Expo Releases FEIR for Phase II Chooses Alignment Along ROW and Colorado Avenue

12_18_09_expo_map.jpgThe Source has a full sized map here.

The Expo Construction Authority has finally released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Phase II of the Expo Line with some key changes.  I’ll spend more time reviewing the document and talking to some of the key players in the drama over the weekend and will be back with a longer story on Monday.  But for those of you that can’t wait to start talking, here are the key changes from the press release, which can be read in its entirety here.  Or you can read the environmental documents in their entirety on the Expo Construction Authority Board website.

Meanwhile, here are the key changes from the Draft EIR per the Construction Authority’s Press Release.

Inclusion of a design option that removes the park-and-ride lot at the Westwood station;

Maintenance Facility design option which includes Santa Monica College
and Verizon properties with a 100-110 foot buffer, providing additional
protection from the residential community to the south of the proposed

Accommodation of a continuous bikeway from the Phase 1 terminus to Santa Monica;

An additional grade separation at Centinela;

Addition of a 3rd northbound lane on Sepulveda for the at-grade crossing;

Inclusion of a design option for grade separation at Sepulveda if outside funding sources become available.

  • There are indeed aerial structures, mostly on the south end of the BART yellow and red lines, approaching Daly City station and SFO, for example.

    While you were riding the train and entering Daly City Station, did you realize you were actually in Daly City? I said in the City of San Francisco David.

    Also, the one elevated WYE at SFO is so it can cross over the freeway. The rest of the San Mateo extension built from Colma Station to Milbrae Station, which opened in 2003 is in a tunnel under a right-of-way.

    Look I know there are elevated structure on BART. I’ve been to San Francisco many times. They’re just not in San Francisco, and there’s good reason for that. My reply was in response to Darrell who intentionally selected the most obtrusive form of BART of which to compare, without justification. I responded with reference to the least unsightly portion.

    BART is the creme de la creme of S.F. public transit, and it is centralized within a specific corridor where the distances and population density justifies it, just like the red/purple lines are/will be centralized within a specific corridor. It does serve a different purpose than light rail.

    David, I think you’ve missed the point.

    -At 20 (???) stations over 22 miles the Blue Line is a long-distance rail system
    -At 16 (???) stations over 15.6 miles the Expo Line will be the same, and the line will be extended to be even longer when the Downtown Connector is built.

    -At 8.5 miles with 35 stops the N Judah is a streetcar.

    Are both of these systems light rail? Technically, yes. But Expo and Blue have about as much in common with the N Judah as they do with the Broadway Streetcar and the trolley at the Grove.

    Both the Broadway Streetcar and Expo are light rail, but they are built for two very different purposes.

    Light rail’s greatest asset is its flexibility to run at-grade, underground, elevated, in mixed-floor or in the median of freeway. It’s part of what makes it so attractive as a mode. Both an N Judah and a Blue Line could conceivably run with the same type of train. Just because it’s the same type of train does not mean it’s serving the same purpose.

    The objective of Downtown Streetcar and N Judah is local circulation – just like our local buses.

    The objective of Blue/Expo regional rail is long-distance commutes – just like BART.

    We would not build a line like the N Judah to serve the needs that Expo is supposed to be serving, so they are not analogous. You talk about your needs on the N Judah and ignore that the needs on the Expo corridor in Los Angeles may be different.

    That’s the first point. The second point is that you’re totally wrong when you reference population density.

    Many (if not a majority) of the areas served by BART stations are low density. Hence the huge parking structures adjacent to the stations. The San Mateo extension I referenced above goes through an area wand serving cities with lower density than the Expo corridor. It was built there because BART, much like the D.C. Metro, was intended to relieve highway congestion. A light rail system like ours traveling at our speeds would definitely not attract the ridership that either system enjoys.

