A plan to bring congestion pricing to Los Angeles County has taken a tentative step forward, The Los Angeles Times reports. In an effort to reduce traffic while also raising funds for new mass transit projects, next month the board of directors for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will take up an initiative to study the issue. The initiative, if approved, would allow the board to assemble a panel of experts to investigate how congestion pricing might work in Los Angeles County, where The Los Angeles Times reports nearly three-fourths of commuters drive to work. According to Metro, it could take up to two years to study possible congestion pricing plans. Metro’s consideration of congestion pricing comes as the transit authority gears up for its “28 by 28” initiative, a plan that seeks to bring over two dozen transformative transportation projects to fruition before the city hosts the 2028 Olympics. The 28 by 28 plan would build-out L.A.’s planned public transportation system as envisioned by the recent Measure M initiative. The 2016 measure raised county sales tax rates to partially fund system expansions to the tune of $860 million per year. That’s a sizable chunk of what’s needed to bring many projects to life, but ultimately not enough to have them completed before 2028, hence the need for additional funding. Metro is expected to tap federal and state funding sources—including California’s gas tax funds—to fill in funding gaps for projects that include a new transit route crossing the Sepulveda Pass, the completion of the Purple Line to Westwood, and a new transit line connecting Downtown Los Angeles with the southeastern suburb Artesia. Congestion pricing could help bridge the gap for the agency, however. According to The Los Angeles Times, a recent Metro report indicates that a per-mile tax on driving could raise $102 billion over ten years and that a fee to enter Downtown Los Angeles could bring in an additional $12 billion. Metro officials claim that congestion pricing could bring in enough new funding to lower base transit fares or even make the entire system free to ride. It’s possible that with the right congestion pricing plan, Metro could make transit more affordable and useful as it makes driving more expensive and difficult in tandem.
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The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is moving to rename its new and existing rail and bus rapid transit lines. Metro staff this week recommended a new plan that aims to create a “clear, consistent, [and] uniform wayfinding system” for the transit authority and its 34 million annual riders. The proposed changes would replace the existing color-based nomenclature—Blue, Red, Purple, Gold, Orange, Silver—with letters and colors for the system’s major lines. If adopted as proposed, the transition to the new naming system could begin as early as 2019 when the Blue Line re-opens as the A Line after extensive renovations. In coming years, the so-called Regional Connector project currently being built to connect a pair of lines that dead-end into Downtown Los Angeles will come online, as well, reorganizing and consolidating the number of existing transit lines. Officials hope that the new naming system reduces confusion and makes traveling across the system smoother for local strap-hangers and tourists alike. The proposed policy is a result of extensive study and ridership polling that asked respondents to choose between different configurations of numbered, colored, and lettered options. Eventually, it was decided that a combination of approaches worked best and allowed for the most flexibility, considering that many of the forthcoming lines and extensions are still in the early planning stages and the ultimate configuration of the transit system is still unknown. The changes come as the city works to dramatically expand L.A.’s transit system before the 2028 summer Olympics. Before then, Metro aims to complete 28 major transit projects across the region, including the construction of several new lines and extensions, in addition to the Regional Connector project.
