Gold Line Foothill Extension Will Be First Measure R Rail Project to Begin Construction

3_25_10_travelin.jpgMetro Board Chair Ara Najarian at a Gold Line Foothill Extension Rally last year.
Photo: Lisa Newton/Travelin Local

"Metro
Board unanimously approves funding and master cooperative agreement.
Gold Line Foothill Extension set to break ground in June!!" may be the tweet heard round the San Gabriel Valley, as Albert Ho of I Will Ride announced that the Metro Board of Directors approved the construction plan for the Foothill Extension.  The first shovel will go in the ground in June; meaning the Foothill Extension, not Expo Phase II, the Subway to the Sea nor the Regional Connector, will be the first Measure R rail project to begin construction.  Thanks to commenter Dennis Hindman for reminding me that the Orange Line extension already broke ground.

The Source has more details of what this means:

The funding agreement spells out details over how Metro will
transfer up to $810 million in Measure R sales tax money and other
funds to the Foothill Extension Gold Line Construction Authority,
the agency building the line that Metro will operate when complete.
Stations will be in Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa,
which will have two stops…

…The agreement includes a process to resolve any disputes between the
Construction Authority and Metro over how the line is constructed.
That’s been a big point of negotiations the past few weeks. The
agreement also allows the city of Monrovia to move forward on acquiring
property needed for a rail car maintenance yard along the line.

It is important to note that the agreement does not fund
construction of the second phase of the Foothill Extension, which is
planned to run from Azusa to Montclair or the third phase from
Montclair to Ontario airport.

 After years of bad blood between San Gabriel Valley politicians and the majority of the Metro Board over construction of the line, many elected leaders from the SGV opposed Measure R and the Long Range Transportation Plan.  However, there was no sign of that acrimony today, the CEO’s for both Metro and the Gold Line Foothill Extension even released a joint statement praising the process.

  • I am hopeful this will produce a significant ridership boost because the Gold Line will now have enough route miles to be an alternative for longer distance commuters. This is what happened when the Red Line was extended to North Hollywood – upon its opening immediately subway ridership DOUBLED.

    The extension includes a full sized yard for the Gold Line, whose current cramped facility is woefully inadequate. The great irony of vehement Measure R opponents being among the first to benefit from it isn’t lost on many of us. Just another manifestation of the weird politics of this region.

  • spokker

    I’ve never seen a region more into getting a light rail line. It is what it is, but Congrats to the SGV.

  • David Galvan

    Good thing Measure R passed.

    (Yes I take every chance I can to say that.)

    Sorry you lost the battle to shoot down Measure R, SGV. Oh well. Things could be worse, right?

  • The Orange Line extension is the first Measure R project to begin construction. It got the OK in January 2009 and the businesses along it’s route on Canoga Ave are just finishing up moving. A parking lot at the Metro Link station in Chatsworth was the first project completed for this extension.

    The total cost of constructing what will be a 18 mile Orange Line bus rapid transit system is considerably less than the Foothil extension of the Gold Line. The Orange Line costs about a third of what a light rail system costs per mile. Does a light rail system get three times the passenger boardings of a BRT?

    BRT’s are frequently overlooked and underappreciated.

  • Thanks Dennis. Had a brain freeze.

  • Joseph E

    “Does a light rail system get three times the passenger boardings of a BRT?”

    Sometimes. The Orange Line BRT has about 25,000 riders per day, or 1,800 per mile per day. The Blue Line Light Rail gets 80,000 riders per day, or 3600 per mile, about twice as much per mile, and over 3 times as much over-all. However, overall, Los Angeles’s light rail lines get about 2,300 riders per mile, according to Wikipedia.

    On the other hand, Houston’s light rail system gets almost 4000 riders per mile per day overall, and Boston’s lines get 8500 per mile, over 4 times as many riders as the Orange Line.

    The Orange Line is also at capacity in rush hour, while our light rail lines have lots of room to expand by running trains twice or three times as frequently, doubling or tripling capacity. The Orange Line is unlikely to be able to grow ridership much more without an upgrade to light rail.

