Los Angeles Streetcar

Los Angeles’ Streetcar Plans: Too Duplicative of Existing Services?

» Los Angeles submitted an application for U.S. TIGER funds with the intention of building a downtown streetcar line. But the alignments proposed are very similar to those offered by existing rail and bus services — and each would operate in a one-way loop, a failed transit concept.

Los Angeles has big hopes for its downtown, and, like most of the country’s major cities, it has seen significant population growth in the inner core over the past ten years. Now, to extend this renaissance, the city — also like many others — is planning a streetcar line that would traverse the district from north to south. Last month, it applied for $37.5 million in U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant dollars, which it hopes to supplement with local and private funds to complete an initial route of between 3 and 5 one-way track miles at a cost of between $106 and $138 million.

Despite the fact that planning for the L.A. streetcar goes back for more than a decade thanks to the work of a public-private local advocacy group, the city will have plenty of competition in its effort to win federal funds. Requests for the third round of TIGER funding outnumbered actual funding available by 27 to 1. With so many projects up for consideration, anything funded by Washington ought to be valuable. But L.A.’s project could benefit from significant improvement.

The fundamental problem with the proposed streetcar is that its service pattern would overlap that of other transit lines either funded or in service today. Though there are several corridors under consideration (a final route alignment will be selected in February 2012), each would run within the general north-south corridor between Broadway to the east and Figueroa to the west and Pico to the south and Union Station to the north.

This broad corridor, it turns out, will be mostly duplicated by light rail once the Regional Connector — a more than $1 billion project — links the Blue and Expo lines south of downtown with the Gold Line north of it by 2020. The Silver Line, a bus rapid transit route that connects El Monte to South L.A., runs a very similar alignment. And literally dozens of local and rapid bus lines running with headways of 15 minutes or less throughout the day (shown in yellow on the map below) run similar routes. All of these lines are within half a mile or less of all of the proposed streetcar routes.

(Click on the above map to expand – the top-rated streetcar route based on a study of alternatives is shown in bold pink; other potential alignments are in dotted pink)

Just how many similar transit lines does Los Angeles need running through its center city? Is a route that replicates existing transit necessary? And in a city with so many major transit projects waiting to be funded, is this a priority?

Business groups representing the Broadway corridor see the streetcar plan as a potential avenue to economic growth; they argue that the line would attract more customers to their stores and contribute to a more vibrant environment. The majority of costs for the line ($50 to $60 million) are expected to be covered by property owners, who are enthusiastic about the regeneration of the area. The Bringing Back Broadway group, which has led the effort, has a promising streetscaping plan that would work well with either the streetcar or improved bus service.

Even so, it is dispiriting to see yet another city make decisions on streetcar planning that imitate previous mistakes seen elsewhere.

The first is the one-way loop travel pattern of all of the proposed alignments. Rather than running in two directions on Broadway, which would appease those who feel that the east side of downtown is underserved by rail transit, all of the routes would run south on Broadway, only to turn around and run north on another street west of there. The result? People on Broadway would have to go south, then west, then north — just to get to the center of downtown. And people at L.A. Live, where a new football station is planned near Pico station, would have to go north, then east, then south — just to get to Broadway.

That is out-of-the-way thinking that does not address the travel needs of most people. Unsurprisingly, similar one-way transit loops in other cities have had difficulty attracting ridership. Though the transit agency predicts 7,000 to 11,000 daily riders on the line, one wonders what percentage of this group would simply be switching out of existing transit modes on parallel routes, to little benefit of anyone.

There are no transportation capacity concerns here: Not only would streetcars run in alignments shared with cars (with the predictable consequences: limiting capacity, slowing trains, and disrupting services), but Broadway has a total of five lanes reserved for automobile circulation. So why not just run the trains up and down that street, perhaps with a connection at the southern terminus to Pico station? Or why not simply focus on taking advantage of the frequent bus routes that already run in the area by directing streetscape projects to their needs?

L.A.’s transit priorities are generally in the right place — focusing most funds on extending rapid transit, both in the form of rail and BRT, to areas of the city suffering from lots of traffic congestion and too few transit options. Downtown is not one of those places.