Over 30 years after it was initially planned, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has started tunneling the final phases of the Purple Line subway. According to Metro, when completed in 2026, it will be possible to take a one-seat underground ride from Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles to Westwood—an area home to the University of California, Los Angeles campus, the Veterans Administration complex, and other major institutions—in roughly 25 minutes. For comparison, today the trip takes nearly an hour and a half by car or bus. Though its completion is many years away, the pending extension has begun to impact adjacent areas as rezoning efforts get underway in anticipation of the route. The pending Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan, for example, will modestly boost densities between the three adjacent stations surrounding the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) campus. As proposed, upper height limits in the densest areas could reach 70-feet, ten feet higher than currently allowed. The prospect of taller buildings on and around Wilshire Boulevard is not a far-off vision, however. The 18-story Vision on Wilshire project by Steinberg Hart and developers UDR, for example, wrapped up construction this summer. The pixelated tower comes with 150 units and joins other new apartment towers recently completed along the corridor. Nearby, a new glass-wrapped tower by MVE + Partners and developers J.H. Snider is slated for a site adjacent to the LACMA campus, and will bring 285 apartments and 250,000 square feet of offices just steps from the transit line. Another project on the boards is a two-tower condominium development slated to join the historic Minoru Yamasaki-designed Plaza Hotel in Century City. Here, Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners, Gensler, Marmol Radzinger, and RCH Studios will add 290 luxury condominiums behind the historic hotel on a site that will host a new stop on the extension. The project is currently under construction. Not everyone is happy about the coming transit line, however, especially in Beverly Hills, which will see a new subway stop at Wilshire and Rodeo Drive. The City of Beverly Hills has been engaged in a years-long struggle to block the subway from running below its streets. Most recently, the Beverly Hills Unified School District orchestrated what it called a student “walk out” against the proposed metro line. The demonstration occurred last week and was aimed at trying to get the attention of President Trump, who is himself a Beverly Hills homeowner. According to The Los Angeles Times, students carried signs calling on the president to move the subway route, which is currently slated to run underneath Beverly Hills High School and other sites in the city, away from delicate areas. The students also sought to have the president take the unprecedented step of revoking the $1.5 billion in federal funds and low-cost loans awarded to the transformative project. There’s no word from the president yet, but Metro cranked up its two new tunneling machines Monday to begin digging the next leg of the extension nonetheless. It’s expected the tunneling machines will advance roughly 60 feet per day from La Brea Avenue and Wilshire toward the current Purple Line terminus at Western Avenue. After the tunnel there is excavated, the machines will be driven back to La Brea and begin the work of completing the final leg of the line. Phase one of the expansion is slated to open in 2023 with the second phase due to arrive in 2025 and final completion expected by 2026, just in time for the 2028 Olympic Games.
The Boring Company has released yet another underground transit proposal for Los Angeles. Wednesday night, embattled Boring Company CEO Elon Musk announced the so-called Dugout Loop, a proposed “zero-emissions, high-speed, underground public transportation system” that could potentially ferry passengers between the Red Line subway and Dodgers Stadium. The company released a series of possible proposals, with variations on route length and station origination point. The ultimate aim of the proposal is to improve travel times between the East Hollywood, Los Feliz, and Rampart Village neighborhoods and the stadium, which is roughly 3.6-miles away. Boring Company estimates that the proposed loop would be able to complete a one-way trip in roughly four minutes and carry between 1,400 and 2,800 passengers per day, roughly the same number as are currently transported by the express Metro buses that currently operate between the stadium and Union Station using dedicated bus lanes. Here’s the hitch: Unlike conventional transportation systems that convey passengers in both directions simultaneously, Musk’s link would only be able to operate in one direction at a time. The limiting arrangement is a result of the small diameter tunnel that is being proposed for the route, similar to that of other Boring Company tunnels proposed for western Los Angeles and Chicago. The proposal comes after a week of questionable business decisions and erratic tweetstorms from Musk, and as L.A.’s Metro makes plans to embrace a proposed $125 million gondola system connecting the Union Station in Downtown L.A. with the stadium. Backers for the gondola plan include former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt; Estimates for the transit link indicate the gondolas could ferry as many as 5,000 passengers per hour, with traffic moving in both directions simultaneously. Musk recently drew criticism and accusations of project “segmenting” for bypassing environmental review as the Boring Company attempts to move forward with a portion of a proposed Hyperloop route through L.A.’s Westside neighborhoods. Neighborhood groups outraged by the effort successfully sued to block the project. The proposal also comes as the Boring Company faces legal challenges for a similarly-vague proposal issued for Chicago that would link the city with O’Hare Airport.
