Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Most Exciting Los Angeles Transit Project You May Never Have Heard Of -- Bring on the Downtown Regional Connector!

Everyone has heard of the Subway to the Sea (which this blogger enthusiastically supports and hopes to ride in his lifetime).

People may have noticed the construction happening on the Exposition Line light rail project which will travel from downtown to Culver City and back up to Santa Monica.

East Los Angeles is excited about the soon-to-open Gold Line extension.

However, let me introduce you to an exciting transit project you likely haven't heard anything about, but will dramatically transform transportation in Southern California -- the downtown Regional Connector.

The Regional Connector is a light rail project that will connect the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines downtown in such a way that people will be able to travel through downtown without having to transfer on and off the Red/Purple Lines.

We could see light rail trains from Santa Monica to Whittier, from Long Beach to Pasadena, or other types of combinations. Getting to/from Union Station and Metrolink commuter rail and eventual high-speed rail will be much easier. We will have the makings of an actual "system", rather than a hodge podge of individual projects that don't really seem to work together.

According to the Metro website...

"Metro is currently in the initial 18-month Draft Environmental Impact Study/Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIS/EIR) phase of the Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project. This environmental review, which follows the Alternatives Analysis phase (AA), was authorized by the Metro Board at its January 2009 meeting. Moving forward for further study are two Build alternatives – an at-grade emphasis alternative via Second Street with a couplet on Main and Los Angeles streets, and an underground emphasis alternative via Second Street crossing First and Alameda streets at grade, as well as a No-Build alternative and a Transportation Systems Management alternative."

Let us hope that they choose the underground emphasis, which will be better in the long-term.

Measure R partially funds this connector, but more funds will be necessary.

While nearly everyone understands the value of this project, the local political structure isn't as behind this project as it should be. The primary issue is that it more obviously serves the system as a whole, rather than parochially serve someone's individual district. Because of its physical location downtown, there is less ability for a politician to say, "Look at this amazing piece of bacon I brought home for the district," even if it will benefit the transit riders of their district tremendously. In particular, Gold Line advocates should be pushing for it because it will help increase their projected ridership numbers. Blue Line riders will appreciate being able to get to Union Station without the added transfer onto the Red Line. New downtown stations will benefit all of us.

Now that you know about this project, please ask your elected leaders to support and help find the money to pay for this very important project.