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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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#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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#DamienTalksSGV 4 – Mural History and Bicycle Education in El Monte

Welcome to episode 4 of #DamienTalksSGV, an episode that focuses primarily on two projects in El Monte. We didn’t plan it that way, but sometimes these things happen.

Damien Talks SGV logoFirst, #DamienTalks with David Diaz Avelar about Historia de los Monteros, a collaborative effort between a handful of groups to explore the lost history of El Monte’s mural culture. Day One, East of East, and the South El Monte Arts Posse have programmed six events featuring discussions, bike rides, and lectures all focused on this topic. The next event is March 5; find event details at the Historia’s webpage or the event poster.

If David’s name (or voice) sound familiar, that is because he is the same person we interviewed in the last #DamienTalksSGV for another project: advocacy for the Las Tunas complete streets project in Temple City for Bike SGV.

Speaking of BikeSGV, our second guest is Jose Jimenez, who runs Bike SGV’s bicycle education center in El Monte. Jose discusses the brief history of the center, upcoming programs and invites everyone to come visit to learn how to ride, fix or improve their bicycle. The education center schedule can be found at the Bike SGV website.

#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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#DamienTalks SGV 3: Pasadena Parklets and Temple City Complete Streets

Welcome to episode 3 of #DamienTalksSGV, a public affairs podcast interviewing people that create and advocate for sustainable transportation in the San Gabriel Valley.

Which way will Temple City go?

Which way will Temple City go?

Today, #DamienTalks with livable streets advocates in Pasadena and Temple City about chances to get involved with efforts to bring parklets to the Pasadena Playhouse District and a complete streets plan for Las Tunas Drive in Temple City.

First, #DamienTalks with Greg Gunther, a resident and activist from Pasadena. Gunther has been working for years to bring parklets to Colorado Boulevard in the Pasadena Playhouse District. After years of work, Pasadena seems close to approving the plan for two parklets on each end of the Boulevard in the Playhouse District. If you want to get involved, join the Facebook Group here or the mailing list, here.

Second, #DamienTalks with David Diaz Avelar, a program manager with Bike SGV. On Thursday, the Temple City Council is scheduled to vote on one of three plans for Las Tunas Drive. Despite its history with progressive transportation, community pushback is causing some to worry that the Council won’t go for the more progressive plans.

Bike SGV has a good rundown on both the meeting and the politics here. More details are also available in the actual podast.

#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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#DamienTalks SGV2: Albert Ho on IWillRide and Wes Reutimann on the Puente Hills Landfill Park

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A view from the future Puente Hills Landfill Park.

This week, #DamienTalks with Albert Ho of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. Albert has been a booster of the project dating back to the mid aughts, helping to found the IWillRide campaign as an interested college student, managing the website early in his career and then working for the Construction Authority.

Albert talks about his experiences advocating for the project, touches on some of the highlights of the line extension, scheduled to open on March 5. Towards the end, we reminisce about our days of yore, sitting in the back of Metro Board meetings together, trying to come up with the wittiest tweet about the meeting.

Next, #DamienTalks with Wes Reutimann, the executive director of Bike SGV. Reutimann discusses the upcoming scoping meeting for the Puente Hills Landfill Park. The park promises to be one of the largest tracts of open space on the Southland. There will be an environmental scoping meeting this Wednesday, January 27 (for more information on the hearing and the park click here.)

Bike SGV is hoping that there we be a safe network of bicycle lanes leading to the park and a network of bike facilities within the park to create the largest bike park in California. If you can’t make the scoping meeting, click here to read and sign Bike SGV’s petition.

If, like me, you are unfamiliar with what a bike park is, here are examples in Marin County and Fresno County.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the #DamienTalks homepage on Libsyn.

#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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Foothill Gold Line Extension To Open March 5, 2016

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

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

Today, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced the opening date for the initial 12-mile extension of the Foothill Gold Line. The new Gold Line extension is set to open on March 5, 2016.

The line was built by the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority. When it was substantially complete in September, it was turned over to Metro for testing. The Gold Line extension includes 12 miles of track, new maintenance yards, 1,525 parking spaces, and six new stations: Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, Azusa Downtown, and Azusa Pacific University/Citrus College. Metro estimates anticipate 13,600 new daily riders.

Additional phases are anticipated to extend the line east from Azusa to Monclair and then further into San Bernardino County, though these are not yet funded.

A shortage of rail cars means that initial operations will feature less than optimal headways. Trains will operate every 12 minutes, with more frequent service likely starting in late 2016.

The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority recently celebrated station dedications. For a tour of the then-under-construction Gold Line Extension, see the 2014 SBLA series of articles on the rail line, transit-adjacent developmentbridges, and maintenance yards.