    Now, on the other hand, I think all the Metro Rapid routes could be upgraded to “real” BRT (with signal priority, exclusive lanes, nice stations and proof-of-payment) the cost of one new rail line. That would be a great deal. But we shouldn’t necessarily build BRT in a corridor that will need the extra capacity of light rail, like has happened with the Orange line.

  • On opening day, October 28th 2005, over 83,000 people rode the Orange Line. With last months ridership of about 23,000 average per weekday the Orange Line is well short of capacity. Obviously you would have to add more buses that pick up passengers more frequently as the ridership increases.

    Contrast that with the opening day ridership on the eastside Gold Line extension of 75,000 on November 15th, 2009. Less passengers than the opening day of the Orange Line BRT. Obviously the Orange Line on opening day had more drivers and buses available than is the case on a normal day.

    Some advantages of BRT lines over rail are initial cost, much faster installation and the buses can be redirected onto another roadway when there are obstructions or a more direct route can be created with less frequent stops when passenger load is sufficient.

    By far the two highest passenger counts for stops along the Orange Line are Van Nuys Blvd and the North Hollywood subway. So Metro cleverly added the 902 bus line that picks up passengers at the North Hollywood subway station, then travels parallel to the Orange Line just north on Burbank Blvd bus and only making stops at Valley College and Van Nuys Blvd before becoming a frequent stop bus line going north on Van Nuys Blvd. This is faster and a more direct route for Van Nuys passengers than if there is only a Orange Line BRT or light rail drop off point for them on Van Nuys Blvd.

    Metro is redistributing the bus passenger load by adding the 902 line and can counter some of the added cost by reducing the frequency of trips of the Orange line. The much higher costs of building a light rail line makes it far less likely that a 902 type line could be made.

    For the amount of money that Metro is spending on light rail they could have instead build bus rapid transit lines and then had money left over for repairing roads, building parks and painting bike lanes throughout Los Angeles County.

    s

  • Jerard

    “Some advantages of BRT lines over rail are initial cost, much faster installation and the buses can be redirected onto another roadway when there are obstructions or a more direct route can be created with less frequent stops when passenger load is sufficient.”

    Here’s a question to ponder, How come the 902 DOESN’T use the Orange Line Busway for this operation of service when clearly that is one of the advantages of BRT and busways.

    “For the amount of money that Metro is spending on light rail they could have instead built bus rapid transit lines and then had money left over for repairing roads, building parks and painting bike lanes throughout Los Angeles County.”

    Building more BRT would costs more dollars to operate BRT services because 60 foot buses have a smaller finite loading capacity compared to a LRT.

  • Mr. Handman, during opening weekend the city of L.A. made allowances for the line that it would NEVER continance on a regular basis (you gotta love those LADOT traffic engineers!) unless the Orange Line was grade separated. At that point it would be able to have the capacity you imply but at the cost of hundreds of millions more than what the region has already invested in this corridor (which so far stands at about $400 million, including the acquisition of the right of way).

    There are no other available rights of way for additional busways that I am aware of, and BRT enhancements are very hard to get the jurisdictions to approve.

    This region has has BRT style service in most major corridors as part of an emerging grid of such services during the past decade–it is call Metro Rapid. It has been celebrated and lauded, not “overlooked and underappreciated”. I just wish we could get bus lanes and other improvements that would make the Rapids even better.

    BTW, by all reports the 902 is a giant fiasco mostly seeing empty buses between North Hollywood and Van Nuys Bl. I also expect the extension to Chatsworth to have pitiful ridership.

  • Yesh, I meant Mr. Hindman.

  • Nick V

    The Orange Line – needs to be rail. Also, it needs a better connection to the Red Line at North Hollywood- (like the blue line and red line at 7th and Metro) Speaking from experience the Orange Line is way too cramped at rush hour to get the people that own cars out of their cars and onto the bus. I tried it for about 4 months and the sardine like atmosphere, no leg room and the jerking nature of drivers speeding up or slowing down made the trip uncomfortable. Light rail, heavy rail or commuter rail is the only way that you will get the “middle class” onto transit. I wanted to love the Orange line because it was a five min walk from my house but was envious of the more spacious light rail cars on the gold line, etc. Keep building rail MTA – more heavy rail as well!

