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Gold Line Foothill Extension Photo Tour: Transit Oriented Development (TOD)

In this fourth installment of the Foothill Gold Line Extension photo tour series, we explore planned Transit Oriented Developments (TOD) around some of the line’s future stations.

Recently, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton and Aviv Kleinman joined a behind-the-scenes tour of the newest Gold Line Extension phase under construction in the San Gabriel Valley. We joined Albert Ho, head of Media Relations for the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, and Jeff Rowland, the Community Relations Manager for the Kiewit-Parsons Joint Venture, the contractors building the project. Part 1 of the series documented the rail corridor and stationsPart 2 highlighted the maintenance yard under construction in Monrovia. Part 3 looked at the new bridges.

For those just joining us, the Gold Line is a 19.7 mile light rail line running from East Los Angeles to Pasadena via Union Station in Downtown L.A. The line currently serves 21 stations, and is operated by Metro. The Gold Line Foothill Extension will extend from its current Sierra Madre Villa terminus east into the city of Azusa. The 11.3-mile new extension includes 6 new stations. The extension will serve five cities directly, and it is proposed to transform the San Gabriel Valley entirely. Once bounded by distress of being caught in freeway gridlock, San Gabriel Valley residents will now have the freedom to commute by rail into Downtown L.A. and endless locations from there by using the new Gold Line extension.

TODs are generally station-adjacent mixed-use areas. They often feature relatively dense housing so that residents can easily and safely walk to the nearby station. TODs frequently include apartment complexes, retail centers, and parks, which make for a rich mix of destinations around transit hubs. Find more about L.A. County Transit Oriented Development in this earlier SBLA series.

Monrovia Station Square is a great example of Transit Oriented Development.

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The city of Monrovia is converting an abandoned railroad station into Monrovia Station Square: a new transit-oriented retail development. Photo: City of Monrovia

The Monrovia Station Square is a large-scale improvement project underway, hosted by the City of Monrovia. The city plans to re-vamp the area immediately surrounding the Monrovia Gold Line station currently under construction. The Station Square intends to transform a largely-forgotten commercial/industrial neighborhood into a thriving and bustling town square. The development will adaptively re-use Monrovia’s now-abandoned Santa Fe Railway station, transforming it into a new retail establishment. The city official we spoke with hopes it will become an artisan pizza shop. The current pothole-ridden park-and-ride lot will become a park, filled with green space, playgrounds, water features, and public art.

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The abandoned Santa Fe Railway depot will soon become a trendy retail space in the proposed Monrovia Station Square. All photos Aviv Kleinman/Streetsblog L.A., except where otherwise specified.

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Built in 1926, the Monrovia Depot used to be a bustling transit station. Hopefully soon, the future Gold Line station just a few hundred feet west of it will be just as bustling.

Read more…

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Gold Line Foothill Extension Photo Tour: Iconic Gold Line Freeway Bridge

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The recently completed Gold Line Bridge over the 210 Freeway. Photo: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority

In this third installment of our Foothill Gold Line photo tour series, we explore the Gold Line Foothill Extension’s iconic bridge over the 210 Freeway, as well as a closer look at the line’s other bridges.

Recently, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton and Aviv Kleinman joined a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gold Line Phase II under construction in the San Gabriel Valley. We joined Albert Ho, head of Media Relations for the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, and Jeff Rowland, the Community Relations Manager for the Kiewit-Parsons Joint Venture, the contractors building the project. Part 1 of the series documented the rail corridor and stationsPart 2 highlighted the Maintenance and Operations yard under construction in Monrovia.

For those just joining us, the Gold Line is a 19.7 mile light rail line running from East Los Angeles to Pasadena via Union Station in Downtown L.A. The line currently serves 21 stations, and is operated by Metro. The Gold Line Foothill Extension will extend from its current Sierra Madre Villa terminus east into the city of Azusa. The new 11.3-mile extension includes 6 new stations, serving five cities directly. It is proposed to transform the San Gabriel Valley entirely. Once bounded by distress of being caught in freeway gridlock, San Gabriel Valley residents will now have the freedom to commute by rail into Downtown L.A., and endless locations from there, by using the new Gold Line extension.

