Hilda Solis wrote a letter to Metro asking that Alternative F be eliminated and replaced with a modified version of Alternative H, which would run along the L.A. River and terminate at a 6th Street station where riders could transfer to the Red/Purple Line via a new Arts District Station.

Board Chair Eric Garcetti cited low ridership and slower travel times as reasons to preclude H — and said that an Arts District station for the Red/Purple Line could be built in four to five years instead of waiting longer for this project. The Board agreed and chose not to go forward with H.

There was considerable public testimony on the item with more than 100 people asking to testify. Nancy Pfeffer, the Executive Director of the Gateway Cities Council of Governments (which represents 27 cities in southeast L.A. County), reminded the Board that the cities support options that go to Union Station. She also recommended the project be called the Gateway Line. Board Member and County Supervisor Janice Hahn — whose district includes southern L.A. County — has also been pushing for a one-seat ride to Union Station.

Three other points I’d like everyone to consider:

•The Measure M spending plan proposed building the project in two phases — with the first opening 2028-2030 and the second 2041-43. Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation is working to potentially accelerate building the entire WSAB project in one phase with a project delivery strategy from the private sector. Those arrangements are called public-private partnerships (PPPs). No deal has been completed and it would have to be approved by the Metro Board. But there is interest and further defining the project is helpful, as Metro CEO Phil Washington explained to the Board’s Planning Committee earlier this month.

•Some advocates have proposed this project be built as a heavy rail line — i.e. a rail line that can handle larger and longer trains similar to the Red/Purple Line subway. Staff determined that would cost $12.3 billion to $18.4 billion and be cost prohibitive. There is currently $4 billion in funding from Measures M and R and other sources.

Board Member John Fasana asked staff on Thursday if it would be possible to study longer light rail platforms because he expects ridership on this project to be high. He even joked that the line would be popular enough that only some riders may enjoy a “one seat” ride because others would be standing.

•The two northern routes could result in an estimated total project cost higher than the currently available funding. Also, the cost estimates are expected to rise as the alternatives are refined and studied more intensively. As mentioned above, a PPP is a possibility. The environmental studies for the project will meet both state and federal requirements to make the project eligible for federal funding. A $300-million state grant was awarded for this project earlier this month.




17 replies

  1. One of the Option G options takes the WSAB Line to 7th/Metro. Rather than creating a new route, consider creating a supercharged, 4-track, grade-separated ROW along Washington and Flower, to carry both the Blue Line and the WSAB Line.

    This corridor would be elevated above Washington, and underground below Flower, with the two outer (WSAB)tracks terminating at 7th/Metro. Both lines would benefit, with speed and redundancy (should a train breakdown, the extra tracks could be used for passing).

    I would bet this would be less expensive and get more ridership than a tunnel through the Produce District. And, it would finally eliminate the Blue Line’s slow crawl into Downtown L.A.

  2. Gateway cities got to decide the route down there. LA (which is using its Measure M dollars for this project) should get to decide the route in in downtown. Stop in the fashion district with connection to Metro Center makes the most sense and expands the map the most.

  3. Can the board decide to select Alignment G as the primary, say Phase 1 build, and select Alignment E as a Phase 2 extension that can be built at a later time?

  4. I’d probably go with option G, particularly if it goes to 7th/Metro. It still connects you to all the same Metro Rail lines as Union Station, adds a useful stop in the Fashion District, and could potentially be extended north or west to cover new ground in the future. I suppose you don’t get the Amtrak or bus connection that Union Station gets you, but it also wouldn’t be pointed in any useful direction for future expansion if it goes through Union Station. It’s a bit of a tossup and I expect that cost (and to a lesser extent ridership projections) will be the deciding factor.

  5. I’m still rather perplexed as to how Alt E is going to run through Union Station. It looks like yet another station box that somehow must not intersect with the Red/Purple line and throws another wrench into the LAUS redo, and looks to be very expensive and disruptive. If it follows the existing Gold Line ROW into LAUS, that platform will certainly be over-capacity and will have to be extended. The existing staircase is too wide for that platform and people wait precariously on that 3-4′ wide space between it and the edge of the platform and I’m surprised no one has been bumped off and squished yet. -.-‘

    A note about Alt F. Just because Alt E is an underground alignment doesn’t mean that there won’t considerable disruption at street level. Station boxes need to be dug (in fact – the map indicates at least some extra platforms right next to the future Little Tokyo stations), pits need to be opened, and the areas where the alignment goes from underground to aerial is subject to a wide swath of demolition.

    I want to offer Metro some support here as to their cost estimate for Alt H and the entire project being HRT/MRT. The high estimate is $1B/mi and the low estimate is $0.67B/mi. Even if Metro grossly overprojected and the per mile cost is $0.50B/mi, that still means the project is $9B and about $5B over budget, not to mention all this shiny new station-digging in a part of downtown very expensive to build anything in. And I wouldn’t put past LA drivers/pedestrians from being able to stay away from street-grade third rail. That’s just going to be a public hazard.

    It seems like the cheapest option, as I’ve said before, is to make a terminus that connects to a future Red/Purple Line station in the Art District. They get their HRT, WSAB gets their transfer into DTLA (make no mistake, every option will require a transfer for most passengers, even Alt G), and we don’t spend $18B building heavy rail.

    • Conceivably, once the Regional Connector opens, they’ll be significantly less connections from one Metro line to another at Union Station. The Santa Monica/East LA line avoids Union Station entirely. Passengers transfering from Red/Purple to the light rail lines would be more apt to make the easier connection at 7th/Metro.

  6. Oh, man… I’m so torn between the two options. 7th/Metro serves a more transit-dependent ridership, but that LAUS route closes the Eastern DTLA gap… But seeing as HRT stations will happen for the Red/Purple, I think I support the 7th/Metro option. Allows the option of a westward expansion north towards CityWest & Sunset. 😉

    • …and yet the Valley doesn’t have a single rail line and there’s no real talk of building one. That should’ve been the #1 priority after the Red & Blue Lines: a north-south rail line through the Sepulveda Pass. And people want to know why the Valley wants to secede?!

      • The valley has “no rail” due to valley politicians and local opposition to rail in the 90s and early 00s.

        City Hall doesn’t deserve the blame (on this one).

      • Reminds me of people in Marin County wondering why they have no BART. It’s because their predecessors fought against it. Same as the Valley. The Robbins Bill, which became state law in 1991, killed rail in the SFV for over 20 years. That’s why there is only one station – NoHo – in the Valley.

      • Besides universal city/studio city and north hollywood stations on the red line, there aren’t, currently. Unfortunate that the original 1980s plan for the red line to go all the way to canoga park was scrapped due to said short sighted opposition. Although that could largely be brought back to life via an at-grade extension of the red line from north hollywood westward along the orange line ROW. Also, the sepuveda rail line and van nuys blvd. rail line will likely be a single LRT line, as it naturally makes sense and I don’t think metro would in their collective right mind would choose BRT for such a corridor. That would be insane. Heavy rail would be nice, but LRT can work for capacity as long as they are frequent enough and can possibly run 4 car trains, even along the street-running sections north of the orange line.

      • Umm, the valley doesn’t have rail because did not want rail. Look up the Robbins Bill, and you’ll understand why the Orange Line is a Busway, if which that in itself even faced an uphill battle.