Welcome to the Blogroll: I Will Ride

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(Editor’s Note: From now on, Streetsblog is going to begin featuring blogs before they get added to our blogroll.  As the the local traditional media continues to retreat in its transportation coverate, it’s important for all of us to have as many "media outlets" at our disposal as possible.)

In February of this year, a new blog appeared that focused on the efforts to extend the Gold Line Foothill Extension.  Over the last three months, I Will Ride has become a consistent and well-written voice for its favorite project, the San Gabriel Valley and transit expansion in general.

If
the name sounds familiar, it’s because the I Will Ride website used to
belong to a group of college students who were promoting the Gold Line
extension. It’s since been turned over to the Metro Gold Line
Foothill Extension Construction Authority who have used it to promote
the project.  Some people have complained that the site isn’t clear
about who is running it, that the site purports to be "grassroots" when
it’s really "astroturf."

While it may not be covered in Gold Line Foothill logos, the first post at I Will Ride tells of the site being turned over from the students to the Construction Authority so it’s not like they were trying to keep the site’s owners a secret.  Regardless of the site’s sponsors, there is such a dearth of coverage of transportation
issues, that we need all the writers we can get.

The main voice at I Will Ride, "Albert," has done yeoman’s work, appearing at public events, twittering some long and dry meetings, and doing the research that is needed to promote the project.  In truth, the entire blog’s point of view can be described in one line from their twitter feed from last Saturday’s meeting with Art Leahy.

The tax will begin soon and we need to make sure we get our fair share.  Even though many of the cities opposed Measure R, the residents voted for it mostly for the Gold Line.  The county needed those votes to pass the sales tax.  We need to make sure we all get the benefit.

Personally, I’ve learned a lot about the politics surrounding the Foothill Extension, including why supporters refer to it as the Brain Train, from the site.  Besides, can you name another transit project that would get a college mascots out to support it?  Bruins for Traffic Relief, the ball is in your corner.

  • Just more proof this project on its merits doesn’t measure up and thus the proponents have resorted to inaccrate claims, dubious political gambits and overall clouded this project with parochial myopia that is buisness as usual for politics in the San Gabriel Valley. Sad.

  • To read intelligent comments on this project and the political culture I mentioned read these comments in response to another clueless whining editorial by the Star-News; these folks have this project pinned as to its various dubious aspects:

    http://www.topix.net/forum/source/san-gabriel-valley-tribune/TS5V1L2UOLP8V0LO5

  • Marcotico

    This is one another problematic project in the area (are there any other kind in LA?). One the one hand ridership estimates and logic are against it, on the other hand it is financially, and politically well supported. Again it all comes down to money, but I hate to see transit advocates of different stripes attack each other, when we should all be pooling our resources, and fighting the big battles.

  • And the farce continues. It doesn’t matter that the Foothill extension is a complete dog of a project. The powers that be still want it to funnel dollars and infrastructure into their districts to boost their property values and burnish their political reputations, the greater region be damned.

  • Albert Ho is an employee of the PR firm hired by the Authority to build support for the project. In fact, the domain is not owned by the Authority itself but by the PR firm, and is registered in Albert’s name with the PR firm’s address as his contact information.

    In my skeptical eyes, this is still deliberately misleading, because the vast majority of people who happen onto the site aren’t going to read that “introductory post” turning the site over to the Authority.

    This site is not run by public transportation advocates. It is run by a PR firm hired by the agency that wants to get the money for its project. There is a huge difference.

  • @Marcotico – I agree with your last sentence – we’re all transit advocates and regional infighting doesn’t solve anything. The San Gabriel Valley also supports the Westside projects, as was stated at last Saturday’s Measure R forum. I just don’t think one project should come at the expense of others.

  • @Kymberleigh – when I re-registered the domain name, I had the opportunity to hide my name and address from anyone doing a whois search (for any non-techies, a whois search let’s you find out any website’s owner)… but it never crossed my mind to even consider it. It’s out there for a reason.

  • “I hate to see transit advocates of different stripes attack each other, when we should all be pooling our resources, and fighting the big battles.”

    The problem is that transit is not inherently good or bad. Transit can be applied to the cause of misguided and short-sighted objectives, as is now being done with the Foothill extension. Continuing to allocate development-inducing infrastructure disproportionately towards low-density peripheral areas like the San Gabriel Valley at the expense of the central core is wasteful and ultimately destructive to the large region’s health. The Foothill extension is a gross misallocation of transit resources.

