Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creating a Transit Plan for the San Fernando Valley

On the
Los Angeles Times website under its LA Now Blog, Dave A. wrote the following:

"How about some attention to the San Fernando Valley...?

The Valley has 2/3 the population, yet gets 1/10th the public transit investments."

Dave A. raises a good point.

I'm watching the machinations of San Gabriel Valley politicos who are persistently and consistently advocating for two Gold Line extensions.

There is no equivalent energy and advocacy happening in the San Fernando Valley.

It's not that the San Fernando Valley doesn't have worthy transit infrastructure projects. My top five SFV projects are:

1) a Sepulveda light rail project between Sylmar and LAX;
2) upgrading the already at capacity Orange Line from busway to light rail;
3) Connecting Burbank Airport to Metro Rail;
4) An east-west line connecting the North Hollywood Station to the Gold Line through Burbank and Glendale;
5) A Ventura Blvd. modern streetcar between
Universal City and Warner Center.

These are achievable in the long-term if the San Fernando Valley decides to get busy and start advocating for them.

There are certainly dynamic transit advocates in the Valley, such as Kymberleigh Richards. Please check out her website: (While you are there, check out her "Transportation 101" link for a great presentation on how transportation is funded.)

Because California, Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City have legislatures that are too small and have enormous size legislative districts, many of the San Fernando Valley's elected politicians also represent the Westside, where their power and influence is based and where most of the density is. Since I believe the downtown Regional Connector and the Westside Subway extension are the two most critical public transit infrastructure projects in Los Angeles County, I do not fault this.

However, what is missing in discussions about the future of
Los Angeles transit infrastructure is an organization advocating on behalf of the San Fernando Valley specifically.

Could VICA (Valley Industry and Commerce Association) be the organization to get this SFV specific transit advocacy going? What about a SFV neighborhood council alliance? I'm interested in hearing your ideas.

Help Plan the Westside Subway Extension Stations

Some exciting meetings are coming up with the Metro Westside Subway extension.

We're all invited to attend Metro's upcoming meeting to discuss potential subway stations in your area. We want you to “roll-up-your-sleeves” and engage with us to discuss station locations and entrances, easy connections to and from the stations, and other issues.

Content will be tailored for each meeting, and will be not be replicated for each location — so be sure to attend the meeting which reflects your particular interest.

Thursday, October 22, 2009, 6– 8pm
Stations to be discussed: Wilshire at Bundy, 26th, 16th & 4th Street
Santa Monica Public Library – Multi-Purpose Room
601 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Served by Metro Lines 4, 20, 33, 333, and 720 and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Lines 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Validated vehicle and free bike parking is available.

Monday, October 26, 2009, 6– 8pm
Stations to be discussed: Wilshire at Crenshaw, La Brea & Fairfax
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) – Terrace Room, 5th Floor
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Served by Metro lines 20, 720, 920, 217 & 780. Validated vehicle parking is available in the Museum’s 6th Street underground garage. Enter from 6th and Ogden.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 6– 8pm
Stations to be discussed: Hollywood/Highland, Santa Monica Boulevard at La Brea,
Fairfax & San Vicente & Beverly Center
Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Served by Metro Lines 4, 10, 105, 305 & 704. $10 self-parking is available in the Pacific Design Center Parking Lot off Melrose. Metered street parking is available on San Vicente Blvd.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 6– 8pm
Stations to be discussed: Wilshire at La Cienega & Beverly
Beverly Hills City Hall – Municipal Gallery
455 N. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Served by Metro Line 4, 14, 16 & 704. Free 2-hour parking is available in the adjacent structure.

Thursday, November 5, 2009, 6– 8pm
Stations to be discussed: Century City, Westwood/UCLA & VA Hospital
Veterans Administration – Wadsworth Theatre
11301 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90073
Served by Metro Lines 20 & 720 and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Lines 2, 3 & 4.
Free parking is available in the lot adjacent to the theatre.


For those of us who support the Santa Monica Blvd. portion of the subway extension, Phase 4 of the project, be sure and show up Tuesday night, November 3rd.

I will see you there!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Everybody Ride the Sunset Streetcar

You may not be aware that streetcars will be returning to downtown Los Angeles in a soon as five years, but they are.