Image at top: Conceptual rendering of Los Angeles streetcar on Broadway, from Bringing Back Broadway

Bus Los Angeles Lyon

Reorganizing the Bus System within the Network Hierarchy

» Lyon’s bus network is enlivened thanks to reorganization and new branding.

The advantages offered by street-running bus operations, such as offering a variety of routes and the ability to alter them at will, can sometimes be a curse. Many individual routes may provide direct service to and from specific destinations, but if they are not able to attract enough riders, the resulting low frequency of service makes them ultimately difficult to use for both those dependent and those choosing to use transit.

The New York Timesstory last week on the cancellation of a bus route in Los Angeles raised a number of questions about the manner in which bus routes operate. The Times signaled out L.A. Metro for supposedly being willing to sacrifice the mobility needs of a heavily transit-dependent community, forcing riders onto indirect buses that require transfers. But Metro’s efforts — intended to concentrate users on its most frequent services — will likely improve the quality of public transportation for far more people than are being hurt by the loss of a direct route that only comes every half hour or so. As Jarrett Walker noted, the poor frequencies offered by bus service on the cancelled route meant it was only quicker if the bus was there exactly when you needed it; more frequent services built on transfers will bring better transit for more people at all times of the day. And they mean better access to parts of the city not directly along the route of the local bus.

Indeed, reconfiguring operations to put different services in an understandable hierarchy, focusing better services on a grid of routes, is a tool transit systems must take advantage of to improve the ability of locals to get around by transit. Yet L.A.’s reforms have clearly not been well-enough publicized or justified to attract the understanding and support of much of the public.

In Lyon, France’s second-largest metropolitan area, a rebranding of the local bus system to come on line in late August offers the possibility of reworking the transit network so that it avoids many of these problems and improves service. Lyon already has high transit use, the region’s 1.76 million inhabitants using buses, trams, and the metro 1.24 million times a day. (Compare that to similar-sized U.S. regions Indianapolis and Charlotte, whose transit systems carry 30,000 and 83,000 passengers daily, respectively.)

For that city’s transit operators, there is room to grow — and certainly ways to make the system more convenient for its existing users, which explains why the transformation plan is being put into effect. Bus service kilometers will expand by 6%, but the TCL transit agency hopes that other reforms in service will be even more effective in encouraging increased ridership. A campaign building up to the change is designed to alleviate public concerns.

There are four basic components to the transformation plan: A reduction in the complication of bus routes by ensuring that the most-used routes always have the same origins and destinations and are branded uniformly all day; reliable, 10-minute all-day frequency on about a third of the bus corridors that complement the metro and tram networks; expanded circumferential bus routes that allow people to get from periphery to periphery without having to pass through or transfer in the center and produce a citywide grid of bus lines; and better connections between bus and rail at tramway and TER regional rail stops. The bus service change is branded atoubus, which, depending on how you read it, can mean either “bus for everyone” or “bus with assets.”

The introduction of 26 major bus routes branded “C” — just like the “M” for the metro, “F” for funicular, and “T” for tram — is perhaps the most significant change. Though bus rapid transit was introduced in Lyon in 2006, it only extended to two routes. Now this collection of branded routes, complemented by 71 more typical bus lines, fills out the network. On the maps, C routes are easily visible thanks to bolder line weights and clear, labeled station stops. One hopes the frequent network maps, including the C lines and the rail corridors, is positioned around the city.

For the sake of understanding, the network revision also takes an important step forward by eliminating attenae or partial termini from routes, a frequent source of irritation for users. Instead, all major bus routes in Lyon will have one origin and one terminus at all times of day. No longer will customers be caught confused by a bus number whose meaning changes seemingly at random.

Finally, the introduction of additional circumferential lines — five of the seventeen will be C lines — will allow better navigation of the city by those whose destination is not downtown. Since most of the rail lines are radial in nature, this improved bus network can in many ways fill the gap — as long as customers understand it, which explains the emphasis on new graphics, signs, and labeling.

As the maps below show, the improved network is designed to emphasize to users the equivalence of the frequent bus routes with the metro and tram. Though most of the routes have not been significantly changed, the map has been reworked to show which bus routes are most frequent. Buses that run only occasionally have been deemphasized, had their lines made more skinny, to reflect their place in the network hierarchy. For both tourists and locals attempting to get to parts of the city they have never accessed, this implies that it is possible to rely on some bus routes just as one would on a metro or tram: Without looking at a schedule.

