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Welcome to LARHF's METRO MONTHLY

brought to you by LARHF Metro Reporter, Adam Linder

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September 2023 – Metro Monthly

As Metro prepares its Board Recommendation for the South Bay Extension of the future K Line, a few organized dissenters are speaking up. Riders and local advocates, as well as the Metro Board’s long-term plans, support the quickest and cheapest alternative to the extension, while a group of local homeowners are sharing documents among themselves of the dangers of riders as “criminals to peer into our homes or watch our children as they ride by.” The group is advocating either for the no-build option, or the newer aerial option that places the line down Hawthorne; an alternative almost twice as expensive, with agreements needed with Caltrans, and an opening date much later in the decade, if feasible at all. The Board will make a formal recommendation at the October Board Meeting.

 

Metro Los Angeles is attempting to move forward, yet again, with an environmental contract for the future Vermont Corridor. In 2021, Metro proposed a contract with a full Environmental Impact Report, costing $33 million. Instead of moving forward with that contract, Metro insisted additional community engagement was needed on the project. The results showed then, as they do now, that multiple improvements are needed, and requested, by those who live and work along the corridor. Metro has stated the project will consist of short-term bus improvements, mid-range BRT lanes, and a long-term potential rail corridor. Awarded this month, the newest contract will use a new state law exempting the bus project from needing an EIR, and will now cost $55 million. Vermont continues to be one of Metro’s busiest bus corridors and the densest area of transit-dependent households in the county.

 

Federal funding has found its way into Amtrak’s pocket for a potential expansion of service towards the Coachella Valley. The $1 billion project now sees a $5 million investment into studying the potential new stations in Palm Springs, Indio, and Coachella Valley. No additional funding has been found. 

 

In addition, the State of California has announced up to $1 billion in funding for LA County projects. In October of last year, Metro pitched three projects for competitive TIRCP grants through the state. The state decided that two of those projects did not meet their cost analysis per potential ridership, and the state did not fund them. This new financing has the potential to become a political battleground. LA Metro has stated they’d like to use all the funds for the West Santa Ana Branch, as well as the continued A Line Extension towards Claremont, the two projects the State deemed unnoteworthy. The Los Angeles County Manager has expressed interest in the funds being distributed more widely amongst LA county agencies based on formulas of population for allocation. Metro has historically built new projects on a political basis; most funding is built upon the sales tax measures voted into law by LA County residents, needing over a two-thirds margin to pass. Because of this, more organized and politically charged cities have seen more transit investment than others; a turn towards transit necessity could adjust funding priority for the large list of mega-projects.

 

The K Line Northern Extension is seeing community updates this month. The project, which has no additional concrete funding despite both West Hollywood and Los Angeles’ ongoing studies of tax incentives, is due to be built in phases with the first phase bringing trains north to the D Line. Measure M has the project breaking ground in 2041.

 

Multiple reports have shown that the subterranean entrance from the 7th St / Metro Center Station to the Bloc shopping center has been closing at 7pm. When constructing the new portal, there was a legal easement between Metro and the Bloc ensuring access until 10pm. Metro has responded stating that they intend to keep the gate open until the later time. In addition, the Bloc has now restricted its elevators from the Metro/Plaza level from opening inside the Macy’s Department Store. Riders must now navigate a multitude of side corridor escalators in order to access the front entrance of the department store. Neither the Bloc nor Macy’s has commented on how this affects customer traffic in an age of dying brick-and-mortar retail locations. The Bloc claims their retail vacancies are over 70% leased, despite construction walls still up along entire corridors now eight years after their grand reopening. They have however opened a “Volvo” dealership showroom on the Plaza level with Metro’s Station. 

 

Metro has also officially opened their peak bus lane project on La Brea, stretching 5.7 miles from Sunset to Olympic. There is a planned second phase of the project, bringing peak hour bus lanes to the E Line, if they can get the Los Angeles City Councilmember on board with the plan. They’ve also announced intention on upgrading Wilshire Blvd’s bus lanes to full time, opening the Sepulveda/Venture Blvd peak lanes next month, constructing peak lanes on Santa Monica Blvd on the Westside in Summer 2024, and finally some portions of Vermont seeing bus lanes in Summer 2025. The City of Pico Rivera is independently studying a Bus Rapid Transit project on Lakewood/Rosemead Blvd spanning 26.3 miles, connection Pasadena with Long Beach. The City is also pushing for the addition of a Pico Rivera station on the Metrolink right-of-way.

August 2023 – Metro Monthly

 

Los Angeles has now officially survived its first hurriquake and while Metro received no major damage during the storm, they did unfortunately cancel the planned CicLAvia from Hollywood to Koreatown. The event is normally held “rain or shine,” but with the unprecedented storm and first rain in August in recent memory, the event was cancelled last minute. As the county heals from the madness, Metro continues to struggle with its public image. Although ridership continues increasing, elected officials are leading the charge against the transit agency, despite the requests of their constituents. As if planned for the same week, three separate instances of wealthy politicians came out against Metro projects in the planning phases. 

 

Jon Kaji, who currently holds a seat on the Torrance City Council, is also a private real estate developer. Incidentally, his proposal for a development atop the Little Tokyo A/E Line Station was not chosen by Metro to move forward. Mr. Kaji, along with Torrance Councilmember Aurelio Matucci have spoken out against Metro’s planned C Line Extension to Torrance. Mr. Kaji claims that Metro has become “a mobile homeless shelter, dumping thousands of homeless individuals at the end of each day.” Metro, days after Mr. Kaji’s statement, released the results of their anonymous public poll announcing that 67% of local residents supported the project, with only 8% opposing it. Metro, showing that 66% of EIR comments support the route, seems to be leaning toward the ROW alternative to the project, which has a cheaper cost and quicker construction timeline, as opposed to the elevated Hawthorne option. There has been no response yet from the Torrance Councilmembers regarding their departure from their constituent’s majority opposition to their stance.

