Public Wants Below Ground Light Rail for Downtown Connector

Via Blogdowntown: Metro’s Proposed Below-Grade Route

Speaker’s at today’s hearing on potential routing for a project that would connect the Blue and Gold Lines in Downtown Los Angeles drew near-unanimous support earlier this afternoon.  If the plan goes through, passengers could have a direct trip from Long Beach to Pasadena without having to transfer.  However, as we’ve seen before, the issue of whether or not the line should be grade separated dominated much of the public discussion at today’s meeting.

Metro is proposing to study two routes in an environmental review along with a no-build alternative and a "transportation demand management" strategy.  The two routes both would start north on Flower Street before turning east along the 2nd
street corridor. New stations would go on for the connector on Flower, Bunker Hill, and in the Historic Core.

Blogdowntown explains the differences between the above ground and below ground routes.

The above-ground alternative would emerge from the existing Blue
Line tunnels around 5th street. An above-ground station would be placed
in the blocks between 5th and 3rd, and the line would cross 3rd before
cutting into the 2nd street tunnel. The line would travel east through
the tunnel, emerging at Hill street. Once in the Historic Core, the
line would split, with one direction of train travel placed on Main and
one on Los Angeles. Both would converge on Temple, and the line would
interface with the Eastside Extension at Temple and Alameda.

The subway alignment would continue north on Flower, with an
underground station roughly at 5th street. The tunnel would curve east
under 2nd street, with a station at Bunker Hill. It would then have a
station under 2nd street somewhere between Broadway and Los Angeles. In
Little Tokyo, the station would come above-ground on the block
currently occupied by Office Depot.

The above-ground alternative is projected to cost $800 million.  The below grade one just over $900 million.

 Unlike the heated debate over the Expo Line, this time there was almost no debate amongst advocates; everyone agrees the line should run below ground.  Whether it be concerns over pedestrian safety, or the impact a crash, either involving the light rail or just a crash between motor vehicles, could have on the line.  If both the Blue and Gold Lines are running on the same tracks through the Downtown, an ill-placed crash could take out the entire light rail system between Pasadena and Long Beach if the Connector is at-grade.  It’s rare to see Darell Clarke and Damien Goodmon agree on a grade separation issue.  Enjoy it while you can.


Another part of the plan causing debate is the plans for the intersection between 1st and Alameda Streets.  Metro’s current plan, which Metro planner Dolores Roybal assured the crowd were just an initial plan with more details to be decided, calls for diverting north-south traffic by having a tunnel run below the intersection.  Pedestrians, east-west traffic and regional connector cars would all run above ground.

Representatives from the Little Tokyo Business District, while supporting the plan as a whole, raised concerns about the intersection because it would have train tracks moving in six different directions.   Goodmon noted that if the intersection is expected to handle 48 trains per hour, the official estimate for how many trains would be crossing the area at rush hour,  there will be tremendous gridlock and a pedestrian safety hazard.  Goodmon was also concerned that Metro’s rendering, pictured above, was inacurate and made to show a much more orderly intersection than would be expected.

Of course, funding for the project remains an issue, as it is for every transit project in America.  Roybal mentioned the Federal New Starts program as a possible funding source, which seemed ironic because it was less than a month ago that I heard Metro CEO Roger Snoble complain to Senator Boxer that New Starts is woefully underfunded.  Of course, Measure R would also help fund the project.  A total of $160 million on local funds would be dedicated to the Regional Connector if this ballot measure passed in 19 days.

There will be a second meeting next Tuesday evening at 6:30 in the Japanese-American Heritage Museum.

  • I also attended the meeting and drafted a side-by-side comparison of the two alternatives:

  • It’s not a subway alignment. It’s a primarily subway alignment.

    There is still an at-grade crossing at 1st and Alameda, that I imagine is no where near as easily mitigated as Metro has lead folk to believe.

    There also the issue of where near Little Tokyo east-west trains will stop.

    It would literally bypass Little Tokyo.

  • Wouldn’t it have been a dream to … I dunno … connect the Gold Line with the Blue Line? I thought they were using the same types of light rails cars for this reason. Wasn’t that the plan originally? There is already a “connector” between 7th St Metro and Union Station the Gold Line. It just requires a 20 minute wait and a scramble at 7th St Metro to catch the Blue Line (or a hike upstairs to get above ground).

  • Ubrayj, as I understand it, that’s actually their plan. I changed the text in the first paragraph to make that point more clear. The 20 minute wait and the scramble? Gone. Poof.

