Realizing the Impossible: Los Angeles’ Subway Extension

» A broad consensus in America’s definitive car city makes a $6 billion subway extending far down Wilshire Boulevard a realistic possibility.

Admittedly, there have been plans for a high-capacity subway extending from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica along Wilshire Boulevard for decades. In both 1980 and 1990, L.A. County voters approved referenda that increased taxes to pay for transit expansion programs; one of the primary elements of both of those programs was the Westside subway, intended to provide an alternative to the rapidly expanding congestion in the region’s densest district. In the 1990s, subways were under construction — and the Purple Line made it as far as Wilshire and Western Avenue — before voters, worried about cost increases and the dangers of digging through areas with methane gas underground, mandated that no more transit funds could be used for the construction of subways. A similar resolution in the U.S. Congress prevented federal funds from being used for the purpose. It seemed that the days of heavy rail digging were done in America’s second-largest city, and most recent financing has gone to light rail.

But change is afoot, and the release last week of a staff report advising an optimal design for the new line under the Westside represents a notable step forward. The L.A. Metro board will make an official selection of a locally preferred alternative on October 28th, paving the way for federal funds as early as next year and the beginning of construction as early as 2012. The recent announcement that the Crenshaw light rail line would receive a $526 million loan from Washington to advance the project two years ahead of schedule is additional evidence that L.A.’s plans have the wind at their back.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been one of the country’s most vocal proponents of increased spending on public transportation, and it was under his pressure not only that momentum for a “Subway to the Sea” was reawakened, but also that voters passed an additional local tax for the purposes of funding transit expansion in 2008 and that Congress reversed its prior ban on funding for subways in the city. What was almost a personal crusade evolved into a citywide effort to get the project done. Today is the deadline for public comment on the expansion plan: L.A. Metro is hoping to get progress going on this project as quickly as it can.

Unfortunately for L.A., this desperately necessary project — one of the most important urban transit schemes in the nation — is also extremely expensive, likely to cost between $4 and $6 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars. Limitations on the amount of funding available, since much of the new tax revenues will be spent on projects elsewhere in the region for geographical equity and political expediency, mean that the full 9-mile line cannot be completed until 2036, a disappointment for the Mayor, who wants his pet project done as quickly as possible. Thus Mr. Villaraigosa’s 30/10 plan, which would speed completion on all twelve of the city’s planned transit corridors to 2020 instead of 2040 as currently funded.

If the Crenshaw corridor can be financed through low-interest federal loans to be paid back by tax revenues over the next 30 years, the same rules could apply to the Westside subway. It’s just that this time, not only will L.A. be asking for several times as much money in loans, but it also hopes to win more than a billion dollars in federal New Start transit capital program grants for the line. It’s an ambitious undertaking.

Nonetheless, it is not what everyone hoped it might have been, primarily because there simply isn’t enough money to pay for all of the subway projects that have been discussed. The staff report reflects reality about how much money L.A. can afford to spend on the project: Instead of digging the subway all the way to Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean, as Mr. Villaraigosa had implied was his top priority, the line will stop at the V.A. Hospital just west of UCLA and Westwood, some 3.75 miles short of the sea. A further extension will have to wait for another few decades.

In addition, the relatively recent idea for a “Pink Line” that would extend west from the existing Red Line Hollywood/Highland stop through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills and then connect to the Wilshire line a bit west of La Cienega Boulevard, was shut out by staff, who argue that this project would not meet federal cost-ridership requirements. Though the Metro board could ultimately make a different decision, a connection structure that would allow this routing to be completed in the future is likely not to be built as it would add significantly to overall costs. This increases the (cheaper) possibility of extending the Crenshaw light rail line north partially in a subway into these same areas, an option that would add to the benefits of the Crenshaw line in general, now a bit on the margins in terms of expected ridership per cost.

One major issue remains: Whether to run the new subway through Century City (a commercial center just east of Westwood) on Santa Monica Boulevard or Constellation Boulevard. The former option would reduce the usefulness of the new station dramatically since one side of Santa Monica is a golf course; 1,000 feet southeast, a stop on Constellation would provide much better access to the heart of this vibrant commercial district. Unfortunately, the City of Beverly Hills has fought the proposal to build the subway there because it would require tunneling under the local high school. As most people who have lived in cities with modern underground rail systems know, a well-designed subway produces little vibration: This shouldn’t be a problem. Metro should push strongly for the Constellation option to ensure that this station is well-used.

Overall, the recommendation of staff to concentrate on the extension from downtown to Westwood is understandable, since this alternative would produce the highest number of station boardings and trips per mile, making it the most cost-effective proposal. And here, paring down the project still produces a major expansion program.

Image above: Wilshire/Normandie Subway Station, by Flickr user Ray_from_LA (cc)

98 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Scott Mercer

    I’m fine with either option for Century City. Constellation is the better idea at this point.

    However, if Santa Monica is picked, pressure would then be enormous to develop the golf course north of Santa Monica (which is 36 holes and could easily lose a portion of their property and still have a functional golf course) and place giant skyscrapers there, kind of a “Century City North.” Santa Monica Blvd. would then become one of the two main arteries of Century.

    The massive amounts of property taxes that would result from such a development would be too tempting too ignore. I think it’s not a bad idea, as Century is already right there, and it’s not a stretch to build more large, dense tower blocks over there.

    But watch out for the nearby property owners of single story, small lot homes. They won’t be willing to admit that their now anachronistic dwellings have got to go, and will have lawyers on speed dial. Get ready for the fun. This is a Pandora’s Box that the NIMBY residents of Bevetly Hills who are grousing about the Constellation alignment have no idea they are opening with their actions.

    • Matt

      LA Country Club is already sitting on land that is worth huge amounts. The subway station won’t change that. They are under no special pressure to sell and doubt they would even consider the idea.

      Another Century City in the area would be a complete non-starter among the local population and politicians if they did.

      • Scott Mercer

        Everyone has their price. There’s huge amounts, and then there’s obscenely huge amounts. They have held on to the land for decades, that is true, but there’s never been a subway going through there before. I guess we’ll see what happens, it’s ten years away if it does happen.

      • Adirondacker12800

        In more rational parts of the world once the subway is built their property taxes would skyrocket. But with Prop 13 they can sit on the land forever and ever and ever… and still get a tax bill that reflects their assessment when Prop 13 was passed.

  • Matt

    A couple of things to note. There is enough Measure R funds to get the subway to Westwood with no federal involvement, although this would take until 2036. Also, I find it a bit odd that the amount of New Starts funds is seen as such a big request. All that is requested is $1.4B to Westwood. Yes, that is a lot of money, but didn’t federal funds go to build just about the entire DC Metro system and New Starts funds have gone to just about every rail line opened in the last decade across the country?

    Meanwhile, Los Angeles is building the Expo line all with local and state funds and this is a line that could have 80-100k in ridership (bigger than Denver’s entire rail system currently).

    Given that this is the country’s second largest city and it is obvious of the need for this line and the fact that the local population has put up significant funds for it, it seems to be travesty if the feds didn’t pony up these funds. This is just a fraction of the $3B that New Jersey shoved back in the feds face for their tunnel. Lets use transit funds where they will have the most benefit and where the local taxpayers have already ponied up.

  • Scott Mercer

    Also keep in mind that neither Century City nor the golf course are part of the City of Beverly Hills, but are part of the City of Los Angeles, and it is the people in charge of the larger city who will eyeing the deliciously enormous property tax base that would result from additional skyscraper development north of Santa Monica Blvd. The government of Beverly Hills won’t really have too much they can do to stop it.

  • Kelly Stevens

    What happens if Metro doesn’t get the New Starts money?

  • Ocean Railroader

    They could take the three billion dollars that New York City and New Jersey didn’t want for the Hudson River project and use that same three billion dollars here for the subway to the sea project. It most likely could get us three to two miles of nice subway line extension to the sea.

  • Carter R

    Nice piece, it’s also worth noting a couple things…

    1) The western-most three-mile stretch of the extension, Westwood/UCLA, Century City, and Beverly Hills, alone have roughly as many jobs as all of Downtown LA.