 

Beverly Hills Mayor Julian Gold spoke about the once-planned Northern Subway Portal for the D Line’s future Wilshire/Rodeo Station. The under-construction station is currently being built with only one entrance at Wilshire/Reeves, on the southern side of Wilshire. Metro and the City of Beverly Hills had been studying a secondary entrance for the station to more easily access the tourist destination at Rodeo Drive and the businesses along Beverly. After studying three options, they had selected a new portal on the northwest corner of Beverly and Wilshire, allowing a more linear walk to Rodeo Drive. At this month’s Mayor’s Cabinet Meeting, Mayor Gold said that he does not think the city will move forward with this supplemental subway entrance and pedestrian tunnel as “the people who do want to be in that we don’t want in that.”

 

The never-ending conversation regarding the Sepulveda Transit Corridor continues as Fred Rosen, the ex-CEO of Ticketmaster, and current homeowner and Bel Air Association Board Member, continues to send a slurry of angry emails lashing out at Stephanie Wiggins, CEO of Metro and a Woman of Color. Mr. Rosen speaks about how his community has a “serious voice and we intend to and know how to use it.” He also goes on to applaud Texas Governor Abbott’s use of migrant human trafficking, delivering busses of immigrants to Los Angeles’s Union Station. The most recent bus of toddlers and immigrants was sent as Los Angeles was preparing for the unprecedented weather event and arrived during the worst of it. He bemoans Measure ULA which he refers to as the “rich mansionazation (sic) tax.” He calls Metro “inept, incompetent, and incapable,” while referring to CEO Wiggins’ leadership as “pathetic.” He finally jokes that his critics “need a reality check---actually they need a bus ticket out of town.” The references he makes in his verbal abuse shy near of popular conspiracy theories spread by popular cable news networks, but contradicted by studies and facts collected on the ground. Los Angeles Mayor, Karen Bass spoke out about her interest that both the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles Westside come to an agreement regarding the alternatives for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor, however the SFV Council of Governments responded that they oppose any options in which the route is elevated in the SFV, but underground in the Westside. Meanwhile, generations of UCLA graduates come and go without a mass transit option as we continue to debate the best way to get people from their homes to these job centers.

 

In good news, Metro has begun to show off the interior of their new heavy rail vehicles, to be used on the B/D Lines. The new vehicles allow movement between the train compartments, as well as allowing a higher capacity of riders by lining seats along the sides, instead of in rows. Having received the first of the vehicle shipments, we should begin to see the new vehicles rolling out as the D Line Extensions open. 

 

 LA Metro also announced their final list of projects hoping to be completed by the 2028 Olympics, including a network of Bus Rapid Transit Lines, station improvements at key points in the system, as well as light rail and first/last mile upgrades. The Inglewood Transit Connector, the key missing puzzle piece connecting Metro’s K Line to the new SoFi Stadium, where the Opening Ceremony and many events will be held, has not yet announced full funding nor a construction start date.

July 2023 – Metro Monthly

 

While Metro is celebrating the continued success of the system-changing Regional Connector, they’re also looking forward to next steps in the organization.

 

 One of the most politically explosive ideas making its way through studies at Metro is their plan for congestion pricing. While Metro’s bus system is wide-reaching, and the addition of new rail lines is an incentive to get people out of their cars, the convenience of having a personal vehicle still outweighs many Angeleno’s preference to wanting to curb carbon emissions. Metro has studied potentially charging peak-hour tolls for entering the Westside via the 405 or 10, in addition to potentially targeting the entire DTLA freeway corridors. One idea that was proposed was a congestion pricing toll for the LAX Terminals horseshoe, encouraging travelers to utilize the soon-to-be-opened LAX People Mover. However, all of these ideas have been minimized and studies quieted. One LA Times article reveals that Metro received the data from their studies in 2022, but decided to hold off on announcing them due to election season and seats up for grabs at the City’s Mayoral and City Council level, as well as the County’s Board of Supervisor. The issue would have been at the forefront of the races and could have potentially ended such a necessary program, as well as changing the outcome of who eventually did get elected to the Metro Board. Vehicular traffic still remains one of Los Angeles’ greatest feats to overcome, and hopefully as options increase and more of our lives are spent bumper-to-bumper, riders will choose alternative methods.

 

 The extension of rail lines into communities deprived of access to MetroRail has also become a point of contention. The Torrance Transportation Committee may recommend the “No Build” option for the South Bay extension of the C Line. Torrance had previously announced a preference for the ROW option, building the light-rail extension in the Metro owned right of way, culminating at the future Torrance Transit Center. But both the cities of Lawndale and Redondo Beach support the option running aerial down Hawthorne, providing direct access to the South Bay Galleria at a much higher construction cost, but sparing their residents from shouldering property lines with the new train. All three cities have also expressed concerns about safety from the Unhoused as a result of the extension. This extension is necessary as the C Line reaches eventually closer to either San Pedro or Long Beach, following Metro’s owned ROW Harbor Subdivision. Measure M provides funding for the extension to Torrance, but this writer believes that a full extension terminating at an existing MetroRail Line would be a possibly solution to a city’s fear of having new riders access their communities. It would not solve a city’s resistance to denser infill housing though. Metro continues to balance between providing the necessary transit benefit, while pleasing its constituents. 

 

 One city truly desperate and continuously vying for its rail line is West Hollywood and the extension of the K Line north towards The Hollywood Bowl. The City of West Hollywood has published an independent First and Last Mile Report of potential new improvements to the station areas once the rail line is built. The new stations along Santa Monica Boulevard show multiple station entrances, as well as the relocation of Metro’s Division 7 and the LA County Sherriff’s Office at the intersection of San Vicente & Santa Monica in WeHo’s “Rainbow District.” Such infrastructure improvements could be traffic-calming, sidewalk widening, bicycle facilities, as well as new ways to access the Sunset Strip from the new stations. The Draft Environmental Report is due for this project later this year, however financing from Measure M isn’t available until 2041. The project shows promise as one of the highest projected boardings per mile of Metro’s planned rail lines.