  • Eric B

    It’s not really a debate about BRT versus LRT or HRT. All of them serve their purposes within a network. Transportation systems that concentrate mobility along a spine (versus a diffuse grid) inevitably have capacity issues. The road system is analogous where arterial grids spread traffic out while freeways concentrate it along a narrow corridor. The difference is that public transportation modes can generally accommodate this capacity through (more expensive) technologies like HRT. However, even these systems have their theoretical capacity, as anyone in DC during the inauguration can attest.

    BRT along arterials, at half-mile to mile spacing, is a perfect application of the technology. Metro Rapid lines ought to get dedicated lanes and absolute signal priority in their corridors.

    LRT is great for relatively low-density corridors with feeder service, such as the Expo Line, Blue Line, and yes, the Orange Line. The flexibility to be at grade or grade-separated makes the technology more cost-effective and flexible.

    HRT is needed when LRT would provide inadequate capacity and total grade separation is necessary (for speed and frequency).

    I like the fact that Metro has both a feeder-rail network and a rapid grid system, providing the rider with maximum flexibility depending on the specific trip. These systems should be understood as two separate beasts that must cooperation, but by all means develop each for its strengths. The problem arises when BRT advocates sell the technology as rail on the cheap. It’s a fabulous technology, but only when applied in the right way.

  • I agree, the 902 bus should run along the busway as well. You could also have a bus that turned off at Sepulveda, and one that turned off at Reseda Blvd. Chatsworth/Canoga Park is already going to get the Canoga Avenue extension. Yes, the busway would get super-congested between NoHo and Van Nuys Blvd., but that’s where the majority of the ridership is anyway.

  • This could get confusing, but you’re going to get multiple routes on there in about 3 years anyway…the bus that goes to Chatsworth and the one that goes to Warner Center. I would assume the Warner Center would be Route 901 and the Chatsworth would be 903? 904?

    Once you’ve opened up that can of worms, why add two or three more routes along the most heavily used north-south corridors?

  • “Speaking from experience the Orange Line is way too cramped at rush hour to get the people that own cars out of their cars and onto the bus.”

    Ah yes, the classic “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”.

    Easiest way for the orange line to increase capacity would be to use biarticulated buses. They already use 65 foot buses, they could apply for another waiver to use 90 foot ones.

  • Manu

    at Dennis Hindman

    “This is faster and a more direct route for Van Nuys passengers…”

    No its not. This 902 bus is not faster. I travel along the Orage line every day and this bus takes about much longer. Especially with the time that it takes to get out of the NoHo bus hub. Plus all the red lights.

  • Tony

    The 902 is just as fast or faster than the Orange Line on the Van Nuys to North Hollywood segment, but on Van Nuys Boulevard, it’s just as fast or somewhat faster than the 233 due to the better acceleration of the NABI Metro 45C buses, but still slower than the Metro Rapid 761 in the evening. My daily commute takes me from the border of Arleta/Panorama City/Mission Hills to East Hollywood/Los Feliz and I used to ride the 761 & Orange Line. For the morning commute, I take the 902 and leave the house at the same time as I would with the 761/OL combo and still make it to the same Red Line departure, at some times, more reliably than the 761/OL combo due to the 761 itself being at capacity and missing the last OL connection to my preferred Red Line departure. Also, the fact that the 902 can run in mixed traffic on Burbank as fast as the Orange Line tells you about how well the Orange Line’s traffic signal priority is setup. It must be true that the LADOT favors moving cars (and somewhat nonstop buses like the 902) if the Orange Line can’t run faster on its own ROW. I would like to see both the 761 and Orange Line’s reliability fixed before eliminating the 902, because that’s the best the Van Nuys corridor will get in lieu of not having urban rail expanded in the SFV, be it an Orange Line light rail or what was suppose to be the Red Line running as far as Sepulveda station.

  • cph

    Eventually the Orange Line should be upgraded to LRT. This could be done in phases, going only as far as Sepulveda for Phase I, then finishing it up to Warner Center/Chatsworth for Phase II.

    I think the extended Gold Line will do well, at least for people traveling to Pasadena. Longer trips (east of Pasadena to Los Angeles) may be somewhat less likely, due to the (perceived) slowness of the Gold Line through Highland Park. Of course, the Downtown Connector will help both arms of the Gold Line quite a bit (no more annoying transfer to the Red Line downtown).