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The bridge spans 584-linear-feet diagonally across the Eastbound 210 Freeway. Notice the bumper-to-bumper traffic heading westbound on the freeway. I predict that one of the most effective marketing tools for increasing Gold Line ridership will be the simple frustration drivers feel when they are stuck on the freeway while watching the sleek new trains travelling at 55 mph towards Downtown LA. All photos, except where noted: Aviv Kleinman/Streetsblog L.A.

The Gold Line bridge, completed in 2012, was built to replace the previous flyover bridge used by the Santa Fe railroad to cross over the eastbound lanes of the 210 freeway. The Gold Line tracks run 4.1 miles along the median of the 210 before crossing the bridge into the city of Arcadia, heading southeast towards the downtown Arcadia station.  Read more…

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Metro Round-Up: LAX, Open Streets, New Reps on Technical Committee

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail  run at grade, below future "automated people mover." Image via Metro staff report

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Bo. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail run at grade (visible in the middle right), below future “automated people mover” (visible in the upper right). Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

At yesterday’s Metro Board Meeting, directors approved a handful of initiatives that have great implications for the future livability of the Los Angeles Region. Here is the re-cap:

Technical Committee Adds Pedestrian and Bike Representatives

The Metro Board approved adding two new active transportation representatives to the agency’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). In addition to new TAC members representing bicycle and pedestrian transportation experts, the motion [pdf] approved yesterday also added a non-voting public health representative.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) and Safe Routes to School National Partnership have pushed for long-overdue Metro TAC expansion. The TAC includes a representative from the Automobile Association of America, but no one advocating for active transportation. Earlier this year, Streetsblog previewed TAC expansion. Since that earlier article, the somewhat half-hearted proposal was strengthened by a March 2014 motion from Metro boardmember Mike Bonin.

Here’s what the LACBC’s Eric Bruins had to say about yesterday’s Metro board action:

It’s about time for Metro to embrace multi-modalism throughout the culture of the agency, including their advisory committees. This committee is involved in the nuts-and-bolts of decision-making at Metro, so it’s important to have people at the table constantly viewing agency actions through a lens of how they impact walking, biking, and public health throughout the county.

Open Streets Events Expanding Throughout L.A. County

SBLA covered the expansion of CicLAvia-type open streets events when Metro staff recommendations were circulated about a month ago. As LongBeachize previewed, representatives from the city of Long Beach attended the Metro Board meeting, expressing their concerns over Metro’s selection criteria. Metro awarded funding to only one event to each applicant city before funding any additional events hosted by the same city. Proportionally, this puts the cities of Los Angeles (population 4,000,000) and Long Beach (population 500,000) on equal footing with Lawndale (population 34,000) and Culver City (population 40,000). (Population figures here.)

Though Metro board member John Fasana expressed that Metro should “re-tool” in future open streets funding cycles, the board approved the staff recommendations unchanged. Lots more ciclovías coming to lots of neighborhoods over the next couple years!

Rail Connection with LAX Approved

Despite boardmember Mike Bonin expressing some concerns (including very low ridership projections, a focus of this L.A. Weekly article) at last week’s Metro Programming Committee meeting, yesterday’s LAX approval went very smoothly. The Metro board approved a preferred alternative for connecting rail to LAX. It’s a new rail station, located at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard, where LAX-bound riders can board an Automated-People-Mover (APM). Depending on operations decisions, still to be determined, the new station will serve the existing Metro Green Line, Metro Crenshaw Line (under construction) and possibly even Expo Line trains via Crenshaw. (Editor’s note: this would be way in the future – there are no current plans to connect Expo and Crenshaw tracks.) Both Mayor Garcetti and Bonin stated that they expect the 96th Street Station to be more than just a transfer point, but indeed a full-featured world-class gateway to Los Angeles.