From the Los Angeles Streetcar website:

"Streetcars are designed to be a constant fixture of urban transportation options for residents, employees, and visitors; they are very different from the Metro rail transportation and subway system that Los Angelinos are used to. A streetcar, unlike light rail, travels in the flow of traffic on rails that are embedded in the road. Automobile drivers traveling in the same lane as the streetcar rarely notice that they are driving on top of rails. Although traveling at speeds similar to those of a bus, streetcars are the preferred downtown circulators due to the comforts offered by fixed-rails during their short trips. Because the streetcar runs on a fixed route, riders can be assured that the route will never change, and appropriate technology, kiosks, architecture, and guideways can be integrated into the urban environment to provide route guidance."

If you have been to San Francisco, you have probably seen the old streetcars from around the world carrying passengers between the Castro, downtown and Fisherman's Wharf. What we will likely see here are the newer modern streetcars like those seen in Portland and Seattle.

Some of you are saying, "Don't we have buses already that go to these places"? Well, true. However, there are "choice" riders who won't use a bumpy uncomfortable bus, but do like more the comfortable ride that streetcars bring. Streetcars also have been shown to attract development and revitalize neighborhoods.

From the Los Angeles Streetcar website:

"Buses are excellent local and regional public transportation options, but they will do little to spur redevelopment and economic investment in Downtown LA. This is due to the inherent flexibility of bus service, as routes change regularly to accommodate varying needs; in addition, buses contribute to nerve-racking pedestrian experiences due to heavy street-level emissions and noise pollution that discourses active use of sidewalks. Streetcars do the exact opposite. They provide developers and business owners certainty that the routes will not change, and are considered preferable to buses by residents, visitors, and employees as they offer more amenities, highly reliable routes and timetables, and enhanced urban experiences. Buses and streetcars do, however, work together to connect access points within regional transportation networks. For example, sidewalks can be designed to specifically accommodate both vehicle configurations; in return, a transit stop effectively doubles its value within a regional transportation network."
The planned downtown alignment runs down Broadway.

This led me thinking about other parts of the area that might benefit from Streetcar service, especially areas that desire rail service, but are unlikely to see heavy or light rail in the next few decades, but for whom streetcar service could be up and running in the next few years.

Ventura Blvd. between Universal City and Warner Center came to mind. Also, I imagined connecting Venice Beach and Santa Monica north/south to the Expo Line and Purple Line. I am sure you have your own ideas.

However, what I'd really like to propose for your thoughts today is a Streetcar connecting downtown and Hollywood via Sunset Blvd., through Echo Park and Silver Lake. The first leg could connect downtown and the Red Line. Extensions could go further along Sunset Blvd. to the Sunset Strip and along Santa Monica Blvd. to Century City via the unused right-of-way in Beverly Hills. 

There would actually be two streetcar lines using the same tracks on the West and East end, but running on different streets in the middle.

Both Lines would run from Union Station to Sunset Junction.

Line 1 would run on Santa Monica Blvd. between Sunset Junction and San Vicente.

Line 2 would run on Sunset Blvd. from Sunset Junction to the Strip and then south on San Vicente to Santa Monica Blvd.

Both Lines would be reunite at San Vicente & Santa Monica Blvd. and then head to Century City via the unused right-of-way in Beverly Hills.

The tourists will love it, of course. More importantly, regular commuters will use it.

When someone says, "this town was built for cars", show them this map below and remind them that it was RAIL that built up Los Angeles and California. Just look at what we lost fifty years ago. If we had not tragically dismantled the streetcar system, but improved it over the last several decades, we'd have an amazing system already in place now. (Please click on image below to see whole map. You may want to keep kleenex nearby for weeping purposes.)

However, we move forward and the upcoming return of streetcars to Los Angeles is something to celebrate along with the expansion to Metro Rail that Measure R funds will bring. All hail as we leave the car-only transportation culture behind. Los Angeles is transforming into the world class metropolitan city is deserves to be.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Westside Mass Transit Dream

Isn't this beautiful?

This is my Westside Mass Transit Dream.

I was inspired by the Westside Transit Corridor Extension Project public briefing meetings held last week. There are still two more for you to attend:

• Tuesday, August 11, Beverly Hills Public Library, 444 N. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills
• Wednesday, August 12,
Westwood Presbyterian Church, 10822 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

What we see here is existing Metro Rail on the Red and Purple Lines plus the completion of the Exposition Line.