Adam G. Linder, LARHF LA Metro Reporter

June 2023 – Metro Monthly

 

 Los Angeles Metro’s Regional Connector project has now officially opened! As you may know, this project is momentous for many reasons; of course, any addition of stations to the system is a reason to celebrate, but this project brings together the fruition of the very first plan Metro sought out to accomplish almost 60 years ago! The original Blue Line, now the A Line, was supposed to run from Long Beach, through Downtown, eventually continuing to Pasadena. There were many reasons that connection downtown didn’t happen, and one could speculate that it had to do with the negative sentiment towards Metro around the Henry Waxman ban on tunneling, or perhaps the high price of the project. Regardless, the A Line never continued through Downtown Los Angeles and the Gold Line was built as a compromise, decades later. In addition, the original Red Line was supposed to continue from LA Union Station east down Whittier, providing much needed high-quality transit to a neighborhood ethnically and financially deserving of it. The Regional Connector finally bridges the gap, bringing transportation justice to these areas. A one-seat ride from Long Beach through Downtown to Pasadena and beyond, as well as the above ”way to the Sea,” connecting East Los Angeles to Santa Monica. This project soon will only be known for its new line letters and no longer as the “Regional Connector,” but it’s impact on Metro’s system connectivity will be felt for generations to come.

 

In other Metro news, the Authority released their realistic plans on projects to complete before the 2028 Olympics. And no, it is nothing like Eric Garcetti’s pie in the sky ’28 by ’28 advertisement. The projects include the large Inglewood Transit Connector People Mover project, integral to move riders from the new K Line to Hollywood Park, but also transit improvements specific for the Games. Countywide Bus Only lanes will be imperative for Metro’s goal of a parking-less Games, as well as Open Streets projects to uplift Arts, Culture, and Recreation. There are also plans to give “key stations” an aesthetic and functional upgrade, such as gutting 7th Street/Metro Center of its dark and dingy lighting and materials, in order to act as a welcoming hub for guests. These projects, as well as Light Rail Speed Improvements to the Washington WYE hub, should allow more travelers to enjoy the experience of traveling in LA by rail and bus.

 

Unfortunately, it looks like the LOSSAN corridor is in trouble again. The bluff erosions south of San Clemente have halted Amtrak & Metrolink trains on-and-off again for the majority of the year. Most of the time service has been suspended, bringing riders only as far as Mission Viejo. Amtrak has now revealed that their Pacific Surfliner, during the times when the track is open, will also undergo cost cutting measures including less frequency of trips, complete removal of the cafe and Business Class service, no baggage service, as well as full closure of ticket windows at three stations between Irvine and San Diego. Long term plans include studying an inland tunnel for the corridor, but no emergency action has been taken for this vital link between two of California’s largest cities. 

 

 Speaking of studies, a few of Metro’s Chief Officers are in hot water for their comments. LA Metro Chief Innovation Office Seleta Reynolds has stated that building bus or bike lanes without extensive community engagement and consent would make them no better than planners that bulldozed homes for freeways. In a complete erasure of racial motivations that expanded freeways, it seems that once again, transit-dependent riders, of which a majority are low-income minorities, are once again scapegoated for the benefit of wealthy suburban car owners. In addition, LA Metro’s Chief Operations Officer Conan Cheung discussed the changes to the B/D Line’s Westlake/MacArthur Station, claiming that a rider survey supported increased lighting, followed by the newly-heightened hostile music and ambassadors. The City’s elected officials have stated that they would like to see station attendants, expanded street vending, and restrooms, but sadly this plan to “saturate the area with services,” is nowhere to be seen yet. In the attached diagram, we can see than Metro has instead added temporary fencing in the station to funnel people through tight new corridors passing nearby potential new security kiosks. Metro’s own studies have shown that the possibility of an in-house Metro PD would save $37.5 million per year, as well as allow more control over deployment, training, and culture. No studies have begun yet on adding public restrooms.

 

Adam G. Linder, LARHF LA Metro Reporter

May 2023 – Metro Monthly

 

The Regional Connector is coming! Metro has announced that the three new stations in Downtown Los Angeles, as well as the new routes for the A & E Line will begin operation on Friday, June 16th. The new A Line will run from Long Beach to Azusa, while the new E Line will run from Downtown Santa Monica to the Atlantic Station in East Los Angeles. 

 

As far as rail corridors, the next in line for construction to begin is the Van Nuys light rail, connecting destinations from the Orange Line to the Metrolink right of way at Van Nuys & San Fernando in Pacoima. That project is slated to break ground this year, as they have already begun utility work and real estate negotiations. Completion is estimated in the 2030s.

 

Shortly after, we’ll see projects move forward on the (soon-to-be-renamed) West Santa Ana Branch, followed by the Sepulveda Pass Corridor, an Eastside Extension of the E Line to Greenwood in Montebello, and the South Bay Extension of the current C (Green) Line to Torrance.

 

Still in long-term planning are a Vermont Subway, the K Line Northern Extension to Hollywood, an extension of the Sepulveda Line to LAX, conversion of the G Line to Light Rail, as well as the completion of later phases of the “short term” projects: Van Nuys’ Pacoima to Sylmar, East LA’s Greenwood to Whittier, and the WSAB’s Downtown Corridor from its phase one terminus at Slauson/A Line to Union Station.

 

One project speeding through is the Foothill Extension from Azusa to Pomona. Next month, in June 2023, the construction authority is hosting an event to announce the completion of laying rail for the corridor. That project is on schedule to open in 2025, although a further extension from Pomona to Claremont is still unfunded.

 

The full K Line project still sits uncompleted as the Aviation/Century Station has been ready to open for years, but Metro Los Angeles has quietly decided that instead of opening that station and the C Line connection prior to the LAX/Metro Transit Center Station, both will open together in Summer 2024. No decision has been made yet regarding the K or C Line travel patterns as the subregions each discuss opposite preferences and how different travel patterns benefit their cities. Since opening incomplete, the K Line’s ridership is lower than the top 30 bus routes across LA County, and only 12% of L (Gold) Line Ridership, the next lowest rail line ridership in the County.