With the LAX connection conceptually decided, there’s still lots of environmental studies, design and operation decisions, finalization of features that will be designed/built by LAX itself, and about a decade of construction before the riders can experience it.  Read more…

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Metro: We’re Not Opposed to North Figueroa Road Diet

Responding to coverage in Streetsblog of the May meeting held concerning the North Figueroa Road Diet, a spokesperson for Metro reached out to Streetsblog arguing that despite our characterization of Metro’s position as “opposed to the Road Diet,” Metro is not opposed to reducing mixed used traffic lanes to create a buffered bike lane.

Metro Line 81 buses on North Figueroa Street. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/fig4all/8745176419/##Fig4All/Flickr##

Metro Line 81 buses on North Figueroa Street. Photo: Fig4All/Flickr

“It’s pretty clear Scott DID NOT speak against the Figueroa bike lanes as your article states,” writes Dave Sotero, a spokesperson with Metro. ”He merely said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that when the lanes come in, we’ll monitor and make changes to the schedule accordingly and do our best to ensure the buses stay on time.”

Watching the video again, I can see Sotero’s point. However, Metro’s Scott Page gave his presentation surrounded by public officials speaking against the road diet in a series of agency testimonials orchestrated by the office of Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo. Video of Page’s testimony is available here.

Read more…

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Gold Line Foothill Extension Photo Tour: The Maintenance Yard

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The Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Yard will be able to store 84 cars when it is completed. The M&O site will be complete with a train car wash, a train car storage yard, 188 employee parking stalls, and a covered maintenance-of-way facility.

In this photo essay, we will explore the Foothill Gold Line’s magnificent Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Facility, currently under construction in Monrovia.

Earlier this week, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton and Aviv Kleinman joined a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gold Line Phase II under construction in the San Gabriel Valley. We joined Albert Ho, head of Media Relations for the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, and Jeff Rowland, the Community Relations Manager for the  Kiewit-Parsons Joint Venture, the constructors of the project. Part 1 of the series documented the rail corridor and stations.

For those just joining us, the Gold Line is a 19.7 mile light rail line running from East Los Angeles to Pasadena via Union Station in Downtown L.A. The line currently serves 21 stations, and is operated by Metro. The Gold Line Foothill Extension will extend from its current terminus, in East Pasadena at Sierra Madre Villa, to Azusa. The 11.3-mile new extension includes 6 new stations. The extension will serve five cities directly, and it is proposed to transform the San Gabriel Valley entirely. Once bounded by distress of being caught in freeway gridlock, San Gabriel Valley residents will now have the freedom to commute by rail into Downtown L.A. and endless locations from there by using the new Gold Line extension.

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M&O Facility Site Plan, courtesy of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority (click for hi-res)

Read more…

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A Photo Essay of a Tour of the Gold Line Foothill Extension

This Wednesday, Aviv Kleinman and Damien Newton of Streetsblog joined a behind-the-scenes tour of the Gold Line Foothill Extension under construction in the San Gabriel Valley. We joined Albert Ho, head of Media Relations for the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, and Jeff Rowland, the Community Relations Manager for the Kiewit-Parsons Joint Venture, the constructors of the project.

Jeff Rowland, the Community Relations Manager for the  Kiewit-Parsons Joint Venture, knows just about everything there is to know about the Gold Line extension, and railroad construction in general. I made sure to pick his brain with many questions throughout the day, and he was able to answer them all with facts and figures.

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Yours truly waiting for a train at the Monrovia Station. If there were a LCD screen showing waiting time for the next train, it would display “1273236 minutes” (until November, 2016, of course.) All photos by Aviv Kleinman/Streetsblog L.A., except where specified otherwise

It was the most comprehensive tour we could have ever imagined, and we had a long and great day on the tour. We toured the future Maintenance and Operations (M&O) facility, the flyover bridge that crosses the 210 Freeway, and many future stations and sections of track alignment. We’re splitting tour coverage into four separate posts: The first about the line in general, the second about the maintenance yard, the third about the iconic bridge, and the fourth about Transit-Oriented-Development built and planned around the line.

