Move LA has released a map of potential rail expansion projects that could be funded by “Measure R2” – a half-cent sales tax ballot initiative that would be similar to Measure R. We’re fortunate in LA in the sense that we have a lot of good candidate projects for transit expansion. However, US transit planning is often heavy on expansion, and misses out on opportunities to improve the existing transit system. Now obviously, if you’re riding the existing system, adding new lines gives you more destinations. But it doesn’t help your overcrowded Blue Line vehicle or your Flower St crawl – in fact, it might make those things worse!
So, while some longer posts are in the works (don’t I always claim that?), here are some improvements to the existing transit system that should get consideration for being included in Measure R2.
Lankershim/Vineland infill station: it’s over 2 miles from Universal City to North Hollywood. That’s ok if the area in between stops is like Hancock Park, but there’s already a lot of density here and there’s the potential for more. This would be more costly than the Red Line stops near 1st St and 6th St being contemplated, but it would serve actual density rather than possible development. (It would also not interfere with yard operations.)
As I said last year, the Orange Line – running 4 minute headways – is not at capacity. Improvements to traffic signals would allow for increased service. An infill station at White Oak, in the middle of the 2 mile gap between Balboa and Reseda, should be considered too. It would be expensive and disruptive to existing riders to convert to LRT, so we should strongly consider getting all we can out of the BRT system first.
The station spacing on the Green Line almost suggests it was planned as a pseudo-commuter rail to bring people to the commercial center in El Segundo. Infill stations should be considered at:
- 105/Western: it’s crazy that a station at Western, with connections to busy north-south bus routes 207 and 757, wasn’t built in the first place. Slam dunk.
- 105/Atlantic: 1.3 miles east of Long Beach Blvd station, serving Lynwood and connecting to north-south bus routes 260 and 762. Again, slam dunk.
- 105/Paramount: 1.7 miles east of the proposed 105/Atlantic station and 1.1 miles west of Lakewood station, serving Paramount and Downey, and connecting to north-south bus route 265. This would also connect to the proposed Measure R2 Gateway Cities Line. Yet again, slam dunk.
- 105/Bellflower: 0.9 miles east of Lakewood and 1.2 miles west of Norwalk, serving Downey and Bellflower, and connecting to north-south bus route 127.
I’m going to commit a minor act of heresy and say that with the possible exception of 105/Bellflower, these are all much better options than an extension of the Green Line east to the Metrolink Norwalk Station, which, after all, only has 19 trains a day and doesn’t even have any service for five hours during the middle of the day and no trains after 7pm. As long as the Orange County Line is sharing tracks with the finest line this land has seen, you’re not getting much connectivity out of that connection.
Where to even start? Unfortunately, design decisions on the Regional Connector, Gold Line, and Expo Line have made it impractical to try to go from 3-car to 4-car trains in the near future. Any increases in capacity are going to have to come from reducing headways. Some potential options:
- Add another platform and track at Willow: the Long Beach loop is slow and impeded by street traffic, and demand is a little lower, so many trains turn back at Willow. The trunk of the Blue Line, from Willow to Vernon, is all exclusive ROW and can support headways shorter than 6 minutes. Adding another track at Willow would increase the turnback capacity (assuming, of course, that a good operations study shows the track is necessary).
- Build (or legitimize) a second station entrance/egress at stations like Compton and Florence, to improve passenger circulation and reduce platform crowding.
- Widen very narrow platforms like Florence.
- Study options to improve speeds and reliability on Washington Blvd and Flower St. This could include anything from changing traffic signal timings to grade separations.
Stops on the Silver Line are spaced for commuter service, not rapid transit. Now that the Silver Line is getting some better frequencies, it’s time to look at adding some stops:
- 110/Vernon: serving Vermont Square in South LA and (the original) South Park in Southeast LA, and connecting to east/west bus routes 105 and 705. This station would be on the way cool HOV lane viaduct, which would make it costly.
- 110/Florence: serving Vermont Knolls in South LA and Florence, and connecting to east/west bus routes 111 and 311.
- 110/Century: serving Vermont Vista and Broadway-Manchester, and connecting to east/west bus route 117.
- 110/El Segundo: serving Harbor Gateway North.
- 110/Alondra: serving Harbor Gateway North.
Another potential improvement would be to extend the Silver Line from Artesia Transit Center south to San Pedro. This could be either via Vermont, which has a very wide ROW that could accommodate bus lanes, or via the 110. Stops would be considered at 190th, Torrance, Carson, Sepulveda, PCH, and in San Pedro. The 110 already has bus stop pull-offs at Carson, Sepulveda, and PCH. If the route is via Vermont, stops could be spaced every half-mile rather than every mile.
Our transit system certainly has plenty of room for expansion. But we shouldn’t ignore improvements that could be made to the existing system – especially given the demographics of the neighborhoods that would benefit from these improvements.