Exposition and Crenshaw: Connect the Tracks

I may be a year or so late to the planning game, but I think this is an important idea. I’ve been working on maps and thinking about it for a week or so, since I attended the Metro “Green Line to LAX” community meeting and realized that what would really improve transit to LAX is a “one-seat ride.” With all of the options, this would still be impossible from anywhere but the Green Line.

The issue becomes even more timely today as Metro just released the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor, which is the missing link in this “one-seat ride” ideal.

The report suggests an underground station (terminus) for the Crenshaw Line at the intersection of Expo and Crenshaw. The study says that engineers found it “technically infeasible” for the line to be at-grade here. They recommend the line and station be underground (Design option 6, they call it) requiring a “northern terminus.” The suggestion is to end the line underground, requiring riders to exit the station and cross the street to the Expo line if they need to transfer. What I propose, however, is connecting the tracks so there is no transfer needed at all.

The regional connector project in Downtown is going to substantially improve transit across the region, allowing passengers to travel through Downtown without making the 1-2 grade separated transfers currently required. A trip from Long Beach to Pasadena currently requires a transfer from the Blue to Red lines at 7th Street / Metro Center, then a transfer from Red to Gold at Union Station. When the regional connector is complete, one line will go from Long Beach to Pasadena and another from Santa Monica to East LA without requiring a transfer.

The regional connector tracks (shown in green) will connect the current Blue and Gold lines and the soon-to-open Expo line. Allowing trains to travel through Downtown without requiring passengers to transfer.

Of course, the benefits don’t end there; it also improves mobility within Downtown. The area will now have two lines running on the regional connector tracks and serving new stations with increased frequency, in addition to the two lines serving the current Red/Purple line tracks and stations.

We should take this same idea and apply it to the new Crenshaw line, connecting the tracks to the Expo line at Expo/Crenshaw. As rail transit improves in LA, the main problem I see is that our lines are fragmented; they begin and end at one another instead of merging and require an excessive amount of transfers. Connecting the tracks at Expo/Crenshaw will solve this in a huge way. See my theoretical map below or click here for a PDF.

My proposed map, showing continuous routes with connected tracks at Expo/Crenshaw. (Click the image for a larger view)

Keep in mind that everything on this map is in some way already planned (except for the dotted green line, which I’ll get to below). The only change I have made is connecting the tracks at Expo/Crenshaw, yet it results in an immensely improved regional transit system.

Trains could run from the South Bay to Pasadena, from Santa Monica to East LA and from Long Beach to Pasadena. Three lines would serve the Downtown core. LAX would have vastly improved connectivity throughout the entire region. It seems like a no-brainer when looking to the future because it provides a number of key one-seat rides throughout the entire region.

For more detail, keep reading, but my basic plans end here, with one key change that could drastically transform LA’s transit system and influence ridership. The current 30/10 plan will propel rail connectivity forward in LA, but simply connecting the tracks at Expo/Crenshaw will make LA a truly progressive transit region. It will not only cater to existing transit users, but influence others to get out of their cars. Only a small minority take transit for purely cost or environmental reasons, and it will take convenience to influence the others. Routes with multiple transfers are not convenient; connecting these tracks will increase convenience to the point of winning over many drivers.

Downtown Los Angeles will have improved service, with three routes running on the regional connector tracks and two on the Red/Purple line tracks.

With more in-depth ridership studies, trains could be routed in a few different ways on the north side of Downtown. Trains from LAX could go to East LA instead of Pasadena, as could trains from Long Beach, and trains from Santa Monica could head north to Pasadena rather than into East LA. These three lines should be routed to follow ridership patterns.

San Francisco’s BART system similarly runs through downtown, where trains from multiple routes merge to serve the city’s core on shared tracks.

A good model for Los Angeles, San Francisco

Potential problems with my plan include physically connecting the tracks at Expo/Crenshaw, timing of trains through Downtown with increased frequency, connecting the Santa Ana corridor to the Green Line (my proposal leaves the Norwalk and Lakewood stations as a stub similar to the current Purple line), and re-routing trains if the Crenshaw line is extended northward.