The Metro Gold Line is a 19.7 mile light rail line running from East Los Angeles to Pasadena via Union Station in Downtown L.A. The line’s first phase entered service in 2003, serving 21 stations. The line’s third phase, the Foothill Extension, will extend from its current terminus in East Pasadena, at Sierra Madre Villa to Azusa, serving another 6 stations over the course of 11.3 miles. The extension will serve five cities directly, and it is proposed to transform transportation and development patterns in the San Gabriel Valley. Once bounded by the distress of being caught in freeway gridlock, San Gabriel Valley residents will now have the freedom to commute by Metro rail into Downtown LA and endless locations from there by using the new Gold Line extension.

In this first installment of the series, we explore the stations, track alignment, and construction machinery and processes. Photos and renderings will be displayed in that order.

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Artist’s rendering of the future Monrovia Station. Courtesy of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority .

Rowland explained that in the initial phase of the Gold Line construction between L.A. and Pasadena, Metro asked each municipality that would host a station to design their own ‘personalized’ station that would be an art piece portraying a theme of the municipality’s choice. Art is great, but, according to Rowland, art the size of a train station is pricey. At the price tag of $25 million each, the current stations are marvelous and magnificent, but their costs were just too high for the second phase of the line.

Read more…

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Five Key Tips For Metro Regarding Safe Bus-Bike Interactions

Early last week, Michael MacDonald posted his helmet-camera video showing a Metro bus driver veering rightward into his path, then braking. The incident occurred on Adams Boulevard near Hauser. When MacDonald confronted the driver, he responds dismissively and closes the bus window.

The video bounced around the bike corner of cyberspace. It was picked up by Biking in L.A. who called it “a perfect test case for the city’s cyclist anti-harassment ordinance.” The footage ran on Univision and CBS.

There are other similar videos online. Below is one that took place on Santa Monica Boulevard, from YouTube user Wes + Bikes.

Though it doesn’t get recorded on video often, I can personally confirm that this sort of merge conflict happens to lots of L.A. cyclists very frequently, especially those of us intrepid enough to “take the lane” on L.A.’s busier arterial bus-route streets. Yesterday, I bicycled from Koreatown to Downtown L.A. and had two transit vehicles merge into my path, one a Metro Bus and the other an LADOT DASH Shuttle. Public agency bus merges are frequent, as they get over to the curb to pick up passengers, but I’ve also been cut off by plenty of private vehicles, especially near freeway on-ramps, and  driveways. Read more…

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Open Streets Slated for SFV, SGV, Pasadena, LB, Santa Monica, and More

Under Metro's plan, CicLAvia open streets festivals will take place all over Los Angeles County. photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

Under Metro’s proposal, 12 different CicLAvia open streets festivals will take place in various cities throughout Los Angeles County. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

It is not fully approved or completely finalized, but a document has circulated that shows Metro’s staff recommendations for open streets events for FY2015-16. Open streets events, or ciclovías, are car-free festivals primarily for bicycling and walking, more or less the same as Los Angeles’ popular CicLAvia.

So far in L.A. County, cities, primarily the city of Los Angeles, have partnered with the CicLAvia nonprofit organization to host these events. The new Metro list shows the popular event spreading out to new cities and new neighborhoods, and new cities working with new organizational partners.

Metro has become a major sponsor for open streets events, allocating $2 million in event funding for each of the next two fiscal years, July 1st through June 30th. The agency is allocating the funding to cities that apply. Metro received about two dozen applications, ranked them, and recommended funding twelve upcoming events.

Nearly all the planned events connect with Metro’s rail system. Two open streets events are projected to coincide with the grand openings for Metro’s Gold and Expo rail line extensions under construction.

Metro’s guidelines, as stated in the document, prioritize “funding one event per city before funding multiple events.” Proportionally, this puts larger cities–Los Angeles and Long Beach–at somewhat of a competitive disadvantage.

The city of Long Beach applied to host three “Beach Streets” events, but only received funding for one, to take place in northwest Long Beach.

The city of Los Angeles applied for funding for both San Fernando Valley and South L.A. events, but only received funding for SFV. The city of Los Angeles also found a way to squeeze in a third CicLAvia event. L.A.’s “Heart of Los Angeles” route centered on downtown L.A. is being extended east into unincorporated East L.A., so it is hosted by the County of Los Angeles, despite the event being mostly within L.A. city limits.

