Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What about a Fly Away bus in West Hollywood?

Upon landing in LAX on the way back from spending Christmas in Seattle, I was waiting for the Super Shuttle. I asked the Super Shuttle gentleman if he had one going to West Hollywood soon. He said to me, "Of course. Everyone is going to Santa Monica or West Hollywood". I found that interesting.

We already have Fly Away buses to/from LAX and Union Station, Irvine, Van Nuys and Westwood. I wonder if one is viable to/from West Hollywood or nearby?

If you support a northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX light-rail project (a.k.a. "Rose Line") to Hollywood via West Hollywood (San Vicente & Santa Monica Blvds.) as I do, one of the primary benefits to this alignment is a one-seat ride to/from Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills and points between to/from LAX.

As the risk of angering Super Shuttle and Prime Time with this suggestion, perhaps Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills can investigate creating a Fly Away bus route to/from LAX until that northern extension of the Crenshaw Light Rail is adopted.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

West Hollywood City Council elections upcoming

Elections to the West Hollywood City Council are upcoming in Spring.

I am happy to provide a forum here for any candidate who wishes to discuss public transit issues in the area.

Here are my principle questions of all the candidates:

1) Do you favor efforts to extend Metrorail to/through West Hollywood and Santa Monica Blvd.?

2) Do you support the new proposal of a Metro light-rail subway connecting the Santa Monica Blvd. transit corridor via San Vicente Blvd. to the Crenshaw/LAX light rail project approved in Measure R?

3) Would you be in favor of transit only lanes on Santa Monica Blvd. even if that means taking away lanes of traffic and parking, and would you favor modern at-grade streetcars/light-rail running on those transit-only lanes?

4) Would you favor serving the Sunset Strip with streetcars -- noting that tourists and affluent riders would love them?

5) What are your proposals for bicycle and pedestrian improvements in West Hollywood?

I will ask all the West Hollywood City Council candidates these questions and will let you know the answers when they are provided to me.


Note: One City Council candidate who I won't name contacted me and mentioned to me about how he wanted to increase the amount of parking available to make life easier for motorists.

If your primary transportation concern is the welfare of single-occupancy automobiles, then I think you've contacted the wrong blogger. :)

Bring Back Articulated #4 Buses at Nighttime

About six months ago both Lines 4 and Lines 704, the local and rapid buses on Santa Monica Blvd. respectively, had larger articulated buses. Then the Line 4's were reduced to the old 40 foot buses. Without knowing the ridership figures, perhaps during the day the articulated buses were needed more on another line.

However, this has left an awkward situation late at night after the Rapid 704 bus stops running around 8:00 p.m. I now have to get on late night 40 foot buses from West Los Angeles to West Hollywood that are packed like sardines and are standing room only. The articulated Rapid 704 buses are no longer running.

Many of the people taking the #4 bus late night are getting off work at their restaurant/service sector jobs and they could use a seat, or they are going to nightclubs and other entertainment venues

Here is my question:

Why can't the Rapid 704 run until midnight like the Rapid 720 since there is late night demand? Or why couldn't those same 704 buses turn into local 4's after 8:00 p.m?

Not all transit corridors have the same traditional 9-5 with rush hour patterns.

I've sent a message to Metro asking this question. I'll let you know if I hear anything.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What about the Sunset Strip?

West of Vermont, Santa Monica Blvd. is sometimes seen in competition with Sunset Blvd. as a potential rail corridor.

Some affluent hipsters dream of taking Metrorail to the western Sunset Strip.

When traveling between UCLA and West Hollywood, the truth of the matter seems to be that there is just isn't much demand for public transit. The #2 Sunset Blvd. buses I ride are half-empty west of Fairfax. That is why there is a short line #2 terminating on its western end at Fairfax. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation ("LADOT") recently canceled its bus service on the Sunset Strip. Sunset Blvd. also doesn't even support an all-day limited bus, let alone a rapid bus.

When I attended the Metro community station planning meeting for the originally proposed Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills stations for the Westside Subway extension, I overheard one gentleman say, "It's too bad we couldn't also put a station somewhere on the Sunset Strip. We're not bus people". (This is a true story and my eyes rolled into the back of my head when I heard him say it.)