Connecting the tracks, while surely easier if the Crenshaw line was above ground at this point, can still be done if it is underground. A right turn as the train comes north would be required, as would an exit point allowing it to ascend to ground level. The planned underground station could serve as the north and southbound Crenshaw station, while the current station on Expo will serve as the westbound station. The current eastbound station on Expo will continue to serve as the eastbound station for trains coming from Santa Monica. It seems strange to have this “three platform” kind of station, where we’re used to only having two, but it’s completely possible.

Possible track alignments at Expo/Crenshaw. Dotted lines are underground. The blue stations serve east and westbound trains while the yellow station serves trains coming to and from LAX to the south.

We’ve seen from the Blue Line intersection at Flower/Washington that these trains do not need an extremely wide radius to turn, and that they are able to wait at signals as needed. With precise scheduling and an advanced signal system, conflicts between trains using the tracks between Expo/Crenshaw, Pico, and Little Tokyo can be avoided.

I’m unsure what to do with the potential stub on the Green Line in Norwalk, but I am convinced the Santa Ana line should merge with the Green Line rather than crossing and heading North to Downtown. That segment of the line would not provide much advantage, with both the Blue Line and the Orange County Metrolink line heading into Downtown, and I don’t think is completely necessary (I’m for expanded rail coverage rather than not, but sometimes decisions have to be made).

Similarly, I don’t know if the Crenshaw northern extension will be necessary at this time. Of course, many will disagree, but I think it would be more beneficial to connect the Green Line from LAX to Culver city and the eventual 405 Transit Corridor (the dotted green line on my proposed map). This will provide one-seat rides from the Valley to LAX, connect with the Purple line, and would even provide an epically long (and probably rarely ridden in its entirety) complete ride from the San Fernando Valley to Orange County.

If this extension is built in the future and trains are rerouted, we will still have the convenience of a system that allows us to change routes if needed. During special events at Farmers Field or conventions Downtown, for example, special trains can be run from the airport on those days and times.

As we continue to build rail lines, I suggest connecting the tracks at each crossing, even if the routing is not planned to be used. This gives Metro the freedom to adapt the system to its needs as it continues to grow.

Below is just a sampling of the many improved connections we’ll have with this first proposed connection.

One seat rides to/from Downtown:
• South Bay
• Santa Monica
• Century City
• North Hollywood
• Pasadena
• East LA
• Long Beach

One-transfer rides to/from Downtown
• San Fernando Valley
• Existing Green Line
• Santa Ana (Orange County)

One-seat rides to LAX
• Downtown
• Pasadena
• Santa Ana (Orange County)
• South Bay

One-transfer rides to LAX
• Santa Monica
• Century City
• North Hollywood
• East LA
• Long Beach

16 Responses to Exposition and Crenshaw: Connect the Tracks

  1. LAofAnaheim says:

    By doing a one-seat ride from Downtown LA to LAX (actually, not really “one-seat” as a People Mover transfer will be required from the new Century station)….you are eliminating the possible northern extension of the Crenshaw Line into Mid-Wilshire, Museum Row, West Hollywood and Hollywood. The long-term vision of the Crenshaw Line is to be a north-south Metro rail line for Mid-LA. The true benefit of keeping Crenshaw Line with a northern stub at Expo is that eventually people from Hollywood, West Hollywood, Museum Row, etc..will have their “one-seat” ride into LAX.

    Also, you have to think, that if we make Crenshaw share the Expo tracks into downtown LA, you will have 4 rail lines using the Regional Connector. Think of a person standing at Pico station in downtown. Going southbound, they’ll have to wait for a Blue Line train to Long Beach, Expo train to Santa Monica or a Crenshaw Line to LAX. So now the people who want to go to Santa Monica/Culver City will have to wait for every 3rd train to disembark. Having a transfer at Expo/Crenshaw is better because patrons in downtown LA can wait for only every other train instead of the 3rd train. Adding a 4th line (I’m assuming post-RC), you are now creating a more congested train path.