  • Marcotico

    John VK, all the cities along the route have specific plans addressing the station areas in order to recreate streetcar suburban conditions. We’re not talking about greenfield exurban gated communities here. Arcadia incorporated in 1903, and Monrovia is the fourth oldest city in LA County. La Verne has a University with a student and staff population of over 8,000, within a quarter mile of the station. Many of whom would be likely to train into Pasadena for a saturday out.

    So why is encouraging outlying towns to re-densify a bad idea? I just hate to see transit advocates deciding they and only they are the know it alls who can tell everyone which projects are good and which are bad. I disagree, with your assessment of this transit line as either misguided or short-sighted. I want to see all the projects on Metro’s slate move forward, and if one project has gotten a number of its ducks in a row its stupid to tell it to wait.

  • Marcotico, project funding is allocated based on quantified need, not political schenanegans. The projected ridership for this project (which would cost something like one and a half BILLION dollars just to reach Montclair, never mind Ontario Airport) is pitiful. The politicos with their meetings and plans are trying to hype a sow’s ear. Especially for federal funding (which they acted as if their electeds could just magically produce).

    Remember, the proponents demonized Measure R, only to immediately declare once it passed that “their” project must be first in line.

    For various reasons the extension to Azusa will be built by the middle of the next decade, but most despite not because of the proponents and their antics.

  • Matt

    Hop into the way-back machine and check out the “Northern San Gabriel/San Bernardino Rail Transit Corridor” environmental impact reports:

    Draft EIR:
    http://boardarchives.metro.net/Items/1993/10_October/items_g_0415.pdf

    and

    Final EIR:
    http://boardarchives.metro.net/Items/1994/06_June/items_h_0363.pdf

  • I still remember when John Fasana, many years ago (still on the MTA board after all these years), touted Regiosprinter as the next big thing for the corridor. That would have been a better technology.

    On the other hand, the Gold Line supporters do have a point that this is the only project that is currently ready to go. It is not “shovel ready”, and I think that the proponents’ claims that the project is “ready to go” are a bit overblown (are there 100% plans), but certainly it deserved to be higher in line than 10 years down the line. The problem is that they insist on making it all the way to Montclair, when, as stated above, Azusa is sufficient, at least for now… and the right of way can, and should be, preserved for a project later in the Measure R period.

  • Marcotico,

    El Monte was incorporated in 1912 and Monterey Park in 1916. Both of these cities have higher population densities than the Foothill corridor, have lower income and higher diversity populations, and have established high traffic transit corridors along Valley Blvd, Garvey Ave, and the 10 freeway. Furthermore, improvements along any of these corridors could logically be extended eastward to job rich West Covina.

    Just because a line is “ready to go” or even “shovel ready” (which the Foothill line is far from) does not mean it is a wise or worthy project.

  • Instead of 40 miles of light rail, wouldn’t it make sense for the Foot Hill branch to go from Sierra Madre down to El Monte Metrolink?

    If anything, couldn’t there be a Metrolink Commuter Rail branch on the San Bernadino Line from El Monte up to Arcadia and over to Montclair and points east.

    Commuter Rail seems more appropriate for this area. Commuter rail is a huge part of the transit puzzle in New York and London.

    I already accept that politically the Gold Line extension to Montclair will happen eventually. I think part of the problem with opposing this branch of the Gold Line is that no alternative was ever proposed.

    If the residents of this corner of Los Angeles County are primarily seeking to commute downtown, couldn’t commuter rail have been the more appropriate alternative?

  • @Albert: It is all well and good that the domain registry information is not masked, but how many Internet users actually know how to do a domain registry lookup? Not a huge number (I only know how because I run a couple of websites and my involvement with the Net goes back to the days of BBSs).

    In my view, the I Will Ride blog has the misleading appearance of a grassroots organization, when in fact it is operated by the public relations firm that you work for, as part of your campaign for the Construction Authority.

    In other words, you purport to be transit advocates, when in fact you are not.

    Please note that I am keeping my opinion of the project itself out of this discussion. This is a question of appearances, not merits.

  • @John von Kerczek
    “Just because a line is “ready to go” or even “shovel ready” (which the Foothill line is far from) does not mean it is a wise or worthy project.”

    The 12 colleges and universities along the corridor, along with 28,000 students and 3,500 faculty and staff, would beg to differ.

