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Eyes on the Street: Little Tokyo Gold Line Test Train on New Tracks

Little Tokyo test train this afternoon. Photo by Roger Rudick/Streetsblog L.A.

Little Tokyo test train this afternoon. Photo by Roger Rudick/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro is getting close to re-opening the temporarily detoured Gold Line through Little Tokyo. To facilitate Regional Connector subway construction, Metro removed and relocated a stretch of Gold Line tracks between the Little Tokyo and Pico Aliso Stations. This afternoon, Streetsblog S.F. editor Roger Rudick spotted rail cars traversing the rebuilt tracks. According to Rudick, the train was towed by a truck, so it was probably testing clearances.

At last month’s board meeting, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced that the under construction stretch would re-open March 21. Metro’s The Source reports that full testing of the new track section is expected next week.

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Eyes on the Street: Universal City Ped Bridge Nearly Ready For Its Close-Up

Metro's new Universal City bridge is nearly complete. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s new Universal City bridge will be finished in a month. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Universal Studios is a month away from the April 7 grand opening for their new Harry Potter attraction “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” CEO Phil Washington has pledged that Metro will serve Harry Potter fans by completing its $27 million pedestrian bridge connecting the Metro Red Line Universal City Station with Universal Studios.

The project, officially the Universal City/Studio City Station Pedestrian Bridge Project, crosses Lankershim Boulevard. It “[f]acilitates access to all 3 corners of Lankershim and Campo de Cahuenga intersection.” That intersection, of course, has four intersections. The one corner that the bridge misses just happens to serve a half dozen bus lines. The bridge may make pedestrian crossings a little safer, but, by doing away with streetside foot traffic, it signals a wholesale surrender from making street-level Lankershim anything other than a car-choked stroad.

Last week, the overall structure of the bridge was looking nearly complete, but a lot of final construction tasks were still underway. More pictures after the jump.  Read more…

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Metro Opens Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa

The Metro Gold Line has arrived in Azusa. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A. except where noted

The Metro Gold Line now extends east to Azusa. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A. except where noted

Last Saturday, Metro extended its growing rail network, celebrating the grand opening of the 11-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension. The initial phase of the Foothill Extension includes six new stations in five San Gabriel Valley cities: Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, and Azusa. Additional future phases would extend the Gold Line to Ontario Airport.

The Foothill Gold Line will extend from Pasadena to Azusa, with six new stations slated to open in September 2015. Image via Metro

The Foothill Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa. Image via Metro

Kick-off festivities began at the Duarte/City of Hope station, where a crowd of more than a thousand gathered to hear remarks from Metro board members, numerous representatives of the cities along the route, Metro’s CEO Phil Washington, and other luminaries.

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County Supervisor and Metro board chair Mark Ridley Thomas hosting the Gold Line opening festivities, proclaiming “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Read more…

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Planning for Mariachi Plaza Begins Again; How it Will Tie in to Other Area Projects Remains Unclear

Resident Jose and ELACC organizer Carla de Paz report back to workshop attendees regarding discussions had at their table. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Resident Jose and ELACC organizer Carla de Paz report back to workshop attendees in both Spanish and English regarding discussions had at their table. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A jacuzzi.

Yes, Petronila Lozano, community member and volunteer with Union de Vecinos, repeated in Spanish, a jacuzzi with beautiful trees around it.

The Metro lot at Mariachi Plaza could be a place where both the elders and the youth of the community could relax and enjoy themselves, she winked, sketching out her ideal vision on the back of a handout: shade trees around a fountain, seating areas, a laundromat on the first floor of a three or four-story structure and affordable residences above, possibly with space reserved for a gym where seniors could dance and be fit.

Although the only one suggesting a public jacuzzi at Saturday’s design workshop for the two lots at the Mariachi Plaza site (below, in orange), Lozano was not alone in wanting to see the lots be home to multiple, creative uses.

The design workshop looked at potential uses for the two Metro-owned lots at Mariachi Plaza. Map detail: Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, Perkins + Will, DakeLuna

The design workshop looked at potential uses for the two Metro-owned lots at Mariachi Plaza. Map detail: Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, Perkins + Will, DakeLuna

The approximately 60 stakeholders in attendance were interested in seeing everything from a cultural center to a mariachi museum to a children’s playground to a space for street vendors to assisted living for seniors to affordable housing to a grocery market to after-school programming for youth to an event hall at the site.