 

Adam G. Linder, LARHF LA Metro Reporter

April 2023 – Metro Monthly

 

As we approach summertime in LA, Metro prepares for the remainder of the year. While we still don’t have an official opening date for the Regional Connector, testing has begun at the 7th Street/Metro Center Station, and trains can be seen with their new A / E call signs in the station. This month marks the one-year anniversary since Metro’s press ride and announcement that construction in the tunnels had completed. 

 

In addition, Metro is readying the K Line to connect to the C Line later this year with the opening of the Century/Aviation Station. The WYE south of the station will allow trains to move between the C and K Lines. Metro is in the midst of community engagement before solidifying a service pattern for the new line designations. The route options could potentially allow K Line trains to either continue south towards Redondo or turn east heading to either Willowbrook/Rosa Parks A Line Station or terminating at the current C Line Norwalk Station. Riders are encouraged to submit feedback via Metro’s website before the organization decides on a final pattern later this year. The LAX / Metro Transit Center Station is scheduled to open in 2024, along with the LAX People Mover which has also quietly been pushed into a 2024 opening.

 

The D Line (Purple) Extension, Phase 1 from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/La Cienega looks to be slipping into an early 2025 opening date. The Division 20 turnback facility, which, per federal funding, is necessary to increase headways for the D Line extensions, has also now been delayed an addition eighteen months, now scheduled to open in Spring 2026. Metro’s Center Project is described as a consolidated hub for their Emergency Operations Center & Security Operations Center. In 2011, Metro was awarded $32 million dollars in federal funds to support the project. The project was not started until 2014. Since then, there have been two separate periods of year-long inactivity on the project. Metro was forced to return those funds to the federal government potentially forcing the project to now be funded with Metro’s tax-payer funded revenue.

 

Metro continues its response to the issue of homelessness in the County. As the City of LA readies its plan for both immediate and long-term solutions, they have asked Metro for possible land use solutions for services and housing. Metro has development sites in process, and the city is now studying the best practices to ensure these long-term sites meet the affordable needs of Angelenos, as well as the potential for short-term shelter housing. In response to Long Beach’s request for Metro to suspend their End of the Line Policy, which clears out trains at the line’s terminus, Metro proposed using available underutilized space at the Willow Station for services including showers and short-term shelters. Due to overwhelming community response, Long Beach is not interested in offering that space for unhoused services.

 

Earlier this year, Metro began playing loud classical music in the Westlake/MacArthur Park B Line Station as a means to deter loitering and crime in the station. Per the request of the musicians, some pieces have been removed and the volume has been lowered from what had been described as a “torturous level” by riders. Metro has also “quietly” begun a similar practice in the Union Station restrooms hoping to deter people from spending too much time in the facilities. 

 

As Metro proposes their budget for the new fiscal year, their “reimagining public safety” program has been called into question. Currently, Metro still contracts out policing to LAPD, LBPD, and the County Sherriff’s Department, however a report on officer’s effectiveness has shown that uniformed officers overwhelmingly do not patrol the station nor ride the trains, but stay in their cars on street-level. When incidents on trains or in stations are reported, they are more quickly responded to by officers not currently assigned to Metro patrol. Upon request by a County Board Member on why this is, a statement was given that they “weren’t going to have a bus company tell them how to deploy their resources.” Nevertheless, Metro renewed their contract for an additional three-year term and voted to continue to study the potential of an in-house policing force, something 8 out of 10 of the largest transit agencies of the nation already have. The Board vote regarding additional studies on how to improve current deployment of law enforcement did not pass. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass as well as her two City Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Katy Yaroslavsky voted against questioning LAPD’s tactics.

 

Adam G. Linder, LARHF LA Metro Reporter

March 2023 – Metro Monthly

 

Karen Bass, as the new Mayor of Los Angeles, is responsible for four seats on the Metro Board of Directors, herself and three others. Ex-City Councilmember Mike Bonin is leaving the Board and Mayor Bass has announced his replacement, Councilwoman Katy Young Yaroslavsky, the new representative of council district 5 representing UCLA, Miracle Mile, Bel-Air, and the Central-Southern area of the San Fernando Valley. She is the daughter-in-law of LA politician Zev Yaroslavsky, notorious for outlawing subway construction in Los Angeles from 1998 – 2008. Original plans for the B (Red) Line had the subway route extending west through the San Fernando Valley. Due to the ban, that route is now served by the G (Orange) Line BRT. Mayor Bass expressed gratitude for the new Metro Board Member honoring her commitment towards safety on the system, as well as the representation for the area to be near-term served by the opening of the D (Purple) Line Extension and integral decisions of the Sepulveda Line Transit Corridor, currently in planning.

 

As Metro presses forward to build the Inglewood Transit Connector (ITC) between the K Line Station and the new SoFi Stadium & Hollywood Park (and have operational by the 2028 Olympics,) the City of Inglewood has now announced intention to recommend cancelling the Centinela Grade Separation Project. Originally planned to adjust the K Line’s current ground-level Centinela crossing to an aerial crossing, the plan would have required a lengthy additional closure to the line and subsequent bus bridge. In addition to that disruption, the cancellation of that project could bring much needed Measure M local returns financing to the ITC in case of cost overruns, theoretically ensuring delivery in time for the Olympics.

 

The US Department of Transportation has released their updated budget for transit funding and despite the push from Metro’s Board of Directors, the West Santa Ana Branch (WSAB) was not awarded any funding. This comes not long afer the State of California also notably did not aid in funding the Foothill Extension to Montclair. Both projects perform low in cost effectiveness, due to low ridership numbers and high costs. Other projects in denser areas of the County have received state and federal funding. In response, Metro’s Board of Directors have begun a request for a remarketing campaign for the WSAB. The hope is that since the line is neither in the western portion of the County, nor does it go to Santa Ana, that the lack of funding is due to a misunderstanding of the project and not because it serves low-density suburbs uninterested in upzoning.