  • Manu

    Here is a suggestion: What if there was an added stop on the Gold Line at Dodger Stadium. This would increase the ridership substantially. Especially since Frank McCourt has plans (before divorce started) to add entertainment, housing and possibly a football stadium at Chavez ravine. The Gold Line would have to be re-routed from the Lincoln Heights / Cypress Park Station ‎ towards the Stadium and back to Chinatown station. This stop would be very beneficial, increase ridership, and correct the overestimated ridership numbers by the MTA when the Gold Line was first built.

    And please, don’t make the argument that an extra station is not worth the cost just for an extra 81 game a year. For this reason I listed other possibilities for ridership and its benefits:

    • This stop would reduce the traffic on game days which would benefit the fans and the Dodger organization (fans won’t be late and leave early).
    • There will be less cars on the freeways/streets around Dodger stadium, which would benefit the other drivers and residents
    • There is plans to develop Chavez ravine into a City Walk type venue.
    • Plans to add housing.
    • Other non-sporting events, i.e. concerts, religious events (Joel Osteen coming in April expected sellout)
    • Other non-Dodgers sporting events; i.e. LA Marathon, World Baseball Classic (L.A. being so diverse it is likely that Dodger stadium will get some games during the WBC, MLB All star game, possibly (if Frank can pull it off.) an NFL stadium.
    • If Football stadium is built, potential soccer games.

    The more I look at this list, the more a station at the ravine makes sense.

  • jk

    The Gold Line is a failure twice over. I like that train, but, reality isn’t kind: it was originally defunded because ridership was expected to be too low. Today, ridership has been low. The Eastside line was originally the Red Line and was to run near Whittier, where transit use is common. Due to lack of funding, the Gold Line runs along 3rd, where people use the bus less, and consequently, the ridership is low.

    Meanwhile, you look at the buses around East LA, and there are passengers. More than once I’ve seen the train nearly empty while buses had passengers. The 720 line is still jammed with people commuting from Beverly Hills to East LA each night, and the other direction each morning.

    The Foothill extension will be another boondoggle. Ridership will be low.

    The reason is simple: politics are winning out over public needs, over and over and over.

    @jass – LOL. If the bus is crowded, it’s doing its job. Add more buses. Conversely, if the train is comfortable, like the Gold Line has been, it means that the ridership is too low to justify its existence. Too bad you can’t get a refund on a train system.

    @manu – http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/ballpark/dodger_trolley.jsp

  • @ jk

    I don’t think the Gold Line is a failure. Of course I’d like to see more ridership on it as well, but I think you have to step back and look at a few things.

    1) The Gold Line has spawned several transit oriented developments, which if they were a more widespread pattern of development would increase transit ridership substantially and prevent lots of sprawl

    2) The Gold Line has been a key factor in the revitalization of Old Town Pasadena, which is one of the most interesting shopping streets in the entire region.

    3) The Gold Line is just getting started. The GLESE just opened and will eventually be extended and the regional connector hasn’t opened yet.

    This region is going to continue to grow. We basically have a choice between building more roads and car-dependant sprawl or leveraging transit investments like the Gold Line to build more dense, mixed-use development that allows people to walk and take transit, and could help to put thinks in biking distance. This development pattern also opens up the door to more affordable housing in the sense that housing is a commodity traded in a market and if you don’t increase the supply it will continue to rise in cost in the face of increasing demand.

  • jk

    Old Pasadena was busy before the Gold Line was in. I don’t go there anymore, but did back around 1995, and, it was already a popular development back then. When I lived near it, and worked in it, around 1999, it was crowded. People drove to Old Pas, and clogged the streets leading to it. It’s still happening.

    (Also, Old Pas isn’t a city. It’s a big shopping mall.)

    On the LA side of the GL, population densities are already high. Some areas are not just transit oriented – they are transit dependent. The neighborhoods lack adequate parking spaces; many homes lack driveways and garages, and many lots have a granny flat / casita in back. The risk is that gentrification will wipe out these dense communities with a TOD.

