When Los Angeles officials last fall released its proposals for a reconfiguration of the Hyperion Street Bridge as part of a seismic retrofit, bike and pedestrian advocates assailed the plans as being too car-centric, with no allowances for alternative modes of transport. After a sudden and passionate outcry from opponents and further brainstorming, LADOT released new designs that would eliminate a car lane and provide bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge instead of just one side at present.
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.
Things are looking bright for the Ports O’Call Village in San Pedro. This once dour tourist attraction is receiving some major upgrades, with one of the nearby wharfs to be set aside for a marine research center. However, the biggest news is that a derelict warehouse of World War II vintage will soon be converted into a brewery. An adjacent warehouse already hosts a craft beer festival every weekend. Overall, the Port of Los Angeles plans to spend $800 million on waterfront improvements, which includes enhanced Red Car Trolley service.
Meanwhile, lawmakers opposed to the project are crafting several bills that would bring the issue again to voters or at least hamper the project at the legislative level. One new initiative would prevent previously voter-approved bond money to be spent on HSR while Hyperloop technology is developed and would allow for the CPUC to acquire land for a demonstration. (Note that such initiatives entail signature-gathering and verification at a cost of millions.) While this may sound innovative, Kerry Cavanaugh of the LA Times warns that steel-on-steel rail technology is proven, while Hyperloop is not, and that Hyperloop may very well turn out to be unfeasible at the expense of needed intercity transportation. Colin Leach of NARP adds that, as envisioned, Hyperloop would not serve intermediate cities and in the end would lack the compatibility with conventional rail services that HSR systems worldwide enjoy.
Governor Jerry Brown asked the state Supreme Court to block two court rulings that hindered the flow of state cash to the high-speed rail project. The CAHSR Authority argued that the rulings are creating a domino effect that jeopardizes federal matching funds and needlessly adds uncertainty to the project. The high court has not decided whether to listen to the state’s case or not. Additionally, the governor is also seeking a $29 million loan to keep the project going in his proposed state budget. While that happens, Amtrak and the CAHSRA released a joint proposal that would provide next-generation trainsets for both the Northeast Corridor and the future state HSR line.
In the Inland Empire, proposals to expand bus rapid transit continue to grow which will provide a fast alternative to slower all-local bus travel for area bus riders and choice riders using the connecting express bus and Metrolink routes. While San Bernardino has big plans for the sbX BRT system, officials in Riverside County continue to work on establishing the RapidLink BRT system… except it’s not quite BRT just yet. RapidLink’s first phase will actually be additional frequent peak-hour limited stop runs along the busy Magnolia Avenue corridor in Riverside, very similar to Metro Rapid except the runs will be peak only. $9.2 million was awarded toward RTA’s $12.3 million project which will pay for 40 buses and 3 years of operation. Our blog goes into further detail of what needs to happen to the area’s market economy in order to pay for and speed up the slow process of getting true BRT onto Riverside streets with all day service from early morning to late night, frequent service, and dedicated lanes through the high density areas.
In addition, the City of Riverside’s streetcar proposal, which overlaps the RapidLink route, continues to move forward. There still appears to be no coordination of the city’s project with RTA which has led the local press into holding the government entities accountable. Both agencies need to work together to actually get first-rate rapid transit lines built for Riverside and both need to agree on which technology would work best in regards to moving people and keeping costs in check, whether it be rail or BRT. We can’t afford to have uncoordinated transit projects becoming costly boondoggles.
The Metrolink Board voted to award a $6.8 million contract to Wabtec Corp. that calls for a computer system designed to operate the agency’s positive train control system. The previous contractor, technology firm ARINC,failed to meet the deadline imposed by Metrolink to provide such a system. PTC would allow said computer system to communicate with radio and GPS and help control train movements with the intent of deterring crashes. A demonstration of PTC is scheduled for February 18.