For those stumped as to what to do on Valentine’s Day, Metro is hosting a speed-dating eventfrom 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. throughout the Red Line route. Essentially, riders heading toward North Hollywood station will board the last car of each train, while those heading downtown will take the first car. Every two minutes, participants can either switch seats or alight and board the next train. Metro staff will provide assistance in person during the event, and train cars transporting participants will be marked with red hearts. Participants can register at any Red Line station. As long as they pay their fare, participants will be given special wristbands. However, for those who find staying in LA unappealing, the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner offers its own ideas.
Metro is on a roll as the agency schedules public meetings covering a variety of topics. One of the first public hearings on proposed service changes was recently held in Van Nuys, which had a surprisingly good turnout. Riders were generally supportive of the new Line 588X, a proposed express service between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, despite skipping service to Sherman Oaks. Meetings for other service areas (except South Bay, where no service changes are proposed) are listed in Upcoming Events.
Additionally, Metro is hosting meetings on its arts program, where participants can learn how to form part of the program. A hearing on the proposed fare restructuring will be held on Saturday, March 29. Finally, a pair of meetings updating community members on the Purple Line Extension will be held on Thursday, February 13. Information on these is also listed in Upcoming Events.
While most development in Hollywood has stayed close to Hollywood Boulevard and the three Red Line stations that serve the business district, one developer is taking his act further away with a proposed mixed-use development on Vine Street. The block where the project would occur was bought from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences when the latter opted to scrap plans to build a museum at the block. (AMPAS itself opted to use the former May Company Building on Wilshire and Fairfax, which is set to receive a Purple Line stop in the future, as the site of their museum.) The developer hopes that the project will provide space not only for more residents but for the new entertainment-related business sprouting within Hollywood.
At the other end of town, efforts are underway to take a study of rail to LAX into the environmental study phase. However, doubt continues to linger as at least one transportation cynic believes the Crenshaw/LAX line under construction and the separate LAX rail line would still be inconvenient to most travelers. For example, even though no-traffic days are rare on roads between downtown and LAX, a car trip would still take less time than a rail trip that includes a transfer between the Expo and Crenshaw lines. More glaringly, however, the Crenshaw/LAX line goes only as far north as the Expo Line, which would discourage those traveling to popular destinations such as Hollywood from using the rail network. It should be noted that The Transit Coalition proposes extending the Crenshaw/LAX line into Hollywood and then to Pasadena. Meanwhile, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern warns that discussion of this particular rail line must eliminate racial overtones and move towards job creation and preservation. Alpern also provides a primer on the options to bring rail to LAX.
Meanwhile, in response to a previous article on how rail should not be the only answer to Los Angeles’ transportation woes, Phillip Hart, who previously served on the Expo Line Urban Design Committee, agreed that transit-oriented development will remain critical in developing the rail network. Hart believes that such development will make the rail system efficient, foster growth within Los Angeles and empower economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority recently approved studying an extension of the line past Claremont and towards Ontario Airport. However, the study will look into two other transportation modes to see what would work best to connect Gold Line passengers to the airport. A previous study commissioned by the agency in 2008 concluded that a light rail line to the airport was feasible. Sadly, rapid transit from Claremont to Ontario Airport ranks low in a list of recommended projects formulated by a San Bernardino Associated Governments committee. The list awaits final approval by the SANBAG Board.
Metro continues to discuss increasing its fares over a period of time while adjusting other prices as a means to counter an operations deficit in coming years. Metro is currently advancing two proposalsthat have different rates of increase for the base fare. However, both proposals would allow for free transfers within 90 minutes of paying the base fare. While fare increases are never popular, they are necessary to keep existing transit service afloat. In any case, each proposal might actually lead to a decrease in travel expenditures for some travelers. Human Transit also gives insight into the advantages and shortcomings of the two proposals.
In the meantime, Metro must also contend with the immediate problem of fare cheats, especially on the Orange Line busway. Metro estimates that as much as a fourth of all Orange Line riders do not pay their way. Admittedly, at least part of the problem stems from riders not tapping their TAP cards at stations upon entering boarding platforms. At least one rider believes that Metro Liner operators should allow only those with valid fares to board, as though one was boarding a typical Metro Bus.
Members of the Metro Board and other dignitaries were on hand last week to break ground for the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Project. The groundbreaking effectively begins heavy construction of the new line. The 8.5-mile line represents a return of passenger rail service to part of this corridor, which saw its last streetcars in 1955. Protesters gathered outside the event, however, expressed concern that Metro is not doing enough to hire local workers. Click here to learn more about the project and to receive construction notices.
The Metro Board voted to advance four peoplemover options for rail service to LAX into the environmental study phase, initially scuttling all light rail options. Airport officials have long cited the cost and security issues as the main reason direct rail service to airport terminals is impractical. However, the Board also voted to include two light rail options that would at least keep the possibility alive. As expected, no one is happy with this outcome, since the peoplemover options represent a complete disavowal to the notion of having a rail network directly connecting to LAX. Nevertheless, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern chimes in as to why the peoplemover may very well be the most optimal option for both the airport and Metro Rail.
The alternatives analysis for the LAX rail connection is coming to an end, and Metro staff has proposed to advance four alternatives for environmental study. All four alternatives involve peoplemover technology that would connect terminals to the future Crenshaw light rail line (which formally broke ground today), meaning that Metro will no longer consider direct light rail service into the airport. Officials cited the high cost of tunneling under the terminals (as much as $3 billion) and the sheer logistics of building underneath the airport as reasons to discard the light rail options.
Elected officials representing the area are having none of that, however. Congressmember Janice Hahn was critical of the recommendation to eliminate the light rail options, stating that users would prefer to travel to and from the airport directly, without the need of transferring. Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey thinks a peoplemover would work just fine. In response, Metro Boardmember Mark Ridley-Thomas submitted a motion that would add two of the discarded light rail options as part of the environmental study. The Metro Board will decide the matter at their upcoming meeting on January 23.
Despite the rapid emergence of the Arts District in terms of residential development and amenities, transit access remains poor, with a Gold Line station placed at a distant corner of the burgeoning community. Talks of bringing Red/Purple Line service to the area using existing tracks have gone nowhere. Suddenly, however, Metro CEO Art Leahy announced that he has instructed staff into investigating potential new stations next to the Arts District. One possible station at Sixth Street would come close to the new and more accessible viaduct that will replace the existing bridge. Staff will examine possible sites, costs and initial designs, with their conclusions to be available within the year.