    You are arguing against at-grade light rail, saying it is a mistake. I pointed out that there are plenty of examples of at-grade light rail in San Francisco, and it serves the community there just fine. My point is that absolutism (“At-grade is bad!”) is myopic.

    Except I’ve never said anything so simplistic as “at-grade is bad.” I’ve constantly said that in urban L.A. it has severe limitations, doesn’t serve our needs in urban L.A. and given very specific explanations as to why, primary among them the need for speed and interlining to address our long-distance commutes in our poly-centric region and our current levels of congestion.

    Did I say at-grade rail didn’t serve the needs of the N Judah corridor in San Francisco? No. To the contrary, I continually say, what appears to work elsewhere does not mean it would work here, and add that just because it exists elsewhere doesn’t mean it’s “working.”

    I don’t know what the needs of the N Judah corridor to evaluate whether its better than the alternatives, and I’d bet that neither do you. (And by corridor I mean everyone impacted by it not just one tourist). Furthermore, taking the debate off to some far off city only serves as a distraction. Who other than a person with knowledge of and experience traveling across/around the Western/Exposition could explain why that crossing needs to be grade separated?

    We’re talking about L.A. and it’s challenges, it’s needs, the impacts of what we’re actually building on the communities and traffic circulation that we’re actually impacting.

    The only absolutism being displayed here is by you: “It works there so it will work here.”

    I’ve asked you before which other MTA projects should be canceled or scaled back in order to provide the funds to completely grade-separate Expo, and as I recall your response was simply that MTA could find the money if they really wanted to.

    And it’s a statement based in fact, not in some false supposition. Overnight the project went from $640 to $862 and they’re going to have to go back to the well AGAIN. This project was originally 900M from Downtown LA to Santa Monica! It’s TRIPLED IN FRICKING COST!

    Every time this project budget has increased it’s been funded! If it realy were fiscal constrained and people really were concerned about “canceling other projects” it would have been scaled back. And don’t get me started on the total silence of the people who always complain about the cost of grade separation. Expo Phase 2 went from 800-900M to 1.9B and not one of them has said a word!

    Expo Line advocates can’t do that and expect their arguments about cost concerns to remain credible.

    MTA can’t walk away from $320 million federal dollars for the project claiming they’re broke.

    Politicians can’t claim there’s no money for safety and traffic improvements the community is requesting, while appropriating dollars for everything else.

    Fiscal concersatives claim that appropriating the dollars necessary to address problems jeopardizes the project and not protest the project budget increasing by a billion dollars.

    You’re presenting strawman arguments David.

    But just as BART does not have branches going to every place in the Bay area, and instead relies on Muni to cover some of those areas

    Same thing here with the bus system to the rail system.

    Yes, I agree that below-grade will ALWAYS be better. I don’t agree that it will ALWAYS be worth the cost, though.

    Depends on how you’re defining costs. Are we talking construction cost to the agency, the 100-year lifecycle cost/benefit to the public, etc.?

    But even if you just want to restrict the cost solely to construction, some places you can build elevated rail and not adversely impact any residential property or sensitive uses, or at-grade grade separated. But, there are benefits from certain types of underground construction that may require less time to construct, less mitigation and thereby far less in a capital cost increase than you may think.

    And I would agree subways aren’t needed everywhere – for example the Foothill Extension to Las Vegas (I think that’s the latest station they’ve added). But when you get to communities that far out, you should probably be evaluating whether you’re using light rail at all (depends on the travel patterns) and accordingly whether the projects should be built within existing grade separated right-of-ways (in freeway medians or just off the freeway (much like the Daly City Station). A lot of NYC system in the outskirts of the Burroughs are in trenches as is a large portion of the Boston heavy rail lines. It all depends.

  • I was using absolutist to refer to those who think any rail line should be completely grade separated.

    “Any rail line.” That would include all of Metrolink, the Broadway streetcar and the trolleys at Americana at Brand and the Grove.

    Who is making such arguments?

