Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Slow Ride

The time frame for all transit projects are too slow in this country. Why would the Subway to the Sea be any different?



arcady said...

What would it take to sell bonds against Measure R revenue and move the project timelines up a bit? The wonderful thing about subway construction is that it can be sped up quite easily simply by getting more workers and more TBMs, you just need to be able to spend money faster. There's still the environmental process though, which takes way too long.

Winston said...

It's a difficult choice that folks in L.A. are faced with. The timetable for the subway to the sea is really slow, but their other options are pretty unpalatable:

1)Issue bonds and building the whole project immediately. This seems attractive on its face but it means that the project's cost, which are already a very large share of the measure R money will double, leaving other parts of the city without transit improvements and eliminating other projects that might be more cost effective.

2)Focus funding on the subway to the sea by delaying everything else. This won't give you as fast of a completion of the subway, but it is far more fair to the rest of the city. This being said, it still brings up serious equity concerns. This can be partially overcome by doing some easy projects in other parts of the city before building the subway, which pushes back the subway completion date but means the construction will be quicker.

3)Raise more revenues, but higher taxes might be a hard sell after measure R's passage. Perhaps development fees could be raised or a congestion charge imposed.

arcady said...

If I were running the MTA, here's what I'd do: the first priority is always operating the existing system, followed closely by the already committed projects (Eastside and Expo I are about to open, Expo II is at this point a certainty). In my view, by the time Expo Phase 2 opens, building a Downtown Connector will become an operational necessity, due to the inadequacy of the existing and projected storage yard, as well as the terminal facilities at 7th/Metro. So right now, the Downtown Connector is the next priority. I'd also expand the scope of the DTC somewhat to include grade separations at 1st/Alameda and an extension of the tunnel south along Flower St to Washington, with a grade separated Blue/Expo junction.

The Foothill Gold Line is useful for operational purposes too, mostly because of the large yard planned for Irwindale. And the plan has basically just been sitting there waiting for money for a while now. So those two are the top priorities, and my goal would be to start on the DTC as soon as the Eastside Gold Line opens, and maybe treat the southward tunnel extension as Expo Phase III.

While all this is going on, there's no reason not to continue slowly working in the background on the Wilshire Subway. Once the DTC is done, it's time to dig a box as Wilshire/Western and launch the TBMs. Just digging the tunnel to Westwood should take about 3 years, judging by the speed with which the Eastside tunnels were built.

With a Wilshire Subway, the transportation system will have undergone some pretty significant changes, and I think that would be a good point to reassess priorities. Also, while all this is going on, it wouldn't hurt to continue giving out a bit of capital funding for Metrolink and bike/ped projects. Metrolink, in particular, has a few relatively inexpensive projects that could lead to huge improvements in service, including double track along the Ventura County Line and the San Bernardino Line.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think we need to change our national spending priorities and speed up these projects. Yeah I'm a dreamer, sue me :) We have the money, it's just not allocated to projects that will give the most returns in terms of energy savings and development patterns. Los Angeles probably should have done this a long time ago. There should be U Bahns in every major city just like Europe. When we were spending our money foolishly on exterior freeways, other countries were readying for the future.

njh said...

Don't complain, the Alice Springs to Darwin railway took over 100 years to get finished (then they built the whole 1500km thing in 2 years, at a cost of about $2M/km)

But I do find is bizarre that the US can't build a light rail extension along an existing railway with plenty of right of way for 10 years, while Turkey, China or Spain (for examples) can build a subway in a few years (less than an election cycle...).

Anonymous said...

I'd turn the Orange line busway back into a rail line and run commuter trains.

Anonymous said...

one would have hoped the stimulus bill could have sped these projects up.

btw isnt planning and designing these projects also economic stimulus and job creation, and not just the construction aspect of them?

it really is ridiculous how long these projects take to plan, design and build.

perhaps if there was some tweaking of the tax codes for railroads, there might also be a way to get the railroads to make extensive and major track improvements nationwide as additional non-government stimulus, which would benefit freight rail and amtrak.