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.