In future calls, perhaps there could be prioritization of limited funding using some sort of per capita criteria.

Map of upcoming FY 2015 and 2016 Los Angeles County open streets event. From Metro document

Map of upcoming FY 2015 and 2016 Los Angeles County open streets event. From Metro document

The upcoming open streets events list was made public on the Metro website and circulated by @Calwatch via Twitter. The “open streets recommendations” document is posted hereUpdate: Per Metro, the document was not officially made public yet, and the full report, which may differ from what was posted, will be released in early June. While the document includes a map (above) it is not easy to tell exactly what streets are included in each event. 

The document represents the Metro staff recommendations. The funding list will still need to be approved by the Metro Planning and Programming Committee, then the full Metro Board. These approvals are expected in June 2014. Though there are maps and dates specified, open streets events go through a lot of changes, so consider these tentative.

Below is the full list of upcoming open streets events slated for approval, listed in date order.  Read more…

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The Myth of the Magic Bus: The Weird Politics and Persistently Strange Logic Behind the Orange Line

Despite the Fanfare, the Orange Line Was More Expensive Than Some Light Rail Projects. Photo: Roger Rudick

Despite the Fanfare, the Orange Line Was More Expensive Than Some Light Rail Projects. Photo: Roger Rudick

The other day I was reading about New York City’s proposal to build a north-south busway on Woodhaven Blvd., starting in my old ‘hood of Jackson Heights.

It’s a great plan—by making the center lanes bus-only and providing train-like amenities, such as pre-paid, multi-door boarding, New York will have an improved north-south bus route. It’ll take a predicted 45 minutes to ride clear across Queens, instead of the current 65. Since it’ll be running on existing roadway, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) upgrades can be built for a fraction of what it would cost to install light rail or subway.

As with most busway proposals, articles cite the Orange Line BRT in the San Fernando Valley as a model.

The Orange Line is celebrated as a transit success story in the press. Ridership exceeded expectations almost from the day it opened in 2005. It peaked around 29,000 daily passengers. At rush hour, demand exceeds capacity. This is something that busway supporters boast about.

They should stop boasting.

If you built a ship that carries 500 people but you found 1,000 people on the dock, you screwed up. Similarly, the higher-than-capacity demand on the Orange Line corridor just means Metro should have built a rail line.

Oops. Read more…

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Metro Approves 25 Cent Base Fare Increase To $1.75 In September 2014

Fight For the Soul of the Cities demonstrators circle in front, before today's Metro board meeting. photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Fight For the Soul of the Cities demonstrators circle in front, before today’s Metro board meeting. photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Just over four hours into its marathon monthly board meeting, the Metro Board of Directors approved its much debated fare increase. Metro’s base transit fare will increase from $1.50 to $1.75 in September 2014. Weekly and monthly passes, and senior and disabled fares will also undergo similar increases. The fare increase motion passed with twelve in favor. County Supervisor Gloria Molina was the only board member voting opposed.

A few of the most painful impacts of the fare increase were mitigated by the Garcetti-Yaroslavsky-Ridley-Thomas amendment motion, which also passed in an amended form.

As has been the case during past fare increase debates, there was a long series of public speakers against increasing fares. Roughly one hundred speakers – students, seniors, parents, workers – urged the board not to balance its budget on the backs of the poor. Opposition was organized by the Bus Riders Union (BRU) and Fight For the Soul of the Cities (FFSC.) These groups made it clear that they did not support the small improvements in the amendment motion, but saw these as an attempt, in the words of BRU’s Barbara Lott-Holland, to  ”create a wedge” splitting the opposition.

County Supervisor Molina was the lone board member to ally herself with the public opposition the fare increase. Molina proposed that the fare increase be deferred, and that Metro staff instead be tasked with finding a “one and one-half percent” cut to the operations budget. Molina’s motion failed, unable to secure support from a second board member. Mayor Garcetti offered to incorporate direction to staff to report back on operations budget trimming, but that report back ultimately was not included.

Read more…