Los Angeles County’s transit system is poised to become the first in the country to deploy airport-style security measures to screen its passengers. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is rolling out new portable body scanners that can be deployed in response to terrorist threats and during large crowd events like protests and sporting matches in an effort to thwart potential “mass casualty” attacks. The scanners can be used to screen passengers using radio waves from up to 30 feet away and are designed with an integrated split-screen display that produces a black square over the part of a person’s body where a gun or non-metallic explosive device might be located. Metro currently operates 93 subway and light-rail stations—with many more on the way—and has plans to utilize the mobile devices as necessary across its system. Officials at Metro explained that areas where passengers might be subject to body scanning will be clearly labeled in each station with signs that read: “Passengers proceeding past this point are subject to Metro security screening and inspection.” Plans call for making “randomized” scans of passengers traveling within these zones. Officials at a press conference announcing the plan explained, however, that passengers seeking to opt out of the possibility of being scanned will not be allowed to ride transit from that station. The scanners can process roughly 2,000 passengers per hour, according to Dave Sotero, spokesperson for Metro. The figure is an improvement over previous technologies, The Times reports, but likely to fall short of what would be required to process crowds efficiently during rush hour or large scale events. Recent protests in Downtown Los Angeles, for example, have drawn hundreds of thousands of people at a time and have snarled Metro service even without the scanners in place.
The City of Inglewood in Southern California has announced a plan to add a 1.8-mile automated people mover (APM) connecting the forthcoming Los Angeles Rams stadium and the region’s growing transit network in the near future. A recently-unveiled scoping study called Envision Inglewood calls for establishing a “direct connection to rail” between downtown Inglewood and the city’s impressive slate of professional sports and performance venues. Facilities that could be connected by the new transit route include: The Forum, the forthcoming Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park, and the recently-unveiled Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center, a potential new basketball stadium for the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team. The new $2.66 billion Rams stadium is designed by HKS Architects and will be joined by a 3,000-unit mixed-use residential development next door known as “City of Champions.” The Forum was designed by Charles Luckman Associates in 1966 in the late modern style; The complex is slated to host the gymnastic events for the 2028 Olympic Games. The Envision Inglewood plan was crafted in conjunction with a series of other transportation and pedestrian fixes. The plan considers four different alignments and a handful of transport modes in its aim to provide a “world-class transit connection to-and-from the Metro Crenshaw/LAX Line” transit route, an 8.5 mile light rail line connecting the cities of Los Angeles, Inglewood, and El Segundo through southern Los Angeles County slated to open in 2019. According to a presentation made at the Inglewood City Council, the report’s chosen route—dubbed the “Market-Manchester” alignment—would add the APM link starting from the forthcoming Downtown Inglewood stop on the Crenshaw Line. The elevated train would snake down Market Street and Manchester Boulevard, ultimately ending up on South Prairie street where it can conveniently stop at the three stadium and performance venue locations. Renderings for the proposed plan depict lively street scenes overlooked by elevated train tracks on concrete piers. Projections for the line envision up to 2,578,120 potential boardings across the APM route per year, with slightly less than 40% of all boardings related to “event ridership.” According to the report, the link could cost $614.4 million to build and between $18.2 million and $19.5 million to operate each year. A timeline for the project’s completion has not been announced. The new football stadium is scheduled to open for the 2019-2020 NFL season.