Bus and rail network in Lyon’s 7th District before reorganization Bus and rail network in Lyon’s 7th District after reorganization

One of the significant advantages of Lyon’s approach is that it is heavily oriented towards customer perception, but involves little actual capital investment. By focusing on branding, TCL will be able to offer riders the feel of a vastly improved bus network — one whose frequent lines effectively double the scope of the rail network — with no initial spending on investments like bus-only lanes (though some may come later). If riders come to understand the changes, they will be able to get around the city in many cases more quickly thanks to well-marked bus routes that are integrated with the rail lines in a region-wide grid.

In many ways, this is what Los Angeles is attempting too, though perhaps its Metro Rapid branding of frequent bus routes is not as convincing as is Lyon’s atoubus (total transit ridership on L.A.’s Metro is little higher than that of Lyon’s CTL before the changes have been implemented, despite the fact that the former covers a far larger city). Indeed, if the Times‘ article misrepresents the value of the changes that city is making to its bus system, it is because the writers — and presumably many of the riders — fail to understand the added benefits of a transit system that relies on transfers and frequent bus routes on a grid of corridors. This is where, if implementation goes well, Lyon’s emphasis on customer communication and visible network connections may very well prove to be a model.

Images above: Trolleybus in Lyon, from Flickr user FaceMePLS (cc) (top); Before and after maps of Lyon bus and rail network, from TCL

Congress DOT Finance Infrastructure Los Angeles

For Federal Transportation Investment, a Difficult Prognosis

» A new plan for the country’s transportation financing system from Congressman John Mica would cut spending significantly — but Democrats have yet to provide a serious counter-proposal.

With everyone from Mitch McConnell to Barack Obama arguing — no matter the evidence to the contrary — that the federal budget must be constrained in order to save the American economy, it is perhaps no surprise that the long-expressed hopes of a greatly expanded transportation bill have fallen to the wayside.

The revealing today of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica’s (R-FL) plan for a six-year, $230 billion reauthorization bill is the latest evidence that support in Congress for expanded investment in the U.S. transport network is weak. Though the bill is by no means final — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA)’s own two-year plan, slightly larger (and with $12 billion in missing revenues), was partially revealed yesterday — the writing is on the wall: At least for now, expecting any improvement in federal funding for transit or even highway programs is unrealistic.

The current federal transportation authorization legislation, SAFETEA-LU, has already been extended several times and will expire on September 30th this year.

Mr. Mica’s proposal would provide $35 billion for surface transportation in fiscal year 2012, rising to $42 billion in 2017. Existing funding provides $51.5 billion, so this would represent a draconian one-third cut in federal spending so that expenditures on transportation match the funding received from federal fuel taxes. It has been clear since last November that the GOP would push for this funding cut once it took control of the House.

Mr. Mica argues that a loosening up of red tape and increasing private investment would make up the difference, a questionable assumption.

The specific distribution of funds to transit or highways has not been enumerated, but the current shares (about 20% for transit and 80% for highways) will be maintained. This would mean a cut from about $11 billion for transit today to about $7 billion. What does this mean? Fewer dollars in the urban formula program means fewer new buses and rail cars for transit agencies across the country. Less money for state of good repair means a decline in the number of renovations of aging railway tunnels and viaducts or bus depots. A loss for the New Starts program means the end of several major capital expansion projects nationwide.

The Administration’s high-speed rail program, already under siege by a siderodromophobic GOP, is axed in the proposal. Livability grants, too fuzzy for the mobility-oriented Mr. Mica, also appear to have been taken out of funding consideration.

Compared to the heady days of early 2009, during which the Congress approved billions of dollars in additional funding for transportation in the stimulus bill, this represents quite a turnaround. And even early this year, President Obama announced that he would push for a $556 billion six-year transportation bill that would more than double annual national expenditures on public transportation (he wanted $128 billion in 2012 alone) and introduce significant support for a high-speed rail program. Though Mr. Obama continues to articulate support for a major infrastructure initiative, he has been unable to put forward a proposal that would fund such a project.

Democrats, sitting in the minority on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, were quick to lambaste the proposal. They argued that the significant reduction in spending on transportation that the Mica proposal would entail would result in a significant loss of jobs. And indeed they would. But in Washington, where the mood has shifted sharply away from the idea that government might be able to aid the advancement of the economy, even these committee Democrats were unwilling to propose a funding mechanism that would actually finance the bill they would introduce if they were able.