However, one commenter on a transit blog made the following suggestion for the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line to Hollywood via West Hollywood:

Why not have the "Rose Line" (Crenshaw/LAX Transit light-rail) head north on San Vicente all the way to Sunset, then head down Holloway back to Santa Monica Blvd. for stops at Santa Monica &Fairfax and Santa Monica & La Brea.

So the Rose Line would be tweaked to look like this:

In this scenario the stops between Hollywood/Highland and Wilshire/SanVicente would be the following:

Sunset Strip
Beverly Center

Another possibility would be for the Crenshaw/LAX light rail to run north on San Vicente to Fairfax, then north on Fairfax to Sunset and then to Hollywood /Highland with a separate light rail project entirely using the unused right-of-way in Beverly Hills to connect Century City to Sunset Junction via Santa Monica Blvd. and then down Sunset to downtown.

In this scenario, the Rose Line would have stops at the following:


There would be a transfer at SantaMonica/Fairfax for an east-west light rail connecting Century City to Sunset Junction to downtown with stops at

Century City
Beverly Hills Civic Center
SunsetJunction with stops further down Sunset to downtown

I'm a skeptic that both lines would get built or that Beverly Hills would agree to let that right-of-way be used.

Personally, I'd keep the SanVicente to SantaMonica to Hollywood alignment as proposed and serve the Sunset Strip with a modern streetcar. The affluent hipsters who won't ride the bus might actually ride that and the tourists would love it.

But I'm only one person and I put it out there for your consideration in fairness because the Sunset Strip question comes up every once in a while. But Sunset should not be used "instead" of Santa Monica Blvd. as the primary alignment because the ridership just doesn't support it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hollywood to West Hollywood to Crenshaw to Long Beach initial Metro review

Metro staff has filed an initial review of the newly discussed possibility of the Hollywood/West Hollywood Transit Corridor being connected to the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor approved as part of Measure R.

Please read by clicking this
Metro Crenshaw/LAX LRT extension study
Here are some paragraphs that stood out for me:

"Receive and file this report on the issues, options and costs to conduct an Initial Review of a possible Hollywood/West Hollywood Transit Corridor that would connect the Metro Red Line Hollywood/Highland Station to the Exposition/Crenshaw Station (currently under construction). Such a corridor would have the potential to provide a north/south transit connection with the CrenshawJLAX Transit Corridor, the South Bay Metro Green Line Extension and future potential extensions that could ultimately extend as far south as Long Beach and/or San Pedro."


"Previous studies have been conducted as part of the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor for a future extension of that project north from Exposition Boulevard to Wilshire Boulevard. The CrenshawILAX Transit Corridor WilshireILaBrea Light Rail Extension Study (June 2009) identified possible connection points to the Westside Subway at La Brea, Fairfax, La Cienega or San Vicente with future extensions farther north to West Hollywood and Hollywood. Such an extension could operate along the same route as the heavy rail subway alternatives that were considered in the Westside Subway Draft EISIEIR."


"Costs to complete an Initial Review of a Hollywood/West Hollywood Transit Corridor connection to the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor could be undertaken for approximately $1.5 million and would take approximately 12 months to complete following notice to proceed. Such a study would evaluate conceptual alignments, station locations, connection points with existing and planned transit lines and potential ridership and costs. Since this corridor is currently included in the unfunded, strategic element of the adopted Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), no funding currentlyexists for the completion of this study or the implementation of this project. The South Bay Metro Green Line Extension to Long Beach and/or San Pedro is also included in the Strategic element of the adopted LRTP. Staffing is not available to complete this work. Additional staff would need to be hired to prepare a Statement of Work, procure consultant services and to conduct the Initial Review."


If you see the map above, you will still two proposed alignments for the northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX line.

Originally, discussion about the Crenshaw Line heading north was primarily a discussion of how to get this light rail project to Wilshire Blvd. to allow for transfers to the westside extension of the Purple Line. At that time the alternatives were considered to be LaBrea or Crenshaw. As light rail ruled was ruled out for Crenshaw Blvd. north of San Vicente, that made LaBrea/Wilshire seem like the natural extension and transfer point.

However, since those initial studies were made, transit planners and advocates are now thinking that the real northern terminus of the Crenshaw Line ought to be not just Wilshire, but the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station. Also, at the same time, the West Hollywood Transit Corridor was studied as part of the Westside Subway extension project. There is growing realization that a LaBrea alignment for the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line would miss several ridership generators such as The Grove/Farmer's Market, Beverly Center/Cedar-Sinai, City of West Hollywood, etc.