    When I see the TOD in Boyle Heights, I see lower density than was there before. I see garages for cars. I see people displaced… and scattered to the nearby suburbs or farther out to areas well out of reach of the trains and their extensions.

    Viewed through the lens of politics and class conflict, the train is the same as sprawl in many ways.

  • Well, if a TOD reduces density and has a ton of parking, that’s inept planning. I don’t think it reflects badly on the idea of increasing density near transit. Some people will have to be displaced for that to happen, but it’s for the common good.

    The Gold Line is not the only factor in the revival of Old Town Pasadena (the parking garages are frequently cited), but I think it’s fair to say that it helps. I certainly didn’t go there before the Gold Line was built.

    With regard to gentrification, it’s not a bad thing in moderation. Old housing wears out and periodically needs to be replaced. The key is not to wipe out an entire neighborhood, but to rebuild piece by piece slowly over time. I believe in neighborhoods with a mix of income levels, which means the rich go into poor neighborhoods and the poor go into rich neighborhoods (although admittedly, the former happens more often than the latter).

  • Matt

    Manu,

    I think the best solution would be to add a funicular or tram from the Chinatown Station directly to Dodger Stadium. As the crow flies, this distance is not very far (I want to say around a 1/3 of a mile or so), but it is uphill quite a bit.

    This way the funicular or tram would only have to be operated when there is demand and you wouldn’t have to reroute the entire line, which is unrealistic and hugely expensive and will result is slower times overall for the Gold Line, which can’t handle slower times and the loss of ridership that goes with them.

    The problem is that the Dodgers don’t even want to fund the shuttle from Union Station. I doubt they would pony up any for this tram as they are taking $15 a pop in parking. Chinatown businesses would be a big beneficiary of this so maybe you could get some support from this community.

  • jk

    The situation around Pueblo del Sol and the old Aliso Village is that the projects were torn down to create new projects. They kicked out gangsters and their relatives, and gave housing subsidies to the non-affiliated. The new housing was lower density, and more suburban-looking: detached houses, garages, little yards, and some townhouses. Many units were sold, and are owner-occupied.

    So, that’s an early TOD in LA. Lower density, gentrified, more car-friendly, and located next to the train station.

    I’ve only heard anecdotally that the evicted gangsters just moved into the surrounding community.

    The people going to Old Pas before the train was built were mostly suburbanites who’d have to cross downtown to get to Hollywood or the westside. The 10 and 101 were a pain on weekends, and getting to Pas on surface streets was just as quick.

    The poor always go into rich(er) neighborhoods… to shop. The did in Old Pas – I certainly could not afford to live in the Arroyo… but Northwest Pas was within reach.

    Lately, the not-quite-poor of LA have been moving into the formerly “rich” middle-class neighborhoods in different suburbs like Downey and up in the SF Valley, as well as Lancaster/Palmdale and the Inland Empire. They’re being pushed out by gentrification, and pulled by the lure of lower rents or a house they can afford (and isn’t a total tenement).

    Incidentally, I have heard, again anecdotally, that the big plan is to give gangsters and relatives vouchers to move to the desert communities. Then the housing projects can be turned into condos and TODs.

    That way, they’re far away from any trains that might get them back into the city (which is now defined as the city center and all areas accesible by train).

  • mark j

    Once the next segment of the Gold is open, you gain a 3rd market.. Primary seems to be Pasadena to LAUS, secondary is some of the in between stops.. Now you will have eastern points to Pasadena proper.. And of course, the downtown connector helps all of this..
    -Noticed the Gold line ridership in January was 28,227 and the Green was 35,536 weekend. Gold is catching up.. In fact the Saturdy and Sunday ridership on the Gold is higer than the Green =
    Green Saturday 20, 636 Gold 22,974
    Green Sunday 17,893 Gold 22,668
    Gold has more points of interest which I think has alot to do with this and I believe these figures now include teh ELA extention (?)

    I like the idea of the other post… A short monorail (like at the Getty), sky bucket type ride or a finicular from Chinatown up to Dodger Stadium would be a great idea.. If you could set up a view overlook from the rim looking out over all of LA, you could run this whether the Dodgers are home or not as a tourist attraction.. Great idea !!!

  • BRT is utterly inadequate for the transit needs of Los Angeles’ future.