This is ultimately the handicap that has restrained any increase in expenditures on transportation; as is made explicitly clear in the document that adjoined the bill, the Highway Trust Fund — the fuel tax-filled bank account that finances surface transportation in this country — is broke, and the situation is worsening. While it might make sense for Mr. Obama and Ms. Boxer to propose larger bills simply because the country’s infrastructure is in a deplorable condition, without any way to finance them, how can they be approved by the Congress? Both have relied on promises of future “revenue sources” but ruled out an increase in the gas tax or the implementation of a vehicle miles-traveled fee. When cherished entitlement programs are on the cutting block because of a general unwillingness to expand the nation’s debt, how can an increase in the deficit to pay for transportation be defended?

Stuck with limited resources, then, Mr. Mica’s bill is the only approach that seems realistic. But even ignoring the overall spending amounts, the bill is quite problematic.

Though Mr. Mica’s specific approach is not yet apparent since the full legislation has yet to be released, the bill outline does state that “The percentage of available formula funds for transit programs that benefit suburban and rural areas” would be increased. The low down: Urban transit systems — the agencies that serve the vast majority of transit users — would suffer the ridiculous indignity of having their already smaller pot of funds be cut even further to benefit the less cost-effective, least valuable public transportation systems.

Eliminating red tape in the federal approval process is another of Mr. Mica’s priorities, and indeed, there may currently be more studies and years required to move forward with a transportation project than necessary. But it is difficult to believe that cutting off a few years from the planning process for new road or transit projects will make up for billions of dollars in lost financing for new buses or trains.

Bemoaning the lack of funding for transit and transportation in general is a worthwhile endeavor, but the real challenge continues to be whether any significant group of politicians of any stripe can be convinced of the need for revenue generators. In other words, without new taxes to fund the transportation program, the argument that the nation’s infrastructure is inadequate will never really matter.

If leaders in Washington have failed to advance on these matters, local and state leadership could fill the gap — if they so desire.

Though Mr. Mica’s bill would not introduce an infrastructure bank (one of Mr. Obama’s repeated goals since he entered office), it would expand funding for TIFIA grants and loans, offered by the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. One billion dollars would be appropriated annually to use federal dollars to leverage private-sector investments, which would then be paid back either through user-generated fees or dedicated taxes applied at the local level.

The value of this approach was demonstrated yesterday, when Los Angeles announced that it had received a $640.8 million low-interest TIFIA loan to begin work on its Westside Subway project. The money will eventually be paid back by sales tax receipts collected in L.A. County over the next 30 years. The extension, which would bring trains eight miles from the existing Wilshire/Western station to the V.A. Hospital in Westwood, will cost a total of $5.3 billion, so the loan is just a starting point, but it is a good one, since if all financing is lined up, it will allow completion in 2022, instead of 2036, the soonest possible without any sort of loan.

Would this program, in association with Mr. Mica’s plan to open newly built federally funded Interstate highways to tolling, be enough to “double” funding for transportation, as he has suggested? It seems unlikely — at least in the long term. While the TIFIA loans will make it possible to advance construction more quickly, they will have to be paid back eventually, using local sales taxes — which won’t be usable for projects twenty years from now. Some private investors may choose to jump on board, but getting private sources to contribute to public transit projects while saving money overall has been a notoriously difficult process in our day and age.

Mr. Mica’s proposal is not the law yet, but more endowed alternatives to it have yet to have their funding sources adequately described by Congresspeople willing to raise the specter of increasing taxes. We’re waiting.

Finance Los Angeles Metro Rail

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)

Finance Light Rail Los Angeles

L.A.’s 30/10 Plan Advances Suddenly with a $546 Million Loan for the Crenshaw Light Rail Project

» Federal commitment will move project forward, increasing prospects for Mayor Villaraigosa’s massive 30/10 transit plan. This could be a model for other cities, though the availability of more financing is unclear.

Los Angeles’ 30/10 plan, designed to shoehorn three decades’ worth of transit construction into just ten years, always seemed like a long-shot. Though backed by a voter-approved sales tax, the proposal would rely on the unlikely commitment of billions of dollars in loans from the federal government. In the process, L.A. County hoped to have by 2020 twelve new or extended fixed-route transit lines at the cost of some $14 billion.

