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Posts from the Expo Line Category

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Metro Takes Another Step Forward in Effort to Build and Preserve Affordable Housing at Transit Hubs

The map of potential transit-oriented affordable housing sites. Source: Metro

The map of potential transit-oriented affordable housing sites (blue dots). Click to enlarge. See the original, here, on p. 24. Source: Metro

In case you haven’t heard, we’re in a bit of an affordable housing crunch.

According to the L.A. Times, “the city recently estimated that 82,000 additional affordable units will be needed by 2021.”

Non-profit developers have been aware of this problem for some time. Approximately 8000 families applied for the 184 units of affordable housing that the East L.A. Community Corporation has built in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles recently. 1500 families vied for a spot in the 60-unit residence on Whittier Bl. built by the Retirement Housing Foundation last March. And RHF was expecting as many as 2500 applications for the affordable, 78-unit senior residence set to open next door. More than 1000 families applied to live in a 90-unit residence in Macarthur Park built by McCormack Baron Salazar on land owned by Metro. And these figures likely don’t include the folks who are desperate for housing but do not earn the minimum amount required to qualify for consideration.

But even as the need for affordable housing grows, the city’s ability to provide and maintain it has declined significantly. Since 2008, funding for the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) has dropped from $108 million to approximately $26 million. And, despite Mayor Eric Garcetti’s vocal support for affordable housing, no new funds were allocated to the AHTF in the last budget. While L.A. will likely receive some of the (anticipated) $130 million in funds set aside for affordable housing from the first year of cap-and-trade, the funds will first need to be divvied up among municipalities across the state.

Which is why it was heartening to see the Metro Board move forward on its plans to set aside at least 35% of units built on Metro-owned land for affordable housing and to establish a fund to assist non-profit developers in building or preserving affordable housing on privately-owned land near transit.

It’s not a panacea, as discussion of the 30-page staff report assessing the viability of the plan made clear. And there is much left to be done in the way of hammering out funding structures and sources for the loan fund or the criteria for discounts on Metro-owned land to entice developers to build affordable units. But it is a step in the right direction. Read more…

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Expo Is Coming, Santa Monica! But When Will It Get Here?

Construction on Expo's 4th Street station in Downtown Santa Monica is moving along at a health clip (photo from the City of Santa Monica)

Construction on Expo’s 4th Street station in Downtown Santa Monica is moving along at a health clip (photo from the City of Santa Monica)

Expo Phase II completes the long-anticipated rail connection between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Santa Monica. Construction on Phase II began in 2011. Currently, the Expo line ends in Culver City. When the new 6.6-mile extension opens next year, it will be possible to take the train from the beach to Downtown Los Angeles for the first time in half-a-century.

Expo Line Phase II

Where: The Expo Line currently runs from 7th Street and Figueroa in Downtown Los Angeles, past USC, Exposition Park, and the Coliseum. It continues past Baldwin Hills and currently terminates in Culver City. Phase II will bring the line through Palms before cutting north of the 10 Freeway. Other Phase II stops will include Westwood Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard, and Bundy Drive. Then, it crosses into Santa Monica, stopping at 26th Street (Bergamot Station), 17th Street (Santa Monica College, UCLA Hospital), and finally, 4th Street in Downtown Santa Monica.

When: Though Expo Phase II construction is nearing completion, a solid opening date remains elusive. According to Metro, as of March 19, design is 99 percent complete and mainline construction 84.6 percent complete. Metro is juggling two new light rail line extensions, Expo II and the Gold Line’s Foothill extension, both anticipated to open in early-to-mid 2016.

According to this week’s Metro budget staff report, the agency will begin service on both new lines in the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2016, between April and June of 2016.

Construction at the Bergamot Station stop at 26th Street earlier this month.

Construction at the Bergamot Station stop at 26th Street earlier this month.

If you have been to any of the new stops recently, you will see that construction sure looks like it is nearly complete. In fact, Metro anticipates that it will be able to start safety testing in April starting in Palms. Even though we may end up seeing trains running this summer, there will still be at least six months of testing after the Expo Construction Authority completes its work.

Issues: The two main issues facing Expo at the moment are a delay at the maintenance facility and a potential shortage of trains, which could result in longer headways when the line first opens.