    The Orange Line should have been built as light rail from the beginning.

    The San Fernando Valley should be at least as motivated to upgrade the Orange Line to light rail as the San Gabriel Valley is to extend the Gold Line to Montclair.

    Part of the problem is that our Congressional, state legislative and county Supervisoral districts are too large and the south San Fernando Valley is represented by politicians who’s bases of support are on the Westside.

    If the Valley got its political act together, and got its politicos on the same unified page as the bipartisan San Gabriel Valley push for the Gold Line extensions, it could get the Orange Line upgraded to the light rail it should be and the north-south Sepulveda Pass project connecting LAX and the Westside to the San Fernando Valley and Metrolink much quicker.

  • jk

    Gold Line goes to Old Pas. That probably boosts weekend ridership.

    Green Line goes toward LAX, but not quite (which is a huge failure). It also goes through some areas where people work.

    The Gold Line may gain ridership if the cities develop more industry along the line – workers from East LA can then work along the train route.

    Then, Old Pas and that nearby mall can become some weird realization of New Urbanism, where not many people live that close to work, but, people live above stores and ride in trains to work.

  • Yuri

    @jk: I don’t understand what your criteria is for calling the Gold Line a double failure. Its daily ridership per mile is about as good as the Philadelphia average, in the midrange for US light rail. If its ridership were in the neighborhood of the Santa Clara VTA, I could see justification for being disappointed. The pessimism isn’t supported by the numbers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_light_rail_systems_by_ridership

    @Matt: I like your idea of a tram from Chinatown to Dodger stadium. It seems like the simplest and most cost effective solution, like a modern version of Angel’s Flight.

  • jk

    @yuri: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_County_Metropolitan_Transportation_Authority

    Ridership is low compared to other train lines in Los Angeles.

    The Blue and Red lines are keeping those good MTA stats up.

    Don’t get me wrong – I like the train, ride it, and ride the bus sometimes as well. I’m not a BRU advocate who’s against trains. I’m just saying – we have to create the political pressure to deploy the rails by need, not by politics.

    I think the most cost effective way to get people from the train to the stadium is by bus. The streets of Chinatown are narrow and hilly. Crossing the freeway is daunting. Also, they might not be safe at night. The MTA has an express bus from Union Station to the stadium and it runs along Sunset.

    http://www.metro.net/around/dodger-stadium-express/

  • Yuri

    @jk: You can’t compare the Red Line to the Gold Line, they are different types of rail lines. The Blue Line has the 2nd highest light rail ridership in the nation. It would be great if all the LRTs had ridership like that, but like I said the Gold Line ridership is at about the national average. So, it is no way a “failure”.

    I haven’t ridden the Dodger shuttle, but as I understand it, it doesn’t have a dedicated bus lane so it gets stuck in the automobile traffic. If you wanted to efficiently move thousands of people, it would be better to have a tram to Chinatown where then people could connect with the Gold Line.

  • The Regional Connector is going to have a dramatic effect on Gold Line ridership when it is finished.

  • jk

    I hope it increases the ridership drastically. Then I won’t feel so bad about the money spent :)

    Getting people to Dodger Stadium from either Chinatown or Union Station is going to have to be an incremental thing. For one, many people go to the games from areas not served by a train.

    Secondarily, they might also add a shuttle from the Vermont/Sunset Red Line station.

  • savvysearch

    Light rail doesn’t work over such long distances. They need to make it into a commuter rail. Otherwise we’re talking about going snail’s pace to get to LA from SG.

  • Manu

    @ savvysearch

    Maybe in the future they will consider an express line. One the will skip severals stops. I know that they had that on the current Gold Line and it was canceled, I just don’t know if it was due to the lack of ridership.

  • It all depends on what it means for a light rail line to “work.” If you’re going by weird definitions like “gets high ridership,” then no, it doesn’t work at those distances and never will. Neither will the Gold Line, whose construction cost per weekday boarding is embarrassing.

    However, most US transit planners use the more conventional definition, where a rail line works if it acts as a loss leader helping developers make profits on condos and shopping centers. By that definition, building light rail to the exurbs is a resounding success, while extending the subway to East LA’s main commercial corridor is a low priority.