Although the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles is home to nearly two million people, aside from two subway stops and a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor, the enclave maintains relatively few robust regional public transit connections. That situation is likely to change over the coming decade if a plan to build a 9.2-mile light rail transit line is implemented as recommended by a recent Los Angeles County Metro staff report. Staffers call for Metro to build the so-called Alternative 4 plan, a scheme that would stitch the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station in the northeast corner of the valley together with the Metro Orange Line BRT route on the valley’s southern edge. The L-shaped route would run on a 2.5-mile segment within the Metro-owned railroad right-of-way adjacent to San Fernando Road along its northern stretch with the remainder of the route running at-grade in the street median along Van Nuys Boulevard. Although perhaps best known as a 1950s-era cruising spot, Van Nuys Boulevard is now home to the second-busiest busway in the valley and also clocks in as the seventh busiest bus route system-wide. The planned light rail route would shave 30 minutes off the current travel times, with trains passing every six minutes during peak intervals. With a bit of luck, the proposed route also has the potential to definitively link the valley with the rest of Los Angeles, depending on which alignment is chosen for other forthcoming high-profile project routes. Metro is in the planning stages for the Sepulveda Pass transit project, a scheme that would bridge the mountain pass currently traversed by Interstate-405 in order to connect the valley to L.A.’s Westside neighborhoods and to Los Angeles International Airport. Metro is investigating a smattering of transit schemes for the route including heavy rail subway, light rail, and even a monorail, among other options. If the agency goes with the light rail alternative, it’s possible a one-seat ride from San Fernando to LAX might one day be a possibility. Several of the other alternatives under consideration for the line could still create the regional link, albeit with a transfer from the Van Nuys line to the Sepulveda Pass route. If a direct connection to the Sepulveda Pass is unavailable, the Van Nuys line also has the potential of becoming a spur off of the Orange Line—the existing BRT route in the valley—which Metro is considering converting to light rail sometime in the future. Metro has not explicitly stated this potential alignment as a possibility, but if the agency decides to pursue heavy rail or a monorail through the Sepulveda Pass, it would be an easy way to connect the route to the existing and planned transit system. Metro is also currently eyeing extending the Orange Line east through Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena, though only as a BRT project as of now. The agency is also considering a complimentary east-west BRT line through the valley along Nordhoff Street. The recommended proposal for the Van Nuys line has the potential to remake the valley, either way, as the areas surrounding the potential route are already densifying and lots of development is slated for adjacent neighborhoods. The Metro Board of Supervisors will take up the light rail recommendation on June 27th; The agency expects to begin construction on the route during fiscal year 2020-2021 with final completion due by 2027, just in time for the 2028 olympic games.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has unveiled six potential alignments for a forthcoming transit project that could link L.A.’s San Fernando Valley with the city’s Westside neighborhoods and—eventually—with Los Angeles International airport (LAX). The concepts were unveiled last week and represent the latest efforts to span over the Sepulveda Pass with public transit, an effort that is complicated by the route’s steep terrain, the presence of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the presence of Interstate-405, the busiest and most congested freeway in the United States. Plans call for building the link in two phases, with an initial segment connecting the Westwood with the southernmost edge of the valley due to be completed by 2026. A southern extension to LAX could be completed by 2057 under the current timetable. For that initial segment, the six proposed alignments are as follows: Concept 1: Planners envision a 10-mile underground subway alignment that would link the future terminus of the regional Purple Line subway with the Orange Line busway in the valley neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, where the line could link with a forthcoming north-south transit route planned for Van Nuys Boulevard. To the south, the new heavy rail transit line (HRT) would also link with the east-west Expo Line that connects Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Concept 2: A second potential HRT line would follow a similar tunneling route but would connect with the Orange Line station on Sepulveda Boulevard instead of Van Nuys. The potential alignment could contain as many as five miles’ worth of aerial alignments constructed to link separately with the forthcoming Van Nuys Line, as well. This route would run a total of 13 miles in length and could connect to the Expo similarly to Concept 1. Concept 3: This alignment would follow the same path as Concept 1 but would be built using light rail transit (LRT) technology, a cheaper option that would ultimately carry fewer passengers per train at slower speeds than the HRT proposal. The underground route would ultimately run about 10 miles in length. Concept 4: This route would run along the same alignment as Concept 3, but would feature a mile-long aerial spur that would link to the Orange Line. Plans are currently underway to convert the Orange Line from a bus rapid transit route (BRT) to a light rail line, meaning that, with this option, the two routes could potentially share trains in the future, creating the possibility of several different one-seat routes. Concept 5: Metro is also considering monorail and rubber tire trams for the Sepulveda Pass route, options that would blend below-ground, at-grade, and aerial alignments to cross through the mountain range. Concept 5 would follow the same route as Concept 1 but would result in a transit line that simply linked the two regions without offering the interlining capabilities of Concept 4 or the capacity and speed of Concepts 1 and 2. Concept 6: Concept 6 is proposed as an extension of the Purple Line route, an idea that would thread the primarily east-west line northward into the valley, where it could link with other forthcoming lines or even extend further in their stead. The potential alignment would be the death knell for the “Subway to the Sea” concept originally proposed for the Purple Line that would have extended the line to Santa Monica. That idea has been on the back burner for years as Metro has moved ahead with planned extensions that take the route only as far west as Westwood, where the line simple dead-ends. Metro will be gauging public opinion on the routes over coming weeks and will announce a consolidated list of route options at a later date. The route is listed as one of the 28 transit projects Metro would like to complete before L.A. hosts the 2028 Olympics, so the timeline for the project will likely be sped up over the coming years.