In addition, we see completion of the Westside Subway Extension Project extended all five phases:

1) Extend Purple Line from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/Fairfax;
2) Extend Purple Line to Century City;
3) Extend Purple Line to West L.A.;
4) Connect Hollywood/Highland and Purple Line through Santa Monica Blvd. (The "Pink" Line);
5) Extend Purple/"Pink" Lines to Santa Monica

The new map of Alternative 11 of the Westside Subway Extension presented at last week's public briefing contained two "new" fingers added to a possible northern extension of the proposed Crenshaw Light Rail Line. The previous maps only contained a possible light-rail leg to LaBrea & Wilshire. The new "fingers" at Fairfax/Wilshire and SanVicente/Wilshire seem to indicate that Metro wants a northern extension of the Crenshaw Line to head west of LaBrea. Most Southern California transit advocates see the Hollywood/Highland station as the ultimate northern terminus of the Crenshaw Line.

In thinking about this as to what I would select, I ruled out the SanVicente "finger" because there is no Purple Line stop there and I am sure Metro will want Crenshaw Line riders to be able to transfer to the Purple Line. I ruled out LaBrea because even though it would be cheapest and more direct for the Crenshaw Line to head straight up LaBrea, it would leave out numerous ridership opportunities such as the Grove and a stop on the Sunset strip. Since I see the Pink Line already serving the Beverly Center, therefore I opted for Fairfax/Wilshire for a transfer station with the Crenshaw Line. This would allow service at the Grove, West Hollywood, and it includes a Sunset Strip stop around Sunset/Gardener. I think the added ridership of the Fairfax alignment justifies it over the less expensive cost of the LaBrea alignment of the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line. If Metro heartbreakingly decides it cannot go forward with Santa Monica Blvd. subway alignment (Phase 4) because of funding, then heading to Fairfax/Wilshire instead of LaBrea/Wilshire becomes even more imperative.

What is so delicious about a Fairfax alignment is that Fairfax was originally the planned northern route of the Red Line from Wilshire towards Hollywood before NIMBYs and anti-rail idiots sabotaged the building of the Red Line. (Just think. If it wasn't for the NIMBYs and misguided organizations like the so-called Bus Riders "Union" we might already be riding a completed Purple Line.) It would be beautiful karma to see a Fairfax alignment rise from the ashes.

In Measure R, there is a Sepulveda Pass transit project connecting the Valley from the Westside. I envision for the health of a region an alternative to the parking lot that is the 405 Freeway with a Sepulveda based line moving north from LAX and the Green Line up to the Exposition Line, the Purple/"Pink" Lines, and into the Valley connecting with Ventura Blvd, the Orange Line, Van Nuys Metrolink Station and ultimately Sylmar Metrolink station.

What an amazing system this would be if this were all constructed and operating.

Now that I've showed you my dream for the Westside, and I am sure you all have your own transit dream, let me admit to some stone cold reality.

There is no funding identified for most of this -- and funding is what will determine whether a transit line gets built, and that is assuming you[ve gotten past the inumerable NIMBYs and competing interest gauntlets pulling at Metro to come to a heavy or light rail line preferred alignment proposal that Metro and the Community is strongly enough supporting.

What transportation capital funding there is will go towards constructing the transit lines and segments with the highest ridership. As passionate as I am about Phase 4 of the Westside Subway Extension Project, the Santa Monica Blvd. subway, I fully realize that Phases 1, 2 and 3 of the Westside Subway Extension (Wilshire plus Century City) and the super crucial downtown Regional Connector, come first, and then there are all the worthy competing Los Angeles County projects out there (i.e. finishing the Expo Line, extending the Green Line to LAX, upgrading the Orange Line to light rail, TWO Gold Line extensions, Crewnshaw Line, a Sepulveda Line, etc.)

Also, don't forget the need to maintain a comprehensive and robust bus system and the desire of automotive diehards to expand roads.

In fact, there is no shortage of need and desire, but not an abundance of transportation money for public transit.

The good news is that there has been a sea change of opinion within Southern California. Only the willfully delusional still believe that Los Angeles can preserve a car-only transportation system forever. In fact, the 67% vote in favor of Measure R demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of Los Angeles County knows better. $4.00/gallon gasoline and ever-worsening congestion beat a lot of people into reasonableness. We need alternatives. However, Measure R won't pay for all of my dream or your dream or anyone's dream. The State Budget is a basket case for the forseable future and if the State ever gets out of financial crisis, it really needs to put its transportation focus on transit operation (not capital) funds and seeing the needed High Speed Rail project into manifestation.

So, if you like my transit dream or have a dream of your own for the Westside or anywhere else in Los Angeles County and Southern California, you will need Federal dollars. Please join a transit advocacy organization such as Southern California Transit Association or The Transit Coalition (but not the misguided Bus Riders "Union"). Please write your member of the House of Representatives and our state's two U.S. Senators. Please write your County Supervisor and your city mayors and councillors and ask them all to support mass transit not just in words, but financially too.