    Please don’t come off as somebody who speaks for or knows what’s best for the region. I’ve actually met and spoken with many residents and students along the corridor, and their support for the Foothill Extension isn’t fabricated. In the coming weeks I’ll be posting their actual comment cards (http://www.iwillride.org/?p=125) because very people here seem to know how residents in the San Gabriel Valley actually feel.

    @Kymberleigh
    “you purport to be transit advocates, when in fact you are not.”

    Please stop speaking for me. You don’t know me. Thank you.

  • Von Kerczek makes a great point, though, when he talks about the transit ridership ALREADY existing along the Garvey corridor (which was previously considered for the eastside Gold Line extension). The current “murder bus” (Foothill Transit Line 187) ridership is nowhere near a morning on the 70 or 770, despite the fact that the 187 is almost twice as long. Although there is more service on Garvey during the day, the 187/Foothill Boulevard bus has 20 minute service throughout the evening, and from personal experience the evening service ridership is beyond abysmal. Rather than “I _will_ ride”, how about providing better service to those who are already riding?

    Kym, it is not unusual for a employee’s opinions to match those of their employer. in fact, Albert may very well have supported the project long before he was employed by the PR firm. Although the disclosure may have needed to be more visible, the Gold Line Authority’s logo is clearly displayed on every page of the site. Something in the copyright notice would be nice though.

  • What I don’t understand is why San Gabriel Valley politicians aren’t pushing Metrolink more? Aren’t their development possibilities along the current Metrolink corridor? Couldn’t Foothill Transit be rerouted in a way that centers around EXISTING rail service?

    Assuming the Foothill Branch will eventually be built because of its political inevitability, it will be at least 20 years before it goes all the way to Montclair.

    Why aren’t they calling for greater and more frequent Metrolink service now? The cities who live along the current Metrolink corridor don’t seem to be very agressive or interested in this which I don’t understand yet. Maybe the Purple Line has to be extended and the downtown regional connector built first so that when those commuters get to Union Station they can travel beyond downtown.

    London, which is a sprawl like Los Angeles, has several “Union Stations”. There are 12 “tube” subway lines, but dozens and dozens of commuter rail lines going in every direction. Metrolink is the most comfortable ride we have.

    I lived in LaVerne for two years in high school. Couldn’t a commuter rail line be built to Montclair quicker branching off from El Monte, then waiting for a light rail line to get extended from Azusa?

    Does anyone here have a theory as to why Metrolink isn’t given more credence in transportation planning? If I lived 20 miles out from Downtown and I had to commute there, I’d much rather hop on a commuter rail than a light rail.

  • Part of it is political – there are no representatives from the San Gabriel Valley on the Metrolink board, since Tony Villar pulled Anthony Bejarano, Baldwin Park councilmember, from the board after the Metrolink crash. Metrolink tickets are very expensive, especially for short trips. The better solution would be better bus service, such as upgrading the existing Silver Streak service to true BRT status, including signal preemption, bypass lanes, and offboard fare payment.

  • One of the things I like about London is that my transit pass worked for any services that were in the “Zones” I paid for. If I had bought a Zone 1-6 pass, basically all of Greater London, I could ride bus, light rail, heavy, rail, commuter rail, tram, etc. If you were riding commuter rail within the Zones you paid for, there was no extra fare.

    That hasn’t happened in NYC and is unlikely to happen here because of the drop in revenue for Metrolink.

    Calwatch, I absolutely agree that better bus service would be great, but don’t expect the SGV (or anywhere else) to cheer or go away quietly if you tell them, “we’re scrapping your rail project, but don’t worry, you’re getting better bus service.” I’ll lend you an umbrella to shield you from the tomatoes.

    This area now expects and insists on rail service and their local leaders have told them they deserve it. Even if it isn’t the best use of resources from textbook transportation planning purposes, no SGV politician can get away with opposing it.

    The only alternative that this area would “settle” for is another rail project.

  • @Albert: My comment was an observation of the blog, not of you personally. I suggest a thicker skin if you’re going to play in this arena.

