Developments in Los Angeles Rapid Transit as of April 2012
Los Angeles is building rapid transit projects, like the Westside Subway Extension , at a rate unequaled elsewhere in the country. And the pace is only going to accelerate, thanks to Measure R and America Fast Forward . In 2012 two projects will be completed and opened to the public: the Expo Line and the extension of the Orange Line to Chatsworth, and two further projects: the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector, will be ready to begin construction.
Projects Scheduled to Open in 2012
The Expo Line
On Saturday, April 28, 2012, passenger rail service operated on the former Pacific Electric right of way adjacent to Exposition Boulevard for the first time since late 1953. Most of the first phase of the Expo Line, which will operate from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, is now open for the business (the exceptions are the terminus station at Culver City and a station at Farmdale, both of which still await completion). Most of the line is at grade, with a couple of aerial stations on one end and the underground station at 7th at Flower on the other end, which means the line suffers the same problems as the Orange Line and the Blue Line - intermittent stopping at red lights due to insufficient signal priority.
The Expo Line, denoted with an aqua color, has three stations at the USC campus and is expected to see heavy usage by university faculty, staff, and students heading to class, football games, and other activities. Apart from these stations, major passenger activity is expected at the Culver City station, where transit-oriented development is planned. As most of the other stations are located in existing low-density single-family neighborhoods, little additional development is expected and most patronage at those stations is expected to be transferring passengers from north-south bus routes. The new stations have a look and feel very similar to existing stations on the Orange Line, and will appear to be glorified bus stops to people used to the ornate subway stations of Moscow, London, and even New York.
Interface With the Blue Line
In my opinion, the biggest potential problem with the Expo Line lays in its interface with the Blue Line. The two line share two stations - 7th St and Pico - and share track from 7th St to Flower and Washington. Due to operational complexity, including the need to have both lines on the same headway, it is not industry best practice to have two rapid transit lines operate on the same section of track and indeed delays on both the Expo Line and the Blue Line were reported on opening weekend. The operational complexity is greatly intensified by the fact that until the Regional Connector opens both lines will terminate at 7th St station - a station that has only two tracks. This bottleneck will limit both lines to maximum peak headways of six minutes, so Metro will have to hope that the Expo Line is not too successful. Of course, the Blue Line is already overcrowded at peak times with no possibility of adding additional service. In any case, until a separate yard is built for Phase Two of the Expo Line, discussed below, additional service is limited by the fact that both lines will operate out of the Blue Line yard.
The Phase Two extension of the line to Santa Monica is currently underway. The line is expected to be completed by 2016. Smooth sailing is expected for Phase Two, as the last lawsuit opposing its construction has been dismissed by an appellate court as of April 2012.
The Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth
Expected to open in May 2012 is an extension of the Metro Orange Line bus way from Canoga Station north along a private right-of-way adjacent to Canoga Avenue to the Chatsworth Metrolink Station. I will have more information about this extension when it opens.
Projects to Begin Construction in 2012
The Crenshaw Line
The Crenshaw Line, which will be a light rail line linking the Expo Line at Crenshaw Station to the Green Line at Aviation Station along a corridor mostly following Crenshaw Blvd, is expected to being construction in 2012. The line is expected to open between 2016 and 2018. I will discuss the Crenshaw Line more at a later date.
Projects Ready to Begin Construction in 2012
Besides the above three projects, two others will achieve significant milestones in 2012. It is expected that the final environmental impact reports will be approved for both the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension, allowing ground to be broken on both of them when funding becomes available. But neither has been without controversy. The Regional Connector, that would connect the station at 7th at Flower in downtown Los Angeles with Union Station to allow through-running trains from Long Beach to eventually Azusa and from East Los Angeles to eventually Santa Monica, has risked delay due to financial district complaints over the removal of a stop at 5th at Hope due to financial reasons as well as what the financial district considers to be excessive use of cut-and-cover. Both of these concerns are expected to be successfully resolved. For the Westside Subway, extensive drama has been stirred up by Beverly Hills over the Metro decision to tunnel under Beverly Hills High School. Due to this concern, the Metro Board voted only to certify the environmental impact report for the extension to as far west as La Cienega at Wilshire, in effect punting the Beverly Hills concern down the road to a future date.