    Hence, this was also the reason the Pink Line was removed from study, because to have 3 subway lines share tracks from Union Station to Wilshire/Vermont would be a logistical nightmare and cause confusion for transit patrons. It was just infeasible.

  2. Steven White says:

    I share the sentiment for the northern extension. I quickly addressed it near the end of my post. I’ve only ever seen plans for it to extend as far north as Wilshire. If there are plans for it to go further to the Red Line, great!

    I do not think, however, that three lines running through a station should be difficult. I know people get confused now with Red/Purple, but the main problem is the trains aren’t clearly marked. They’re marked, just not as clearly as they could be. And I guess those riders don’t pay attention to the screens. Other cities run a number of trains through the same station without problem (see SF map), many times with three or more lines, plus express versions of those trains (not SF).

    What’s the 4th line you mention? If there’s one in planning I’ve missed, I’m looking forward to hear about it!

  3. It all depends how frequent the various lines are. LA does better than a lot of American cities, but neither line will exceed 12 trains an hour in peak. So that leaves 24 per hour over the regional connector.

    Looking at those figures, I don’t think you could fit another line down the connector. Off peak you could have direct services, but that’s not very appealing. To make the interchanging, the connections need to be timed or at high enough frequency it does not matter.

  4. Jordan says:

    What Do you think of green line from LAX to Anahiem/Disneyland? look on google maps/earth. The end of green line tracks end just short of Studabaker Ave. Approxiamately 1.7 miles to the east. There is a R.O.W. owned by I believe Union Pacific( I could be wrong). The ROW Parallels I-5 and passes through cities like Buena park ect. It continues All the way into the city of Anahiem. I perfer it terminating at Disneyland because it a destination that will produce lots of ridership. People from the OC trying to get the Airport without sitting in that Horrible 405 traffic. Wth this I would scrap the West Santa Ana Corridor

  5. Steven White says:

    I see that ROW, though it looks like portions of it may be in use (or are just storing some locomotives, I don’t know). You’d probably know more about its feasibility than I would.

    I generally like destination-based transit, though I realize it often is better for events and tourists than actual everyday use. The ROW into Anaheim near Disneyland would have this as both an advantage and an issue. Access to LAX, Disneyland, Anaheim Convention Center — but would it serve the residents of the area as well?

    The fact that it so closely follows the freeway is something I don’t like. The Santa Ana Corridor would pass much more closely through retail and residential areas and could provide easier service to the people. I have found that the least convenient stations I’ve used in LA are the ones built in the freeway ROWs.

  6. LAofAnaheim says:

    How often would you go to Disneyland? Also, Disneyland visitors would be primarily staying in Anaheim and not LA. Ridership would never hit more than 1,000 for an extreme destination that’s only seasonal and already has significant hotels in it’s core area.

  7. DisneyVisitor says:

    A lot of people living in Socal hold the Disneyland annual passes and visit frequently, even though they’ve been on all of the rides, seen all the shows and have a number of blackout dates. Disneyland itself has one of the largest parking structures in the world, and that is frequently near capacity, even at $15/day.

    The attraction has visitors year round, and a large number of visitors are not staying at Anaheim-area hotels. Even if a line to Disneyland attracted only a single-digit percentage of those who drive, it would be in the order of 1,000 per hour using the system.

  8. Jordan Marshall says:

    The Idea isnt to single out bringing passengers to and from disneyland but more of serving the city of Anahiem and other OC cities as well. Its more from the perspective of bringing mass amounts of people to and from LAX. The Green Line terminating from Norwalk won’t cut it. From my persective mass transpotation works best when the lines or routes terminate and pass through areas that results in high ridership. Thats the reason why the Blue and Red Lines are so successful and the Green Line suffers the most. I think it would be succesfull by simply providing and alternative route to LAX other that the 405

  9. Jordan Marshall says:

    My other option it for a tunnell like feature Unless te city of Norwalk will allow metro to run streetcar service on studabaker in a area that is high residential. It will run south until it reaches the Santa Ana Corridor as it crosses studabaker. Then Continue down the ROW into West Santa Ana. That way you keep one line without branching off

  10. Steven White says:

    I think that is a much better option for the area. A large transfer station on the Santa Ana Corridor that is close to Disneyland (it’d still be about 3 miles) could be served with shuttles or streetcar for the park, hotels, and convention center.