Even though the West Hollywood transit corridor was not included with the heavy rail extension of the westside subway at this time, Metro noted that the West Hollywood transit corridor had high potential and that a light-rail subway might be more competitive for federal funding. The decision to put the LaCienega/Wilshire station on the east side of that intersection means that a transfer to a SanVicente/Wilshire station as northern alignment of the Crenshaw/LAX line that runs up San Vicente to Santa Monica Blvd. would be rather easy to build.

San Vicente used to have rail on it and Santa Monica Blvd. has already been studied as a transit corridor. LaBrea just doesn't have the ridership generators to justify going straight north/south towards Hollywood. To me it is a no-brainer. A Heavy-Rail extension connecting to the Purple Line may not occur for three decades because of the cost. If we could get this alignment above with the Santa Monica Blvd./San Vicente extension of the Crenshaw/LAX as a light-rail subway, we should take it.

The next step is a fully funded study of this corridor by Metro. If you want Metro to continue to officially study this corridor, please send your comments asking them to do so at

I also recommend contacting Metro's Crenshaw/LAX project team to let them know that you want the Crenshaw/Expo station built in a manner that allows for a further northern extension of the line and that you support the SantaMonica Blvd./SanVicente alignment of that route at

The tradeoff for a one-seat ride from West Hollywood to the beach will be a one-seat ride from West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and their adjacent areas to/from LAX, and as you can see from the map, potentially Long Beach. (On a personal note, connecting the two large gay communities in West Hollywood and Long Beach by train would be great.)

As I said, in my opinion, if we can get this Hollywood-WestHollywood-SanVicente-Crenshaw-LAX-LongBeach line built, we should take it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hollywood to West Hollywood to Crenshaw to Long Beach?

I was informed by e-mail that at Metro's Measure R Committee meeting today Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas asked Metro staff to come back next month with some sort of feasibility analysis of a study that begins with the Santa Monica Blvd. transit corridor originating at Hollywood and Highland and continues via Santa Monica Blvd. to San Vicente to the south via Crenshaw with an alignment all the way to Long Beach.

Could this be the start of a coalition to keep alive a Santa Monica Blvd. rail alignment by combining it with a project that would help another underserved area in the south of the county?

If so, this would certainly have my full support. The lines would share tracks on Crenshaw, but that is just fine. In our emerging system, there should be shared tracking in transit corridors that makes transfers and mobility easy and convenient.

I would like to eventually see also an east-west Metrorail alignment that shares tracks on Santa Monica Blvd. between this proposal by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and one that connects Century to downtown and points east via Santa Monica Blvd., Sunset Junction and Sunset Blvd.

While the ultimate dream for all transit advocates, of course, is a heavy rail subway like the Red and Purple Lines in their preferred transit corridor, most of the future construction of Metro rail will likely be some form of light rail and some modern streetcar.

In any event, the next step for those of us who want to see any type of Metrorail on the Santa Monica Blvd. corridor, heavy-rail, light-rail, or modern streetcar, is to keep the corridor alive for future feasibility studies.

Please attend Metro's meeting on October 28th and submit your comments that you want Metro to keep the Santa Monica Blvd. transit corridor alive for further feasibility studies.

Regular Metro Board Meeting
Metro Board Room
One Gateway Plaza, 3rd Floor
Los Angeles
Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.

If you cannot attend the meeting in person, then please send an e-mail

Look at how far this transit corridor has come in just a few years. Keep up the great work and stay optimistic and motivated. We can and we will ride Metrorail in some form on this corridor within (God willing) all of our lifetimes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Councilmember Bill Rosendahl

I just heard Councilmember Bill Rosendahl speak on legislative advocacy.

I also want to thank him for his tireless advocacy for mass transit.

Thank you, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky!

I am very pleased that Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky's newsletter quoted my blog.

It has to be said that Supervisor Yaroslavsky's is owed a huge heap of gratitude for steering Measure R and the Westside Subway Extension through the rocky seas of Metro. (Give Assemblymember Mike Feuer his share of gratitude for steering the necessary legislation through our state government.)

So thank you Supervisor Yaroslavsky for your vigorous and tireless work, and everyone else for their work, and even Los Angeles County's voters, for helping to design pass Measure R through seemingly impossible obstacles.


