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Welcome to LARHF's METRO MONTHLY

brought to you by LARHF Metro Reporter, Adam Linder

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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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