    2) The Metro staff I’ve talked to regarding the “Pink Line” say that through-running with a wye wouldn’t be feasible. All of the subway cars leave from a yard near Union Station, are split once at the Purple/Red break at Vermont Ave. Splitting them again at Hollywood/Highland would compromise frequency enough that it makes more sense to have that be a transfer point to a Pink Line, or if it comes to bear, a Crenshaw Line extension north.

    3) People in Santa Monica are almost unequivocally in favor of all the build options that see the subway come to all the way to Wilshire & 4th.

  • poncho

    i could have sworn i heard about a year ago that beverly hills had finally come around to supporting the subway and was strongly supporting a station in the city. am i completely off or was there yet another change?

    • D

      Its not that Beverly Hills is against the subway, its that some NIMBY homeowners are against it and have pushed this BS agenda about digging under homes. its done in every other city on earth with no problems, but for “some” reason, these snobs think that its going to be one here.

      Also, i think Metro is making a a couple big mistakes. 1) Not including a connection for a pink line subway. That line will have major ridership and should be HRT, not LRT as it will hit capacity quick. With an ever expanding network, ridership will go up exponentially. 2) The station in century city needs to be at constellation. its just way to obvious. the ridership will be much higher .
      3) not related to this subway extension, but i think metro is making a mistake by recommending a no build for the downtown Connector subway fifth and flower station. thought i would throw that in there.

  • The feds and others in the region see the Pink line as as “Transit Elitism.” Why build an expensive a 3RD rail line pointing to Santa Monica, while an equally viable North-South rail route goes incomplete, the unfinished Crenshaw line.

    Wiser now, Pink line advocates should partner with Crenshaw line advocates to form a Rose line with as much subway LRT as possible for speed. The alignment should be Hollywood & Highland-Santa Monica Blvd-Fairfax-San Vincente-Crenshaw-Inglewood-LAX-El Segundo-Redondo Beach-Torrance. It connects major traffic generators: Hollywood/Red Line, West Hollywood/Santa Monica Blvd, Melrose/Farmers Market, LA County Museum of Art/Purple Line, West Angeles Megachurch/Expo Line, downtown Inglewood, LAX, Greenline/El Segundo office park and Torrance (largest mall in LA). More importantly, the patronage-cost numbers work, the politics work and such a route passes the sniff test for “No Transit Elitism.”

    Lastly, passing this proposedRose Line strengthens the case for future funding of the I-405 Freeway corridor forming an expanded Green Line, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/48314275@N06/4724851423/lightbox/

    • Aaron

      I wouldn’t send the Crenshaw line up Fairfax… I think it needs to be at least as far west as La Cienega and potentially San Vicente to Santa Monica Blvd. If it heads north up Fairfax, it misses a very significant chunk of West Hollywood.

      I say descend the line into a subway just before San Vicente & Fairfax where it will turn north for a short jaunt to The Grove. From there, it heads west-northwest under 3rd St to near Cedars-Sinai before turning north under La Cienega to Santa Monica Blvd & eventually Highland.

      Stops would include: Wilshire/Fairfax, Fairfax/3rd, Beverly/La Cienega, Melrose/La Cienega, Santa Monica/La Cienega, Santa Monica & Fairfax, Santa Monica/La Brea, and Santa Monica/Highland.

      • Aaron,
        Though I like your recommendation to incorporate a fair amount of subway, I respectfully disagree with your La Cienega alignment recommend for several reasons:

        1. Going further west of Fairfax to LaCienega significantly raises costs to add one more mall stop, without an office park or university. I don’t see that adding 15,000 more patrons per day needed to pencil out high enough and convince the Feds in this budgetary environment. Remember there are swallowing hard to fund the Purple line to Veterans Hospital as it is.

        2. Don’t you think the NIMBY’s will come out to protect the beautiful Santa Monica Blvd landscaping between North Orlando and LaCienega Blvd? Many businesses who endured the landscaping construction impact have no intentions of enduring a 2nd impact for the greater good.

        3. Using the Fairfax route, West Hollywood gets a one-seat ride to Hollywood, Wilshire Blvd and LAX. It gets a two-seat ride to Santa Monica, Mid-Wilshire, Downtown, Culver City, and USC. In Multi-centered LA, I don’t think the USDOT would find West Holly wood slighted.

        4. You are suggesting way too many that will slow times and reduce patronage.

        • Aaron

          If you go west of Fairfax, you’ll provide rail access to not just a mall (The Grove), you’ll also provide access to Cedars-Sinai for both patients & employees. Additionally, the one-seat ride to Hollywood, Wilshire Blvd and LAX would only apply to the eastern portion of West Hollywood. You’ll miss a sizable chunk of popular retail/bars/restaurants along Santa Monica Blvd west of Fairfax. If light rail subway construction costs are an immense concern, just continue the line along San Vicente rather than up La Cienega. They could avoid tunneling until the general vicinity of Cedars-Sanai and from there it’s just a short distance to Santa Monica Blvd. In regards to construction concerns on Santa Monica Blvd, the main disruptions would only occur where cut & cover is applied for station construction. Otherwise, the majority of Santa Monica Blvd would see minimal disruption since everything will be happening underground. Also, if you skimp on stops, the rail line becomes less useful for a larger chunk of people since they would either be forced to transfer to buses for areas in between, or more likely they’d choose to drive (this is LA after all). Granted I like to travel relatively quickly, but fast travel doesn’t do much good if the line doesn’t take you where you want to go.

          • The USDOT will make passenger priority decisions, a project math decision, a geopolitical-equity decision check list and avoaid excessive NIMBYs.

            Their #1 Transit passenger priority is the same as LA’s mayor, extend the Purple Line to VA Hospital to West LA. Check. Second, LA will get money to complete the Expo Line to Santa Monica. Check. LA will get $526M towards a new Crenshaw line from Expo Line to LAX. Check. With the exception of the missing Downtown Regional Connector, that’s a fantastic Passenger Priority check list that LA can boast of compared to NYC, DC, Chicago, Boston, Philly, SF Bay Area, Dallas, Seattle and Atlanta. Will the Feds think LA is slighted with no other rail transit funding the next 10 years? Nope.

            Even if the Pink Line LRT could somehow pass the passenger priority decision, there’s the project math decision. The wicked dog leg up San Vicente to LaCienega or further to Santa Monica Blvd MIGHT be options. But the USDOT, having to balance many national priority rail and bus requests for their skimpy $10B Transit budget, look at that dog leg route and count $150M per extra station (Beverly/La Cienega and Santa Monica/La Cienega) plus an extra mile of tunnel boring ($200-300M) under Santa Monica Blvd from San Vincente to Fairfax Ave OR from LaCienega to Santa Monica Blvd to Fairfax Ave. Averaging the two totals equals $550M (rough estimate).

            Traffic simulations will give the USDOT analyst a cost/patron number for the LaCienega or San Vincente-Santa Monica alignment vs. Fairfax alignment. The analyst will divide cost by addt’l patrons for LaCienega or San Vincente alignment over the Fairfax alignment:

            20,000 extra patrons = $27,500/patron
            15,000 extra patrons = $36,667/patron
            10,000 extra patrons = $55,000/patron

            I think you see where I’m going with this. If the USDOT doesn’t like cost/patronage compared to other big cities competing for LRT starts, you can kiss off a Pink Line to Wilshire Blvd for the next 15-20 years. That’s a dice roll LA shouldn’t take, competing against Chicago, SF, DC and Boston who have proven transit cultures and existing transit networks to feed patrons to new lines.

            West Hollywood’s best chance is to make the USDOT think about funding the missing geopolitical-equity-intermodal transit opportunity. And that opportunity is both a modest and rational Expo-Line-San Vincente-Fairfax-Santa Monica-Highland-Hollywood extension to the Crenshaw Line such that commuters and visitors to Hollywood, West Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, Mid City and Crenshaw would remove more cars driving to LAX (ah ha, the intermodal transit moment). The extension would ensure success for the $526M already committed at an extra cost of perhaps $600M (rather than $1.2B for the San Vincente-Santa Monica or LaCienega route). A West Hollywood, Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, MId City, Crenshaw, Inlewood, Westchester-LAX coalition becomes a powerful geopolitical-equity-intermodal transit opportunity that even SF, Chicago, Boston and DC can not match since they already have HRT lines to their airports.