Now let's support Mayor Villaraigosa and MoveLA for their work on the 30/10 plan which will build the Westside Subway Extension and several other transit projects within ten years. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What if the Santa Monica Blvd. transit corridor were light rail?

When Metro issued it's recommendations for the Westside Subway Extension, it sadly did not include the Santa Monica Blvd. spur we were hoping for. In fact, Metro even cut out a future heavy rail (HRT) transfer structure to join the Purple Line at La Cienega. Disappointing news, I know. It is possible that if the Mayor Villaraigosas's 30/10 plan goes through that there might be extra money available down the far road, but that is a LONG shot. Every region of the County will want an "extra" money that shows up from fast tracking Measure R.

On the bright side, and I am by nature an optimist, Metro's staff recommendations did state that West Hollywood had high potential as a transit corridor and stated a light-rail subway might be more viable to qualify for federal funding.

So what would this corridor as light rail look like potentially?

Let us assume that the Santa Monica Blvd. corridor from the Westside Subway extension, "the Pink Line" is planned for light rail (LRT) and looks like this below:

As you can see below the Pink Line and planned Rose Line (Crenshaw/LAX) can be connected very easily via San Vicente. (Both Santa Monica and San Vicente were rail corridors for decades).

The plus side of this option isn't just the one-seat ride from LAX to Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Hollywood, but the possibility for future light rail expansion as seen below:

Very exciting to me is the possiblity of extending this light rail project each from La Brea & Santa Monica to Sunset Junction and then southeast on Sunset to downtown. Another possibility is extending this south on La Cienega to Venice Blvd. where it could to Venice Beach or LAX.

However, these extensions are all far in the future.

If there is to be any Metrorail on Santa Monica Blvd. or serving West Hollywood at all, be it HRT, LRT or even modern streetcar, we need to begin lobbying to keep this transit corridor alive for further and future consideration.

We may be very disappointed that the Santa Monica Blvd. corridor is not moving forward as part of the Locally Preferred Alternative for the Westside Subway extension at this time, and I certainly am. But don't get discouraged. Look how far this transit corridor has come in consideration and energy in such a short period of time.

Come to the next Metro meeting and/or write your comments to Metro stating that you want the Santa Monica Blvd. transit corridor kept alive for the future. It will benefit not just West Hollywood, but the entire region.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What next for Santa Monica Blvd. and West Hollywood after the LPA recommendations for the Westside Subway Extension?

Metro's Planning and Programming Committee released its recommendations for the Westside Subway Extension this morning:

(Although I have admit it is a little eyebrow-raising that this document was released BEFORE the Public comment period was officially over.)

As I expected and as Metro has been hinting at for months, they will go with Alternative 2. This means extending the Purple Line to the V.A. in Westwood through Century City. This means that the full Purple Line extension to West Los Angeles and Santa Monica will not happen at this time. It also means the hoped for heavy rail subway connector through West Hollywood will not happen either, especially as Metro will is cancelling any plans for a heavy rail transfer structure at the La Cienega station:

This structure is not recommended for inclusion in the LPA. The cost of $135 million is not within the available funding reserved through the LRTP for the project. Additionally, the heavy rail option for the West Hollywood Line did not perform as well as anticipated when evaluated against FTA New Starts criteria in the DEIS/DEIR. As such, the high cost of the connection structure is not justified when there may be alternative, less costly, solutions to serve the route through West Hollywood.
While the DEIS/DEIR identifies that the West Hollywood line has very high potential as a transit corridor, further study is needed to determine if a more cost-effective transit alternative such as light rail subway may provide a project that would be more competitive under federal funding criteria. If such an alternative were selected in the future, there would not be the need for a heavy rail connection structure.

So there are really three basic options for those of us who dream of a Santa Monica Blvd. metro rail line.

(1) Since federal funding is out and there will be no transfer station at La Cienega, find the money from somewhere else for a heavy rail subway. Good luck with that. Metro will spend the next thirty years paying off Measure R.

(2) Metro does state that a light-rail subway may be possible. This option would most likely be the Crenshaw-north option, a northern extension of the Crenshaw Line from Crenshaw/Expo up San Vicente to Santa Monica Blvd then over to Santa Monica/LaBrea and then up to Hollywood/Highland. Now there is no designated money for this either, but it would be less expensive to built than a heavy rail spur of the Purple Line.