Any transit dream without adequate funding is just a fantasy. So let's start advocating for transit dollars to start turning some of these dreams (many of which are absolute necessities for our economic and environmental future) into reality.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Alternative Pink Line through West Hollywood

Last night at Plummer Park in West Hollywood there was a community forum on the progress of the Westside Subway Extension Project. (You might have noticed drills on Wilshire and Santa Monica beginning to take soil samples.) This project is in environmental review. For more information about this project, please visit Metro's website at

There are still three more community forums within the next week and I encourage you to attend to learn more and to communication your support and suggestions:

• Thursday, August 6, Santa Monica Public Library, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica
• Tuesday, August 11, Beverly Hills Public Library, 444 N.
Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills
• Wednesday, August 12,
Westwood Presbyterian Church, 10822 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

All the meetings are from 6:00-8:00 PM. The material presented will be identical at each meeting (though the crowds will be different), so pick the one that is most convenient for you.

I am still very hopeful that the Westside Extension will be build with Phase 4, which includes the Santa Monica Blvd. subway through West Hollywood, also known as Alternative 11:

There have been a couple of adjustments to the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment you should know about. As you can see from the above map, there was one alignment at La Cienega and one at San Vicente. The La Cienega alignment has been eliminated because of the inability to design that hard turn. The alignment will run south via San Vicente and the stop will be on Santa Monica Blvd. between La Cienega and San Vicente, right in the heart of West Hollywood. At last night's forum there was lots of comment about how and where to design the Beverly Center area stop. There will be specific Metro forum's this fall around specific stops. If you intersted in how the La Brea, Fairfax and west of La Cienega but east of San Vicente Santa Monica stops or any other stations along the alignments are designed, be sure and attend those upcoming Fall meetings.

This project is current divided into five phases:
  1. Extension of Purple Line from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/Fairfax
  2. Extension of Purple Line to Century City
  3. Extension of Purple Line to West L.A.
  4. Connection of Purple Line and Hollywood/Highland through West Hollywood (The "Pink Line")
  5. Extension of Purple Line to Santa Monica beach.
Thank goodness Measure R passed. This will fund Phases 1 through 3. At the Forum, I asked the money question: What will determine if Phase 4 will get built? After all, there is rock support in the community for this project. West Hollywood voted 83% in favor of Measure R.

It basically comes down to money. Heavy Rail Subway is the most expensive form of transportation construction. Can Phase 4 be competitive for federal matching funds? That will be the determining factor to getting funding for this project. So start writing your letters in favor of federal funding for this project to Congressman Henry Waxman and Senators Feinstein and Boxer.

What happens if Phase 4 doesn't get the go ahead? That's pretty sad. A lot of people who supported Measure R and who support this project will be heartbroken.

There is an alternative that I have heard being whispered as a possible backup by various transit advocates. It would involve incorporating the Pink Line through West Hollywood with the Crenshaw Line project under study right now.

For more information about the Crenshaw Line project go to

Here's a map posted on the Transit Coalitions discussion forum by Darrell:

Instead of a Heavy Rail subway like the Red Line and Purple Line, in this alignment, the Pink Line would be a Light Rail alignment line like Blue, Green, Gold and Exposition Lines. This would not necessarily be all at ground level. Portions of the Blue, Gold and Exposition lines run underground and there will be grade separated crossings at the busiest intersections.

This northern extension of the Crenshw alignment would continue light rail up from Crenshaw/Expo up Crenshaw to San Vicente and then head northwest up San Vicente and resume the Phase 4 alignment in West Hollywood.

The advantage of this alignment is that light rail is cheaper to construct than heavy rail, therefore the numbers would be more advantageous for federal funding. Also, Metro will have already invested millions of dollars studying this corridor, received feedback and comment on station locations and design, and have a whole lot of heartbroken people on their hands. There is also a regional benefit. People in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and points south will more easily access LAX. Basically, West Hollywood and the Beverly Center area would be trading easier one-seat access to the Westside for easier access to LAX.

I still fully support Alternative 11 for the Westside Transit Corridor Extension Project. That is why 83% of West Hollywood voted for Measure R. I believe it is the right one for the region's future. However, while this light rail alternative may not be the most preferred or most desirable rail service to this area, it is in my opinion fully acceptable and preferable than the alternative if Phase 4 is not constructed, which is nothing.

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.