    My point being that you have to weigh both impact AND cost of the at-grade vs. below-grade options, and that the result will not always be in favor of below-grade in all situations.

    “All situations.” That would include well ALL situations. Who is saying below-grade in all situations?

  • Yes, I agree that below-grade will ALWAYS be better. I don’t agree that it will ALWAYS be worth the cost, though.

    If you like, lets get out of the hypothetical, be specific and talk Expo Phase 1 and Expo Phase 2.

    Here’s a few questions. First, lets be clear what we’re talking about:

    1. How is “the cost” be defined? Are we talking construction, operation, life cycle, public, etc?

    2. What amount is “the cost?” In other words, what amount is acceptable? If the amount has no number, “the cheapest possible” will suffice.

    3. How is the cost being funded and borne? Who is footing the bill?


    4. What is worth the cost?

    5. What is not worth the cost?

  • David Galvan

    You talk about your needs on the N Judah and ignore that the needs on the Expo corridor in Los Angeles may be different.

    Again, my main point has been that at-grade is not always a bad thing. For Expo, some stations will be at-grade, and others not (at least, that’s my understanding). The analysis should be crossing-per-crossing. Blanket grade-separating the whole line is great. If it were on a ballot, I’d vote for it. Even better if it was clearly stated how we could pay for it. But it’s the job of MTA to figure out if that is really necessary. Not saying they can’t be wrong, but I’m not convinced they are for Expo.

    The only absolutism being displayed here is by you: “It works there so it will work here.”

    Please. First, I never said that. Second, I don’t see what’s wrong with that statement in general: There’s no reason an N-Judah type line, say along Ventura Blvd or Sepulveda, couldn’t work here. I get your point that N-Judah is serving a smaller area so can’t be fairly compared to Expo which will serve a larger area (though I don’t totally agree with it). Third, you want the entire Expo line grade-separated. I’m saying that not every part necessarily needs to be grade-separated. And I’m the absolutist? Give me a break.

    And it’s a statement based in fact, not in some false supposition. Overnight the project went from $640 to $862 and they’re going to have to go back to the well AGAIN. This project was originally 900M from Downtown LA to Santa Monica! It’s TRIPLED IN FRICKING COST! Every time this project budget has increased it’s been funded!

    Well, hey. If you follow that line of reasoning to its natural conclusion, our resources turn out to be infinite! Damien, you’ve done far too much research to pretend like you’re ignorant of the reality of the matter. The money comes from somewhere.

    You complaining that others aren’t exclaiming when projects go over budget doesn’t change the fact that some other project will indeed have less allocated funding due to budget overruns on something like Expo, or by higher original base costs.

    Also, the fact that these types of projects end up ballooning in cost tends to apply across the board. IE: if Expo had started out being proposed as a cut-and-cover fully grade separated line like the kind you want, the costs would likely have STILL tripled by the time the thing got built. The unexpected costs that come into play to cause the project to go over budget won’t be eliminated by adding higher originally-estimated base costs (ie: making it cost more up front). The fact that things tend to go overbudget does not give you cart blanche to expect to get projects with huge price tags approved.

    “Any rail line”. . .”All situations.” That would include well ALL situations. Who is saying below-grade in all situations?

    Oh for crap’s sake. I’m obviously talking about you. You want the entire Expo line grade-separated. You oppose putting in light rail at-grade in los angeles. Did you really think i was talking about Metrolink here? Use whatever semantics you want. You have spent many lines of text decrying at-grade light rail for los angeles.

  • David Galvan

    . How is “the cost” be defined?

    Now we’re talking. The numbers you have been throwing around so far are construction costs (I think). So how about we work with those. Those are the numbers that are going to be compared and presented when requesting funding for these projects, afterall.

    And, regardless of how you define them, the cost of installing a deep-bore subway like the red/purple lines is going to be much higher than the cost of at-grade light rail. And at ~$5Billion a pop, you should realize that we can’t have a full MTA rail system of subways any time soon.