The variety of aspirations, in some ways, pose something of a challenge to Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, Perkins + Will, Dake Luna, the urban design/architecture consultant team Metro hired to create development guidelines for the Metro-owned lots.

In essence, it will be very hard to please everyone.

At the same time, there were a number of long-standing common threads underlying most suggestions that do offer potential developers a solid set of parameters they should be prepared to work within.

Namely, people want to see a development that speaks to and elevates the culture of the community, prioritizes the existing residents (particularly those of lower and very low income), embraces the multi-generational nature of the community, contributes to the local economy by complementing rather than competing with existing businesses (particularly along 1st Street), and serves as a gathering place, site for creative/artistic expression, and symbol of both the community’s heritage and its future potential.

And it must do all these things while bolstering the local economy in the form of local jobs. One of the most pressing concerns regularly raised about the planned affordable housing projects is that the area’s very low-income residents will struggle to access it (see more on why, here). People in Boyle Heights tend to work a lot, but there are few good-paying jobs in the area. “Work” for the working poor may mean juggling a few informal jobs, vending either full time or on the side, and/or putting in long hours, sometimes six days a week, only to earn enough to just get by. Formal, steady part-time jobs for youth looking to help their parents or save up money for college are practically non-existent.

An ideal project, consequently, will work to safeguard the community’s cultural heritage and bolster the potential of the very people that make it so unique.

Piece of cake, right? Read more…

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What This Gold Line & CicLAvia Weekend Says About So. Cal.’s Future

I am looking forward to this weekend.

My 2-year old daughter Maeve and I will be attending the opening festivities for the Metro Gold Line tomorrow, and we’ll be heading up to the northern San Fernando Valley for CicLAvia on Sunday.

The Foothill Gold Line opens tomorrow!

The Foothill Gold Line opens tomorrow!

If I were transportation investment king, I would not have prioritized building the Gold Line; it is not quite a corridor with high ridership projected. There is too much in the way of free parking. Some of the public art investment is directed more toward freeway drivers than rail riders.

The time for this criticism is in the past, though.

As I attended the Azusa station celebration, and I got to ride a press preview train, I kind of got the bug. Now, I confess I am excited about this shiny new rail infrastructure.

I am glad that the Gold Line will mean that I can much more easily visit my niece and nephew who attend college in Azusa. I am glad more of L.A. County will be within easier reach of my typical bike-transit trip. And I am really glad to see that Foothill Gold Line communities are embracing these stations as opportunities for transit-oriented development and downtown revitalization.

Metrolink will run extra trains to this Sunday's CicLAvia - The Valley

Route map for this Sunday’s CicLAvia – The Valley

This Sunday’s CicLAvia breaks new ground in bringing open streets to San Fernando Valley communities of Pacoima, Arleta, and Panorama City.

If I were CicLAvia king, this wouldn’t be where I would have picked for an open streets event. It will the first CicLAvia route that is not located along a Metro rail route. I think that this might mean more people will drive to get there.

This will be the first, but not the last. Thanks to Metro funding, there are lots and lots of L.A. County open streets events are coming up this year. Not all of them will not be rail-connected; examples include Downey (May 1) to Lawndale (April 25).

I used to think that CicLAvia would have a difficult time working in the San Fernando Valley.

I remember, when I was one of the organizers of L.A.’s first CicLAvia, we were told by a senior law enforcement officer that this kind of event just wouldn’t work in downtown Los Angeles. “This isn’t San Francisco” were his words. Later, many early CicLAvia doubters, including my local senior lead officer, expressed their wholehearted support for CicLAvia after seeing how successful the event was.

Hopefully CicLAvia will change my mind, the way it has changed so many people’s minds. I am looking forward to being proven wrong – to seeing how successful the Valley’s second CicLAvia will be.

All this to say that, despite lots of loud critics in NIMBY factions and the mainstream media, projects like the Foothill Gold Line and CicLAvia – The Valley show me that livability works not just in L.A.’s population-dense pedestrian- and transit-centric core (where I live) but in our farther-flung more car-centric suburban communities, too. These communities want more transportation choices, more health, more walkability, more livability – the same way mine does. Southern California is really undergoing a transformation under our noses, even if I feel like I am slogging through the rearguard trenches many days.

