Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Ultimate Measure R2 Fantasy Map

Image Credit: Move LA

Transportation advocacy group Move LA, one of the driving forces behind the transformative Measure R, has cooked up a mouth watering fantasy map for a sequel ballot initiative in 2016.  Measure R2, as per its most recent draft proposal, could fund a slew of transportation improvements throughout Los Angeles County via a 45-year, half-cent sales tax.  As reported this past April by Streetsblog LA, the tentative plan allots revenue as follows:

  • 30% for new Metro Rail and BRT Capital
  • 20% for Transit Operations
  • 20% for Highways
  • 15% for Local Return
  • 6% for Clean Goods Movement
  • 5% for Metrolink Capital
  • 4% for Active Transportation

Unlike the (barely) unsuccessful Measure J, which planned only to accelerate the existing docket of Measure R projects, the strawman Measure R2 would fund numerous new rail lines and extensions.  The proposed transit lines, which represent a near complete build-out of Metro's 2009 Long Range Plan, read as follows:

  • Sepulveda Line: a new rail line running north-south between Sylmar and Los Angeles International Airport.  Prior studies have indicated that the proposed 20+ mile light rail line could yield over 90,000 daily riders.  With heavy rail technology, that ridership figure swells to more than 100,000.  However, the scale and topography of the proposed route makes this project a prohibitively expensive one.  Given that sobering reality, Metro has already begun exploring the possibility of building the project as a public-private partnership.
  • Orange Line Light Rail Conversion: a portion of the 18-mile busway, running between Warner Center and North Hollywood, would be converted to higher capacity light rail.  The much discussed conversion recently became possible with the repeal of a shortsighted law, passed in the early 1990s, which outlawed at-grade rail along a portion of the Chandler Boulevard right-of-way.  Daily ridership on the busway, now averaging close to 30,000 passengers, is constrained due to signal priority at grade crossings.
  • Purple Line Extension, Phase IV: an extension of the Purple Line from its future terminus at the Westwood VA Hospital to 4th Street and Wilshire Boulevard in Uptown Santa Monica.  Running approximately 3.5 miles, the final leg of the Purple Line would complete the long-elusive "Subway to the Sea."  Metro had previously studied the project as part of the current Purple Line extension, but was unable to incorporate it within the confines of Measure R.
  • Crenshaw Line Northern Extension: an extension of the Crenshaw Line north from Expo/Crenshaw Station to Wilshire/Fairfax Station via Crenshaw and San Vicente Boulevards.  Trains would then travel north under Fairfax Avenue, before veering right along Santa Monica Boulevard towards an eventual northern terminus and Hollywood/Highland Station.  This route borrows heavily from an earlier concept known as the Pink Line, which would have linked West Hollywood to the current Purple Line extension.
  • Harbor Line: an extension of the Green and Crenshaw Lines, traveling southeast to Long Beach via the Harbor Subdivision right-of-way and Sepulveda Boulevard.  The Harbor Line has been incorporated into several future visions of the Metro Rail network during the past 30 years, most recently in a proposal pushed by Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge. 
  • Burbank Airport - Glendale Connector: a new rail line running from Los Angeles Union Station to North Hollywood via the cities of Glendale and Burbank.  The route would roughly parallel the 5 Freeway and could potentially interline with a post-light rail conversion Orange Line.
  • 134 Freeway Connector: a new rail or BRT line linking Pasadena to Glendale, roughly along the path of the 134 Freeway.  The proposed transit line could offer transfers to both the Pasadena leg of the Gold Line (or the Blue Line, post-Regional Connector) and the aforementioned Burbank Airport - Glendale Connector.
  • West Santa Ana Branch: a new rail line between Los Angeles Union Station and Paramount.  A first phase of the still unbuilt line is partially funded under Measure R, intended to utilize a former Pacific Electric right-of-way between the Green Line and Cerritos.  The connecting tracks could make use of several existing right-of-ways, all of which roughly parallel the Los Angeles River.
  • Green Line Santa Fe Springs Extension: an underground extension of the Green Line east to the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station.  The approximately 2.5-mile gap is one of the more frustrating holes in the Southern California rail network.
  • Gold Line Eastside Extension, Phase II: an extension of the East LA-leg of the Gold Line which could run to South El Monte and/or Whittier.  The South El Monte option would run on an elevated structure, parallel to the 60 Freeway.  The Whittier alternative would traverse Garfield Avenue and Washington Boulevard along both elevated and at-grade tracks.
  • Gold Line Foothill Extension, Phase II: an extension from the Gold Line's future Azusa terminus to Claremont, at the border between Los Angeles and San Bernadino Counties.  The lack of funding for this project became an contentious issue during the 2012 campaign for Measure J, which narrowly missed achieving 2/3 support.  In the distant future, the Gold Line could be extended even further east, crossing the county line to reach Ontario International Airport.