    The Santa Ana corridor would serve the rest of the area much better than the ROW following the 5 freeway, in my opinion.

    I do think it is important to connect the Disneyland area (convention center & hotels) to the Santa Ana line somehow, as most visitors (rather than residents) coming in from LAX on the line will headed there, not necessarily into Santa Ana.

  11. Jordan says:

    I was Wondering. What are some of you Ideas in concerning the routing at LAX? Should it only make one central stop or have multiple stops with in the terminal? Would you consider extending Light Rail or People Mover? Me personally I’m in favor a LAX Loop underground at LAX with 3 LAX stations.( LAX North, Tom Bradley Terminal and LAX South. That way you can integrate both Green and Crenshaw lines Into LAX. Just and Idea throw out there.

  12. Steven White says:

    Jordan, good question. Like I said, the whole idea for this post came out of me going to one of the “Green Line to LAX” community meetings. I’d like to be able to push the light rail right into LAX for a stop (either central or at one of the terminals). Three stops is a bit much for a line that continues after the airport. If LAX was the end point it’d be different. I don’t think it’d be possible with the current plans, however, to get both lines to a true LAX stop. You’d have to really re-route the Crenshaw line so it goes west and hits the terminals before coming back to Aviation. Only the Green Line could be easily extended west (after it comes north to Aviation/Century) into the terminal area.

    In that case (and even if you could get both lines into the terminal area), I think we’d still need a people mover — to move people around the terminals within the airport and to get them out to the Crenshaw line at Aviation/Century. To me, the people mover going around the airport and out to the station at Aviation/Century is the way to go. A people mover is something any modern airport should have simply for intra-airport transportation, then we should extend it out to the transit stop that will include two light rail lines, busses, and even cars, taxis, etc, can be there. The people mover is an expense we already need to spend, and extending only one light rail line into the airport would be more cost than it’s worth.

    I am, however, excited to hear the comments others have on this topic as these community meetings and discussions continue.

  13. Darrell Clarke says:

    Steven – You may be interested in a map from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas back in September 2009 promoting a Crenshaw corridor all the way to Hollywood (a still from his video is at http://friends4expo.org/images/crenshaw-mrt-map-698.jpg ). My version would swing farther west along San Vicente to serve West Hollywood ( http://friends4expo.org/images/new-lrt-map-800.gif ).

    This plus a north-south line along Lincoln or the 405, crossing the Red, Purple, and Expo Lines, would create a useful Westwide grid.

  14. Steven White says:

    Darrell, I’d seen the idea for a northward continuation for the Crenshaw line. I think I like your version better. I don’t know how useful a north-south line as they have planned would really be, but I only have experience with one demographic–mine. Your idea would serve the West Hollywood area better locally.

    Your Green Line connection to the 405 corridor is great. I put it as a dotted line on my map–minus the geography and specific route. I don’t know how well your shared tracks in Santa Monica would work, but in general this would be a great improvement to the whole system as well.

    I’m loving all of the discussion about tue future and I’m glad I’m not the only one drawing potential maps. Let’s hope more of it gets done, and I’m very much looking forward to the opening of Expo.

  15. Darrell Clarke says:

    How to get from LAX to Westwood – Lincoln or 405 – is also part of contemplating how the Green Line will interface with LAX’s potential people mover. Although there’s no money or planning process in the near-term.

    Two other local transit sites you should check out, if you’ve not already been there:

    Dan Wentzel’s The Pink Line, which talked a lot about Crenshaw-West Hollywood last November – http://ridethepinkline.blogspot.com/

    The Transit Coalition’s discussion board, where a number of us contemplate what the future of L.A.’s rail network should be – http://transittalk.proboards.com/index.cgi?

    It’s good to have you join this conversation!

  16. Pingback: Lessons From Seattle part 1: Airport Transit « Steven White

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