 

LA Metro released their FY2024 Annual Program Evaluation, which states that the Purple Line Construction will need a $380 million dollar budget increase to aid in completion. The federal stimulus and omnibus bills of the last few years have awarded the project a total of $278.1 million in additional funding, but additional funding will be needed for this shortfall. Metro has also estimated that the organization in FY25 will see a $400 million deficit, and FY26 will see a $1 billion deficit if the tides in transportation funding do not change.

 

Adam G. Linder, LARHF LA Metro Reporter

February 2023 – Metro Monthly

 

In response to recent flooding in the passageway at Union Station, Metro has announced studies for a quick-fix solution. The tracks above are slated for an eventual update as part of the Link Union Station Project, now arriving after 2028. As part of the immediate solution, they are also studying how to bring the station fully up to ADA compliance (Americans with Disabilities Act.) The ADA study will cost 1.2 million dollars, the study on mitigating flooding will cost 2 million dollars, and they will also study the impact of reducing access points into the station, hoping to divert loitering and crime. That security study will cost 2.5 million, more than twice the price to study improved ADA access. No timeline was given for these “quick-fix” studies, nor their implementation.

 

The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services, also known as StreetsLA, has begun replacing aging public restroom around the city, most notably at the surface level of many Metro stations. These new restrooms come complete with water fountains and bottle-filling stations. Metro had previously announced plans to add restrooms to key locations in their system prior to the 2028 Olympics. Studies on improvements to the 7th Street/Metro Center Station are currently underway. In addition, Metro has announced intention on short-term improvements to the Westlake/MacArthur Park Station citing reports of crime. Their solutions involve closing access points into the station, adding features to furniture to prevent laying down, and playing continuous music in and near the station to discourage loitering. There are no studies to show how this will affect transit-dependent ridership.

 

The Foothill Extension of the current L Line, to become the A Line later this year, is on track to open to Pomona by 2025. However, the City of San Dimas began litigation stating that the approved environmental review of the park and ride location, to be built at their future station, was inadequate, citing potential impacts on traffic. The construction authority on behalf of Metro pledged an additional $1 million for additional parking lots and driveways near the station. 

 

CEQA has been in the news recently, and Metro is no stranger to delays in the environmental process. CEQA stands for California Environmental Quality Act and is required for most large scale infrastructure projects. It’s a study and subsequent report on how the project will affect the environment and the people who live near the project. Intended as a security feature to mitigate risks, it's recently been used to delay or even kill a project entirely. At their most recent City Council meeting, The City of Lawndale acknowledged that they intend to submit comments on the Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) for the South Bay C Line Extension on the last day of the 60-day comment period, with the intent that it will take Metro longer to answer those comments, further delaying the project. In addition, LA County’s newest Board Member, Lindsey Horvath, announced her own concerns in hearing out the Bel-Air and Sherman Oaks homeowners who have, in writing, stated that if they do not receive their way in the selection of a monorail for the project, they will delay the timeline of the project by any means necessary. The Metro Board of Directors is slated to choose the alternative for that project this summer, but that decision lays at the bottom of a long list of delayed decisions in recent years.

 

Adam G. Linder, LARHF LA Metro Reporter

January 2023 – Metro Monthly

 

Happy New Year, MetroRail fans! With the new year comes new hopes for Los Angeles Rail investment and expansion. With still no date for the map-busting Regional Connector, the project is approaching 99% completion and should open in the first half of the year.

 

The D Line Extension is chugging forward, however the new owners of Westfield Century City have requested a change in the design and are no longer interested in a direct underground connection from the upcoming D Line Station. The Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) are almost complete for Section 2 of the D Line and have safely finished excavating under Beverly Hills High School. Back in 2017, local organizations and parents made a plea to former President Trump to “save their children” from the dangers of the subway expansion. 

 

A similar situation is expanding now with some organized residents of Bel-Air and Sherman Oaks attempting to influence the long-awaited Sepulveda Transit Corridor. Metro Los Angeles has sent a letter to LA Skyrail Express, the company planning the monorail alternatives for the project, stating that their unsanctioned meetings with UCLA, The Bel-Air Home Owners Association, and the Sherman Oaks Home Owners Association are in direct violation of Metro’s Pre-Development Agreement. Metro Los Angeles is a taxpayer-funded government agency and private meetings meant to circumvent public interest could be grounds for dismissal. Fred Rosen, leader of the Bel-Air Home Owners Association, has been vocal about his disdain for Metro’s practices of prioritizing the public response above his demands on behalf of the homeowners. The Sepulveda Transit Corridor is partially funded by Measure M and is scheduled for an opening date of 2033-2035. Additional litigation by private interests may further delay construction of this project. 

 

Unfortunately, further negative public opinion of the effects of rail expansion has influenced potential financing as well. The C Line South Bay Expansion has two alternatives, one down Hawthorne Blvd serving the South Bay Galleria, and the other down Metro’s Right-Of-Way, serving the Redondo Beach Transit Center. The City of Redondo Beach prefers the Hawthorne Blvd alignment, which falls completely out of their city, while Lawndale opposes both options. Metro’s West Santa Ana Branch project was hoping to find additional financing through value capture efforts, but the city managers along the line believe that their land use is at max capacity already and are not interested in pursuing further. Metro was also denied a $400m grant for the WSAB from The Federal Department of Transportation. The DOT has also denied California’s request for $1.3billion in funding for the High-Speed Rail Project. Governor Newsome has also proposed reducing transit capital by $2billion dollars over the next 3 years.

 

Despite these setbacks, more and more riders are relying on the Metro system for their daily needs. Metro has restored bus and rail service to their pre-pandemic levels and as shiny and new rail lines open, Angelenos will experience unprecedented access to jobs and activity centers, hopefully restoring faith in those who make decisions regarding transit investment.

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

December 2022 – Metro Monthly

 

As the officials elected in November take office, and those termed or voted out leave, the Los Angeles Metro Board moved to close out their session with a few high-profile changes. Firstly, the Authority has finally restored all transit services to their pre-pandemic levels, a huge undertaking that will set the tone for the new administration. In addition, the Board revised and passed a new fare structure. Initially planned to raise the fare and eliminate free transfers, Metro will be keeping fares the same, but continuing with their fare capping strategy. With this method, more frequent riders of the system will pay less for weekly or monthly charges as any rides after the daily cap is met. It’s a change from their initial proposal to increase fares from $1.75 to $2. Metro is still studying a fareless transit initiative.