  • But more Metrolink service during off peak hours is not the answer. The one place where Metrolink does need to add service, during peak hours, they can’t on the San Bernardino line because of the stretch of single track between El Monte and Union Station. I would like to take Metrolink to work, for example, but there’s an hour long gap between the 6 o’clock and 7 o’clock train. I’m not twiddling my thumbs for 45 minutes when I could get in my car and be home in that amount of time. More Metrolink trains on weekends and middays, which is where they would go without any capital improvements, are useless. And, it is very tricky to build an extra track down the middle of the 10 freeway. The Gold Line is not an ideal project, but Metrolink expansion has its own issues.

    By the way, what you are describing in London is the same model used in Philadelphia. A one zone bus and regional rail pass is $84 and the $10 day pass even can be used all day on regional rail! But SEPTA, despite its high urban transit fare (one of the first agencies to go to $2), perenially depends on Harrisburg to give it money.

  • “The one place where Metrolink does need to add service, during peak hours, they can’t on the San Bernardino line because of the stretch of single track between El Monte and Union Station.”

    —————

    Wouldn’t a two-track stretch between El Monte and Union Station be a critical transportation project, not just for people, but goods movement as well?

  • cph

    Yawn, yet more astroturf. Won’t be the first, won’t be the last.

    I don’t have a particular objection to the Foothill light rail (other than it should not have a greater prority than, say Phase 2 of Expo). But when proponents resort to tricks like this, it does make people think: “Is this project so important that we need to artificially prop it up”?

  • It would have nothing to do with goods movement, since there are only a handful of freight trains a week along the Metrolink San Bernardino Line right of way, which is owned by the SCRRA. Most freight trains use either the UP Alhambra or Los Angeles Subdivisions (as does the Metrolink Riverside Line) or the BNSF Transcon (like the Metrolink 91 Line). The problem with double tracking between El Monte and Union Station down the 10 freeway is that the track has to be moved to one side of the other, and there is no clear space, short of taking away a lane of traffic – which is already tight due to the congestion pricing program.

    The other suggestion that has been thrown about is to reroute some peak hour trains via the BNSF Alhambra Subdivision through San Gabriel, missing Cal State LA station. The problem with that is that is the length of the detour, and the fact that the track is not rated for the same speed as the Metrolink tracks down the middle of the 10 – I think top speed was 50 mph.

  • cph

    IF there was the money (and intestinal fortitude) for such a project, I would suggest replacing the current middle five lanes (2 carpool lanes, 2 carpool shoulders, and rail line) with a two-level structure–one level with carpool lanes (and bus stops?) the other with four tracks–two for Metrolink, and two for a light rail between LA and El Monte….

    It would really be a mess to build, though….

  • @Kymberleigh – your bias is quite obvious, so you will always find something to pick at. That’s something I’ve already accepted and have no problem with.

    Your claims that the Construction Authority has the most to gain financially is quite baffling, seeing as the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension CONSTRUCTION Authority’s only goal is to get the Foothill Extension CONSTRUCTED. Quite simple.

    Thank you for your opinions (which are just that).

    @Everyone – The blog was designed to get information out to the public because nobody else was doing it. The lack of transportation coverage for a region as large as the San Gabriel Valley was one of the main concerns that drove the creation of the blog. The Foothill Cities Blog is no longer up, and even when they were, they rarely actually covered transportation or anything outside a few cities along the 210.

    The Foothill Extension will never compete with the Subway to the Sea or the Expo Line on ridership – it’s been quite established and yet people bring it up like it’s brand new data we’ve never seen before. And also, there are no Foothill Extension supporters who are against the Subway or Expo. There is no reason why all these lines can’t be built. Measure R was passed with the intention of funding construction – which is our problem here. It can begin building the Foothill Extension next year while studying the Expo II, Crenshaw, Green Line, and Subway to the Sea. We’re all in this together (not to mention we’re all in this together in paying the sales tax) and as transit advocates we should all be looking out for one another. Metrolink is not an option so let’s take that off the table.

  • “Metrolink is not an option so let’s take that off the table.”

    ————-

    I certainly support your right to advocate for a project you believe in, but as a transit advocate I just cannot agree with you that Metrolink is not an option.

    Just because it is not your ‘preferred’ option, doesn’t not mean it is not an option.