It is weekends like this one that give me hope for my city. And for the city my daughter will move through.

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#DamienTalksSGV 5 – Gold Line Opening and Women on Wheels

Today, #DamienTalks to Habib Balian, the CEO of the Gold Line Foothills Construction Authority and Amy Wong with Women on Wheels a project of Bike SGV.

Damien Talks SGV logoThis weekend, the long-awaited extension of the Gold Line to the San Gabriel Valley Foothills will finally open. Balian discusses the advocacy and work that led to the extension and the excitement that the line will be open soon. It is likely that any sales tax on the fall ballot will include another extension of the Gold Line, so Balian and his team are preparing in the eventuality that funding becomes available in 2017 for an extension all the way to Montclair.

Our second segment features an interview with Amy Wong of Women on Wheels, a project program of Bike SGV (WoW.) WoW works to create safe spaces and events for female bicycle riders to meet, have fun, and improve their bicycle skills. Wow has a couple of events coming up, a social on Sunday, March 13, and the LA to SGV: Sister Cities Ride & Mechanics Class with the Ovarian Psycos on Saturday, March 19.

#DamienTalks is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of Downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit foothilltransit.org. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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Expo Line Phase 2 Opening Announced for May 20

Expo phase 2 map

Passengers will be able to ride a train to Santa Monica for the first time in more than half a century starting on Friday May 20, Metro officials announced today.

Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas announcing Expo 2's May 20 opening date. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas announcing Expo 2’s May 20 opening date. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro CEO Phil Washington officially announced the opening date for Expo phase 2, the 6.6-mile extension of the Expo light rail line. In April 2012, Expo’s first phase began operations between downtown L.A. and Culver City. Phase 2 adds seven new stations: Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Sepulveda, Bundy, 26th St./Bergamot, 17th St./Santa Monica College, and downtown Santa Monica.

The announcement comes two days after the Expo Construction Authority, the state-created entity in charge of overseeing construction of the rail line, handed over the Expo maintenance facility in Santa Monica to Metro, marking “substantial completion” of the project. The tracks were turned over to Metro late last month, after which the county transit agency ramped up train testing frequencies.

Nearly 5 miles of parallel Expo bike path will open at the same time.

The $1.6 billion Expo line extension, funded in large part by Measure R, connects the westside to Culver City, USC, and downtown Los Angeles, as well as the Blue, Red, and Purple lines. Once Metro’s Regional Connector subway is complete, likely in 2021, Expo will also connect with the Eastside Gold line, offering passengers a one-seat ride from East Los Angeles to downtown Santa Monica.

During this morning’s Metro board meeting, Washington announced that Little Tokyo Regional Connector construction is on schedule. This construction is currently closing a central segment of the Metro Gold Line between Union Station and Pico Aliso Station. Washington reported that the full Gold Line will re-open on March 21st.

 

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110 Freeway Off-Ramp Project Threatens Historic Church, MyFigueroa

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Caltrans planned 110 Freeway flyover off-ramp next to St. John’s Cathedral. Image via Caltrans MND document [PDF]

Tonight, Caltrans is hosting a meeting to gather input on a new freeway off-ramp that would funnel 110 Freeway traffic onto Figueroa Street just south of downtown Los Angeles. The meeting takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Orthopedic Institute for Children, 403 West Adams Boulevard in South Los Angeles.

Caltrans’ proposal, officially titled the Interstate 110 High-Occupancy Toll Lanes Flyover Project, would spend $43 million extending the elevated express lanes structure, so drivers who currently exit at Adams Boulevard near Flower Street could also exit two blocks north at Figueroa Street, south of 23rd Street. The new off-ramp would be an elevated flyover extending over Adams, Flower, and the Metro Expo Line and landing on Figueroa Way, a small one-way street that merges onto Figueroa Street.