            My experience tells me not to buy your “Lack of NIMBYs on newly landscaped Santa Monica Blvd” answer. There are always NIMBYs. All you can do is minimize them. I can’t think of many businessmen/women willing to deal with underground construction after already going through construction headaches recently. So to reduce NIMBY opportunities on Santa Monica Blvd from 11 blocks to 3 blocks, the dog leg Pink Line has to go up La Cienega. The Catch 22 is tunneling up La Cienga adds over $100M to project cost. If West Hollywood wants to convince the Feds to add a new LRT extension, its got to be as NIMBY-free as possible and it will need many geo-political allies. But if West Hollywood Pink Line proposal sucks up all the funds with subways that only reach Wilshire Blvd, I can guarantee you the Pink Line will loose valuable allies south of Wilshire Blvd.

            At the end of the day, its wise for Pink Line advocates to accept 2/3rds of the pie (Fairfax to Santa Monica Blvd) with 50% probability of happening this decade rather than all of the pie at 10% probability of happening the next 15-20 years.

          • Aaron, although the feds would rank a north-south line in the Hollywod-West Hollywood-MidWilshire-Crenshaw-LAX-Torrance as a higher passenger priority that could possibly slip in under the 30/10 umbrella, I think Dan Wentzel of the http://ridethepinkline.blogspot.com has the right approach for additional transit coverage in Century City, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Hollywood. He suggests a surface streetcar utilizing Santa Monica Blvd (SMB) and more. As I look at his route on http://ridethepinkline.blogspot.com, the stops appear to be:

            Century City (Purple Line Station)
            Beverly Hills
            SMB/San Vincente
            SMB/La Cinega
            SMB/Fairfax
            SMB/La Brea
            Hollywood&Highland (Red Line Station)
            Silver Lake
            Echo Park
            Downtown

            Of course the Devil is in the Details, but this route could be relatively inexpensive to complete with one modification. If it stays surface by avoiding Hollywood & Highland, to instead go up Sunset to the big redevelopment at Sunset/Vine, then east to the Red Line station at Sunset/Vermont, then its a short scoot to Silver Lake, Echo Park and Downtown. Coupled with the North-South line, the Sunset-Santa Monica line sounds sounds like a winner with lots of patronage generators in between.

            From a West Hollywood coverage perspective, the only station missing from the 2 rail lines would be Beverly Center. But given 4 total stops in a small, but geographically strategic city, that would be unmatched transit coverage in all of LA County. The Sunset-Santa Monica streetcar line could also connect to the Expo Line at Westwood/Expo for good measure.

            What say you?

          • Aaron

            So are you saying it’s okay to deny providing high quality rail transit to a high employment center like Cedars-Sinai (employing over 10,000 people) and missing the popular destinations along the western stretch of SMB in West Hollywood to serve the less destination-oriented street of Fairfax? A streetcar still leaves those popular areas disconnected from a more vast array of one-seat destinations. Meanwhile, the less destination-oriented Fairfax Avenue (other than The Grove) receives direct one-seat connections to various locals. I still think high quality light rail needs to serve the areas that people actually want to go, meaning The Grove, Cedars-Sinai, and the main bar/club scene along the western stretch of SMB in West Hollywood.

          • I’m saying that if the North-South LRT line + Sunset-Santa Monica Streetcar line were to complete under a 30/10 plan revision, West Hollywood gets 4 stations that blanket popular Santa Monica Blvd bars, restaurants, shops, galleries and even recording studios. Consequently, West Hollywood would get a higher percentage of coverage than any other city in LA County.
            Furthermore, the 3 LRT Stops on Fairfax Ave are regional traffic generators.

            From a transit-equity perspective, I don’t feel that Cedars-Sinai/Beverly Center are getting dissed, when the Red Line extension to Hollywood-Burbank Airport remains on the To Do List and popular places like Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa Vista and Ventura Blvd/NoHo would not have LRT, BRT, CRT or Streetcar service until well after 2020.

            So I’m okay with 2 lines that benefit most, not all, of West Hollywood and would bet that most of the County, MTA and Caltrans officials could live with that too.

  • Buckeyeman

    Ifever and whenrver this extension actuall gets underway, will the Crenshaw line get extended to it in conjunction with it?

    • Buckeyeman,

      The Crenshaw-South Bay extension will definitely happen and connect at LAX Intermodal Center. Pink connecting to Crenshaw depends on whether the study of a revised Pink Line-Crenshaw Line comes together fast enough. As I spelled out earlier in this forum, there are plenty of incentives and political support for a Hollywood-WHollywood-MidWilshre-Crenshaw-LAX-South Bay line, seen as a Brown Line here http://www.flickr.com/photos/48314275@N06/4724851423/lightbox/

      Its a pivotal moment for LA that reminds me of SF Bay Area decisions about BART in 1990 that cemented rail transit as a solution for the region, not just SF, Oakland and Berkeley.

      • What decisions in 1990 are you talking about? The SFO extension, which missed ridership projections by a factor of 4 and forced San Mateo County to shut down much of its bus service?

        • In the 1990s, BART expanded several more stations in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Those expansions finally altered Bay Area perception to accept BART as a shared urban-suburban resource worth funding through more taxes. The SFO extension only cemented that perception.

          The SF mayor’s decision to jam BART directly into SFO Airport escalated project costs that hurt San Mateo County Transit. He should have dialed down his SF ego and listened to people more knowledgable on the subject (like Quentin Kopp) to build the Millbrae BART-Caltrain Station directly west of SFO. The Automated People Mover would have then securely taken passengers across 101 Freeway into the International Terminal and the rest of its airport circulation route. Not having to build a full BART station in the airport, one set fewer freeway crossings and less Millbrae trackage would saved in my estimation ~$300-400M. That would have lowered traffic projections to a more realistic level and saved the San Mateo County bus service.

          Its water under the bridge now, but it succeed in a larger sense … BART has cities competing for extensions.

          BTW, the SF mayor did many other good things – like tearing down the monstrous Embarcadero Freeway and replacing it with the beautiful Embarcadero Blvd and streetcar line today.

          • Even BART to Millbrae is a serious underperformer. The ridership south of Daly City drops like a stone; that’s why you have two BART lines out of four terminating at Daly City, and two continuing south. And even those two lines are usually empty – one would be enough, if not for the need to serve two separate terminals. The BART-Caltrain connection is marginal, because BART circles around the San Bruno Mountain, using the old SP alignment that Caltrain’s current route cuts off; it’s too slow to compete with I-287.

          • Alon,
            Aside from the SF mayor’s BART-inside-SFO mistake, San Mateo County requested one more station than patronage-justifiable. Given the low pop density next to large cemeteries, the BART Colma Station should not have been built.

            Combining savings from the two mistakes for $500-600M saved, San Mateo County could have built Caltrain overpasses/stations at $30-50M each throughout the rest of the county. Caltrain Baby Bullet train would have been running sooner, more frequently, safer, and electrification could be underway. The San Mateo County path would have been smoother for California HSR, since they’ve known about the need for mild curve straightening + overpass mods since the 1990s.

      • I recently learned that LA MTA did a look-see at a new Hollywood-West Hollywood-MidWilshre-Crenshaw-LAX-South Bay line, but they want to study a longer line than the Brown Line seen on http://www.flickr.com/photos/48314275@N06/4724851423/lightbox

        Through West Hollywood, the MTA claims that it needs $1.5M to study LaCienega and LaBrea alignments. Given the LaCienega HRT alignment was rejected due to tunneling expense and subway station expense for Not being cost/patron effective, its unlikely that a LaCienega LRT alignment with substantial tunneling expense and subway stations would pass muster either.