  • Albert, how can you say “there are no Foothill Extension supporters who are against the Subway or Expo.” Antonovich, for one, regularly has decried the subway as taking funds that should go for the Foothill extension. As for we advocates who cite the projected ridership, this is to counterbalance the outrageous claims made by proponents about what the project would produce. cph makes the key point about the proponents using dubious numbers and employing advocacy methods that are very squint worthy that seemingly betray a lack of faith in the merit of the project being enough to justify it. Community support is important but doesn’t supplant actual need–posting a bunch of comment cards (or using public funds to transport crowds of proponents to meetings) is no substitute for producing technical analysis proving the value of the project. This seems a case of “If you don’t have the numbers, start yelling”. The financial incentive of the authority (it staff and the p.r. firm it has hired) to continually keep up the myth this project is shovel ready and is a regional priority is very clear. Some years ago I (and Kymberleigh) had dealings with the political elite of the San Gabriel Valley during the fight over the composition of the Metro Sector Governance Councils and I came away from the experience with a rather low regard for what seems a very dysfuncional political environment built on parochialism, fair share etc. The extension proponents seem to be following that well trod path.

  • Whatever happened to the old Silver Line project? Wouldn’t that have served some of the less affluent, heavier transit ridership areas between the two Gold Line extensions?

    The project had merit. I understand the funding difficulties, but did the advocates for this SGV project just fall off the face of the earth?

  • @Dan – The Silver Line is, I believe, proposed for inclusion in the Long Range Transportation Plan (which comes to the Metro Board for approval next month) as an unfunded project. What that means is, when everything on the “funded” list (which now includes the Measure R project list) has full-funding guarantees, the Silver Line would be among those projects considered for any funds that come in beyond that.

    @Albert – Yes, it is my opinion that the blog operated by the PR firm you work for, on behalf of the Construction Authority, is misleading. However, I have the advantage of expressing my opinion as a representative of a bona fide public transportation advocacy organization, whereas you express yours as an employee of the PR firm. Who gets the better credibility rating?

  • @Kymberleigh – “Who gets the better credibility rating?”
    We’re talking about a project in a region where you have not spoken to as many (or any at all) residents as I have. In the end, the residents – and not the politicians – are the ones who matter in regards to this project. As someone who has met with and spoken to a great number of these residents, I’m pretty sure I have more credibility than you here. Thanks for posting that question so I can answer it.

  • Actually Albert you condemn youself with comments about the excitement among residents. It hasn’t happened by accident. The Authority has spent a great deal of money (including hiring the folks who employ you) to foster a frenzy based on the impression the project is within inches of a groundbreaking. This approach didn’t work over a decade ago in the Crenshaw corridor, and it won’t work here. And I find such tactics distasteful, falely raising hopes via manipulative empty boosterism.

    I am going for free to offer a suggestion if the advocates of this project really want to get some traction–they should be strong supporters of the regional connector. First because that would let them build alliances with downtown interests to help the Foothill Extension overcome the perception it is only being boosted by corridor electeds etc. The connector would if built also I think do a lot to boost the projected ridership of the the Foothill Extension since at that point it would be based on a one seat ride to Long Beach (and connections to the westside via the Expo Line shared stops). That would be the savvy move to make the project happen.

    BTW, I have always been a strong supporters of the ACE project–which has a legitmate claim of being a national priority. That is what the SGV powers should be putting their support behind, instead of the Foothill Extension.

    http://www.theaceproject.org/

  • @Dana – actually the excitement among the residents was a result of the legal requirement of any builder/developer to notify the surrounding communities of upcoming projects.

    Once again, I have spoken to these communities and residents. You haven’t. I don’t get where you have the right to speak for them.

  • Albert, I never claimed to speak for the residents. The attempt at raising a strawman against me is fairly laughable. I am merely asking hard questions and debunking some of the claims being made. And by the way, as a taxpayer I think I have every right to do so. Oh, please–“the legal requirement” doesn’t mean holding pep rallies and raising unreasonable expectations with exaggerated claims. I know transportation planning processes inside and out, and don’t buy this claim of a “spontaneous” outpouring of support. This thing reeks of astroturf.

    As I have said before, the extension will reach Azusa sometime in the next decade but despite instead of because of the efforts of its proponents.

  • According to this pic, Metrolink plans on double-tracking their San Bernadino corridor by 2030. So, I guess they believe it can be done.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v205/coachocd/3590078257_a2c0670450_b.jpg

  • If “I Will Ride” is truly a PR blog and not an editorial blog that is a big deal and is very unethicial and it should be stated on the blog. I’m going to look into that Kymberleigh. Thanks for bringing that up. To me I am very tired of the well funded blogosphere pretending to be grass roots. I’m tired of PR companies pretending to be editorial.

    Browne

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