Another possibilty is a separate light-rail subway project involving Santa Monica and LaCienega Blvds. to Venice Beach or LAX.

(3) This would be the at-grade streetcar option.

The advantage to this is that this could be built within five years with a coordinated effort. It it were put in a transit only lane, it would move very well. Yes, two weekends a year, during the gay pride festival and Sunset Junction street fair, there may have to be substitute buses running, but the benefits to the other 352 days a year a worth it. This could use the back end of Beverly Hills ROW that Metro is sitting on. Would people be prepared to give up a lane of traffic/parking for this? I would, but I suspect some motorists and store owners may object. But who are we designing our transportation network for? People or single-occupancy autos?

NO ONE has been a bigger advocate for a Santa Monica Blvd. rail line than me. Today's recommendations for the LPA are hugely disappointing. But I encourage those others who support a rail project on Santa Monica Blvd. to get behind the less expensive and therefore more feasible options of a light-rail subway or at-grade modern streetcar running in a transit only lane. Personally, I like the light-rail extension of the Crenshaw Line. There would be a one-seat ride from LAX to/from Beverly Hills, Beverly Center, Miracle Mile, West Hollywood and Hollywood. That is no small compensation for not having a one-seat ride to the beach.

However, I am just one person and would like to hear your suggestions about how we should proceed from here forward.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Other Side of the President's Visit to Los Angeles - The Forgotten and Marginalized Transit Rider

Last night it took me two and one-half hours to get from Pico/Roxbury to West Hollywood by bus. You see, the President was in town at a million dollar fundraiser.,0,485361,print.story

While the President was raising money from the rich and powerful, thousands of commuters were faced with no way to get home.

"What a spectacular evening," Obama said. "Let's just hang out."

Yeah. Great. I was “hanging out” at bus stops with nowhere to go. There was no northbound traffic on La Cienega and Fairfax. Buses on Pico were at a standstill. I had to take a crawling bus on Pico to WESTERN, then north on Western to Santa Monica Blvd. Whoops! The buses were not running east on Santa Monica Blvd. past Western either. So I had to catch another bus north on Western to catch a bus on Sunset Blvd., which thankfully was still running.

At each bus stop I waited at there were crowds of people not having any idea the President was in town, let alone how they were to get home.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Police Department said that the Secret Service had not shared street-closure information with the department. The Secret Service also didn't tell Metro. So in other words, there was no ability to plan for this nightmare and no warning people would have that there would be disruptions to their lives. What about the people that had to get home to their kids?

Now contrast this with the wealthy and powerful at the fundraiser who no doubt had the best in valet parking. Congratulating themselves at their concern for the plight of the hardworking American people, they were no doubt perfectly attended to while the working poor were invisible, irrelevant and inconvenienced.

Isn’t this just a living metaphor for America today? In the greatest recession since the great depression the wealthy and powerful got the attention and priority and congratulations while the working and middle classes were left to fend for themselves with no resources. And the President and local political leadership were, of course, at a FUNDRAISER.

So who is to blame for this?

Didn’t it occur to anyone on the President’s staff that the bad feeling and anger that this commuting nightmare would cause might outweigh all the benefit of “hanging out” at this fundraiser?

Didn’t it occur to the city/county leadership and to Metro to announce the following: “The President is in town during rush hour for a fundraiser, and the Secret Service won’t tell us the routing, so you may not be able to get home that evening.”

Now I lived in Manhattan for several years and when the President came to town there were underground alternatives to getting around while the surface streets were disrupted. My only hope is that the President and Congress approve Metro’s 30/10 Plan, which would pay for construction of the Purple Line extension in 10 years, and that money comes in from somewhere to pay for the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment and the extension of the proposed Crenshaw Line north to Hollywood and a Sepulveda line connecting the San Fernando Valley with the westside and LAX.

But that best case scenario is in the best case ten years from now. In the meantime, how we can ensure that this won’t happen again or that we will at least be informed that we won’t be able to get home the next time this or a future President has a mid-city rush hour fundraiser with the elites?

I have a feeling based on the bad PR coming from the traffic/transit nightmare that this fundraiser caused, that future Presidential fundraisers will be held in lest disruptive locations like someone's Malibu beach home.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Venice Blvd. Streetcar Proposal

A friend of mine who sits on the Palms Neighborhood Council thinks it would be great having a streetcar connecting the LaCienega station on the coming light-rail Exposition Line to Venice Beach.