  • Joseph E

    The ridership on the BART extension to SFO and Milbrae has been very disappointing. The billions spent for a grade-separated heavy rail metro could have been better spent on improving Caltrain, which runs largely at-grade thru the center of all the San Mateo County cities, near El Camino Real, and into San Francisco and San Jose.

  • Joseph E

    Damien, good questions on “cost.” Perhaps Jarrett at Human Transit could write a nice post related to your questions.

    “1. How is “the cost” be defined? Are we talking construction, operation, life cycle, public, etc?”

    To be fair to grade-separated rail, we should talk about design and construction costs alone. Consider the central part of the hypothetical Silver Line, from Union Station along Sunset to West Hollywood. If built for surface light rail with no grade separations (nearly impossible if current “LOS” for cars needs to be maintained), construction costs would be much less (1/3 to 1/6 as much) than if it were built as an elevated or subway line with elevated or underground stations. But operating costs would also be higher for the grade-separated route, since higher ridership (due to faster average speed) might require more trains at any one time, which increases costs in a subsidized system no matter how full the trains are.
    To be fair, we should ignore operating costs. Metro capital projects have different fundings sources.
    Life cycle costs are probably also higher for grade-separations, due to difficulty accessing an “El” or subway for repairs, and greater difficulty adding additional tracks. However, we can pay for maintenance in the future; current costs are what we can control.
    As far as “total public costs” are concerned, direct costs to taxpayers and riders are mainly due to construction, operations or maintenance, as above. And additional complication would be if grade separation needed to be added in the future due to political, cultural or development changes. This is the one case where the cost could be greater for at-grade rail. But this is difficult to predict.
    There are also other “costs” of transit, but most are hard to quantify in dollars. Are delays to car travel a cost or benefit? If we slow down car commutes, reducing VMT and increasing transit use (by making cars less convenient) are these costs to drivers or benefits to the public at large? If ugly grade separations or ugly fences drive down land values, that’s bad for current land owners, but may create affordable housing and office space. Which cost is more important? Is there a quantifiable “cost” to riding a train in the “dark hole” (as some say) of a subway as opposed to enjoying SoCal sunshine?

    I propose that we ignore external costs, operating costs, and maintenances costs for now. Construction costs (present and future) are what matters. If we can prove that a future grade-separate will be necessary and cost more in a certain year within the next few decades, perhaps we can try to include that cost as well.

    “2. What amount is “the cost?” In other words, what amount is acceptable? If the amount has no number, “the cheapest possible” will suffice.”

    I propose that we debate costs in the context of current federal, state and local construction funding availability. Measure R and current federal law can provide a certain amount of money over the next 25 years (probably about $40 billion at a 50:50 match? Anyone have a more solid number?) for transit capital projects. The mayor of LA currently wants to do all the big transit projects first, in the next 10 years. So lets say we get 40 billion (or whatever it is) over 10 years.

    After that, we can hope for another sales tax or change in federal policy to get more money, when oil has peaked. But we will all be old by then! ;-)

    We should also be aware of the total available for local transit operations. If we want to operate a dozen subways or light rail lines with 2 minute headways, we are going to need more money for operations than currently planned. But this is probably an easier problem to solve (we are talking millions, not billions, a year).

    The Get LA Moving plan was claimed to cost 40 billion (In 2007 dollars, I suppose?) according to this page: http://glam.fminus.com/plan_financing.php
    A more realistic estimate would be 120 billion in year of expenditure, based on estimates for the cost of the Wilshire subway ($300 million per mile, including station about 1 per mile, or about $200M per station and $100M per mile of subway tunnel, including design/build costs).

    So we either get less than 1/3 the miles on LA Visions as grade-separated heavy rail, or we build more at-grade rail.

