Metro Committee Supports Keeping Claremont Metrolink Station

Claremont Metrolink Station - photo by Oakshade via Wikimedia
Claremont Metrolink Station - photo by Oakshade via Wikimedia

At last week’s Metro board Planning and Programming Committee meeting, dozens of Claremont residents turned up to speak in favor of keeping the Claremont Metrolink Station. There had been some questions regarding the future of the station as Metro moves forward with construction on the next phase of the Foothill Gold Line. Metro boardmembers present unanimously expressed their support for keeping the Claremont station.

Given constraints within the rail right-of-way, Foothill Gold Line phase 2B construction currently calls for the demolition and reconstruction of the Claremont station. With three Metrolink stations within a couple miles and a $279 million funding shortfall on the $1.5 billion Gold Line project, in September 2017 the Metro board requested a study looking at the costs and benefits of not rebuilding the station. In any case, Claremont would have a Gold Line light rail station – only the future of the Metrolink commuter rail station was in question.

Claremont rail service comparisons chart - via Metro staff report
Claremont rail service comparisons chart – via Metro staff report

Last week the Claremont station study was received by the planning committee. Among its findings were:

  • The Claremont station’s current ridership is 406 riders on an average weekday. This is forecast to increase to 482 daily boardings by 2025.
  • Eliminating the Claremont station would result in essentially “no travel time saved and negligible impacts to Metrolink operations” due to single-track constraints. The only time savings anticipated would be for early morning and late night trains, which would save approximately 2-3 minutes of travel time.
  • For Gold Line phase 2B construction, eliminating the Claremont station would save five months and approximately $40 million.

Metro staff recommended that the Claremont Metrolink Station be kept open.

There is, as expected, a great deal of support for this position in the city of Claremont. The city hosted a town hall meeting in December, where more than 300 attendees urged, “Save our station.” At last week’s Metro meeting, three dozen public speakers – from the mayor, to people with disabilities, to professors, to business owners – expressed their strong support for the station.

All of the Metro boardmembers present – L.A. County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger, Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian, and Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana – expressed strong support for keeping the Claremont station. Fasana remarked that he continues to support extending the line further into San Bernardino County to Ontario, though it is outside of Metro’s L.A. County jurisdiction.

Given that keeping the Claremont Metrolink Station is already in the plans for the Gold Line’s phase 2B, no actual vote was needed to keep the station. The committee received and filed the study.

Without trimming project costs, it remains an open question as to how Metro will make up the $279 million shortfall. It is a fairly urgent question, if the full Gold Line 2B construction contract is to be approved by October in order to meet the anticipated early 2026 completion date. Federal transit funding appears difficult to come by under the current administration. There are some possibilities for state funding, including cap-and-trade and S.B. 1 gas tax revenue, but it is not clear that this funding will be awarded soon enough for Gold Line construction to stay on schedule.

Updated 5 p.m. Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority spokesperson Albert Ho informed SBLA that Metro has applied for California cap-and-trade funding under the  Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), and the status of that funding will be announced this Spring. Ho also states that the funding gap is an estimate, and the construction authority will not know the final amount needed until later this year when the cost proposals come in and we award the design-build contract.

SBLA coverage of San Gabriel Valley livability 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 Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

  • The funding gap of USD 279M is just for the Foothill Light Rail project within Los Angeles County.
    There is a further USD 70M gap for *building* the line beyond Claremont to Montclair Station.
    Then there is no identified dedicated funding to *operate and maintain* the service beyond Claremont to Montclair.

    This last issue is not dealt with by the Construction Authority because after the line is handed over to Metro (and SBCTA if applicable), operation and maintenance is not the Construction Authority’s concern.

    Also, the fares quoted on the yellow chart for Metro assumes that there will not be any fare increase between 2015 and 2026 when the Foothill Light Rail Line is scheduled to open:

    https://www.scribd.com/document/225296784/Item-54-fare-changes-proposal

    According to the above report, fares were already to have been raised to $2 by now and to $2.25 in Fiscal Year 2021.

    The document further notes that Metro must obtain a 33% fare box recovery rate to be fiscally solvent and that at the time it was attaining just 25.8%.

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