Extending that idea eastward to a northern extension of the Measure R approved Crenshaw Line, and imagining a future LRT on Sepulveda and Lincoln, it would look something like this:

When streetcars return to Los Angeles in a few years I am convinced that many areas that will never see heavy-rail subway or above-ground light-rail, will be interested in at-grade modern streetcars such as those currently running in Portland and Seattle.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What about upgrading the Orange Line to Light Rail?

Let me preface this blog post by stating I think bus service is wonderful, and I support a county-wide network of transit only lanes and busways.

However, I do not subscribe to the belief that a seat on the bus is as "good" as a seat on a train, nor do I agree with the choice of Metro to brand busways with official colors like the "Orange Line" and the "Silver Line".

The San Fernando Valley seems to be left out of mass transit planning in Southern California. Meanwhile the entire San Gabriel Valley political structure is united and is eagerly anticipating two or more Gold Line extensions eventually on the northern prong to Montclair and even Ontario Airport and on the southern prong to possibly Whittier and/or Duarte. The reason for this is obvious. With our oversized, too populous, too few legislative districts at the national, state, county and municipal level, many of the politicos who represent the southern San Fernando Valley also represent and have their power bases in the Westside. All of their attention is going toward extending the Purple Line to the Westside, which of course is the most needed and highest profile transit project in planning.

Just how did this former rail corridor end up as a busway anyway?

From Wikipedia:

The majority of the Orange Line is built on part of the former Southern Pacific Railroad Burbank Branch right-of-way. This had passenger service from 1904 to 1920, with stations at several locations including North Hollywood and Van Nuys. It had Pacific Electric Red Car service fromNorth Hollywood to Van Nuys again from 1938 to 1952.

The right of way was purchased by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (now Metropolitan Transportation Authority) in 1991 along with several other rail road right of ways across the Southland for future use in transportation projects.

The California Legislature passed a law in 1991 introduced by Alan Robbins which prohibited the use of the corridor for any form of rail transit other than a "deep bore subway located at least 25 feet below ground". Later Los Angeles County passed Proposition A in 1998, promoted by supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, which prohibited Metro from using its county sales tax funding to build subways anywhere in the county.

With subway and light rail now off the table the only option left to develop the transit corridor was to build a busway.

The "Orange Line" busway is already at capacity and shows the limits of BRT. The San Fernando Valley deserves an east-west rail project that connects Warner Center with the Red Line (and could potentially be extended east through Burbank and Glendale to meet up with the Gold Line in Pasadena). Since the San Fernando Valley politicos are focused elsewhere, it is up to you and me to remind them that simply extending a busway north doesn't cut it. Perhaps some of you could lobby to get VICA (Valley Industry and Commerce Association) behind an east-west line and a north-south line for the San Fernando Valley. If the San Gabriel Valley is getting two light rail lines, the San Fernando Valley deserves no less.

In Measure R which was approved by voters in 2008, there is a project study for a north-south transit project connecting the Orange Line with Wilshire/Westwood through the Sepulveda Pass. If this were a rail project, many local transit advocates see it logically being extended south down to LAX and north up to Sylmar Metrolink. That would take care of a needed north-south rail line for the San Fernando Valley.

What about east-west rail travel? The most obvious solution is to upgrade the existing Orange Line to light rail.

I asked the incomparable Kymberleigh Richards (, member of Metro's San Fernando Valley Governance Council, her thoughts on the issue and the possible challenges and here is what she had to say:

Here are the problems that would be faced:

1. You would need to retrofit the busway without seriously disrupting existing service, otherwise what's the point? You wouldn't want to inconvenience the existing passengers by forcing them to a slower alternative during construction. The most likely way to proceed would be to close one segment at a time, one lane at a time, then cut grooves into the pavement down to the roadbed and install the rails so that they were flush with the pavement (like a grade crossing, only along the entire alignment) then reopen the lane to bus traffic. Service would continue to run with only a minor delay by using the remaining open lane to run both directions, with flagmen. Grade crossings would require a bit more logistics, especially the major arterials like Van NuysBlvd.

2. You would have to use a low floor light rail vehicle in order to avoid having to retrofit the existing station platforms. This means the existing light rail cars would not be compatible with the Orange Line. So there would be a third fleet of LRVs at Metro; heavy rail subway (Red/Purple), high floor/high platform light rail (Blue/Green/Gold/Expo/Crenshaw) and low floor/low platform light rail (Orange). So forget any Orange Line extensions that would interline with something else.