        The Fairfax alignment would reduce tunneling expense, have 1 fewer subway station, stop at Farmers Market/CBS, LA County Museum of Art and shorten southbound trip times.

        The LaBrea alignment has the shortest mileage for least tunneling, 2 fewer subway stations and has shortest southbound trip times. But it has only one station in West Hollywood and none at Farmers Market/CBS or LACMA.

        From transit-equity to West Hollywood and total patronage for LA County perspective, LaBrea alignment only makes sense, if they concurrently recommend funding for the Santa Monica Blvd Streetcar following the Century City-Beverly Hills-WHollywood-Hollywood route. Much of the old streetcar track still exists. Given a ballpark cost of $200M and its, TOD benefit to the Hollywood business and tourism community, the MTA could seek a PPP with Paramount Studios to anchor the Santa MonicaBlvd/Vermont Red Line endpoint and Fox Studios to anchor the Century City/Purple Line endpoint. Later, the line could be extended to Silver Lake-Echo Park-Downtown, connecting with the LA Downtown Streetcar in Bunker Hill.

        South of Torrance, they want to study a route that goes to Harbor City, then splinters one path south to San Pedro World Cruise Center and the other path east to the Willow Station of the Blue Line in Long Beach.

        Stay tuned.

        • bspc

          I appreciate you keeping us updated on all things 30-10/post-30-10, Thomas. Question on the possible Santa Monica Bl. streetcar: isn’t the nearly 6-mile stretch of SMB too narrow and too dense east of La Cienega and west of Sunset [i.e. the Sunset Junction] for an above ground streetcar? In addition, the SMB/Western area gets congested because of inbound and outbound traffic from the 101. How much underground is too much for a streetcar?

          • The question of running Santa Monica Blvd Streetcar through the narrow portion from LaCienega Blvd to Fairfax Ave is tough for many businesses on that route to swallow right now with gas just of $3/gallon in SoCal. It would take away parking on that stretch. So the key is timing. Complete the Hollywood-Crenshaw-LAX-Torrance LRT (Fairfax or La Brea alignment) with as much subway as possible by 2018-19. By then, all the Middle East will have hit Peak Oil. So gas will likely be $8/gallon and more Angelenos will want an alternative to driving between Century City, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Hollywood with great Metrorail connections to boot.

            As for Streetcar crossing Western and 101 Freeway, I leave that for the civil engineering companies like Parsons who have figured out tougher LRT and Streetcars crossing problems. Just factor in $15-20M for that quarter mile stretch.

  • Quan

    This is a good development for LA, but…twenty-six years to build a 9-mile subway line?(!) China could build an entire city subway system in that amount of time! Come to think of it, so could America at one point (see NYC, Boston, Chicago).

    Also, why so much light rail? I can’t think of any other city of LA’s size (5 million plus) that’s using light rail for the majority of its lines…most world cities that are building Metros now are using heavy rail almost exclusively (São Paulo, Bangkok, Delhi, etc.). The few that aren’t are smaller Euro cities like Seville, Dublin, and Manchester (and even these could probably use heavy rail).

    LA’s going to find itself stuck with low-capacity light rail (a la the Blue Line) in 20 or 30 years and is going to wish they had just paid the extra money for heavy rail infrastructure.

    • BSPC

      I also share those concerns as you Quan, the “why so much investment in light rail?”. Maybe I need to wait ’til I get my master’s in urban planning to be able to personally understand, but til then I would like an answer to that. And if it’s what meets current needs, what about future needs?

    • Winston

      The timeline for the LA subway is set by the availability of money. If there were more money available up front the project could be done more quickly. On of the goals of the 30/10 imitative is to accelerate this by getting a loan from the federal government to speed up the project.

      As for LA’s use of light rail, I would suggest that most of the light rail lines in LA are engineered for unusually high capacity and speed (with long stations and relatively few grade crossings and street running sections) and are a good match for the density and layout of LA. LA’s light rail lines get about 2200 boardings per mile, which is great for light rail, but isn’t enough to support a subway. Even BART (which acts like a commuter rail system for much of its length) gets 3500 or so boardings per mile. I would argue that LA is building more or less what they should be building in terms of rail.

    • There are only two LA corridors where theHeavy Rail Transit benefit-cost numbers pencil out in LA is the Wilshire Blvd-Century City-Westwood corridor and extending North Hollywood Red line two stops to reach Hollywood-Burbank Airport + Metrolink Station.

      There’s nothing wrong with high profile LRT for the rest of the routes, given their lower population and attractor density. Smart LRT in 2-3 car LRT configurations, subways/aerials in limited sections, grade separations at major roads & transit lines, .75-1 mile distance between stops and trains with higher frequency will do just fine. Blue and Green line patronage will boost once the network connections and train frequencies are higher.

      • Aaron

        I agree LRT isn’t necessarily a bad thing to be building in Los Angeles. Seattle’s Link light rail is rather nice and will be able to handle four car trains when warranted in the future. It also has a fair amount of grade separation (though the Rainier Valley at-grade portion has had a number of crashes with illegally turning automobiles). Between its ability to run long trains and the relatively significant stretches of grade-separated track, Link light rail represents the type of light rail transit I would hope to see built in Los Angeles in the coming decades (along with heavy rail where appropriate).

        • I agree that Seattle’s Link LRT construction approach with lots of grade separations and 4-car capability is the right approach for LA Metrorail LRT.

          BTW, When I consider the larger population on an isthmus and dense central business district, Seattle is as tailor-made for rail transit as San Francisco. So I don’t understand why Seattle trails Portland building a LRT and CRT network. Rather than disrupt this forum thread, is there another thread covering this Seattle rail transit subject?

          • Eric G.

            Seattle has more topographic challenges than Portland in the city core, which has led to our LRT constuction costs being the highest in the country. Also, our extensive bus operations have generated a higher transit mode share for commute trips to the CBD than the Portland LRT network. That said, buses are now about as good as they can get, bogged down in highway congestion… and separated LRT in key regional corridors is probably the best way forward.

      • Donk

        I would also argue that the LAX-Westwood-Sherman Oaks corridor could support heavy rail.

        • HRT costs too much per patron mile for SF Valley and LAX transit station is being designed to integrate LRT. That makes LRT for the LAX-CulverCity-Westwood-Sherman Oaks-Van Nuys Corridor more likely. Considering SF Valley’s short-sighted settling for BRT lines, I-405 LRT would be a huge step up.

          • Heavy rail can be done elevated over Sepulveda to reduce costs.

          • Jerard Wright

            The LRT for the Sepulveda Pass is vehicle network technology purposes to potentially tie into the existing LRT network at Expo in the Westside and the Green Line around LAX.

            Here’s an idea, how about running a 4 or 5 car LRT train through the Sepulveda Pass, that enable Heavy Rail capacity but utilize Light Rail vehciles?

            If this section will be grade separated maybe just running the longer LRT vehicles will do a better job and improve network potential.

    • One more thing. LA’s current Orange line Bus Rapid Transit should be converted to LRT and extended to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena.

    • Nathanael

      The Wilshire subway does have some rather disturbing construction challenges. You can’t drill too fast through the La Brea Tar Pits, which is where it needs to go.

  • nick

    First of all – great news that we are pushing forward with the subway extension – there are many high density corridors in LA area that can support a subway – wilshire being number 1. We as a city need to continue to support the idea of taxing ourselves for transit – i know not popular but having a modern transit system will be popular. The first couple of comments suggested that LA country club would be turned into a city – never happen – it is such a wealthy club that they don’t invite hollywood starts to be members – so i don’t think there is pressure by their membership to develop and I think it is healthy for our air and city to have open space even if it is private…let’s build the stop at constellation. We need to build a 405 valley to south bay line – make it heavy rail and make it friendly for commuting and not a stop every block….also a limited stop express from LAX area to downtown – that could become a commuter line if fed with light rail or bus lines. KEEP Building RAIL

    • BSPC

      I think you bring up a good point, Nick, re: express lines. I know at this point it wouldn’t make sense to build express lines given the current and projected ridership levels….but what about the future? And also, what about more frequent local stops once some areas become more transit dependent? Is this something to worry about now?