 

Metro has also approved final decisions for a few high-profile projects. The North San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor was slipped into the Measure M funding list at the 11th hour by then Mayor, Eric Garcetti. In the years since, the planning was curtailed by local homeowners and such, the single line bus rapid transit project will now become bus improvements along a much larger footprint of the San Fernando Valley. The new network changes will increase bus frequency to less than 10 minutes along both the Roscoe and Nordhoff corridors, as well as replacing four-hundred new bus shelters, and building five new enhanced bus facilities at peak interchanges. In addition, Metro voted to approve the East Los Angeles Extension of the L (Gold) Line, soon to be rebranded as the E Line. To be built in phases, the first phase will extend the current terminus at Atlantic to a new station at Greenwood in Montebello. The full build-out of the project will bring the line to Lambert in southern Whittier. Metro will not begin construction on Phase 1 prior to 2029.

 

Metro has also requested $1.9 billion in funds from the California State program, Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program. They have requested $600 million for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, $798 million for the L (Gold) Line Foothill Extension Project in the San Gabriel Valley between the future Pomona Station and the city of Montclair, and $500 million for the West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor.

 

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

November 2022 – Metro Monthly

 

Metro’s K Line has been in operation for over a month now and the organization is looking to the future. Many of the specifics of future projects were dependent on the outcome of Los Angeles’ recent election and will soon see further project definition as the Metro Board of Directors will now see new representation. Lindsey Horvath, former Councilmember of West Hollywood, now sits on the County’s Board of Supervisors. The new Mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass, will not only be on the Metro Board, but also have the opportunity to appoint three new members, two from the public and one sitting City Councilmember. As planning for these megaprojects moves forward, we will see more concrete structure come to the proposals for the Sepulveda Pass Subway and the Crenshaw Northern Extension.

 

A major restructuring of Metro’s fare policy is making its way through the Board and the mandatory public comment period. As part of their “Fare Capping” Program, Metro has announced their intent to raise one-way fare from $1.75 to $2, also eliminating the previously free transfers. The idea is rooted in a hope that the new fare structure will help consistent Metro riders by “capping” their daily expenditures at $6, making any further trips that day free. It also works on the weekly level, further eliminating the much-more expensive weekly pass, while offering additional savings for lower income “LIFE” program candidates. However, more casual riders of the system will see an increase in their occasional one-way fares. Metro is still studying a “Fareless Initiative,” but has not released more data from that study since the previous announcement that the program would be too popular, crushing the current system with riders.

 

In anticipation of the Little Tokyo/Arts District Regional Connector Station’s opening early next year, the Eastside Access Project will provide transit and pedestrian infrastructure near the station as well as leading up the Alameda Esplanade towards Union Station. A separate project, also adding pedestrian connections on Alameda, is the Union Station Forecourt Project, a watered-down pedestrian plan reconnecting Union Station to the Plaza across the street, scheduled to open in 2025. Missing from these two plans is a 0.3 mile gap of Alameda over US-101. Metro has announced a study to bridge the gap in these two projects, aiming for its construction completion in 2035.

 

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

October 2022 – Metro Monthly

 

On Friday, October 7th Metro officially opened their newest rail line, the K Line from Jefferson Park to Westchester. The grand opening event took place in the Historic Heart of Black Los Angeles, Leimert Park. The seven new stations will be joined to the current C Line in 2023 and connect to the LAX People Mover in 2024. The K Line returns passenger rail to an area that once was well connected to Los Angeles’ robust historic transit network of the early 20th century. The community celebration honored a historic investment, finally closing a plan first suggested following the Los Angeles riots of 1992. It is the hope of this author that the planning and construction of such important climate-healthy investment into our most disenfranchised, transit-dependent neighborhoods won’t always take thirty years.

 

However, internal documents reveal that the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project scheduled to bring light rail to Van Nuys Boulevard has now been delayed and will most likely not see heavy construction begin until 2026. Metro has not updated the opening date for that line, still showing a completion by the 2028 Olympics. The project was one of the few already scheduled to before the Olympic Games prior to the “Twenty-Eight by ’28 Plan,” which was hoping to see multiple transit projects and rail lines accelerated from lofty delivery dates. The four “Pillar Projects” of that plan are all scheduled for completion in the 2030s: C Line Extension to Torrance, E Line Eastside Extension, West Santa Ana Transit Corridor, and the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor.

 

Speaking of the Sepulveda Transit Corridor, the unelected Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association has begun fundraising donations in their fight against Metro’s heavy-rail alternatives for the project. Taking up the cause with the affluent Bel-Air Association, the Association argues in favor of the monorail alternatives. SOHA worries that if Metro eliminates the monorail, Metro will then not have the finances to fully underground the heavy-rail options, ending with elevated trains in the San Fernando Valley portion of the project. The elected Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council has announced their official support of the underground heavy-rail subway alternative. 

 

In a historic twist, Long Beach city officials have asked Metro to reconsider the practice of emptying trains of passengers at the end of the A line, citing concerns that Unhoused peoples are entering Long Beach without the immediate ability to return back where they came from. Metro is studying the impact of the policy to “inform future resource deployment.” Metro’s new Ambassador program is also launching this month, which will finally see employees on trains and stations trained in response to inquiries and able to contact social services for those in need.

 

Metro’s Regional Connector project does not look likely to open this calendar year, and despite no update from the agency, internal documents show an opening date likely in March of 2023.

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

September 2022 – Metro Monthly

 

In an 11th hour move, Metro has announced that the first seven stations of the long awaited K (Crenshaw/LAX) Line will open to the public on Friday, October 7th. The grand opening will take place at the Leimert Park Station with the inaugural train departing at 12pm noon, the agency will also honor opening weekend free fares on buses, trains, and bikeshare throughout the system. As this is the first new rail opening in the Los Angeles Metro system since 2016, these events will surely be one for the history books.