  • Steve

    Regarding the 1st-Alameda intersection, the need to stop at the Little Tokyo station seems to be driving the intersection design. I think that instead of putting Alameda underground a better solution would be to keep the train underground. Make the Little Tokyo station a two level station, street level and underground and have the Connector tracks emerge from underground to join the Gold Line tracks between Little Tokyo and Union Station and along 1st Street. It would involve a little more tunneling for the train tracks but would eliminate the cost of building an Alameda underpass and eliminate the traffic and pedestrian tie ups from 48 trains an hour going through the intersection.

  • Yea it’s your typical bureaucracy: refusing to admit a mistake.

    If there is only to be one station it should be a shallow diagonal underground station on the southwest corner of 1st and Alameda. They’re taking/purchasing the property anyway. From there it can transition to the at-grade tracks at Alameda/Temple into Union Station, and 1st and Garey (into East LA).

    You can do this WHILE MAINTAINING SERVICE ON THE GOLD LINE, except for probably one long weekend or even just one long day, when you need to connect the two.

    Hope to have renderings by late today.

  • anonymouse

    One thing that I haven’t heard is what Metro’s operations will look like after the connector opens. I suspect that it will involve running through service along the lines of Santa Monica-Pasadena and Long Beach-East LA, and probably some trains terminating at Chinatown, since Pasadena demand will be lower than any of the other three branches, but Union Station and Chinatown still need frequent service. In this case, the current plan is pretty silly, since East LA trains wouldn’t stop at Little Tokyo at all. The thing to do then is exactly what Damien Goodmon said: have the station on the southwest side, before the lines split, and since the station has to be more or less level, the light rail will be underground through the intersection, surfacing at two portals north and east of the intersection. It would probably require a flat junction underground, which isn’t optimal, but still MUCH better than throwing cars into the mix as well. Incidentally, it would probably be a good idea to also put the south end of the downtown segment into a tunnel as well, up to the point where the Blue and Expo lines split.

  • Jerard


    That idea will require a lot more time than you’re suggesting especially for a shallow station and when there needs to space for the portals to transition to Temple/Alameda because the foot of the aerial bridge starts at Temple/Alameda. So demolishion of existing facilites on regular 8-12 hour construction schedule about 2-3 weeks. Add another 1 week for preparation of the portal. (This usually takes about a month due to the utilities, but this was done previously when building the original platform) The location and construction of the temporary platform can be done concurrently with a wood structure.

    In addition, It takes a massive underground concrete-rebar structure like that at least 7-14 days to cure at 80% strength, full strength of curing requires 28 days. But before that it will take up to 45-60 days to just construct the rebar cages and prepare the forms needed for that intersection.

    In order to keep a constant flow of concrete going you’d need a platoon of trucks and whole lot of workers to sustain this one part of the operation. That can be done but it will cost a whole lot of money for just one series of points rather than spread out over a longer period of time which more concrete plants look for in their clients. Many construction companies can’t afford to do during their bids because it will not make their bid proposal feasible. They have to space out their workers appropriately. They can’t hire so many workers that they’ll have nothing to do after one big phase of the work.

    The advantage an at-grade wye has is visablity even with a pedestrian bridge. The Chicago ‘L’ loop are really a series of at-grade wye crossings and jucntions raised on an elevated platform with train movements of a train every minute as is the case on the Brown-Purple Lines. Modern version of this with the dispatching and located cameras and 3 vantage points will visually add another level of eyes to keep the flow of crossing movements.

    With the depression of Alameda and potential suggestion to close of the 1st Street for cars and have those diver a block north and south on Temple and 2nd Street will do plenty to mitigate the traffic that are merely passing through Little Tokyo rather than stopping in Little Tokyo. People stopping in Little Tokyo will come through via San Pedro and Central to the parking facilities like they are doing now.

    For transit buses, keep First Street open for Buses only. That would further reduce the collisions because bus operators are specitifically trained to wait at the at-grade intersections until a solid green light. A visable example is at Washington/Broadway notice the buses even when having the potential to cross with a changing light, they never do that.

  • anonymouse:

    “Incidentally, it would probably be a good idea to also put the south end of the downtown segment into a tunnel as well, up to the point where the Blue and Expo lines split.”

    I put those comments into scoping and reiterated them at the meeting. No change. I believe it’s outside the scoping area.


    I don’t pretend to think construction of the WYE will be any easier underground than it would be at-grade. ;-) Simply, I think it’s a bit short-sighted to assume that anything that approaches typical construction schedules would be implemented for something of this magnitude whether at-grade (with the Alameda underpass) or underground.

    When the 10 fwy fell during the Northridge Earthquake, I’m pretty sure we weren’t working on 8-12 hour schedules.

    And closing off 1st St? You do know this is the only crossing over the river in the 1 mile between Cesar Chavez and 4th St?