The maintenance facility, being built in the eastern edge of Santa Monica, is behind schedule, according to Metro. The “substantial completion date” for the facility has slipped from May 2015 to October 2015.

According to another Metro staff report this week, the agency anticipates a “temporary shortage of light rail vehicles.” The shortage has been attributed to a labor dispute at Kinkisharyo, the company that supplies trains for Metro (Note: As noted in the comments, the shortage isn’t a result of the labor dispute, but rather Metro changing suppliers).  Given the shortage, Metro expects some longer-than-usual headways when Expo Phase II first opens. Metro expects to initially operate Expo will operate between Santa Monica and L.A. every 12 minutes in the morning and afternoon.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Cars Running the Red at Venice and Robertson

Expo super-fan Gökhan Esirgen sends along the above video of cars running the red light at the newly-reconstructed intersection of Venice Blvd. and Robertson Blvd. Esirgen writes, “Note that this is not a seldom event — it happens for about five seconds in almost every cycle during rush hour and it’s typical of this intersection now. A pedestrian who looks at the signal but not the cars would be hit.”

Streetsblog editorial board member Jonathan Weiss forwarded the message to staff at LADOT. Before the afternoon was out, Jay Greenstein with Councilmember Paul Koretz’s office responded that engineers with LADOT are re-examining the intersection and LAPD’s enforcement division was notified.

We’ll keep an eye of our own on the intersection to see if there are any new, more positive, changes in the coming weeks and months.

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Move L.A.’s South L.A. Forum Asks if Transit Can Deliver Shared Prosperity

Figueroa Ave., just north of 85th St.

A man takes shelter in the shade of a telephone pole at a bus stop on Figueroa Ave., just north of 85th St. in South L.A., on a hot summer day. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Riding my bike the 15 miles between my apartment and a Move L.A. forum on the future of transit at Southwest College on a dreary Saturday morning while battling the tail end of a stubborn respiratory infection was not among the brightest ideas I had ever had, I reflected as it began to drizzle and my hacking started getting the best of me.

But I hadn’t wanted to take the bus (buses, as, technically, I would have had to have taken two). Between the walking and the waiting for lines that run less frequently early on Saturday mornings, my door-to-door journey would probably come out at about two hours — half the time it took me to ride the route.

And the scenes I passed at bus stops on my way down the length of Vermont were not exactly selling bus riding to me.

The many, many folks crowding narrow sidewalks at unprotected bus stops looked rather miserable in the areas where rain was falling. Most yanked hats down over their ears, snuggled deeper into jackets, held newspapers or other random things over their heads to fend off the drizzle, and huddled over their kids to keep them dry. There are actual bus “shelters,” but they are few and far between, generally filthy and overflowing with trash, and offer little protection from the elements.

I even found myself dodging wet, frustrated people who had stepped out into the street to make the long-distance squint up Vermont that only regular bus riders can, searching in vain for a flash of orange. Others called out to ask if I had happened to pass a bus on its way to pick them up.

The state of the bus system in L.A. is not spectacular, in other words, despite the fact that it is responsible for ferrying 3/4 of all Metro transit riders (approximately 30 million people) back and forth per month.

But discussion of the bus situation was notably absent from the discussion on the future of transportation that unfolded over nearly five hours the morning of January 8.

Aside from the remarks of Southwest College alum Leticia Conley, who complained that some students’ ability to access education could be harmed by having to rely on buses that only ran once an hour, most of the discussion focused on rail.

The dotted blue lines represent Move L.A.'s proposal for expanded rail lines throughout L.A. County.

The dotted blue lines represent Move L.A.’s proposal for expanded rail lines throughout L.A. County.

In some ways, the oversight was by design. Besides gathering together leaders from the African-American community to talk about opportunities to make investments in transit translate into investments in the development of South L.A., the larger goal of the forum was to build support for putting a proposal for “Measure R2″ on the 2016 ballot. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Where Am I?

Eyes on the Street: Where on the Expo Line can you spot this mural? Photo: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

Eyes on the Street: Where on the Expo Line can you spot this Faith47 mural? Photo: Damien Newton/Streetsblog L.A.

I admit. Usually when I’m on the Expo Line, I’ve got my face buried in my phone or an old Dr. Who book. But last week, I was staring out the window and I noticed a beautiful mural of swans on the side of a building.