  • nick

    Why so much light rail? well it is easier and cheaper to build so politically it is easier to support. I will take light rail over nothing at all. At least the rail gives the city a fixed infrastructure. I do believe that we need commuting lines – for example the blue line is great but if you live in Long Beach and want to get to Downtown – way too many stops for a commute – there needs to be express tracks like NYC has! We have long distances and to get people out of there cars (not the entire goal but a goal) we need to make it very efficient.

    • Wad

      L.A. has so much light rail because there really are only a few corridors where we know from the get-go that ridership will require heavy rail.

      Of course, we could have an anomaly like the Blue Line that no one expected it to do as well as it does. It really all depends on the ridership density and how quickly it will reach its threshold. The Blue Line reached and broke through its capacity a lot sooner than expected. That’s going to be the exception, though.

    • Drewski

      Wouldn’t it be possible–at least in theory–to design new LA light rail with provisions for grade separation? All the arguing over the Expo Line, especially after the slow speeds on the Gold Line in Pasadena–these don’t have to be problems if the at-grade r/w is treated as an interim arrangement. Of course, in LA’s political climate, deferring grade separation would probably require a specific timeline and funding source for the upgrade.

      • Wad

        Sure, anything is possible.

        Would it be possible without blowing cost estimates out of the water? Maybe not. It’s best to get it right the first time.

        And the “slow speeds” on the Gold Line is an urban legend. The average end-to-end speed on that segment is 28 mph, and that’s including Marmion.

  • Matt

    As far as the comments on why not have heavy rail all over LA instead of light rail, it is partially a matter of cost and difficulty in building any major transit project in this country. Look at the headline of this article and the fact that it is saying it is an ambitious undertaking to ask for more than a billion dollars in New Starts funds.

    This line should be a no-brainer for the feds to fund, but asking for additional heavy rail lines would be all but impossible. That leaves the only choice to go with light rail to reach many areas of the county. The Crenshaw Line would be much better if it were heavy rail down Vermont instead, but it just won’t work like that in this country.

    As far as express service, that is a great idea, but almost impossible to implement giving current funding formulas and the extreme difficulty in putting together an additional line whether it be for light rail or especially heavy rail. New York was able to build additional tunnels, because they certainly weren’t going through New Starts funding a century ago. It can never happen in today’s environment.

    • Matt,
      I’ve driven Vermont south of the Red & Purple Line station to Pacific Coast Highway, so I’d have to disagree that it should receive HRT or even LRT – it simply doesn’t have the residential density or traffic attractors to merit that expense. But it should receive a new Streetcar line with stops each quarter mile or so. As you know, there is quite a bit of surface tracks to lower the cost.

      • Wad

        ThomasD, Vermont is the second-busiest bus corridor in Los Angeles County, with about 50,000 daily boardings.

        Vermont is where the riders are.

        • Wad,
          Having seen each of these routes, I have difficulty believing that Vermont gets more boardings than Western, Crenshaw and LaBrea-Hawthorne. Is there a link to your data source?

          • Jerard

            Thomas,

            Have you sat foot INSIDE the Vermont buses? I applaud you for taking the time to see the routes end-to-end but the real data is seeing the boardings inside these buses.

    • Nathanael

      It’s worth noting that New York’s early four-track subway tunnels were generally built as *replacements* for two-track Els which were being torn down (and also for streetcars which were also being taken out). They probably could not have convinced anyone to build four-track subway tunnels if they hadn’t been replacing maxed-out two-track Els.

      The later four-track tunnels (the ‘city-owned independent’ system) were built as competition to the earlier four-track tunnels.

      So don’t expect to get four-track subway tunnels immediately. *Nobody* has done that. Not even London, which really *should* have.

  • Brian

    A subway station doesn’t need a very large surface footprint. Look at many of the subway stops in NYC — you access them from a stairway on the street. With that in mind, you could put the stop in a bunch of places right in the middle of the buildings in Century City. Same goes for Westwood. I’ve seen discussions about putting the stop somewhere southwest of the business district. That’s far from where most riders need to go. Why not put the small-footprint staircase to the stop at Westwood Blvd. and Le Conte. That way it will be convenient for the throngs working and studying at UCLA, and for the people who work and recreate in Westwood Village.

    • Thad

      The problem is that the stations have to be ADA accessible so you need to have an elevator. NY and other comparably old systems like Chicago’s “L” and Boston’s “T” have them because those regulations didn’t exist when their systems were constructed and now they spend millions of dollars renovating the stations to be ADA compliant, like the Brown Line in Chicago.

      • Nathanael

        You can still embed them in buildings (elevator shafts really aren’t that big, and the London Underground has quite a few embedded in other buildings), but it does take rather more space.

  • Scott Mercer

    @ Quan:

    It took New York a long time to build the giant system it has, at least 40 years.

    Construction on the first subway line (IRT) began in 1900 and opened in 1904. The last major construction project, the IND system, opened in 1940. (Since then, nothing but piecemeal projects, infill stations and short extensions.)

    There were other parts (elevated lines) that later became part of the “subway” system (some of these are still running today). These predated 1900, opening as early as 1880, so you could really say it took New York 60 years to build what they have now.

    • Ocean Railroader

      What is intersting in that once a subway tunnel is drilled though sold rock it will most likely last hunderds if not thousands of years unless something happens to the city. So even though it’s very hard to dig though sold rock in deep tunnels the tunnels will be there for a 100 even beyound 300 years even. And a lot of cities in the world are more then 500 years old.

  • Scott Mercer

    @Brian

    They can’t build those tiny narrow staircase entrances anymore, due to requirements of the modern age, including the Americans with Disabilities Act requiring handicapped access.

    They can’t build anymore using “cut and cover” techniques either, they have to use deep bore tunnels (though cut and cover is used in LA on the Gold Line for small segments of underground lines), though that is much cheaper.

    These stations are so expensive, they almost have to put them in giant plazas with large artworks so that people driving by in cars can see where they are. Though the Red and Purple lines do have a few entrances through buildings at Hollywood/Highland, Hollywood/Vine, Hollywood/Western, Wilshire/Western and 7th/Metro.

  • Here is a Google Map I created of all the current, planned, and proposed rail and BRT lines in LA. I took the liberty of connecting Crenshaw with Pink line via San Vicente…

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=109982261189696647553.000492747cf29fbd56df1&ll=34.048535,-118.319836&spn=0.091598,0.181789&z=13

  • Informative article about a critical subway project for LA. It’s water under the bridge but in future coverage of this issue please retell the tale of the involvement of two of LA’s generally well regarded politicians – Congressman Henry Waxman and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky – in hindering financing and construction of the line during the nineties. While both politicians are now firmly behind the expansion of public transportation in LA and have been supportive of the 30/10 Initiative, they must be outed for killing construction during the 90s and depriving LA commuters smart enough to ride public transit or with no alternative of years of fast, efficient commuting on the Wilshire Subway. At least one of the comments make reference to the successful Metro Orange Line BRT in the San Fernando Valley. My understanding is that, but for Yaroslavsky, this line too would have been built as light rail, with the capacity to carry more commuters than the good high capacity buses on a heavily traveled route. Waxman and Yaroslavsky’s final insult to the people of LA is the fact that the Wilshire Subway will now cost billions of dollars more to complete than it would have cost if it had been built as it should have been back in the 1990s. For all their good works for LA this inexcusable fact must be a line in their bios as well. It was clearly time for new leadership on public transportation in LA and thankfully we have it.

    The Wilshire Subway all the way to Santa Monica and a line from the San Fernando Valley south to the Westside, LAX, and South Bay are priority projects. If getting them funded and built means shifting funds from other 30/10 projects, so be it.

    • Kelly Stevens

      Regarding 30/ 10 funding, why can’t the county sell bonds? We are in the middle of a massive global bond bull market. The Mexican government just sold a billion dollars worth of 100 year bonds! Given the backing of the measure R tax money, how much more expensive could it be to borrow, at least, the 4 billion needed to build the subway? That is, assuming that the Feds don’t come through. Would we need another ballot measure to pass the 67% requirement?