Thanks to the ambitions of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the apparent willingness of the Obama Administration’s Department of Transportation, the process has suddenly made a major jump forward with the announcement today of a $546 million low-interest loan and a $20 million grant to spearhead work on the proposed Crenshaw light rail line. That $1.4 billion project will connect the city’s existing Green Line at LAX Airport with the currently under construction Expo Line at Exposition Boulevard, running through the cities of Los Angeles and Inglewood. The funding will allow the project to be completed by 2016, rather than 2018 as expected.

Observers nationwide should be evaluating the approach L.A. has taken on this project very carefully: This method, in which local governments promise a long-term revenue stream to pay back low-interest loans from Washington, could be a model for future infrastructure creation everywhere. Or it may at least allow the nation’s second-largest city to advance the fast-paced transit expansion program it has been planning.

Two financing sources made this deal possible: Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans and the TIGER II grant program. The TIFIA funds, representing the $546 million loan, will be leveraged by the $20 million TIGER grant; they will be eventually repaid over the course of thirty years using Measure R sales tax revenues dedicated to transit by voters in 2008. TIFIA acts as something equivalent to a national infrastructure bank and has already been used to fund construction on Denver’s Union Station and San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center, two of the nation’s most impressive planned intermodal transportation hubs. TIFIA credit assistance may be able to support a total of about $2 billion in TIGER projects.

Though TIGER II grants will fund a number of new infrastructure projects (I will discuss them in further detail next week when they are officially announced), this relatively small grant for Los Angeles could be the most important because of the unique financing structure it inspires. Similar arrangements could be used to fund the construction of all of the other twelve planned transit lines in the 30/10 plan. The Westside Subway extension and the Regional Connector are likely to enter the construction phase over the next few years; each could be built more quickly if they were financed under similar schemes.

Metro L.A. claims that moving the transit construction process ahead by up to twenty years could reduce project delivery costs by almost four billion dollars in year-of-delivery dollars — from $17.5 billion to $13.7 billion. Building the lines first and then paying for them later could allow the city to profit from expanded infrastructure investments over the course of the thirty year-period of sales tax collections, rather than have the new infrastructure be spread out throughout the period. It’s a win-win situation for the city and not bad at all for the federal government, since it can continue to offer loans at low interest rates — they are virtually guaranteed to be paid back thanks to the commitment of tax funds. That means these loans don’t add to the federal deficit in the long-term.

If sales tax revenues come in as expected, L.A. will be able to collect $5.8 billion to spend on transit capital projects by 2020; in order to fund all lines, it will need another $8 billion in loans from the federal government, to be returned with interest between 2020 and 2040. Thus today’s commitment represents about one-sixteenth of the total this region hopes to receive from Washington.

This funding may or may not be enough to assure the construction of the Crenshaw line; L.A. Metro has yet to make clear whether it hopes to win New Start grants from the Federal Transit Administration to cover some of the costs of the line. Almost every major transit project in the United States has been partially funded with these allocations. Over the next ten years, the agency expects to collect a total of $1.6 billion in New Start revenues, but how they will be distributed has not been enumerated so far.

The 8.5 miles of the Crenshaw Line are expected to attract between 15,200 and 21,300 daily riders, not terrible for a line of this sort, but not fantastic either considering that the shorter Expo Line Phase I is expected to move more than 40,000 daily users. A connection to Wilshire Boulevard, the primary axis of jobs in the region, could not be funded according to L.A. Metro’s financing plan, therefore limiting the use of this corridor. The future extension of the Crenshaw corridor north into Beverly Hills and south to the South Bay, however, would make it an important link in the overall regional transit system.

Whether the construction of similar projects both in L.A. and in the U.S. as a whole will be possible under such a financing schemes remains to be established. L.A. may be a special case because of the large amount of local funds it has already committed to the cause. If other cities want to speed up their transit construction programs, they may have to increase the amount of non-federal funding devoted to the projects. Moreover, Washington will have to find a way to increase its grant-making to ensure that there are enough New Start dollars to pay for a reasonable share of all of these projects.

Image above: Crenshaw Line map, from Metro LA