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Posts from the "Expo Line" Category

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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…

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And Now the Reason Foundation Is Completely Wrong About Expo

Good news for everyone that doesn't do transit writing for a certain oil industry funded think tank. Image via The Source.

I wonder what it is about the Expo Line that makes conservative muckrakers lose their collective minds?

Earlier this week, Fox and Hounds published an op/ed by Los Angeles Business Journal Editor Charles Crumpley’s attack on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by telling an imaginary story about job loss because of a CEQA lawsuit against Phase II of the Expo Line. There was no job loss as a result of the lawsuit.

But that’s not the biggest whopper that’s been told about Expo. Last year, the Reason Foundation, an oil industry funded think tank that pretends to espouse Libertarian principles, declared the Expo Line a failure after sending two people to ride Phase I of the light rail line on its opening week and complaining that it wasn’t meeting its ridership projections for 2020. The line averaged 11,000 weekday boardings. Expo’s 2020 projections was 27,000.

After just about anyone that has ever examined a transit project laughed at Reason’s surreally lame attempt to examine ridership; the Foundation fired back a couple of weeks later with a whiny post that Expo still wasn’t meeting its 2020 ridership projections in its second month.

If major politicians and news outlets didn’t treat the Reason Foundation’s findings as though they were fact, we could all just laugh at them and walk away. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Fortunately, it’s really easy to show the Reason Foundation is completely and utterly inept when it comes to examining transit projects.

Yesterday, Metro announced that the Expo Line averaged 27,280 boardings every weekday, meeting its 2020 ridership projections a mere seven years ahead of schedule. Read more…

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NFSR Is Not Done with the Supreme Court Yet

Neighbors for Smart Rail, the group of homeowners that has fought the Expo Line running through their community, isn’t quite done yet. Despite Streetsblog’s proclamation after the California Public Utilities Commission gave the Expo Line the green light that the appeals were over, NFSR is now appealing the Supreme Court ruling.

The initial Supreme Court ruling was that while the Expo Construction Authority should have used current traffic conditions as the baseline for their traffic study in their environmental support documents, that the error was not so grave as to force a new EIR. In fact, several lower courts upheld Expo’s environmental documents and some of the Supreme Court justices felt that the document was just fine, future traffic study and all.

While it’s a long-shot, NFSR feels that the ruling has enough holes in it that the Supreme Court could change its mind if they can prove that the court accidentally mis-stated the law in its conclusion.

For those not familiar with the Supreme Court appeals process, it goes like this. Read more…

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Will the Next Expo Battle Be About Access to the Bike Path in Cheviot Hills?

Executed Settlement Agreement – Samuels v. FHWA

With all of the legal challenges to the Expo Line Phase II finally resolved, those interested in the multi-modal Expo Rail and Bike Path can focus their full attention on the path. Council Member Mike Bonin’s office is promising good news on the controversial crossing at Exposition and Centinella in the next week. However some bicycle advocates are now worrying about a new issue involving access to the future bike trail in, you guessed it, Cheviot Hills.

Some background.

In 2010, a group of seven homeowners living on Northvale Blvd. in Cheviot Hills sued the LADOT and a host of federal oversight boards for the city’s environmental review of the Expo Bike Path. LADOT re-completed the “Categorical Exclusion” but the homeowners were unhappy with the result and filed suit again. The two parties came to a settlement out-of-court in November of last year.

Recently, that settlement has become public. Most of the agreement between LADOT and the “Northvale 7″ are pretty standard. The bike path will now have a sound wall in the area through most of Cheviot Hills. The Westside Neighborhood Council and Council District 5, currently represented by Paul Koretz, will be provided with a presentation and a chance to weigh in on whether or not there should be an entrance to the bike path at Northvale and Dunleer Drive and whether or not the access should be 24 hours.

It’s this last clause that has some cyclists worried. The Westside Neighborhood Council isn’t exactly known for it’s support for transportation options. While two members of the Council sit on the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee, another appeared on radio railing against any bike lane plan for Westwood Boulevard. A writer for Rancho Park Online described the Council as unreceptive to even studying a floating bike lane program for Westwood.

Unmentioned in the agreement is the aforementioned Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee. When asked, the Expo Staff that controls the agenda of the committee commented that it wouldn’t be within the Committee’s scope to comment on the “ingress-egress” issues in this area because this is the part of the bikeway is being designed by LADOT and not the Expo Construction Authority.

Another reason for concern is that the Cheviot Hills has a 20-year history of blocking access to public rights-of-way.  In the same area as a potential bike path gate, there is a gate across the Dunleer Footbridge, connecting Cheviot Hills to the Palms Park (at Overland and National).