      Love your stuff Joel and Yonah!

    • Scott Mercer

      No, the Orange Line BRT represented Zev Y. trying to get something built while he was on his anti-subway kick, and biting down on BRT.

      Even though the Orange Line used to be a rail alignment, rail transit could NOT be built there BY LAW. It was a state law. I forget the name or number of the bill. The law was passed in response to opposition from NIMBY residents.

      The residents along Chandler Blvd. in North Hollywood were also screeeeeeeeaming about not wanting a “killer train” (sound familiar?) going through their neighborhood.

      So, in the end, the residents are responsible.

      • GRL

        It’s an Alan Robbins bill from the late 1980s/early 1990s. Any rail lines in that areas would have had to have been in tunnel (and not a shallow tunnel either). There were plans to have a subway on the route as late as the mid-1990s, but light rail was never a possibility due to that bill.

        • Wad

          Furthermore, the Robbins bill was a de facto ban on rail construction. The neighborhood around the right of way was adamant that the right of way remain fallow.

          An actual ban on transit in the right of way would have created the problem of the state owing Metro the right of way’s value. The right of way, unimproved, could still be worth hundreds of millions.

          A restriction on at-grade rail accomplishes the ban, because requiring grade-separated transportation blows the cost-effectiveness for the project out of the water.

  • Thanks for your feedback. If I’m mistaken on Yaroslavsky’s role in making sure Orange was a BRT rather than light rail, my bad and my apologies. As for the well known and documented Chandler Blvd opposition to a train I’m ready for Supervisors with the backbone to listen carefully, address the valid concerns of homeowners, and then move forward with transportation solutions that are the best response to the larger community’s need. As much as I like Orange for mass transportation and biking I look forward to it being light rail someday.

    • Ditto on the Orange Line conversion to LRT. So why are they extending the line northward as BRT? Shouldn’t the focus have been to convert to LRT then extend the line to Burbank, Glendale and Downtown LA?

    • Wad

      We have to move beyond the idea of converting the Orange Line to light rail. Leave well enough alone.

      By using the cost formulas that get any kind of major investment funded, a light rail conversion is a waste of money for very little benefit.

      Here’s the problem. You are not only going to spend $1 billion to give back Valley riders what they already have, but also you have to impute the costs of the $425 million it took to build the Orange Line.

      Building it as light rail the first time would have been cheaper and more productive than doing over the busway. This option is no longer available since the busway is a real-world project people now use.

      Also, conversion costs are terrible on the margins.

      Just as a conversion would be building a $1 billion light rail line for $1.425 billion, you also have to consider that in real-world operation, the busway has already captured the biggest upside of the ridership from 0 in 2005 to about 20,000-30,000 in 2006.

      If you spend $1.425 billion on this single corridor, that’s triple the cost. You won’t triple the ridership, though. You likely won’t even be able to beat the 20,000 the Orange Line achieved in its first year.

      For the equivalent cost of conversion of an extant service, you get better ridership by adding a new high-ridership corridor into Metro Rail. L.A., with its limited rail service, has just enough to demonstrate a network effect of enhanced ridership when a new line opening. Also, the biggest ridership gains are always first-year, when service goes from 0 to whatever.

      • Wad, I would agree with you on the sunk costs per patron aspect, but there’s a bigger picture here.

        1. Ultimately, the Orange line needs to extend to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena. It would be dumb to build that extension as BRT, when most other major routes will be LRT or possibly Streetcar like Ventura Blvd. With this option it gives MTA more possibilities for new single seat routes and higher patronage.

        2. BRT maxes out capacity far quicker than LRT and they don’t attract as many patrons as LRT. As gas prices hit $8-10/gallon around 2020, more people will want transit but that corridor’s capacity will be limited as a BRT route. To increase capacity, it costs 2 to 3 drivers of elongated buses to handle the same capacity as 1 driver of a 4-car LRT.

        The one or two areas where BRT make sense in the SF Valley are the North-South lines that don’t need much future capacity because they a definite valley terminus, while connecting to LRT or Metrolink to interconnect east-west commuter traffic. For example, the current north-south extension of the Orange Line as BRT is smart and should be future-proof.

        NET: East-West portion of the Orange Line should be converted to LRT after 2020, once funding is approved to expand the line to Pasadena and another LRT line extends from Downtown LA to Burbank and possibly to further north.

      • Kelly

        Isn’t there one other cost of conversion, namely you’d have to shutdown an existing line for several years. One of these transit blogs had a piece by a Metro staffer explaining that converting it without shutting it down would at best be very difficult and more expensive. If we’re going to dream, why not just dream of a mostly underground LRT on Venture?

        As to why NIMBYs would prefer buses screaming past their home to trains is beyond me.

        • If there is an Orange Line BRT conversion to LRT, it will probably be 2030-ish after the most of LA’s HRT and LRT network completes. Then Angelenos have a solid transit culture to appreciate the need for the Orange line to be LRT. One thing for sure, it would be asinine to expand the Orange line easterly as BRT. No more major-line BRT routes.

          • That’s actually quite imprudent. An LRTified Orange Line running to Burbank and Pasadena would do a lot to improve connectivity to both secondary job centers and California HSR.

      • Wad, you and Kelly convinced me that you’re right about the current Orange Line. See my comment below for additional context.

  • Liliana

    Wow…I was 7 years old when this project was started and now I am 37 and I still have not seen the Red Line completed. Are we that stupid as a people? I merely asked this because I have also seen traffic in this city continue to worsen as time goes by and as our population grows. As a heavy user of Metro the benefits of finally seeing the subway connect to the Ocean are tremendous. I imagine it would cut out at least 40% of the gridlock that occurs during rush hour on the 10 freeway and all of the surface streets as well. I mean if you could get from Downtown to Santa Monica in under half hour during peak hours why would anyone choose to drive. ITS A WIN WIN!!! The most important lines to this city are Santa Monica to downtown and perhaps the Valley into LAX if we can get these projects completed before I am become eligible for retirement it would be amazing….I can’t believe it has taken us this long to complete the most sensible mass transit project in all of California.

  • Scott Mercer

    @Liliana:

    The Environmental Impact Report on the Purple Line released by Metro recently indicates that with the subway, traffic along the line will decrease 1% by 2030, but without the subway, traffic will INCREASE BY 24%.

    So that’s a 25% decrease in traffic, with population growth figured in.

  • Alon, we are in sync on the fact that LA has the demographic density, dispersed multi-centered jobs, colleges, cultural, shopping and dining attractors to merit Purple Line HRT extension to Santa Monica and Red Line HRT extension to Hollywood-Burbank Airport. I think we’re also in sync that LA merits the nations strongest dose of what I call Premium LRT (substantial subway or aerial + grade-seperated at major roads).

    We also know per the 30/10 plan, the current Gold Line will extend eastwards at both endpoints and that the Crenshaw Line (and propably Regional Connector) will be funded. Based on additional info below, I hope we can convince Yonah to update “TRANSIT FOR LOS ANGELES MAP” and put a 2030 date on it. Provided our Congress & President begin cutting our obsolete Cold War-defense spending after the 2012 election, the date will help align people’s thoughts towards a realistic transit goal by 2030. In 2013 we’ll be out of Iraq, well into the Afghan drawdown, and gas prices will return to $4/gallon. Whether Dems or Repubs are in power, they can return to the days of agreement on transportation infrastructure and will have the liberty for at least 5% cut in U.S. defense budget = $35B/year for Rail Transit and HSR nationwide WITHOUT raising taxes or making America less safe. From a political perspective, it would not harm Highway or Aviation spending, it cuts dependance on foreign oil and lowers greenhouse gases. The only enemy to this policy shift would be some stick-in-the-mud defense contractors. The more enlightened defense contractors, would get behind America building 21st century transportation infrastructure and may even bid on some of the contracts (signaling and materials advancements easily come to mind).