Moving down the list of funding priorities, we also see that Move LA's strawman Measure R2 would dedicate 11% of net revenue to improving regional freight and passenger rail.  Although the plans are light on specifics, potentially upgrades would include double-tracking and new grade separation.  While perhaps not as exciting as many of the aforementioned Metro Lines, these upgrades are an important investment for our ports, which will face increased competition in years to come.  Furthermore, the capital investments would be critical to Metrolink, which has suffered declining ridership in the wake of recent service cutbacks.

Another important difference between the proposed Measure R2 and its predecessors is its "Grand Boulevards," program.  Similar in concept to Mayor Garcetti's Great Streets Initiative, the proposal would utilize approximately 10% of Measure R2 funds to provide streetscape improvements and development incentives along major corridors with existing bus service.  Bus-only lanes, similar to those currently being installed along Wilshire Boulevard, could be implemented when and where appropriate.  Proposed "Grand Boulevards," by approximate region include:

  • Antelope Valley: Sierra Highway, Palmdale Avenue, Lancaster Boulevard
  • San Fernando Valley: Reseda Boulevard, Roscoe Boulevard, Ventura Boulevard, Lankershim Boulevard, Olive Avenue
  • San Gabriel Valley: Colorado Boulevard, Rosemead Boulevard, Longden Avenue/Arrow Highway
  • East Los Angeles: Atlantic Boulevard, Whittier Boulevard
  • Central and West Los Angeles: Sunset Boulevard, Venice Boulevard, Lincoln Boulevard, Vermont Avenue
  • South Los Angeles: Slauson Avenue, La Brea Avenue/Hawthorne Boulevard, Century Boulevard
  • South Bay and Gateway Cities: Del Amo Boulevard, 7th Street (Long Beach)

As Move LA has reiterated multiple times, this is nothing more than a "strawman," proposal, intended only to spur discussion amongst residents and the powers that be.  Any real ballot measure is still at least two years away from consideration.  A future where Los Angeles is criss-crossed by hundreds of miles of light rail is even further off on the distant horizon.

The northernmost segment of the Measure R2 fantasy map; Imaged Credit: Move LA


    1. so beautiful. If only 20 billion fell into LA's lap somehow. I would love to see this come to fruition before i die

      1. Hah...I think we'll need a lot more than $20 billion.

        That being said, I think the inclusion of the Grand Boulevards program is a great idea. It won't necessarily swing everyone in the more conservative parts of the county, but it should do a lot for the areas that felt left out of Measures R and J.

    2. I agree. Even most of South LA is pretty nice, save for the commercial strips. Ive always felt that if Figueroa, Vermont, Western, etc had their overhead wires undergrounded, medians added along withlLandscaping and nice street furniture, the fortunes of the area would be significantly better. This is a very smart way of improving the city and the chances of this passing.

      Youre right about the 20 billion.. How about we get Bill Gates, the Walton Family and Buffet to gift $15 billion each. We could build all this, the new Union Station, improve our water systems and sidewalks and all be happy by 2025

    3. I like this proposal, but I really hope that Metro wouldn't try to run a potential Glendale line along the side of the 5 freeway when this line could hit some of LA's most walkable neighborhoods (Echo Park, Silver Lake, Atwater) sequentially by following Glendale blvd and then jumping onto Central in Glendale.

      I also would like to see a line from Vermont/Santa Monica on the Red Line to Fairfax/Santa Monica on the crenshaw north extension for better WeHo coverage and to alleviate one of the worst drives in the entire region. Interesting to see how it all will shake out.

      1. A Glendale Line that hits Echo Park, Silver Lake and Atwater Village would certainly be more useful than one that is confined to the Amtrak/Metrolink ROW along the 5 freeway.