Doing a little digging, I discovered the mural has been there since August and was painted by famed Korean muralist Faith47. It’s not just a beautiful mural, it’s also part of a plan to beautify and revitalize a community.

So here’s a quick Eyes on the Street quiz. The first person who can tell me where this mural is wins a Streetsblog t-shirt. Honors system in place, no using the Internet.

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Eyes on the Street: Faulty Pedestrian Detour at Expo Phase 2 Construction

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Signs offering mixed messages at this pedestrian detour on Venice Boulevard at Culver Boulevard. Image via @topomodesto Twitter

Yesterday, Michael MacDonald @topomodesto tweeted two images that highlight L.A.’s lack of accomodation for pedestrians.

The photos were taken on eastbound Venice Boulevard at Culver Boulevard, one block west of the Metro Expo Line Culver City Station. Expo Phase 2 construction has blocked pedestrians from walking on Venice Boulevard’s south sidewalk. This sidewalk is where people would walk between downtown Culver City and the current Expo Line terminus. Instead, detour “cross here” signs direct pedestrians to scramble across Venice Stroad Blvd. Unfortunately, though, crossing Venice at this intersection is illegal. There’s a No Ped Crossing sign visible in MacDonald’s photo above.

It looks like the message to L.A.’s pedestrians is “just go away.”

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Same location on Venice Boulevard, view looking east. The under-construction Exposition Rail bridge is visible in the distance. Photo via @topomodesto Twitter

SBLA is excited for Expo 2 to open! It is disappointing, though, to see that, even when Los Angeles is constructing livability enhancements, the city cuts off pedestrian (and, often, bicycle) access. Two steps forward, one step back.

Perhaps Councilmember Huizar’s motion for better walking accommodations during construction will help. What I’d like to see: the political will to, at least now and then, make it less convenient to drive, and more convenient to walk, bike, and ride transit. Copenhagen did this during their Metro construction, and bicycling increased while driving declined.

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Editorial: Why Raise Fares When Metro’s Building Even More Free Parking?

Foothill Gold Line's Azusa-Alameda Station not-so-innovative site plan - 200 more parking spaces coming on line next year. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

Foothill Gold Line’s Azusa-Alameda Station site plan means 200 more surface parking spaces due to open in 2015. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an editorial asking Why Raise Metro Fares While Giving Away Metro Parking? At the time, I totaled parking for Metro’s BRT and rail lines at 19,450 parking spaces. Despite Metro’s plan to increase transit fares, the agency has no plan to increase parking charges. Metro gives more than 9 out of 10 spaces away for free. I did a conservative estimate of Metro’s parking revenue potential to be at least $3.5 million per year.

Turns out that it gets worse. Or better, depending on your point of view.

Metro’s building lots and lots of lots.

There are 2,435 more Metro parking spaces under construction. When the Gold Line Foothill extension opens in 2015, Metro will break the 20,000 mark with 1,525 new parking spaces. Also in 2015, Expo phase 2 will add 580 new parking spaces. In 2019, the Crenshaw Line will add 330 new parking spaces.

Metro’s overall total rail/BRT parking spaces will climb to 21,885. Using the same very conservative assumptions, I estimate that, with the additional spaces, Metro’s parking revenue potential will be at least $4.3 million per year.

After the earlier article, via Twitter and via the Source, Metro responded with the “doesn’t go far enough” argument:

Of course, $3.5 million doesn’t cover the projected budget shortfalls that Metro is projecting and using to justify the fare increases (the shortfalls begin at $36 million in FY 2016 and then rise).

I’ve always found this sort of assertion to be disingenuous. It’s sort of like being in a boat that’s leaking in five places, and refusing to fix one hole, because it doesn’t fix all of them at once.

Read more…

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Koretz Pushes Expo for a Little Collaboration on the Expo Greenway

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Tomorrow, the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors will hear a motion by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz requiring “the CEO and staff to work collaboratively with the City of Los Angeles to ensure that the landscaping of the two projects (the Expo Greenway and the landscaping for the Expo Line) compliment each other…”

The Expo Greenway project would transform the area between Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue adjacent to the future bikeway and rail project into a sustainable urban greenway that would provide a corridor of native species, a stretch of open space, and a place where rainwater is sustainably moved back to the ground. Original plans called for a large parking lot in the area now slated for a greenway and botanical garden.

