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.
- Measure R2 Vision (Move LA)
- Move L.A.'s Measure R2 Draft Proposal, Including Their Rail Fantasy Map (Streetsblog LA)