    If we get more money, say by increasing the Federal match to 80% for New Starts projects and blocking local highway projects, we could fund more of the Get LA Moving plan (Damien Goodmon’s grade-separated plan)… or we could build even more regional rail and light rail than the lines in that plan. So the possibility of getting more money for transit does not remove the need to prioritize spending.

    “3. How is the cost being funded and borne? Who is footing the bill?”

    Currently, State/Local funds about 50 to 60% (or even more, in the case of Crenshaw and Foothill lines) and the Feds fund 40 to 50%. Private industry is unlikely to fund transit lines (perhaps a Broadway streetcar?), except for High-Speed Rail if the fares are set high. Metro probably can’t raise fares high enough to cover operations, let alone construction, so riders will not pay for building new rail lines directly.

    External costs (noise, views, vibration, delays for cars) may be borne by others. But there will be other benefits as well, as I discussed in point #1.

    “4. What is worth the cost?”
    “5. What is not worth the cost?”

    If Los Angeles were the only city in the world, or even the only city in California, I would support grade-separated parallel rail lines every 1/2 mile on all major streets (well, half of them could be at grade and half grade separated without any problems, if cars were limited), and high speed regional trains on all the freeway or other wide rights-of-way.

    But San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, even Fresno and San Jose, could use some rapid transit. A subway / ‘El’ down Geary in SF would get huge ridership, better than Vermont here. And around the world, there are hundreds of cities where millions of riders crowd onto ancient diesel buses, clogging the streets, polluting the air and making life difficult (or short) for pedestrians. San Jose Costa Rica is in much more desperate need of a subway than San Jose, California (I’m looking at you, BART!); Lima Peru could surpass Metro’s current total ridership with just 2 or 3 rail lines, for peanuts. Lagos, Nigeria could use any kind of rapid transit, bus or rail.

    Where is the “environmental racism” really centered? Often, our little local viewpoint misses out on the enormous need for transit all around the world, and the shameful way America has spent it’s wealth (and the world’s limited resources) on ourselves, or on waste. Should Whittier get a subway or elevated rail line before Accra, Ghana? (Pop 3 million, average density >23,000/mile2)

    I am not a pessimist. Some out on the fringe think (hope?) that the world will grind to a halt as oil peaks and other resources become limited in the next 20 years. I believed we can reprioritize and spend our money on electrified transportation and useful infrastructure, rather than building more suburban subdivisions and freeways, and buying more throw-away junk from China in exchange for financial derivatives. But I know it will take time for the rest of society to see how great transit and livable streets and neighborhoods can be, that they don’t need to do everything in a car, or waste so much energy and land to be happy.

    Meanwhile, I would like to use the limited money allocated to transit as efficiently as possible. Using it well will build political goodwill toward increasing funding for transit (and sidewalks, and bike infrastructure). We don’t want to build anything that will have to be torn down and built better in 20 years (like an at-grade Regional Connector). But we don’t want to waste money on elevated BART to Warm Springs, when we could be saving for a Geary Subway!

    Further, let me leave you with this thought: how many grade separations would we need in a car-free city? If central Los Angeles streets were opened up to pedestrians (and closed to cars) every day, would pedestrians mind waiting 30 seconds for the gates to go up after a train passed? How much cheaper is it to build a grade separation for pedestrians and bikes (Width 12 feet, Vertical clearance 8 feet) instead of cars? (width 60ft, ht 16.5ft)

    Are many of the expensive grade separations made necessary by cars, not people? If so, they may be an investment in our car-dominated present, not in the future. Grade separations need to make financial sense in the next 20 years; they may not all be relevant in 50 or 100, when so much may have changed.

  • As I have said before, this is a public process and it will be interesting to see that play out.

  • What a nice Christmas present, these grade separation flame wars are more entertaining than reality TV. Unfortunately I always get here too late, but here I am writing anyway.

