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.