For those following the progress of the Expo Greenway for the past six years, this might seem a ho-hum motion. But for those working on the project, it’s big news. For the first time, Expo staff will be compelled to truly work with the City of Los Angeles on this project. While the two projects are still separate, coordination between the City and Expo hasn’t always been smooth. Advocates for the fully-funded bicycle path and other projects have long-complained that staff seems concerned with building a railroad and nothing else.

Koretz’s motion makes it clear that the Greenway is a part of the greater Expo vision, even if it’s not officially part of the Expo Line.

“Our office wants to make sure there is a seamless transition between the two projects,” says Jay Greenstein, the transportation deputy for Paul Koretz. “One day in the future people will visit these projects when they’re completed. Other than the sound wall, we don’t want them to be able to tell the difference between the Los Angeles project and the Expo Line project.”

Jonathan Weiss, a Cheviot Hills resident and long-time advocate for Expo rail and bicycle projects, is considered by many the driving force behind the Greenway.

“Expo was envisioned as multimodal green corridor promoting sustainability of natural resources;  it adapted for the 21st Century a 1930s plan to use parkways to connect recreational open spaces to the beaches.  Paul Koretz motion seeks to create the context for that to happen,”writes Weiss, who represents Koretz on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

“We will now have a multi-benefit greenway to provide urban runoff treatment, a simulated stream, green space, native landscaping, a tree-lined vegetative buffer, a bikeway, access to public transit, and educational and recreational opportunities.” Read more…

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Eyes off the Street: Expo Tracks in Northvale Trench

Photo: Jonathan Weiss

Photo: Jonathan Weiss

On Tuesday, Jonathan Weiss snapped this picture of the Expo Line tracks being placed in the Northvale Road trench. The trench runs along the southern end of Cheviot Hills and the track’s arrival is considered a construction mile stone by rail fans.

For comparison’s sake, check out this picture by Carter Rubin of the trench before Expo construction began.

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A Photo Essay of a Tour of Expo Phase II

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

When Stephen Villavaso, known to many Streetsblog readers as the volunteer traffic engineer who makes CicLAvia possible, asked me if I would like to ride along on a tour of Expo Phase II construction, I jumped at the chance. Villavaso is also one of the engineers working for Skanska-Rados Joint Venture – the design-build contractor of the Expo Line Phase II. Villavaso manages the design for the construction project which involves regularly driving up and down the future light rail and bike path talking to workers, monitoring construction, and just keeping abreast of everything that’s happening on site.

For those just joining us, the Expo Line is a 15.2 mile, $2.4 billion Exposition Light Rail Line that will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica via Culver City. Construction on Phase I of the line, from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, began in 2006 and opened to the public in 2012. Phase II of the project, which will extend the line out to Santa Monica, is now underway. Construction is expected to be completed by 2015 with revenue operations beginning the following year. The Expo Line is and will be run by Metro.

While I’ve been covering the Expo Line since before Streetbslog launched in 2008, it seems there is always something new to learn about it. On this day, I learned something that should seem obvious…building a light rail line is hard. I mean really hard.

I unexpectedly ended up discussing how to move power lines, how to protect existing underground utilities, how many different types of concrete are needed, how to protect workers during excavation, that maybe some federal safety requirements are a little over board, and a lot of other things.

But the good news is that progress is definitely happening. Even if it’s sometimes hard to see.

Where the Expo Line runs under an existing bridge just west of Motor Avenue, Villavaso explained that the last time he was there, a large trench was in the ground. This time, the trench had been filled and there was no sign that a lot of work had happened in the area.  “This is really exciting,” he said gesturing to what now appeared to be just a dirt road. The last time he had done one of these tours was about a month and a half earlier, when he had been accompanied by Nat Gale from the Mayor’s Office.

We made six stops on our tour, starting at the Cloverfield/Olympic Bridge, going back to the start of Phase II at Venice Blvd., and stops at Palms and Motor before heading back into Santa Monica. In Santa Monica, we stopped at the Bundy/Centinela Station and the terminus (or beginning pending your point of view) at Downtown Santa Monica.

Our thanks to Stephen Villavaso for leading me around and answering my questions. My wife, who is also an engineer, was laughing at me while I was listening to the audio to write this story, so it must have taken some real self-control for Stephen to keep a straight face.

A full essay, with more of photographs from the project sites, is available after the jump. Read more…