3. Because of the constraints of construction, the technology will have to be something other than overhead catenary for power. Installing that would require full busway closure for longer periods of time, which puts us back to inconveniencing passengers during construction. Third rail power, like the Red/Purple Line, is also out of the question because of the open-air operation (you can't have passengers in danger of making contact with the electric source). A DMU, like the San Diego system, is going to be far too expensive for this and brings constraints of its own to the process. So either you need a protectedthird rail (very costly; they are experimenting with this in some of the Middle Eastern countries, where cost is no object) or a self-contained, rechargeable on-board power source. Perhaps some type of storage battery that could plug in at the layovers?

4. The street running segment between Canoga Station and Warner Center would have to be negotiated with traffic engineers at LADOT. I doubt they'd give up traffic lanes for the light rail, and I don't savor the idea of running light rail in mixed-flow traffic.

And of course, you'd have to do an entire new scoping/AA/EIR/EIS and figure out where the funding is coming from. Just that last part (the $$$) pretty much means all the Measure R projects would have to be underway and near completion before you could start programming funds for an Orange Line upgrade.

No one has ever done a busway-to-light rail conversion. We'd be breaking new ground, which is why there's no hard research available on the subject.

Hmm. Sounds problematic, doesn't it? However, why couldn't this be the first corridor to attempt a busway to light-rail conversion? I'm game.

In any event, the Robbins bill would have to be repealed for any light rail project, so start lobbying your state legislators if you want to see ANY rail service in this area, for a subway ain't coming to this corridor this century.

What about alternatives? Metrolink commuter rail is in the northern San Fernando Valley, but many people travelling to the San Fernando Valley are travelling to/from a destination on or near Ventura Blvd. in the southern part of the Valley.

1) San Fernando Valley transit advocates could lobby for a subway under Ventura Blvd. connecting Warner Center with the Universal City station. Yes, sounds great. Only there are easily 50 years of subway projects ahead in line, assuming those actually get full funding and constructed.

2) San Fernando Valley transit advocates could lobby for a transit-only lane on Ventura Blvd. that ran buses and modern streetcars. This would require taking away street parking on Ventura Blvd. and possibly losing a lane of traffic each way. I have no problem with this as I don't believe we can or should socially engineer our cities in favor of single-occupancy motorists anymore, but I suspect not a few single-occupancy motorists would object. However, a streetcar is much less expensive than a subway and could be up and running within a few years, while it will be decades before we would see a subway on Ventura Blvd. Here's a fun map I created for a Ventura Blvd. streetcar project to spur your imagination:

One challenge of doing some project on Ventura Blvd. means you need to find another way to connect Burbank and Glendale into Metrorail.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

One Seat Ride to the Beach or to LAX?

For Westside Subway Extension supporters, this is our dream:

I count myself as the BIGGEST support of a Santa Monica Blvd. subway project, colloquially nicknamed the "Pink Line".

However, only the first three minimum operating segments (extending the Purple Line west from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/Fairfax, to Century City, to Westwood) of the Westside Subway Extension project are likely to go forward for Federal funding at this time, in no small part because of the money that was already thankfully approved by Measure R for that portion of this project and not the other portions, and because the cost-benefit ratio for the first three minimum operating segments meets current federal guidelines for matching funds.

Alternatives 4 and 5 have the West Hollywood subway spur included. (This chart is also not good news for the City of Santa Monica which wants the full extension of the Purple Line to the beach which is in Alternatives 3 and 5).

Therefore, because of the above chart, this is what will likely be constructed within 10 years if Mayor Villaraigosa's 30-year plan goes through.

Supporters of MOS-5, the segment of the Purple Line west of the V.A. grounds, have little choice but to pursue Federal funding later and keep lobbying for Metro to build the full extension to the beach.

Those of us who support MOS-4, the West Hollywood spur, have a couple of options, if Metro abandons us (even though West Hollywood voted 83% in favor of Measure R, more than any other city).

Option 1) Continue to lobby for the Purple Line spur between Beverly Hills and Hollywood along Santa Monica Blvd. seen above, understanding that we are not part of Measure R funding, and are unlikely to be constructed within the next several years if not a few decades.