 

The San Gabriel Valley may see some transit improvements soon, due to the cancellation of the SR60 leg of the L (Gold) Line Extension. That leg was removed from consideration in order to focus on the more southern Whittier extension, as well as the need for more immediate transit improvements needed in the area. Meto has released different route options for planned BRT and Rapid Bus Priority Corridors. Rosemead, Atlantic, Valley, and Garvey are all listed as options for potential near-future improvements. The light-rail options for this corridor were removed from consideration early in the process. 

 

The Metro Board of Directors have asked for immediacy in regards to the Vermont Corridor Project. In addition to the recommended near-future improvements to bus shelters and priority lanes, they are hoping to push forward the full BRT to be operational by the 2028 Olympics, as well as investing in planning for the rail conversion, preparing to be shovel-ready in case financing comes. Near the Vermont/Expo station, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art complex just announced pushing their opening from 2023 to 2025. They were initially scheduled to open in 2019.

 

The waiting game seems to be the motto of Metro Los Angeles these days. As we come up to the sixth anniversary of the Measure M passage, we are still waiting on concrete movement from the highest priority projects, as well as delays in projects that were on track back then. This Fall, the Sepulveda Corridor will host more public sessions with an emphasis on station location. We anticipate the Van Nuys Line to creep forward, potentially hosting a groundbreaking next year. 2023 will also see the gate and overpass improvements for the G Line through the San Fernando Valley. Little news trickles in regarding the West Santa Ana Branch, and we should be hearing more concrete plans regarding ways to save money and expedite that northern extension through downtown Los Angeles soon. Now that 2022 is culminating in the opening of the long-awaited K Line, here’s hoping that and 2023’s Regional Connector grand opening satisfies riders before the long wait to the D (Purple Line) extension opening in early 2025.

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

August 2022 – Metro Monthly

 

Little movement from Metro this month. More stations on the Crenshaw Line are being “honored” as they continue to prepare for the opening of the Crenshaw Line. More correspondence is made public from Fred Rosen of the Bel-Air Association threatening Metro with litigation designed to further postpone the tunneled Sepulveda Transit Project options. Metro has also cancelled the contractor bidding for the Link Union Station project, hoping to restart the process with a new contract later this year, potentially delaying the project by two additional years, pushing it further after the 2028 Olympic Games.

 

Metro also publicly released their draft of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Study showing that adding a congestion pricing model in the county could remove 36 billion vehicle miles traveled “between 2017 and 2037,” while adding new lanes to highways would increase VMT across the county the same amount. The full build-out of Measure M rail projects could potentially reduce an additional 5.5 billion VMT. No decision has been made by Metro regarding the multiple pricing options, though consideration has begun for either/or West LA or Downtown LA pricing zones.

 

Speaking of long-term studies, ex-Metro Board Member Joshua Schank has published a perspective on Metro’s current trend of studying transportation equity and argues that these studies are only long-term bureaucratic delays further increasing the inequity in disenfranchised communities, such as the lack of movement on the Vermont Transit Corridor. The document can be read at on the website for MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE, at transweb.sjsu.edu.

 

Metro still hopes to announce the opening date for the Crenshaw Line “soon,” but the public is only now being made aware that the line will open in phases, first only to Westchester/Veterans until the Metro Transit Center Station at LAX is capable of allowing trains to pass through, and at which time a new traffic pattern could be announced interlining either the southern or eastern legs of the current C Line. Studies were made available to those options in 2018.

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

Metro Monthly - July 2022

 

As part of the opening celebrations for the new K (Crenshaw/LAX) Line, Metro has scheduled monthly ribbon cutting ceremonies for each of the stations scheduled to open for service by the end of the year. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was on site for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Expo/Crenshaw Station this month. Seven new stations are slated to open by the end of the year. Trains will turn back after the Westchester/Veterans Station and return to Expo/Crenshaw. The Aviation/Century Station and connection to the C (Green) Line will open for service in 2023 once construction in the guideway of the LAX/Metro Transit Center Station is clear. The LAX/Metro Transit Center Station is slated to open for service in 2024.

 

The West Santa Ana Branch has released recommendations in order to build the northern phase more quickly and cheaply. Options range from running at-grade, or in a trench, downtown along Alameda to constructing the Little Tokyo transfer station as an aerial option. One of the more interesting proposals interlines the new rail with the A Line tracks into Union Station, eliminating conflicting construction with the LinkUS project at Union Station, but requiring another reconstruction of the tracks near Little Tokyo. 

 

In Metro-adjacent news, the Riverside County Transportation Commission approved a plan for a rail extension connecting LA Union Station with the Coachella Valley with up to five new stations: the Loma Linda/Redlands area; near the communities of Beaumont, Banning, and Cabazon; near Cathedral City, Thousand Palms, Agua Caliente Casino, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Desert; in the City of Indio; and in the City of Coachella. It is not known yet if this would be an extension of Metrolink or infill Amtrak stations.

 

LA Metro has decided not to exercise their option from CRRC for up to 218 additional subway vehicles for the opening of the later D Line Extension phases. They say that their base order of 64 vehicles will be enough for minimum operational requirements for the first extension. Delays in vehicle procurement are being blamed on supply chain issues, COVID, and tariffs/restrictions on Chinese state-based manufacturers. The first new cars from the initial order are due to be delivered to Metro in August.

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

Metro Monthly - June 2022

 

As “June Gloom” wraps up and the summer heat moves in, Los Angeles Metro is also making moves. In addition to announcing an increase in bus service for June 26th, Metro held community updates for a few of their high-profile rail projects in development.

 

First off, Metro released their Scoping Report for the much-anticipated spine of the San Fernando Valley, the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor. Despite very vocal opposition from a few homeowners in Bel-Air, the results overwhelmingly showed that Angelenos prefer the heavy-rail option between the Valley and the Westside, in lieu of a monorail running in the median of the 405 Freeway. 93% of comments supported Metro’s heavy-rail alternatives similar to the subway technology running on the B (Red) and D (Purple) Lines. The most referenced concerns specified the need for an on-campus station at UCLA, equity, and integration/connectivity with Metro’s existing bus and rail lines. The Draft EIR period, which is mandated by California to analyze impacts to the environment, will lead the Metro Board to a selection of a “Locally Preferred Alternative” at a later date.

