Measure R Rail Projects Underway: Ground Is Broken for Foothill Extension

6_28_10_iwillride.jpgFrom the groundbreaking’s pamphlet, which can be found here. h/t I Will Ride

This weekend wasn’t just a good one for cyclists.  On Saturday, while I was still sleeping off Critical Mass, groundbreaking occurred for the Gold Line Foothill Extension in the San Gabriel Valley.  The rail line was always a popular project with Valley residents, but until Measure R was passed, a measure opposed by several prominent politicians in the area, funding for the project was not approved.  Now, with cash in hand and shovels in the ground, officials are predicting the extension will open in 2014, before the Expo Line will be completed all the way in to Santa Monica. 

Anyone who wants to know more about the specifics of the project should read this excellent "Q and A" written for The Source by Steve Hymon.

Reports on the ground breaking describe an event that was equal part celebration and pep rally.  The Source quotes Metro Board Chair Ara Najarian proclaiming that, "This whole county is going to change."  Later, Congressman Adam Schiff put in a plug for the a third extension (as in the one after the next one,) promising, "None of us will rest until this line goes to Ontario Airport."

But of course, it’s not just transit hungry residents that are the winners.  While it’s great that residents of Azusa can take a train to Mariachi Plaza if they want to; the creation and construction of this line will also determine how the San Gabriel Valley will grow.  On Saturday, The Times wrote an article all about the T.O.D. plans for line, including details of an ambitious project already on the "drawing board" in Azusa:

Monrovia’s proposed Station Square project would rise next to the
future site of its Gold Line station, just south of the 210 Freeway.
Monrovia has already invested $30 million into the project and is
negotiating public-private partnerships with multiple commercial real
estate developers, Monrovia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz said…

…The project’s first phase will include approximately 700 apartment
units, 450,000 square feet of office space, and 30,000 square feet of
retail space, according to Blaine Fetter, the Principal/Organizer at
Samuelson & Fetter. Some of those apartments and offices will be
completed by the time the train begins operation in 2014, he said.

How quickly and intelligently those development projects are constructed will have much to do with the success of the line.  If pedestrian-friendly, truly transit-oriented developments are built, the car-culture that has had a strangle hold on Valley developments might finally be eased.  If the rail line is used to justify new development, but little effort is put into making sure the new apartments and retail blend with and support the transit; then extension or not, it will be business as usual.

But for this week, the theme is celebrating the beginning of the construction of the Measure R projects.  "The whole county is going to change."  Let’s just make certain that the change is more than worth the cost.

  • Spokker

    The SGV wanted it so bad, so I hope they ride the goddamn thing when it’s finally open.

  • Dont all these new lines require new trains? I dont remember reading anything about a train order.

  • Joseph E

    Metro keeps putting off the decision to buy new trains (“trainsets” in light-rail-speak). Previously the Mayor of a certain very large city wanted Metro to pick an Italian manufacturer, Breda, which has “promised” to build a train factory in the central city. However, the deal fell thru, to the great relief of many transit advocates, who note that Breda has often made promises it was not able (or willing) to keep. Now the trains are supposed to go out to bid again in a month or two. They had better be built fast this time!

  • Joseph E

    This is a big deal for the northern end of the San Gabriel Valley. The cities served by this extension are the most suburban place to get Metro rail service, and the spacing between stations (from 1.5 up to 3.5 miles) is more like suburban Metrolink service than what is though of light rail. However, if the cities continue their focus on development around each station (generally, there is 1 station per suburb), and Pasadena continues to grow as a job and shopping center, this train could prove very useful for locals.

    It will be a 35 minute trip to Downtown LA from the first new station in central Arcadia, 15 minutes faster than the current express buses, and up to 15 minutes faster than driving in rush-hour traffic (according to Google), so even trips all the way to Downtown will be faster by train, at least from points close to the stations.

  • This line was always politically inevitable.

    I just wish the San Gabriel Valley would get as excited about the idea of double tracking Metrolink on the San Bernadino Line. That has real potential too.