Read more…

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Breaking: CPUC Clears Expo Phase II, No Administrative of Legal Hurdles Remain for Light Rail Line

Earlier this morning, the California Public Utilities Commission gave Phase II of the Expo Line the green light to finish construction. With the California Supreme Court also ruling in Expo’s favor on August 5, both the legal and procedural roadblocks to Expo have been resolved in less than two weeks.

Expo Phase II is a 6.6 mile extension of the Expo Line from its current terminus in Culver City to near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. When completed, the Expo Line will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown Santa Monica via Downtown Culver City, a cool 15.3 mile light rail line.

The above video shows CPUC President Michael Peevey praising the Expo Construction Authority and the Expo Line after CPUC approved the line. h/t Gökhan Esirgen.

“I’m absolutely stoked that we now have a green light to finish this project,” writes Mike Bonin, a westside City Council Member who is also vice-chair of the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors. “Like many other mass transit users in L.A., I am looking forward to being able to choose either bus or rail as I commute from the Westside, all of the way to downtown.  We are nearing the 50% complete phase of the project and we are on schedule and within the budget. It’s great that we are getting more options to Go Metro!”

CPUC originally gave Expo the green light in November of last year. Neighbors for Smart Rail, a coalition of Westside home owner and community groups. asked for a second review arguing that CPUC didn’t follow its own rules set out by policy and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and that the Expo Construction Authority failed to study every intersection of the rail line.

“We appreciate the CPUC’s diligence in reviewing the crossings for the Expo Line. Today’s decision allows us to remain focused on completing the Expo Line in 2015 and bringing a new transit option to Los Angeles,” said Expo Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe.

Streetsblog has reached out to NFSR and supporters of the Expo Line for comment. We will update the story as the day if we hear anything.

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Breaking: In Split Decision, California Supreme Court Gives Expo the O.K.

California Supreme Court on NFSR v Expo

It’s official, Neighbors for Smart Rail is out of legal options. Earlier this morning, the California Supreme Court upheld rulings by every other court that has looked at the case and ruled that the Expo Construction Authority and Metro did not intentionally violate California environmental laws when creating the environmental documents for Phase II of the Expo Line.

“We are gratified that the California Supreme Court has affirmed the lower court rulings. Today’s decision is a win for taxpayers and the future riders who will soon benefit from a direct connection between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica,” said Expo Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe. “We remain focused on finishing the Expo Line on-time and on-budget in 2015.”

The ruling is doubtless a frustrating one for NFSR. The Supreme Court agreed with their contention that the Expo Construction Authority should have used baseline traffic conditions, not projected future conditions, in its traffic study. However, it also ruled that there was “no prejudice” in the decision to use future conditions and the study provided enough information for the proposed rail line’s environmental documents to be approved.

Although we conclude the EIR fails to satisfy CEQA‟s requirements in the first respect claimed, we also conclude the agency‟s abuse of discretion was nonprejudicial. Under the particular facts of this case, the agency‟s examination of certain environmental impacts only on projected year 2030 conditions, and not on existing environmental conditions, did not deprive the agency or the public of substantial relevant information on those impacts. (Environmental Protection Information Center v. California Dept. of Forestry & Fire Protection (2008) 44 Cal.4th 459, 485-486.) We will therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the superior court‟s denial of Neighbors‟s petition for writ of mandate.

Expo Phase II is an eight mile extension of the Expo Line from its current terminus in Culver City to near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Read more…

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Is the California Public Utilities Commission Foreshadowing the Supreme Court on Expo Phase II

Expo wins every round in the legal match so far, but NFSR could still score a TKO at the Supreme Court.

Last Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) tentatively closed the books on one of the last remaining avenues for opponents of the Expo Line in West L.A. to stop construction in its tracks. CPUC posted a “Proposed Decision” on its second hearing of the rail crossings for Phase II of the Expo Line. The ruling unequivocally states that the 16 at-grade and 11 above-grade crossings fall within state guidelines.

Expo Phase II is an eight mile extension of the Expo Line from its current terminus in Culver City to near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

CPUC is a state board that reviews, among other things, rail projects that impact “public utilities.” In this case the impact would be on the city’s road network. When CPUC reviewed Phase I of the Expo Line, the board found several items for concern and ordered additional safety mitigation at one crossing and the construction of a new station at where the Expo Line crossed Farmdale Street near Dorsey High School. When CPUC unexpectedly re-opened its review of Expo Phase II, despite the fact that the line is already well under construction, rail fans fretted.

However, the Proposed Decision seems to close one of the two remaining battleground for Neighbors For Smart Rail, the coalition of neighborhood groups fighting the line. The remaining battle is at the California State Supreme Court, where they hope justices will rule that using a “future baseline” as the basis for a traffic study is contrary to state environmental laws.

But CPUC’s Proposed Decision hints at a Supreme Court Ruling in Expo’s favor. Read more…