 

In addition, Metro hosted a Project Update for the Crenshaw North Extension. After the Scoping Meetings last year, Metro has refined the project for clarification. In addition to adding the Hollywood Bowl station as a potential northern terminus, they have decided to eliminate the La Cienega/Santa Monica Station at the behest of the City of West Hollywood who has claimed multiple portals to the station at San Vicente/Santa Monica 0.5 miles away would provide sufficient coverage to the area. In addition, a much-discussed “spur” option was decided against. The “spur” would see the Crenshaw North Extension travel the La Brea alternative in 13 minutes, shaving off an additional 7 minutes of travel time the “hybrid” alignment would require if traveling towards West Hollywood. The “spur” would have also created a WYE junction at La Brea/Santa Monica allowing trains to travel both towards West Hollywood and north and south down La Brea. That junction would have allowed a future extension east on Santa Monica Boulevard through the transit-dependent communities of East Hollywood, eventually traveling along Sunset through Silver Lake, Echo Park, connecting Dodger Stadium to Union Station and eastwards towards La Puente. The City of Los Angeles has expressed interest in that line, but since it was not included in Measure M’s passage in 2016, no funds from this project can be used for it. That necessary junction will have to be rebuilt in the future if such a project comes to fruition.

 

This Summer we anticipate more information on the Universal City Red (B) Line Station Development, an update to the Vermont corridor project in August, and the Draft EIR for the Arts District Station that will see the Red (B) and/or Purple (D) Lines extended to the new 6th Street Bridge. That bridge is slated for its Grand Opening Ceremony on Saturday, July 9th. 

 

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

Metro Monthly - May 2022

Our Metro Monthly column returns in our April edition as Los Angeles Metro prepares for a year of project completions. Earlier this month, journalists and politicians were able to ride a test train between two of the new Regional Connector stations, “Bunker Hill/Grand Av Arts” station and “Historic Broadway” station. Photos from the event confirm the designations of the new E Line, in a gold color, which will travel from Santa Monica to East Los Angeles, and the A Line, in its signature blue, traveling from Downtown Long Beach to Azusa. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was in attendance, confirmed the lines will open by the end of the year, also ending a two-year gap in service between East LA and the rest of the system.

 

In addition, the San Fernando Valley Transit Project on Van Nuys Boulevard held a ceremony with Senator Alex Padilla confirming additional federal funding for the future light-rail line, scheduled to break ground in 2023 and open for service prior to the Olympics in 2028. This project will connect the G (Orange) Line station, up to San Fernando Blvd. A second phase is planned to connect the Sylmar-San Fernando Metrolink Station.

 

As Vermont Ave is the region’s second most traveled corridor, a recently studied bus-rapid transit line would improve travel times for many historically disadvantaged transit-dependent riders. The same study offered a preliminary look at options for a subway in the corridor, either as a stand-alone line, or as an extension of the B (Red) Line. Considering limited funds to the project, a new “listening session” next month will offer offers Angelenos these options: add mixed-use bus lanes and improve bus frequencies, but no dedicated BRT lanes; plan for BRT-only, to open by 2028; plan for BRT and rail, despite the funding constraint; or plan for rail only, seeking alternate funding opportunities. 

 

Regarding cleanliness and safety on the system, Metro has announced plans for expanded cleaning, renovation to five aging stations, as well as a transit-ambassador program focused on mental health training. Since 2017, Metro’s policing contract has been split between LASD, LAPD, and LBPD. Earlier this month, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva offered Metro an ultimatum that unless LASD is offered the full policing contract by the end of June, his department will refuse to participate in split policing coordination and he will withdraw his law enforcement entirely.

 

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

Metro Monthly - April 2022

Our Metro Monthly column returns in our April edition as Los Angeles Metro prepares for a year of project completions. Earlier this month, journalists and politicians were able to ride a test train between two of the new Regional Connector stations, “Bunker Hill/Grand Av Arts” station and “Historic Broadway” station. Photos from the event confirm the designations of the new E Line, in a gold color, which will travel from Santa Monica to East Los Angeles, and the A Line, in its signature blue, traveling from Downtown Long Beach to Azusa. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was in attendance, confirmed the lines will open by the end of the year, also ending a two-year gap in service between East LA and the rest of the system.

 

In addition, the San Fernando Valley Transit Project on Van Nuys Boulevard held a ceremony with Senator Alex Padilla confirming additional federal funding for the future light-rail line, scheduled to break ground in 2023 and open for service prior to the Olympics in 2028. This project will connect the G (Orange) Line station, up to San Fernando Blvd. A second phase is planned to connect the Sylmar-San Fernando Metrolink Station.

 

As Vermont Ave is the region’s second most traveled corridor, a recently studied bus-rapid transit line would improve travel times for many historically disadvantaged transit-dependent riders. The same study offered a preliminary look at options for a subway in the corridor, either as a stand-alone line, or as an extension of the B (Red) Line. Considering limited funds to the project, a new “listening session” next month will offer offers Angelenos these options: add mixed-use bus lanes and improve bus frequencies, but no dedicated BRT lanes; plan for BRT-only, to open by 2028; plan for BRT and rail, despite the funding constraint; or plan for rail only, seeking alternate funding opportunities. 

 

Regarding cleanliness and safety on the system, Metro has announced plans for expanded cleaning, renovation to five aging stations, as well as a transit-ambassador program focused on mental health training. Since 2017, Metro’s policing contract has been split between LASD, LAPD, and LBPD. Earlier this month, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva offered Metro an ultimatum that unless LASD is offered the full policing contract by the end of June, his department will refuse to participate in split policing coordination and he will withdraw his law enforcement entirely.

 

Adam G. Linder

LARHF LA Metro Reporter

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