  • Jerard

    “I don’t pretend to think construction of the WYE will be any easier underground than it would be at-grade. Simply, I think it’s a bit short-sighted to assume that anything that approaches typical construction schedules would be implemented for something of this magnitude whether at-grade (with the Alameda underpass) or underground.”

    You stated that from the beginning:

    “You can do this WHILE MAINTAINING SERVICE ON THE GOLD LINE, except for probably one long weekend or even just one long day, when you need to connect the two.”

    Bit short sighted? Do you understand that because you have residents directly abutting this, 8-12 hour schedules will be mandatory and 24-7 schedules will be prohibited. And again the amount of material for just this one portion you will not get a Concrete plant anywhere to set-up without a large upfront payment, because you are having them put on hold other vendors for their needs for concrete. Which is why there’s a cost premium for this.

    Same for the workers unless stipulated in the contract specifications or placed in the schedule of values (the list of the materials, time and workers and an estimated cost value for each) for the contractors winning bid. The contractor will have to pull workers from their other jobsites to work on this section because now that is an additional 2-3 shifts of workers not included in his original bid. However that’s not a change order, it’s means and methods and in this method the Contractor will lose a crap load of $$$ on the job.

    The construction business works on supply and demand.

    “When the 10 fwy fell during the Northridge Earthquake, I’m pretty sure we weren’t working on 8-12 hour schedules.”

    Yes; because the FEMA insurance and Fed. Gov had to pay for that extra time, there are only a few residences about 500-600 feet away from the 10 freeway, and the structure itself was a simple beam on post overpass, not a curved wye that will require precise engineering to ensure the Big Rig truck’s live loads don’t prematurely age the concrete-rebar. Since we will have it go in both directions, well that’s a lot more to engineer.

    Also the Contractors have to bid on this project based on that condition of 8-12 hour work schedule.

    “And closing off 1st St? You do know this is the only crossing over the river in the 1 mile between Cesar Chavez and 4th St?”

    Let me be more specific as to where to close off 1st Street, at Alameda. I do know that this is the only bridge between Chavez and 4th Street. I walk this area every other day.

    You do know that there’s Temple and 2nd Street one block away from 1st. That extending Hewitt Street to Temple could enable and organization of the traffic which will be noticiably lighter because the bulk of First Street bridge crossing traffic is coming from Mission Road for autos driving through Little Tokyo. You do know the bulk of that Mission Road traffic turns at Chavez.

    However this can be figured out during the EIR phase where these questions, solutions, suggestions and issues need to resolved and analyzed.

  • jack

    LA needs massive investment in public transport. Piecemeal solutions do accumulate, but are met with resistance each time. What LA needs is a big bang investment, 10 heavy rail lines at once, its about time LA grows up and competes with New York. Beijing is doing it, why can’t we? It will cost us just as much either way, in oil or in construction costs. Gridlock is a choice.

  • This is cool! And so interested! Are u have more
    posts like this? Please tell me, thanks


Students, Professors Acitivsts Call for Grade-Separated Connector

Image: Last night Metro, kicked off a week of public outreach for the environmental studies for the Downtown Connector,aka Regional Connector, with a meeting at the University of Southern California.  This marked the first time that they held a meeting at USC as previous efforts had focused on the Downtown and Chinatown.  For those […]

Compromise In the Air for Downtown Connector, Expo Phase II

Yesterday, transit advocates received a double-dose of good news as the air of compromise blew in and the debate over two light rail projects was changed.  In Santa Monica, the City Council endorsed a "compromise" plan on the location of a light rail yard for Expo Phase II.  Downtown, Metro staff unveiled a new potential […]

It May Be Slow, But Transit Projects Still Moving Forward

For those of you that missed it, last week Metro announced that it will be suspending its vote on the Long Range Transportation Plan until after issues with the budget mess in Sacramento and stimulus plan from Washington D.C. are resolved.  However, just because discussion of strategic planning is off the table doesn’t mean that […]

LADOT Ready for Late Night DASH Service

LADOT has officially joined in the effort to bring late night transit service to downtown Los Angeles.  A new report by the Department encourages the City Council to fund their proposal to run late night bus service along two routes in the Downtown. However, while their is support for the bus routes, the proposal won’t […]

Metro Packs the House at Downtown Connector Meeting

(Hello readers from the Transit Coalition. You can read other Street Heat transit coverage from the past week here, here, and here.) A large and enthusiastic audience attended today’s Metro meeting on the Regional Connector Transit Corridor Study at the public library. A standing-room-only room couldn’t fit all interested parties, and Metro Staff actually had […]