Option 2) Lobby for the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment to become part of the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line, which Measure R will see constructed as light-rail between the Expo Line and LAX. The tradeoff would be a one-seat ride to/from LAX instead of a one-seat ride to/from the beach. While the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line to the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station is not funded by Measure R north of the Exposition Line transfer, and as this is a light-rail project rather than the heavy-rail subway extension of the Purple Line, and as it will not all be underground, and therefore likely to be less expensive, it may be more easily funded and built sooner.

Here's a map showing the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment as an alternative to link the Crenshaw Line at Expo/Crenshaw to the Hollywood/Highland station as light rail:

Here is how it would look from a larger perspective:

For many people, the tradeoff of having a one-seat ride from West Hollywood to LAX may be acceptable for not being part of the Westside Subway extension. However, there is no guarantee that the this would be the approved alignment of the northern extension of the Crenshaw light-rail line, which may end up simply going north on La Brea or Fairfax towards Hollywood/Highland instead of via San Vicente then Santa Monica Blvd.

3) Another option comes from the realization that for 30 years Metro is going to be financially focused on Measure R or paying off a federal loan that fast tracks Measure R construction projects. Unfortunately, this means that there might not be ANY funding for am underground Santa Monica Blvd. rail project for at least thirty years.

What if we brought streetcars back to this corridor? Not the historical red cars of yore, but the new modern streetcars such as the ones we see in Portland or in the Cryodon borough of London -- and then run them in transit only lanes?

Here are pics of what a modern streetcar looks like:

Just in case you think the era of the streetcar is over, you should go to LA Streetcar's website.

Streetcars are coming back to downtown Los Angeles in a few years and when that happens, demand for the them will grow everywhere.

Here's is my original proposal that runs a modern streetcar from downtown to Sunset Junction on Sunset Blvd., then down Santa Monica Blvd. via the unused right-of-way in the back end of Beverly Hills. A variation of this could have on the western end the route head south on La Cienega and then southwest on Venice to the beach.

To be effective, streetcars on Sunset and Santa Monica Blvd. would probably require eliminating parking and/or a lane of traffic in each direction. I'm totally fine with that, but some motorists and small business owners may object. It may also require adjusting the annual gay pride parade and Sunset Junction street festival by moving them or an agreement to run alternative buses on those days. In fact, as part of a modern streetcar project, we should create transit-only lanes for them to run on, limited to streetcars and buses. In Seattle, buses and rail share the downtown transit tunnel effectively.


Of course, we all want to see subway service on Santa Monica Blvd. and see it soon. However, it is not looking good for seeing it within the next 30 years if Metro decides not to pursue federal funding at this time, which according to their own studies is starting to look unlikely. While the City of Santa Monica will get the full advantage and use of the Exposition Light-Rail Line in the meantime until MOS-5 is hopefully eventually built, the City of West Hollywood and the Beverly Center areas may be left with nothing for decades.

Metro has already spent a lot of time and money studying the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment and knows it needs "something". Plus I believe having the largest vote in favor of Measure R has brought West Hollywood some good will from Metro. It must be refreshing for Metro to deal with a community that says, "build here, build here, build here", rather than the NIMBYs who selfishly have been trying to obstructing the Purple Line and Expo Line projects in Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Cheviot Hills.

So now that you know where we appear to be with a Santa Monica Blvd. rail alignment, which course of action(s) do you think Santa Monica Blvd. rail advocates should we take if Metro doesn't go forward with MOS-4 of the Westside Subway Extension Project for Federal funding as we all hope?

1) Keep lobbying for a heavy-rail subway extension from the Purple Line anyway and hope that somehow the money will come from some unknown source somehow, sometime, somewhere?

2) Begin strongly lobbying for the northern extension of the light-rail Crenshaw Line towards Hollywood to run along San Vicente, then Santa Monica Blvd, still not knowing where the funding will come from and knowing it is not certain that this would be the alignment of this extension, but knowing it will require less funding as a light-rail project than as a heavy-rail subway?

3) Lobby for modern streetcars to run down Santa Monica Blvd. in transit-only lanes, trading ultimate hope of eventual grade separated rail in decades for at-grade rail within years?

Keep in mind, I really want a subway running on Santa Monica Blvd., so I support the Westside subway extension. I just want to give you a realistic picture of where we stand at the moment at least on paper.

Your thoughts?