        Santa Monica Boulevard, Sunset, etc. are all on the list of the streets that are deserving of rail service, but most likely won't see them within our lifetimes unless there is a polar shift in national transportation policy.

      2. It's sad because that short 4-or-so mile stretch would provide an extremely powerful connectivity within the system. And yet, I have no doubt that you're right.

        Assuming R2 gets proposed as an additional tax, does that mean the first round of R2 projects would "cut" in front of some of the later-funded projects from R1 (west valley, 405 et al)?

      3. It's hard to guess without knowing any concrete information, and there isn't really any available as of yet. I think the Measure R projects are supposed to be the first in line, but I imagine there could be some leeway with the Sepulveda Pass, given how huge of an undertaking it will be. Most of the proposed Measure R2 projects are low hanging fruit, by comparison.

      4. Glendale line hugging the I5 corridor just duplicates Metrolink. Might as well just get Metrolink electrified (which it will with CAHSR) and run it on a metro schedule instead of current commuter rail schedule.

        If we are going with new light rail, it's MUCH better to run it on Glenoaks Blvd to Brand Blvd to Glendale Blvd to Alvarado St and terminates at West Lake MacArthur Park Station. And if money can be found in the future, we can extend it further south on Vermont Ave all the way to the Harbor City/Wilmington.

    4. Double tracking would make All the constant metrolink delays go away. Besides, no way am I gonna ride the Gold Line in from Covina/Azusa to DTLA every day.

      1. Despite its recent struggles (which the LA Times has somewhat exaggerated), Metrolink really just needs some TLC. Double-tracking and through routing at Union Station, plus a bigger operating budget, would allow them to run higher frequencies. As it stands, they still do pretty well with their built in limitations. Their on-time rate to and from OC is way better than Amtrak's, IIRC.

      2. I think some bad building decisions way back have got Metrolink in a bind too. There are stretches of busy lines that cannot be double tracked without ludicrously expensive viaducts because the ROW is too narrow and surrounded by freeway. Probably the best hope is that Metrolink will be able to piggyback off HSR infrastructure to some extent, or get capital grants to support connectivity to HSR.

      3. And on the topic of improving existing lines, I think a little money set aside to improve existing light rail would go a long way too. The system would be much more useful if trains weren't waiting for cross traffic most of the way through South Park (for Blue/Expo) or chugging slowly down Marmion Way (for Gold) - it might actually beat a car point to point. I'd love to see the Flower Street Tunnel extended south down to the Blue/Expo split.

      4. Marmion Way is a little slow, but it's really just a minor inconvenience at the end of the day. On the other hand, the at-grade Blue/Expo split could become a big issue after the Regional Connector is up and running. While we're at it, I'd love to see something done for the frustratingly slow Downtown Long Beach loop.

    5. If they go with anything like this, it would be great if they conditioned local return funds on adopting decent TOD policies. Way too much restrictive zoning near existing stations.

      1. I agree, although I will say that the onus is on the cities to get the TOD policies in order. Places like Culver City and Pasadena have done well, but then you have El Segundo, which has all but ignored the Green line for the past 20 years.

    6. You don't need to upgrade the Orange Line to rail, as much as I would like that. What you need is a state law that allows BRT on its own private exclusive ROW to have crossing gates that are exactly the same as railroad crossing gates. That would give the Orange Line buses 100% signal priority. And installing crossing gates would be an order of magnitude cheaper than converting the whole thing to rail. As for increasing capacity, the whole line was built was stations long enough to accommodate two buses at one time. Start platooning the buses, two at a time during rush hours. In off peak times, one bus is more than sufficient, especially on the Canoga to Chastworth part of it. The Chatsworth to Warner Center shuttle is covered quite well with regular 40 foot buses.

      1. I agree that a light rail conversion isn't a functional necessity, but it's where the political momentum currently lies. One of the complaints about Measure R and J was the lack of $$$ going to the Valley. While adding crossing gates and signal preemption would improve the Orange Line's functionality, voters would be more likely to appreciate something grander in scale.

    7. I'm not a huge fan of the area, but it seems like the growing tech cluster in Playa Vista (and n/s along the ocean) should have some rail service planned. I suppose the Sepulveda line comes somewhat close, but probably not close enough to be a one-seat ride to work. Maybe the city should just try to encourage future growth of the tech sector DTLA or near existing or planned transit.