    MODIFIED PINK + CRENSHAW LINE: Dan Wentzel and I agree that since the original Pink Line was rejected, it should be re-imagined as a separate route that better fits regional transit objectives and with geopolitical transit-equity muscle to possibly get funded under a revised 30/10 plan. By 2020, a substantially underground LRT from Hollywood&Highland, 2 stations on Santa Monica Blvd, then turn down Fairfax Ave with stops at Farmers Market/The Grove and Wilshire/LACMA/Purple Line, then a Pico/San Vincente Blvd stop before, connecting with the Crenshaw Line at Expo Line that goes to LAX. Torrance really wants the LRT extension to LAX, so that can make a powerful patronage-generating Hollywood/Red LIne-MidWilshire/Purple LIne-Crenshaw/Expo Line-LAX/Green Line-Torrance route similar to the Brown Line on this map, http://www.flickr.com/photos/48314275@N06/4724851423/lightbox/.

    CENTURY CITY-WEST HOLLYWOOD-DOWNTOWN STREETCAR LINE: Dan Wentzel proposed a nice streetcar solution running from Century City-Beverly Hills-West Hollywood-Hollywood-Silver Lake-Echo Park-Downtown. Santa Monica Blvd has a lot of existing streetcar track ROW and there’s an unused streetcar tunnel leading into the north side of downtown for reduced costs in a streetcar application over the entire route. This Streetcar route could insect as many as 2 HRT lines and 4 LRT lines and stop at many local attractors to be more popular than most LRT lines in the nation for under $500K.

    ORANGE LINE & VENTURA BLVD-BURBANK LINE: Despite the logic of converting Orange Line to LRT, Kelly corrected me in this forum that a conversion shut down is very unlikely. Better to pick other funding battles. So a good solution going forward is to build Premium LRT along Ventura Blvd from Warner Center-Sherman Oaks-Studio City-Universal City. From Universal City best routing is debatable, but proceeding north from up Cahuenga Blvd to Magnolia Blvd merits strong consideration. The BRT could then be extended to ONLY to Magnolia/Cahuenga to meet the Ventura-Burbank LRT that turns eastward to Burbank and then to Glendale-Eagle Rock-Pasadena.

    BURBANK-UNION STATION-BELLFLOWER-CERRITOS LINE: Orange County doesn’t have a clue about LRT, nor have they participated in LA County’s Measure R. They even cancelled there own LRT. So stop the line at Cerritos, the last city in LA County.

    I-405 LINE: Anyone who drives I-405 (Sylmar-Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks-Palms-Culver City-LAX) corridor knows that it needs a Premium LRT yesterday. Even with the new HOV lane, its packed on weekends and the Sepulveda Pass HOV extension won’t solve anything. The only questions for a Sylmar-LAX LRT route should be route details and funding.

    BEACH CITIES + GREEN LINE: For transit equity by 2020, Venice, Marina Del Rey, Playa Vista, Westchester/LMU will demand a plug into the coming LAX intermodal transit center. The first leg of California HSR between San Francisco-San Jose-Bakersfiled-Sylmar-LA-Norwalk-Anaheim should be online and train frequency in that MetroLink corridor will also increase. Thus, the Green Line must extend to the Norwalk MetroLink/California HSR Station. I can easily see heavy patronage demand for a newly configured BEACH-GREEN LINE

    SILVER LINE BRT: Similar to the Orange Line BRT, Its unlikely that LA will shut down a working BRT line, especially one thats about to receive BRT-friendly buses. The best outcome is to extend the Silver Line south to San Pedro Streetcar, increase frequency and call it day. BTW, the Streetcar route should be expanded in San Pedro.

    VERMONT AVE: A portion of it already has tracks. But given the improved Silver Line and the coming Crenshaw Line proximity, its unlikely to happen before 2030. Rapid Bus (not BRT) service is already planned for the corridor, so I would remove it from this HRT, LRT, CRT, BRT and Streetcar-oriented map.

    I hope Yonah agrees.

    • To be honest, I’m skeptical about premium LRT, as practiced in Seattle. The costs are out of sync with the capacity provided: the Seattle LRT cost nearly as much as a full subway does in other developed countries.

      If most of the route is grade-separated, then for little additional cost it can be completely grade-separated, allowing for higher throughput. If no stations are placed underground then the incremental cost of allowing full-length rapid transit station is also low.

      The best way to keep costs under control on lines that need more than streetcars but aren’t Wilshire is to build above ground whenever possible. This is hard in dense urban corridors like Ventura, but easy on freeways or very wide arterials. Using old PE corridors with signalized crossings would also work. Even the Harbor Line from LAX to LAUS could be upgraded to modern commuter rail specs with zero tunneling; away from industrial zones, the line follows a road wide enough to allow elevating the tracks.

      • When I say premium LRT, I’m referring to Expo Line-style which uses a mix of existing rail ROW, plus builds overpasses/underpasses at major roadways.

        • Expo Line-style LRT doesn’t have to be premium-cost in the same way Crenshaw-style LRT is. Using a mixture of existing ROWs with some grade separations, Calgary built LRT for less than $20 million per kilometer. Such a feat would have been impossible with the amount of tunneling that Crenshaw features.

          • Today I heard the local councilman requested LA MTA to study extending Crenshaw LRT up to Hollywood and down through Torrance, with possible future extension to Long Beach. I salute the first action but decry the second to Long Beach because it avoid the largest mall in SoCal. We’ll see how it plays out.

      • BSPC

        Serious question from an amateur: is LRT viable for the Santa Monica/Sunset corridor, considering that the corridor from West Hollywood through Echo Park is more consistently dense (at least in terms of residential density) than the Wilshire corridor? Isn’ CA-2 Santa Monica Bl is also a de facto freeway to the Westside?

        I do agree that the first East-West heavy rail line should be the Wilshire line because it connects to more dense clusters of employment, residences, and cultural institutions. But should it be the only one that we should be thinking about during the next 30 years?

        • Wad

          Yes, rail would be feasible and ideal through Silver Lake and Echo Park.

          The bus ridership there is intensely concentrated along Sunset.

          That’s mainly due to a topographic quirk, though. Silver Lake and Echo Park have very hilly, narrow streets that make transit service impractical or impossible to provide. So Sunset remains the default transit option for Silver Lake and Echo Park.

          You’d have high ridership, but a very slow line because there aren’t too many transfer points along the line. You’d need maybe stops 1/4 or 1/3 mile to capture the pedestrian traffic. In other words, it would be a line like San Francisco’s Muni Metro lines outside of Market Street.

          • BSPC

            I guess my question was, rather, is LRT the ideal type of rail line for that corridor, or is heavy rail?

          • Wad

            Tough call, BSPC.

            I would say that if something would have to be built along Sunset there, it ought to be built to heavy rail standards.

            Heavy and light refer to ridership, not car weight.

            The problem is, with Sunset you’d need to provide so many close-together stops that the service is not going to be much faster than the buses.

            As it is now, a trip between Civic Center and Vermont is about 20 minutes with a local bus along Sunset. A train with 1/3 mile stop spacing may cover the same distance in 12 minutes. Again, you’d need close stop spacing to compensate for the topography and the few bus interchanges in Echo Park and Silver Lake.

            The absolute time savings of 8 minutes each way is not that dramatic, considering the distance is relatively short. Plus, since Sunset has more than one bus line, it’s hard to improve upon what is available.

            You’re really looking at a Muni Metro-style service, but even that’s more like a high-intensity bus service than a modern incarnation of light and heavy rail.

          • I don’t know much about the Sunset area, but is narrow stop spacing really necessary? Even without connecting buses, the range of walking to rapid transit service is such that stations can be placed every kilometer.

          • Wad

            Alon, narrower stop spacing would be necessary because of the topography and street grid of Echo Park and Silver Lake.

            If you’ve seen pictures of Pittsburgh or Cincinnati, in particular, that’s what the Sunset area looks like. Also, you don’t have that rectangular grid you see in the rest of the L.A. flatlands. So the points of accessing Sunset Boulevard are limited — and steep.

            The high bus ridership is a result of not a whole lot of options in the area. These boardings are diffused throughout Echo Park and Silver Lake, with few people boarding and exiting at all stops to give the high ridership profile.

