- Written by Ken Alpern
24 Jan 2012
GETTING THERE FROM HERE - I admit to having been on both sides of the "get real" argument with respect to enhancing mobility in the City and County of LA over this past decade. Some have told me to "get real" and that there will never be workable mass transit in the Westside or any other parts of the county, and I've had the interesting experience of telling others to "get real" with other ideas.
Of course, I adhere to the idea that I could always be wrong, and that those pursuing other ideas might end up being right. However, I've seen Measure R pass, observe the Orange Line Busway and the Metro Green and Gold Lines enjoy superior ridership, note the dramatic improvements in freeway and rail contract bidding and contracting for the better, and watch superior community outreach become the norm between Metro and Caltrans and the projects' neighbors and grassroots transportation supporters.
So there's hope that myself and others in The Transit Coalition, the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and Friends of the Green Line will continue to remain both on the cutting edge of transportation/mobility enhancements while standing with our collective feet firmly on the ground.
The following short-term ideas and goals "keep it real", but keep new ideas alive as well:
1) The most important transportation development this year is likely to be the opening of the first phase of the Expo Line to Culver City.
This light rail line will extend from Culver City to Staples Center and the Downtown Convention Center, with USC and Mid-City locations in between, and is a defacto widening of the I-10 freeway corridor.
It is anticipated that it will attract tens of thousands of riders sooner, and not later, but it's hoped that Jan Perry and Bernard Parks will similarly step down from the Expo Authority Board sooner, and not later, because while they've been supportive of their own constituents they've crossed the lines of propriety at times by preventing Westside representation for the second phase of the line to West L.A. and Santa Monica.
2) The I-405 widening project has been a model of being on time, on budget, and with superior communications to all affected parties. So long as the critics are calmed by having their fears allayed and their ideas implemented (when possible and appropriate), LA City and County voters, taxpayers and commuters will be open to new projects.
It's hoped that the I-605, I-5, SR-60 and other freeway projects are going just as well, because the cry for more freeway projects aren't going to end any time soon.
3) As the Crenshaw/LAX Line project starts the bidding process this year with the fiscal support both from Metro and from Washington, D.C., the need to have a rail project that includes a Westchester Hindry station, so as to not pit neighborhoods against each other, is a prelude to the cooperation needed for its direct and indirect links (via the Green Line) to the Westside, LAX and South Bay.
It is hoped that more taxpayers, planners and politicians will learn what "rail right of way" and "Metro-owned properties" means in order to figure out why we can be smart and cost-effective by having a connecting People Mover indirectly, not the Green/Crenshaw Lines directly, access LAX airline terminals. This issue is being raised with Washington, D.C.'s own rail/airport line. (Link)
4) The Downtown Light Rail Connector project EIR will very soon be up for approval by the Metro Board. It is hoped that federal, state and local governments recognize this might be the most important project in Measure R to benefit the entire county, and to make darn sure it's funded and implemented in order to create a true Southern California passenger rail network.
5) Whether the Eastside Gold Line Light Rail Extension to either Whittier or to the I-605 freeway is chosen, both options are pretty lousy with respect to ridership and cost-effectiveness.
It's hoped that either a hybrid approach (as proposed by some of my Transit Coalition colleagues) of a shorter light rail along the SR-60 freeway to the Montebello Mall--combined with a busway to Whittier--is considered, or that the Metro drop the project altogether ad revisit the Green Line Eastern Extension to the Norwalk Metrolink station instead.
6) Virtually everyone familiar with the Wilshire Subway Extension (Purple Line) knows that it is most cost-effective and geologically located along a route that gets it to the center of Century City. It's hoped that the due diligence of Metro comes up with no new surprises, and that the cities of LA and Beverly Hills can come to an arrangement with Metro that pleases all reasonable parties. We really need this subway.
7) The Foothill Gold Line needs to be built, and we really need a rail car maintenance yard either in Monrovia or some other appropriate location. Now that Governor Brown has abolished state CRA's, including that which was fund and build the maintenance yard for this line, it is hoped that state and local legislators can work with Metro and each other to expedite this yard and this line. The funding and legal hurdles can be overcome if the political will exists (and I believe it does).
8) Funding these Measure R projects with an expedited 30/10 plan is long overdue, and if Washington doesn't want to provide a bridge loan, it is hoped that either Assemblymember Feuer's plan to extend Measure R and have LA County Save Itself or Mayor Villaraigosa's plan to get a bridge loan from a Chinese investment firm (link) will get the job done.
9) While Mayor Villaraigosa's efforts to legally and fiscally create the Wilshire subway and a host of other transportation projects will earn him a spot in the history books as the man who made rail/rapid transit return to LA, his successor will have to pursue an equally pragmatic approach that both aggressively funds and plans vetted and cost-effective projects while rejecting less cost-effective projects.
It is hoped that all mayoral candidates take the approach of (or similar to) Austin Beutner's rejection of the California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) project in favor of local transportation systems. (Link) I'm pretty sure that those advocating freeway and rail projects alike are wondering if the billions proposed for CAHSR couldn't be spent better elsewhere.
10) Speaking of CAHSR, it's hoped that Governor Brown's pragmatic approach to reaching out to all parties, including GOP/conservative groups (link) will include a reduction in both the required train speeds and correlated costs for the project. It is hoped that state and federal legislators can to alter the $2-3 billion federal earmark to pay for some other, less remote portion of the CAHSR than Central California.
The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good, as the governor well knows, and if he doesn't make concessions (and even a restructuring of the entire project), it's a goner.
Tags: Ken Alpern, Los Angeles, County, City Expo Line, Crenshaw/LAX, Light Rail, Measure R
Vol 10 Issue 7
Pub: Jan 24, 2012