Aerial view of the flyover trajectory, with identified historic resources highlighted. Image via Caltrans MND document [PDF]

Aerial view of the flyover trajectory, with identified historic resources highlighted. Image via Caltrans MND document [PDF]

In January, Caltrans released its environmental study, a Mitigated Negative Declaration [PDF], essentially stating that the project would have no significant negative environmental impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Organized opposition to the project has primarily come from the L.A. Conservancy. The Conservancy opposes the 70-foot tall freeway ramp for impairing views of the adjacent 1924 St. John’s Cathedral, as well as contributing noise and further breaking up the neighborhood.  Read more…

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Four Updates from this Week’s Metro Board Committee Meetings

There were fewer Metro Board of Directors committee meetings than usual this month, with both finance and construction committee meetings canceled, but there were nonetheless some developments that Streetsblog readers may be interested in. More to come on many of these at next week’s full Board meeting on Thursday, February 25.

1. Board Environmental Motion

Metro’s Executive Committee unanimously passed a motion that would commit the agency to a broad suite of environmental practices. The motion was authored by directors Eric Garcetti, Sheila Kuehl, and four others, and supported by the Enviro Metro Coalition. It includes:

  • Greater tracking of Metro air quality efforts, including reducing nitrogen oxide (NO), carbon, and vanpool emissions, reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita, and progress on the agency’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.
  • Expanded green construction practices including water conservation, capturing and treating rainwater, permeable surfaces, low carbon-intensity materials, recycled and local materials, native shade trees, and more.
  • Improved first/last mile connections, including expanded car-share, mobility hubs, paths, bikeways, and a broader Regional Active Transportation Network.
  • Reporting on strategies for green tech jobs, including renewable energy, zero or near-zero emissions technologies, and coordination of sustainability initiatives.

With numerous capital projects already under construction or nearing shovel-readiness, it may take a while for upgraded environmental practices to kick in. But it is still better to get started by setting the policy now, rather than getting around to it later.

2. Expo Opening Date

Director and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl mentioned a planned May 20 opening date for Metro Expo Line Phase 2. This more or less agrees with an earlier internal Santa Monica city staff communication “unofficially” announcing an Expo 2 opening date of May 21st. Theoretically, there could be a Friday VIP opening that Kuehl would be invited to, with a public opening still on Saturday May 21st. Board chair and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced that there would be timeline announcements regarding Expo and Crenshaw lines at the end of the February 25 board meeting.

So, Expo will open on May 21st, but you did not hear it from SBLA, because it is not official until you hear it from Metro next Thursday. Please act surprised then!

Friends 4 Expo Transit honored at today's Metro Executive Committee meeting. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Friends 4 Expo Transit honored at today’s Metro Executive Committee meeting. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

3. Friends 4 Expo Transit Honored

Speaking of Expo, Metro’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) honored Friends 4 Expo Transit as its 2015 CAC Organization of the Year.

Metro ridership projections

Metro FY2016-2017 ridership projections

4. Ridership Watch

Ridership has been in the news recently. In some early parameter setting for Metro’s 2016-2o17 budget [PDF], the agency acknowledged it “has been experiencing a decline [in system boardings] since April of [20]14.” In FY2015, ridership declined nearly 5 percent and the current FY2016 decline is estimated to be 3.9 percent.

For FY2017, Metro is projecting an additional 10 million boardings due to the new Gold and Expo Line segments. Other existing ridership is projected to remain flat (at 435.3 million boardings) so the additional 10 million means a 2.3 percent increase. A tick upward is a good thing, but FY2017 projected ridership (445.3 million) is still anticipated to be below FY2015 actual ridership (453.0 million).

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Gold Line Foothill Extension Preview Ride from Pasadena to Azusa

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The view from the cab of the Gold Line test train westbound into Downtown Azusa Station. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, Metro hosted its first press preview for journalists to ride the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension. The 12-mile project includes 6 new stations. It will open on March 5th.

The 12-mile Foothill Gold Line Extension will open March 5, 2016. Image via Metro

Foothill Gold Line Extension map via Metro

Overall the ride was smooth. The train departed Pasadena’s Sierra Madre Station, stopped very briefly at the intermediate five stations, but did not open doors until it arrived just 20 minutes later at the Azusa Pacific University/Citrus College Station at the eastern edge of Azusa.

After the jump, find a photo and video tour of the Foothill Extension. Read more…