Students, Professors Acitivsts Call for Grade-Separated Connector

3_31_09_metro.jpgImage: Metro.net

Last night Metro, kicked off a week of public outreach for the environmental studies for the Downtown Connector,aka Regional Connector, with a meeting at the University of Southern California.  This marked the first time that they held a meeting at USC as previous efforts had focused on the Downtown and Chinatown.  For those new to the project, this project will connect the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines providing one-seat rides from Pasadena to Long Beach and vice-versa.  The connector could save riders up to 21 minutes if a rider from Long Beach needed to get to Pasadena and had to transfer multiple times and buy multiple tickets.  For more details of the project, go to the project’s official website or check out this great article from Blogdowntown.

There wasn’t a lot of news from last night’s meeting.  The same four alternatives that the Metro Board passed in January are still on the table, despite a quick lobbying effort from City Councilman Tom LaBonge to have the connector run along the Alameda  instead of the current route along Flower and Second Street. 

At this point, there are basically two alternatives to build the line being studied as well as a no-build option or Transportation Demand Management option.  A TDM option is basically using more buses and modern intersections to increase traffic flow.

Meanwhile the two alternatives would have trains running along identical routes, up Flower Street, take a right at 2nd through the Downtown until connecting with the Gold Lne Station in Little Tokyo.  However, the at-grade also run up and down Main and Los Angeles Street to connect to Temple Street before heading into Little Tokyo.

At previous meetings, concerns over the light rail’s traffic impacts and the construction of a new station in Luttle Tokyo were the key points of testimony; but weren’t mentioned last night.  In addition to LaBonge, the public testimony included remarks by USC Professor
Najmedin Meshkati, various students and other rail activists.  Professor Meshkati, an outspoken opponent of at-grade crossings for the Expo Line, warned Metro to build this project correctly the first time, i.e. to build it below grade. 

Meshkati, an expert on factoring human behavior into transit planning, pleaded with Metro not to build at-grade light rail because he didn’t want to spend hundreds of pro-bono hours fighting with them again, "I would give the plan for Expo a C-, if I was feeling generous…I plead with you not to do this again."

Meshkati’s remarks were echoed by all of the half dozen speakers who joined him, including Justin Walker who represents the USC Chapter of CALPIRG.

There are still three more public meetings on the project this week.  Or if you can’t make it out this week but want to have your say; you can send testimony to regionalconnector@metro.net  before the May 11 deadline.

  • “The connector could save riders up to 21 minutes if a rider from Long Beach needed to get to Hollywood and had to transfer multiple times and buy multiple tickets.”

    LB to Hollywood? That’s an odd route to use as a metric. . . Do you mean LB to Pasadena? Because the downtown connector won’t affect how people transfer from blue line to Red line. . .

  • The Downtown Regional Connector is the second most important rail project on the docket after the Purple Line extension.

    It’s not just about serving downtown. I will really help create a SYSTEM.

    I wish there had been more money for it in Measure R, and perhaps there might be some money available from the High Speed Rail bonds. However, this is a project that isn’t parochial. I would hope all of Los Angeles County’s members of Congress would be working together for a project that helps everyone, westside, eastside, southbay, etc…

  • Spokker

    “Meshkati, an expert on factoring human behavior into transit planning, pleaded with Metro not to build at-grade light rail because he didn’t want to spend hundreds of pro-bono hours fighting with them again, “I would give the plan for Expo a C-, if I was feeling generous…I plead with you not to do this again.””

    Don’t let Expo issues get tied up with the regional connector. This project needs to be grade separated and it isn’t because a bunch of high school kids don’t know how to cross the tracks.

  • J

    Why does the route go so close to Union Station without connecting to it? It seems to me that that would be the ideal route, providing the most connections to other transit lines. I don’t live there, though, so I don’t know the specifics.

  • Interurbans

    The regional connector needs to be at the top of the list of any new projects including the Purple Line subway to the sea and it does need to be subway. I can understand why the MTA picked the worst alternative for the surface routes since a surface route would be to slow and delay auto and bus traffic even if a better alternative was selected.

    The overall plan looks good with the exception of the Alameda and First St intersection. Here they spent all of this money to widen the first street bridge for traffic capacity. Most of that traffic on First wants to turn on to Alameda not continue west on First Street. Their plan is a disaster and will make traveling through or trying to turn from First on to Alameda very difficult at best.

    The new LRT lines need to be below grade, not Alameda and First streets. The connection and the Little Tokyo station need to be below grade with Alameda and First Street to be at grade and the intersection should be as it is today. The Gold Line can return to the surface between the Little Tokyo Station and the Temple St. crossing and in the center of First Street after the connection with the other lines. A temporary “shoe fly” for the Gold Line could be built on the now vacant property just east of the current line during the construction of the new below ground station. The station could also be incorporated into any new development planed for the North East corner of First and Alameda.

  • @J: Effectively, it does connect to Union Station. The connector will allow blue line riders from points south to keep traveling on the same train onto the gold line north into Pasadena. Once that train connects to the gold line (south of Union Station) it will then make a stop at Union Station. Similarly, Expo line riders from points west will be able to ride the same train onto eastside goldline extension without changing trains. Not sure of the details, but I presume that if they need to get from Expo to goldline pasadena section they will either need to transfer to a northbound train at 7th/Metro, or maybe there will be both pasadena-bound and eastbound trains traveling along the Expo line.

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