  • Spokker

    Sierra Madre Villa Station has a large catchment area, evidenced by the fact that it’s behemoth parking structure fills up early each morning. No doubt some riders are driving from East of Sierra Madre, and will certainly use the new stations instead. Hopefully this will entice NEW riders to use the line who were put off by the lack of parking at Sierra Madre.

    TOD has potential in the long run, but in the short run these stations will need lots of free parking.

  • Carter R

    @Joseph E

    It’s not as relevent to the first segment, as it is to when the Gold Line makes it out to Montclair/Pomona.

    But it’s important to remember the time savings of the Gold Line versus Metro Link too.

    Metrolink, which takes about 55 minutes to get from Montclair to Union Station, only comes about every 2 hours off-peak, whereas the Gold Line would come every 15 minutes or so.

    Though the Gold Line would take a little longer from Montclair (predictions of about 75 minute trip), it would make up for it by being more useful and convenient, because the average person wouldn’t have to plan their entire day around when the train comes.

    Here’s the great post from Jarrett Walker at Human Transit from whose analysis I’ve borrowed liberally here. It deals specifically with the Gold Line in the SGV.

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/03/illusions-of-travel-time-in-transit-promotion.html

  • Spokker

    The San Bernardino Line has close to hourly service on weekdays all day. Look at the schedule here: http://www.metrolinktrains.com/schedules/html.php?id=984

    They just took out a couple round-trips though due to the state budget crunch.

  • Joseph E

    @Carter R,
    I understand the value of frequent and reliable service; I think that’s why people are excited about this, and did not want Metrolink on the same corridor.

    But there is no reason Metrolink could not run trains every 15 minutes if it had 2 tracks most of the way. Even with short one-track segments 4 trains per hour is not unimaginable, and with two tracks the whole way Metrolink could also choose to run limited-stop or express trains from points farther east.

    Metro tickets are still only $1.50, compared to higher Metrolink prices, but the price disparity is largely a result of different political structures. Metro should probably charge $5 one way from Long Beach to Los Angeles, but charge only $1 for short hops. If the TAP card system is every fully implemented, we may see that sort of fairer pricing, which will make Metrolink more integrated with the rest of the transit system

  • Spokker

    If Metrolink wants to run 4 trains per hour all day they could invest in FRA-compliant DMUs that are less expensive to operate than the behemoths they send down the tracks now. No way are you going to fill up a current Metrolink train in the middle of the day.

    The Long Island Railroad was thinking about DMUs for some branch lines.

  • Spokker

    Imagine something like this rolling on the San Bernardino Line: http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=61523&nseq=11

  • Re: Those FRA-compliant DMUs: I more-or-less TTIAGI but I RHNIWYA talking about. Always DMUs follow TLA rules, whether FRA-compliant or JRDMUs, no? If YWTPTUWYTA the ASOTATFTYUI!

  • Diesel Mobile Units (DMUs) are an interesting idea, although after seeing the Sprinters in north San Diego County (done with a bloated budget, noisy and achingly slow at best versus the express buses they replaced) I would hope we find out what NCTD did wrong before we undertake that technology.

    From the start the folks out there have been adament light rail or nothing. Especially they seem hell bent to not have Metrolink.

    “Hooray, despite ourselves it’ll go to at least Azusa”.

  • Spokker

    The UK has had a good experience with DMUs. We would operate something like what they have except with low-floor boarding and an FRA-compliant build.

    Unless Metrolink wants to try for an FRA waiver. Perhaps they could pull it off if they install PTC on that line.

  • Erik G.

    I’ll be very surprised if the Gold Line ever goes east of LaVerne/North Pomona.

    Why? Because east of there the ROW will be shared with the Metrolink San Bernardino Line, and I do not see how four tracks can be shoved into places that today only have one.

    Plus, wouldn’t light rail be more helpful for redevelopment in dowtown Pomona and downtown Ontario?