  • jk

    ^5 Alon. U R so R8.

    I concede that I’ve lost this debate, and my entire position.

    In fact, my argument was lost long before my fingers hit the keys.

    The Gold Line boosters win.

    It’ll be borne out when property values in a few spots in East LA rise. Sorry gentrifying investors, I ain’t gonna tell you where they are.

  • William Korthof

    Ridership on both segments of the Gold Line is affected by the line’s design defects. Consider flaws like that crawl through Highland Park and the new swerve over the 101. The trip time from Union Station to both end points could have been 5-10 minutes faster, and that would have attracted a lot more riders lowering operating costs. Even so, the line’s ridership is respectable.

    Extensions on both ends of the gold line will make the line attractive to far more riders. The foothill extension has a dedicated right-of-way past Montclair, so it will be quick and competitive with driving.

    I can’t believe that some transit advocates were arguing *against* the foothill extension—this route has unanimous support in the corridor and will attract high ridership when completed to Montclair.

    Blue line ridership is high, yet the route does have it’s own problems: slowness at both ends, making the line unattractive for end-to-end rides.
    Also, many of the Downtown LA trip end points are not along Figeroa and could be better reached if the blue line continued directly north through LA toward Union Station (roughly parallel Alameda street).

    /wk

  • Manu–for the express service to work Metro would have had to make significant upgrades including numerous passing tracks. Caltrain did that for the baby bullets, spending $100 million in the process. That kind of money for an existing line we don’t have.

    William Korthof–“has unanimous support in the corridor and will attract high ridership” We don’t invest transportation funds based on who shouts the loudest. Especially when the numbers don’t back it up. Your assertion about ridership doesn’t jibe with the projected ridership even by the Authority. I think I have a strong reason for questioning the extension given the pitiful numbers. An Alameda branch of the Blue Line would actually be remote from most of downtown. The Regional Connector would be more useful in that regard.

  • William, I think your bar for respectable ridership is low. Light rail lines routinely get six-figure daily ridership levels; the 30,000 the Gold Line gets would be grounds for planner resignation in countries with more personal responsibility. In this context it’s weird that you’re attacking the Blue Line, which gets more than twice the Gold Line’s ridership.

    The community support is a real argument only if you think in terms of development-oriented transit. DOT is all about drawing lines on a map in order to make room for yuppie amenities. It’s effectively about turning transit into a loss leader for private profits. But if you want transit to work in terms of transportation, then concerns like cost and ridership come into play. Even pro-highway politicians lambasted the Bridge to Nowhere; similarly, pro-transit activists should learn to oppose boondoggles like the Gold Line extensions.

  • Spokker

    Pro-transit activists did oppose it, but what are you going to do once dirt starts flying? As far as this advocate is concerned, I’m not as rabid as a tea partier and I’m not going to beat a dead horse about the Gold Line.

  • Yuri

    Alon, I’m interested in what range you deem low/acceptable/high for construction costs per weekday rider for US light rail. To keep it simple let’s leave other countries out of this discussion for now. I calculate that the Gold Line has currently 1549 riders/mile. The current US light rail median is the San Diego Trolley at 1740 riders/mile, so based on ridership the Gold Line is not doing so bad. Let’s say the construction cost have been $100M/mile (I don’t have the exact figure, but I’m sure it’s less than the Seattle Link’s $179M/mile). That would mean that the capital cost per rider is $64558.

  • Yuri: the capital cost per rider on the Gold Line was about $60,000 per weekday rider, according to Metro’s Facts at a Glance. This is extremely high even by US standards. Multiple systems in the US have come under $20,000/rider, including Sacramento, San Diego, and Denver, and none that I know of has gone over $50,000.

    What I deem to be acceptable for light rail, at the margin, is $20,000. But that’s because I don’t leave other countries out of the discussion. Calgary’s light rail cost $2,400 per weekday rider; Vancouver’s fully automated, fully grade-separated rapid transit cost a little more than $10,000 per weekday rider. I’d say that for light rail, low is under $6,000.

  • Yuri

    We should get the Canadians to build our rail lines, they seem to be doing something right.

  • jk

    How does Canada achieve such low costs? Do they just workers and build all the time? Do the workers make less money?

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