            Also, because of the problem Dodger Stadium traffic poses on Sunset, this train would need a subway through Echo Park. A subway the whole way might help, because Sunset is a curvy street. On the other hand, you’d have as many stations as a New York City local subway in Manhattan, and those aren’t terribly fast.

          • Some are asking the MTA to study a Streetcar for a CenturyCity-WHollywood-Hollyood-Silver Lake-Echo Park-Downtown route. I don’t know if the slower speed of a Streetcar or partially grade separated LRT is the locally preferred alternative. Both approaches merit study.

            Given the many mode-switch-to-transit opportunities and transit-equity priorities around LA, the LRT approach would take much longer to get funded. So I also don’t know if more people would prefer to have a Streetcar route by ~2020 or and LRT route by ~2030.

          • I looked at other possible Measure R projects that can fund a Hollywood-West Hollywood-MidWilshire-Crenshaw-LAX-Torrance line. MTA can cut $750M from the $1B currently planned for I-405 Sepulveda Pass because they are already spending over $1B upgrading I-405 Freeway corridor. $250M is a solid placeholder for ROW and planning.

            West Santa Ana Branch is a lower patronage corridor that will already benefit from a MetroLink frequency and speed upgrades. Thats another $240M to couple with $750M + $546M for Crenshaw to build a $1.5B first rate Hollywood-West Hollywood-MidWilshire-Crenshaw-LAX-Torrance line by 2018-ish.

            They should ask the Feds for extra funds to extend the Green Line east up Imperial Blvd on the surface with 3 grade separations to the Norwalk Metrolink/California HSR station. Since the Feds have taken a liking to streetcars, they should also ask for $200M to fund the Century City-Beverly Hills-West Hollywood-Hollywood-Silver Lake-EchoPark-Downtown corridor that would also link 5 HRT/LRT lines and tons of attractions.

      • Alon,
        As someone in this forum hinted, I-405 route from Sylmar Transit Center-Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks-Westwood-ExpoLine-Culver City-Westchester-LAX Transit Center would attract heavy patronage. For transit equity with other corridors, I made the case that I-405 rail transit should not occur before 2020.

        Now Imagine its 2020 and I-405 Freeway traffic is even slower, several more LRT and HRT lines/extensions are operational and LA’s culture now accepts the criticality of rail transit. What patronage/cost metric would justify HRT over Premium LRT for I-405 route? Wouldn’t that I-405 HRT route require a 2nd trackset entering LAX Transit Center?

        If a 2nd trackset were built, the extra LRT capacity would easily permit the Green Line LRT extension to Manchester-LMU/PCH-Playa Vista-Marina Del Rey-Venice-Santa Monica illustrated as grey on http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2010/03/01/how-feasible-is-antonio-villaraigosas-3010-gambit-for-los-angeles-transit/). The HRT route would look like the northern portion of the Green Line on this map, http://www.flickr.com/photos/48314275@N06/4724851423/lightbox.

        BTW Yonah, why extend Green Line to the western (ocean) side of LAX. One key reason to build LAX Transit Center at the eastern airport entry is greater security –easier to secure a single point of access on the Automated People Mover. Why would LAX want to police a 2nd entry point to the international terminal from oceanside?

        • The main cost difference between light and heavy rail wouldn’t be at LAX, where the cost would be determined by how long the platforms should be to have enough capacity. It would be in the Valley: heavy rail would need to be elevated or underground, light rail could be done at-grade. My position is that Sepulveda/405 should be LRT if and only if the following conditions apply:

          1. An extension north of Sherman Oaks is desired (it should be).
          2. Such an extension could be done mostly at-grade if used as LRT (technically possible, but I don’t know about the politics).
          3. The lower capacity of LRT is sufficient south of Sherman Oaks (almost certainly true, unless you expect 405 to get substantially more traffic than the Red Line).

          The main nontrivial condition is 2.

          • Even though HOV lanes were added to I-405 between I-105 to I-10, this section is packed — even on weekends. Completing HOV lanes through Sepulveda Pass will at best give a year of relief. By 2020, gas prices will be a lot higher and traffic will reduce to ~20 mph during commute hours. There will be more traffic generated from Playa Vista and more infill everywhere else on the Westside. There would be transit connections with MetroLink, Orange Line, Purple Line, Expo Line, Crenshaw-Pink Line and LAX. So I-405 corridor would be capable of the same or more patronage than the Red Line. The question is, which will LA County, Caltrans and Feds be willing to fund:

            1. HRT (Most expensive)
            2. Premium LRT (Half expensive)
            3. Surface + some overpass/underpass LRT (Quarter expensive)

            To be an attractive alternative to driving, it has to be 1 or 2.

          • The basic problem: DOTs are reluctant to give away lane space. Thus, LRT may not be doable on the surface, which makes it cost exactly the same as heavy rail.

          • Lets continue the 2020 thought experiment. With a larger LA Metrorail & Metrolink culture, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner upgrades and LA-SF HSR segment operational by 2020, it will open the possibility of dual transit solutions in the I-405 Corridor.

            Assuming I-405 corridor must be some combination of aerial/subway, the cost differential between Premium LRT and HRT narrows considerably. MTA could propose this HRT route likely to pass muster with the Feds:

            Sylmar/CAHSR/Metrolink Station
            Van Nuys/Amtrak/MetroLInk Station
            Orange Line Station
            Sherman Oaks (possible Ventura Blvd Streetcar line coming in 2025-30)
            Getty Center (if Getty Trust pays for a station on the east side of 405)
            Westwood/UCLA

            From Westwood/UCLA Station, the route could turn west to Santa Monica using Purple Line tracks. Then MTA could propose this Green Line LRT extension with a mixture of surface, aerial and grade separation at major blvds:

            Westwood/UCLA
            Expo LIne/Sepulveda
            Sepulveda/Venice Blvd
            Sepulveda/Howard Hughes Center
            Sepulveda/Manchester
            LAX Intermodal Center, continue east on the current Green Line

            Both routes expand coverage with plenty of attractive traffic generators. Comment?

  • No haven’t had the “pleasure” of riding a city bus since I left the East Coast decades ago.

    If we use Wilshire Blvd as the northern starting point, then visually, I haven’t noticed more people at bus stops on Vermont compared to Crenshaw or LaBrea/Hawthorne. I’m willing to take another closer look at those bus stop comparisons

    I have rode the LA’s Blue, Green, Red and Purple lines on multiple days recently and fully admit to having a rail transit bias.

  • It is very obvious that most of the comments being made have no basis and that those who are posting have no real knowlege of public transit and how it is financed.

    For a rail line to be approved and financed it must follow the most direct route and at the same time achieve the highest patronage possible.

    Connecting the western extention of the Red Line at Hollywood/Highland to say the least is an engineering nightmare. Punching a hole in the tunnel wall, installing track switches and electrical and the disrubtion of service during construction are examples of some of the problems.

    The same is true for the Crenshaw extention. Having it twist and turn so as to serve the many venues on the westside is unwise, costly and most importantly turns it into a people mover not rapid high speed transit line. In my opinion it should terminate at the Purple Line station at Wilshire and Crenshaw.

    Rail transit is needed on Santa Monica Bl. to replace the 2 Freeway extention that Jerry Brown killed when he was govenor previously. It was supposed to connect with the 101 at Vermont Ave( note the wide gap between north and southbound lanes)and then continue to the 405 freeway. Both the Cities of Los Angeles and West Hollywood removed most of the old Pacific Electric right of ways when they rebuilt their sections of Santa Monica Bl.(L.A. ,Beverly Hills city limit west to the 405 freeway)A light rail or streetcar running from downtown L.A. to Supulvada Bl. then running south to Exposition and connecting to the Expo Line would restore service that was lost in the early 1950’s. That area between Orlando and downtown could be street running where the street is extremely narrow and on right of way where Sunset Bl. is wide enough.

    I’m old enough to remember what we had, where it went and a current employee of the MTA. In short, I have alot of knowlege about our transit system and how it operates.

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