Officials in Los Angeles broke ground late last week on the second leg of a long-planned 9.1-mile extension of the city’s Purple Line subway. The so-called Section 2 extension will bring an additional 2.59 miles of underground track and two new stations to the line in addition to the 3.92 miles currently under construction for Section 1 of the extension, The Source reports. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) began construction on the Section 1 extension in 2015 and is currently 30 percent done with work on that leg. Work on Section 1 is expected to be completed by 2023, with Section 2 wrapping up in 2025, and a planned Section 3 completed the following year. Metro is aiming to finish the entire 9.2-mile extension before the year 2028, when Los Angeles is due to host the Summer Olympics. Section 1 of the extension will thread the heavy rail line to the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and La Cienega, just west of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art campus. Sections 2 and 3 will bring the line to Century City and the Veterans Administration campus in Westwood, respectively. Metro recently awarded a $1.37-billion construction contract to joint venture contractor Tutor Perini O&G to build the Section 2 subway; Another joint venture contractor—Skanska-Traylor-Shea—is building Section 1. Work on the line has already begun to impact the areas around the extension, with many new high-rise projects currently in the pipeline for sites immediately surrounding Wilshire Boulevard. The expansion has also spurred new construction of luxury-oriented housing adjacent to existing stops, as well. During a public presentation earlier this month, Metro officials detailed construction activity for the extensions, providing an update on utility relocation work, detailing which street tree specimens would need to be removed—and replaced—to facilitate construction, and also debuted preliminary renderings for the above-ground elements of several new transit stations. Renderings for these new stations depict glass canopy-topped subway entrances surrounded by hardscaped plaza spaces. Next, Tutor Perini O&G and several utility companies will work on reorganizing the maze of pipes and conduit below city streets for Section 2 areas, while work on a staging site that will be used to begin drilling the subway tunnel takes place. Work on the Section 1 extension will continue as planned.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is preparing to announce a final slate of projects for his "28 by 28" initiative before the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) board of directors this week. Garcetti’s effort aims to complete 28 regional transit projects before Los Angeles hosts the summer Olympics in 2028. The proposal includes a collection of projects already planned under a recently passed transportation funding ballot initiative called Measure M, urbanize.LA reports. Measure M is slated to bring $860 million per year to regional transit projects that Metro will utilize to diversify regional transportation options. According to a plan posted to the Metro website, Garcetti’s initiative includes 16 projects planned under Measure M and a previous transit measure. These projects include light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) expansions across the region, as well as several highway improvement and widening efforts. The plan calls for expanding six light rail lines, which includes the completion of new light rail lines to Crenshaw in South Los Angeles, Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley, and Santa Ana in the southeast. Also included are a slew of regional BRT projects in the northern San Fernando Valley along Vermont Avenue and through Glendale. The collected projects have the potential to reshape the region’s urban geography, as evidenced by the explosion of transit-oriented development proposed along the recently extended Expo light rail line in West Los Angeles. The areas around the first phase of the Purple Line subway extension are already booming with high-density, mixed-use developments. Further information on the 28 by 28 plan is forthcoming. See the Metro website for the official Measure M transit expansion roll-out schedule.