    I still live down in Long Beach, and though it’s great having the Blue Line to Downtown LA (getting there without it would be a nightmare), the slowdowns along 8th st, LB blvd, Washington, and Flower are really irritating. Every time I get off, I find myself wondering how much faster the ride would have been without all those stop lights and turns. I’m not as much of a hardliner as Damien G, but years of riding the Blue Line have predisposed me to grade separated lines.

    Both the pro and anti grade separation camps need to examine the role Metro Trains should fill. Here in Long Beach, the case is being made for a street car system. But streetcar proponents aren’t making any argument that streetcars would affect any significant improvement in mobility over conventional buses, but rather because studies have shown that streetcars improve revenues for businesses in commercial districts. Seems kind of strange to me: “This multi-million dollar train system isn’t going to make transportation much better, but let’s build it anyway since it inexplicably makes money for store owners”. The slower a train system is going to be, the better off we are sticking with conventional buses. If we’re going to sink the capital into building train lines, they had by God better be a lot faster than buses.

    That’s not to say that “all grade crossings are bad”. I think there’s potential for grade level lines which are a significant improvement over buses in places like the South Bay, the West Valley, and parts of Eastern LA County. But if we’re really trying to build effective transportation and not a cheap replica of the Disneyland Monorail, we can’t be afraid to grade separate, especially in the denser parts of the area. My view is that if Metro ends up building their Harbor Subdivision line to Long Beach, they should do a better job grade separating it than the unfortunate Blue Line. I have my fingers crossed for LA proper as well, there are many parts of town where train lines really wouldn’t work without ample grade separations.

  • Look I know there are elevated structure on BART. I’ve been to San Francisco many times. They’re just not in San Francisco, and there’s good reason for that. My reply was in response to Darrell who intentionally selected the most obtrusive form of BART of which to compare, without justification. I responded with reference to the least unsightly portion.

    This thread has gone stale over Christmas, but let’s still correct the facts for the record. There are definitely elevated BART structures within the city of San Francisco, along I-280, after the subway sections beneath Market (San Francisco’s Wilshire Blvd.) and Mission Streets where, like the Wilshire subway, there was no place to put the tracks above ground. You can readily verify this from Bing maps’s Bird’s eye view.

    Except for downtown San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, BART is mostly above ground. Its closest analogue to the Expo Line is its elevated section along an existing railroad right-of-way through older residential neighborhoods in Albany and El Cerrito in the East Bay.

    The BART model for Expo further breaks down when you consider that BART was designed for a unique geographic need of very high capacity across the bay into downtown San Francisco. Last time I checked (2008) it had the capacity of 21 peak 10-car trains per hour (7-9 a.m.) into the City, way more than Expo’s planned 10 peak 3-car trains per hour that fit Expo’s demand and cost.

    Santa Monica City College – missed
    Downtown Culver City – missed
    Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Mall – missed
    The heart of Palms – missed
    The heart of Baldwin Village – missed
    Westside Pavilion – missed

    This presumes a subway along the Expo corridor could feasibly make all those stops (let alone that it would be cost-effective). The decision that the Purple Line will have greater ridership not zig-zagging up to Farmers Market demonstrates the fallacy.

  • Drew,

    Those of us documenting light rail as mostly at-grade in many cities would also note it is predominantly on private right-of-way with gated crossings, with shorter sections in streets that, as you note, are slower.

    The former is as fast as grade separations where such a right-of-way exists, like the Expo Line will be between Gramercy (west of Western Ave.) and 17th (in Santa Monica).

    Good signal priority on the latter can help, which Los Angeles did on Washington Blvd. (cutting 5 minutes schedule time) but Long Beach hasn’t on Long Beach Blvd.

  • Paula Duvall

    Is there anyone who can tell me about the huge tank, that was located near the intersection of Exposition Blvd., and Crenshaw, decades ago?

    I grew-up within sight of it, during the 1950’s, and never knew what it stored, or anything else about it. Having been away from Los Angeles for the last 28 years, I wasn’t aware of its having been dismantled, until I noticed its disappearance, via Google Earth.



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