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Foothill Transit’s Class Pass: A Universal Bus Pass Success Story

Last week, Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas set things in motion for a universal community college transit pass program. Today SBLA profiles one successful local college bus pass program. Foothill Transit’s Class Pass is increasing ridership, helping solve parking problems, and giving students expanded and affordable mobility options.

Students boarding Foothill Transit Line xxx at Mount San Antonio College. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Students boarding Foothill Transit Line 486 at Mount San Antonio College. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

In March, the American Public Transit Association (APTA) released its annual aggregation of nationwide transit ridership trends. Though APTA figures [PDF – L.A. County Google spreadsheet] show that overall national transit ridership was at a 58-year high in 2014, the figures were not as promising for L.A. County. Metro ridership decreased 2.8 percent from 2013 to 2014. Metro is currently studying ways to reverse its decline, but the agency’s budget forecasts an additional five percent decline in fiscal year 2015-16.

Most of the municipal transit agencies operating in L.A. County also saw similar decreases in ridership. Examples include Long Beach Transit down 0.5 percent, and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus down 3.7 percent. Foothill Transit bucked the trend, showing a 3.6 increase in ridership.

What caused Foothill Transit’s ridership uptick? Expanded Silver Streak freeway bus service as part of Metro’s ExpressLanes program?

Foothill Transit Director of Marketing and Communications Felicia Friesema points to modest increases on a number of lines, including the Silver Streak, but the most substantive increases come from Foothill’s Class Pass program.

Foothill Transit’s Class Pass is an unlimited-ride student TAP card. Class Pass started as a trial at Mount San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) in 2013. At Mt. SAC, the pass is effectively free to students who ride the bus, with the program being paid for by all students through a $9 registration fee ($8 for part-time students.) The registration fee was approved by a vote of the Mt. SAC student body in 2014, making the program permanent.  Read more…

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San Gabriel Valley Regional Bike Plan Faces Two Hearings Tonight

The 5-city San Gabriel Valley regional bike plan is currently making its way through a complicated series of city approvals. Two important bike plan hearings are taking place tonight in the cities of El Monte and Monterey Park. Specific details on those hearings after the jump. Folks who live, work, bike, or breathe in the San Gabriel Valley are encouraged to attend in support of plan passage.

Like much of Los Angeles County, the ~30-city San Gabriel Valley sees itself as a car-oriented and traffic-congested place. It has plenty of cyclists and a few prominent well-loved bicycle facilities: Temple City’s excellent protected bike lanes on Rosemead Boulevard, and the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo river bike trails.

El Monte and South El Monte bike plans. Click for larger images. Image from SGV Bike Master Plan

El Monte and South El Monte bike plans. Click for larger images. Image from SGV Bike Master Plan

The central SGV cities of Temple City and Rosemead are ahead of the curve; they approved their Bicycle Master Plans in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Five SGV cities are in the process of approving individual portions of the new inter-connected plan: Baldwin Park, El Monte, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, and South El Monte. This regional effort was shepherded by BikeSGV working with the bicycle planning consultants Alta Planning + Design, with funding from the L.A. County Department of Public Health. 

BikeSGV Program Director Javier Hernandez acknowledges the broad spectrum of parties responsible for the latest plan:

The SGV Bike Plan is the culmination of a much greater force at play in the San Gabriel Valley, collaboration! The SGV Bike Plan is a prime example of a systematic, all-inclusive and transparent regional planning effort that has unified families, students, youth, seniors, non-profits, government agencies, businesses, school districts, and everything in between to address many of the regions public and environmental woes. A united San Gabriel Valley sets the stage for deeper, more profound regional impact with respect to improving health, reducing our carbon footprint, reducing auto/bike collisions, and sustainable development.  

Few bicyclists, pedestrians, transit-riders or drivers actually know when they have crossed municipal boundaries, so it is important that adjacent jurisdictions plan and implement livable streets together. The overall SGV bike plan features bike facilities that cross city boundaries; examples include Garvey Avenue and Ramona Boulevard. In addition to facilities, the plan includes policies and programs.

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City of Monterey Park bike plan. Click for larger images. Image from SGV Bike Master Plan

Here is the status of each of the five cities in the current SGV regional plan process:

  • The city of San Gabriel approved its bike plan in September.
  • The city of Baldwin Park approved its bike plan [PDF] earlier this month.
  • The El Monte City Council votes on the city’s bike plan tonight – details below.
  • Monterey Park’s bike plan will be heard at the city’s Planning Commission tonight – details below. Assuming it passes the commission, it will go to the Monterey Park City Council later this year.
  • The South El Monte City Council is expected to vote on its plan in December.

Read more…

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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.

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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.

M&O Campus

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

Read more…