Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Introducing Measure R - Traffic Relief for L.A.


Transportation demands in Los Angeles continue to grow, but the funding to support that growing capacity is very limited. The freeways are a mess with traffic, roads are in disrepair, and buses on popular boulevards are packed like sardines. Our trains don't have enough coverage considering LA's scale, but in spite of this, have been seeing larges growths in ridership.

This is why we need Measure R to generate funding to be used exclusively for transportation projects. These projects would confront transportation issues on several fronts. With highway and street improvements, local improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, but most significantly as far is this blog is concerned, by devoting a significant portion of funding to expand our commuter train network.

Trains are essential in reliving traffic tension for our growing population and economy. A single train can be carrying passengers in the hundreds depending on the number of cars. At lower traffic times additional cars can be removed for less carrying weight. Their energy efficiency compared to cars especially and even buses is simply unrivaled. They contribute to an environmentally sustainable economy by replacing pollution heavy car trips as well as reducing land use demands like parking spaces. And very importantly to many Angelenos, they can bring down commute times for everyone, not just for the people riding them, but motorists who would be sharing the road with less cars.

Los Angeles completely killed it's formerly extensive rail system in the conversion to an automobile based society, but sprawling development and traffic woes on over stressed freeways necessitated bringing trains back into the mix. With our currently limited rail network growing ridership to rival much larger systems like BART, the time is ripe for further train development in Los Angeles County.

A number of different train projects would receive funding from Measure R. With the spending oversights in place, these projects and the budgets for them would be locked unless a requested change goes through a year of review.

1A Exposition Boulevard Light Rail Transit: Culver City to Santa Monica
Extends the Exposition Rail Line, currently under construction to Culver City, to Santa Monica.

1B Crenshaw Transit Corridor (project acceleration)
Accelerates construction of a line along the Crenshaw Bl Corridor and connects Los Angeles, Inglewood, Hawthorne and El Segundo, plus unincorporated LA County.

1C Regional Connector: Links Local Rail Lines
Links four light rail lines that terminate at the edges of Central LA. Expected to provide seamless connections between Long Beach/Pasadena, and Culver City/East LA, minimizing the need for rail transfers.

1DWestside Subway Extension (to be opened in segments)
Extends Metro Rail to the Westside. The project is expected to serve Century City and Westwood/UCLA.
This project is my personal favorite, and although Measure R would only carry it to UCLA, further funding sources such as the federal government would be sought after to extend it all the way to Santa Monica. Click for more info on the West Side Extension at Metro's site, and the official facebook group is another great source of information.
1E Gold Line Eastside Extension
Extends Metro Gold Line farther east from the Pomona/Atlantic Station.

1F Gold Line Foothill Light Rail Transit Extension
Extends the Metro Gold Line from its current terminus in Pasadena toward Claremont.

1G Green Line Extension: Redondo Beach Station to South Bay Corridor
Continues the Metro Green Line from its current terminus in Redondo Beach to the South Bay Galleria.

1H Green Line Extension to Los Angeles International Airport
Links the Metro Green Line to LAX at the Aviation Station.
Yes! At long last, the train that almost goes to LAX would be go that last couple miles.
1M Metrolink Capital Improvement Projects (Los Angeles County)
Purchases trains, expands the Eastern Maintenance Facility and upgrades sidings and crossovers to increase speed and safety. Local jurisdictions could use funds to improve parking and station facilities within their cities and offer connecting shuttle services.
In light of the recent Metrolink tragedy, and their shoestring budget, funding improvements for Metrolink are very important.
1N Metro Rail Capital Projects
Maintains rail facilities by improving operational systems, upgrading rail yards and purchasing new rail cars.

1O East Light Rail Access (Gold Line)
Increases access, including pedestrian and bicycle, to the Gold Line Eastside Light Rail project.

Your probably wondering how is this all going to be paid for. Measure R would raise the sales tax in L.A. County by half a cent, and would be estimated to generate around 40 billion dollars over 30 years. People hate traffic in Los Angeles, but people also hate paying for things. However, it's estimated the average citizen would be paying only about $25 a year on this tax according to the LAEDC. I feel that is pretty reasonable considering the long term benefits these projects will bring to the future economy and quality of life here in Los Angeles. At a time with high unemployment, the non-outsourceable jobs these projects would create are nothing to scoff at either.

Measure R is more than just adding trains. Road project improvements, large and small are proposed as well, and Lord knows we need them. For the sake of this blog I wanted to just highlight the rail projects. If you want to find out more about this measure, I encourage you to read up on it at the Measure R informational page. A new facebook group has also been started to promote the proposal, and will likely feature continued updates as we near the election.


Rafael said...

Extending the green light rail line to LAX makes little sense to me unless it is also extended to the Metrolink and planned HSR station in Norwalk at the other end.

Even then, LAX will still need a direct heavy rail link with Union Station, especially if prop 1A is approved. BNSF's old harbor line along the LA river, Slauson, Florence and Aviation is still active but only as a backup in the unlikely event of a derailment in the Alameda corridor.

The idea would be to use this line to run a passenger shuttle train in each direction roughly every half hour. If passengers had the option of checking their bags at Union Station and also picking them up there, bi-level cars could be used to increase capacity.

A single new station near the middle of the single-track route where trains would need to be built to allow trains to pass one another. An intermodal on Slauson Ave. with Metro's blue line or else the harbor transitway would be preferable. It might also be a good location for a neighborhood redevelopment project, e.g. a cluster of gated airport hotels. South LA sure could use the jobs.

In terms of the tracks, the biggest challenge would be tunneling as far as the international terminal at LAX - anything less would not be worthwhile IMHO. The rolling stock should be FRA-compliant DMU equipment with diesel engines that comply with the latest federal and state emissions standards. Overhead electrification could be considered at a later date.

Fortunately, most of the line already exists, though the section north of Century Blvd would likely have to be brought into a state of good repair. Also, level crossings would have to be converted to the four-quadrant type to enable quiet zone operations, addressing environmental justice concerns.

Note that plans for SMART up in Marin & Sonoma counties also call for quiet zones.

Rafael said...

I did not realize this when I posted my earlier comment, but Metro formally kicked off a planning process for the harbor subdivision a few weeks ago. It held several early scoping meetings this week, you have until Oct 22 to submit your written comments.

One of the many options that will be studied is commuter rail service between the international terminal at LAX and LA Union Station. Air passengers with bags would probably prefer not having to transfer to a people mover at Century/Aviation.

Note that this is not part of measure R (2008) - which I support - but rather a new project that may be put before voters at a future date.

Gary said...

About the Green Line, it really should have been done in the first place. It's almost there, but not quite. Even if it's just some kind of people moving system to bridge the gap I think something should be done to connect it.

I also talked with people at LAX before about offering bicycle lockers for bike commuters, which is easier to do and less expensive than making room for more cars, but as of yet I don't think anything has been done about it.

Every person I talked to on LAX's customer service line thought it was a great idea that I wanted bike rather then drive in the traffic muck, but none could tell me if they had any bike parking. I finally got a message after contacting the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and they got a contact for me. I was told they were planning to have bike parking but that did not offer any at the time. So I just used by best locks and attached to a pole near a security checkpoint with cameras all around kind of tucked away in the middle of terminal lots.

I'll follow up on that and see if they really are or if it was just talk, which is more likely the case.

About the Harbor sub-division I'll take a look at that and send in some suggestions before the cut off.