Officials with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) have begun to explore the potential opportunities public-private partnerships (P3) might afford the entity as it seeks to fast-track the construction of several key transit expansions across the Los Angeles region. Specifically, The Source reported that Metro is currently working to develop a timeframe for expediting the delivery of three projects: The construction of a new north-south transit tunnel running through the Santa Monica Mountains underneath the Sepulveda Pass; the addition of the new southeasterly West Santa Ana transit line to the city of Artesia; and the county-wide expansion of the existing Express Lanes toll lane system. The projects represent lynchpin expansions for the 26-year-old transit system that will result from the passage of 2016’s Measure M, a regional half-cent tax increase that is expected to raise $860 million in new transit-oriented revenue each year in perpetuity. Measure M is expected to rework the region’s approach to mobility by expanding Metro’s rail network by more than a factor of two, while also funding street, bicycle, and highway improvements, as well. Metro received several unsolicited proposals for the projects in question earlier this year. The proposals, aimed at improving delivery times and reducing construction costs for the projects, are the result a new effort on the part of the transit agency to draw industry knowledge and experience to its project planning operations under the tenure of Chief Innovation Officer Joshua Schank. In a statement, Schank said, “We are seeing innovation at its best and we look forward to delivering projects and programs—supported by P3s—to improve the quality of life in our region sooner rather than later.” Metro has utilized the unsolicited proposals to begin crafting RFPs for each of the projects. The logic behind the move is that P3s can speed construction and improve coordination between the agency, designers, and contractors, allowing for faster delivery of the projects in question and also—due to cost savings—potentially lead to expedited delivery for other projects, as well. Parsons Transportation Group and Cintra US Services submitted unsolicited bids for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project, the transit portion of which will now be developed via the RFP process as a P3 project. Once completed, the 20-mile-long, $9.4 billion corridor is expected to serve over 100,000 daily transit riders. Parsons completed work on the final leg of Metro's Expo Line extension late last year. Metro received two proposals for the West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor from Skanska and Kiewit, which will also result in an RFP for a P3 project that will utilize elements from each firm’s unsolicited bid. The 20-mile long route would be built in two phases for between $3 billion and $4.5 billion and carry 75,000 riders daily. Lastly, Goldman Sachs submitted a proposal for the regional expansion Metro’s ExpressLanes network. Metro will pursue a procurement bond in order to underwrite the implementation of the new regional toll road network. Details, as well a timeline for the RFP process, are set to be released in the coming months.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has released a new promotional video showcasing preliminary designs for a collection of dramatic upgrades slated for the city’s Union Station railway and transit terminal in Downtown Los Angeles. The fly-through video features conceptual designs for the improvements and demonstrates that designers for the project are thinking big as they aim to rework the historic Los Angeles Union Station building. According to the video, a new circular, airport terminal–like elevated concourse will wrap between train platforms on the far eastern end of the complex, with the station’s many public transit connections scattered throughout the station’s western extents. The scheme calls for sandwiching an ADA-accessible vertical circulation core between the new structure and the existing station functions. The above-grade concourse will also feature retail spaces, wayfinding signage, and treetop views of the city, all looping around multiple train concourse platforms that will eventually include a depot for California’s forthcoming high-speed rail network. The new concourse is part of the ongoing LINK Union Station project that aims to add through service to the regional transit hub. Currently, several regional transit lines dead end at the station, an arrangement that will change once the improvements are made, allowing for faster travel times through the area, a reduction in necessary transfers between regional commuter rail lines, and expanded access and visibility for the hub. Metro has not secured funding for the project, which according to certain estimates, could cost between $1.7 and $2.1 billion. The scheme will be in the running against a more expensive ground floor concourse concept that is still currently under development. For more information, see the Metro website.