CITY ON THE MOVE

What will L.A. tran­sit be like when the Olympics ar­rive in 2028?

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Laura J. Nel­son

As the 1984 Sum­mer Olympics ap­proached, few ques­tions loomed larger in Los An­ge­les than traf­fic.

The re­gion, a rail tran­sit dead zone, was al­ready no­to­ri­ous for grid­lock. South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s ex­ten­sive street­car net­work, once the largest in the world, had been ripped out decades ear­lier. And the rib­bon-cut­ting on the first modern rail line was still six years away.

But for all the anx­i­ety about apoc­a­lyp­tic con­ges­tion, traf­fic dur­ing the 1984 Olympics was pain­less, thanks to a vast pub­lic ef­fort to re­duce con­ges­tion. An­ge­lenos telecom­muted or worked flex­i­ble sched­ules, pub­lic tran­sit agen­cies ran an ex­ten­sive net­work of shut­tles, and truck­ing com­pa­nies changed their de­liv­ery sched­ules to avoid peak hours.

The 2028 Olympics will ar­rive in a changed re­gion, three decades into an am­bi­tious era of rail ex­pan­sion. The Metro pas­sen­ger rail net­work is now 105 miles long, link­ing the beaches of Santa Mon­ica and Long Beach to the foothills of the San Gabriel Val­ley. Six coun­ties are now con­nected by more than 500 miles of Metrolink com­muter rail.

A sales tax in­crease ap­proved by Los An­ge­les County vot­ers in Novem­ber will fund an­other mas­sive tran­sit ex­pan­sion, en­hanc­ing bus ser­vice and bring­ing rail lines to the Sepul­veda Pass, the San Fer­nando Val­ley and cities south­east of down­town.

“In 1984, we had bup­kes in terms of rail,” said Dave Sotero of the Metropoli­tan Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity. “Now we’re go­ing gang­busters.”

Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti has said rail tran­sit will be key to avoid­ing grid­lock dur­ing the 2028 Olympics. By then, the county’s pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to near 11 mil­lion, or about 36% higher than in 1984.

Many of the key Olympic event lo­ca­tions — USC, down­town and Santa Mon­ica — are al­ready con­nected to the Metro rail net­work. By 2028, sta­tions are slated to open within a mile of sev­eral more venues, in­clud­ing UCLA and In­gle­wood. Other projects in the works are aimed at im­prov­ing rail travel for An­ge­lenos and out-oftown vis­i­tors.

Here’s a look at three rail projects that of­fi­cials say will en­hance the re­gion’s tran­sit net­work be­fore the 2028 Olympics:

Seam­less trip through down­town

A 1,000-ton Ger­man bor­ing ma­chine known as “An­geli” is churn­ing

east­ward be­neath down­town, dig­ging twin tun­nels aimed at ad­dress­ing one of the Metro sys­tem’s most ob­vi­ous flaws: Any light-rail trip that passes through down­town re­quires at least two trans­fers.

The $1.75-bil­lion tun­nel­ing project, known as the Re­gional Con­nec­tor, will re­or­ga­nize the Blue, Expo and Gold lines into two lines that will con­nect Long Beach to Azusa and East Los An­ge­les to Santa Mon­ica.

Cur­rently, rid­ers have to board the Red or Pur­ple Line sub­ways to bridge the gap be­tween Union Sta­tion and a tran­sit hub on 7th Street on the western edge of the cen­tral city. The project will pro­vide a one­seat ride for pas­sen­gers whose trips cross through down­town.

The Re­gional Con­nec­tor should smooth travel for crowds watch­ing beach vol­ley­ball in Santa Mon­ica, wa­ter sports in Long Beach or the 26 Olympic and Par­a­lympic events down­town, of­fi­cials said.

Though the Re­gional Con­nec­tor prom­ises seam­less travel, its con­struc­tion has been any­thing but. Of­fi­cials have grap­pled with sched­ule and bud­get woes as costs for util­ity line re­lo­ca­tion soared. The open­ing date has shifted later, to 2021, and the bud­get has risen 28% above es­ti­mates.

Rail to the air­port

The next light-rail line sched­uled to open in Los An­ge­les County will run south from the Expo Line through Leimert Park, In­gle­wood and El Se­gundo. The 8.5mile route, known as the Cren­shaw Line, is slated to open in 2019.

But An­ge­lenos will have to wait five ad­di­tional years for the most an­tic­i­pated part of the line: A rail con­nec­tion to Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

A new sta­tion at 96th Street and Avi­a­tion Boule­vard is be­ing de­signed to ad­dress one of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s most in­fa­mous plan­ning prob­lems.

By 2025 or so, trav­el­ers and air­port work­ers will be able to step off the Cren­shaw Line a mile and a half east of LAX and board a smaller, au­to­mated train that will shut­tle be­tween a con­sol­i­dated car-rental fa­cil­ity, a ground trans­porta­tion hub and the ter­mi­nal area.

The aerial train, which trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials call an “au­to­mated peo­ple mover,” is ex­pected to cost about $1.5 bil­lion and will be funded by the city’s air­port de­part­ment.

The Cren­shaw Line is funded through Mea­sure R, a half-cent sales tax in­crease for trans­porta­tion projects that county vot­ers ap­proved in 2008.

West L.A. sub­way

The Pur­ple Line sub­way will shave the trip from the West­side to down­town Los An­ge­les to half an hour and is key to the re­gion’s Olympics bid.

Trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials have vowed to fin­ish the line 11 years early — just six weeks be­fore the 2024 Olympics. (“If it doesn’t hap­pen be­fore 2024, you can fire me,” Metro Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Phil Wash­ing­ton said ear­lier this year.)

The 2028 Olympics will pro­vide four years of breath­ing room for an agency that of­ten strug­gles to open ma­jor projects on time.

Metro will open the Pur­ple Line to the West­side in three phases: from the cur­rent ter­mi­nus in Kore­atown to the Mir­a­cle Mile by 2023; to Cen­tury City in 2025; and the fi­nal phase, to West L.A., some­time be­fore 2028. The project is cur­rently ahead of sched­ule, of­fi­cials say.

Trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials are now con­cerned about Pres­i­dent Trump’s pro­posed bud­get, which axed the pro­gram that would fund the Pur­ple Line’s third phase. They fear it will be dif­fi­cult to meet the 2028 dead­line if Congress doesn’t ap­prove a fund­ing agree­ment within the next year.

A Se­nate com­mit­tee passed a bill in July that re­stored the grant pro­gram that would fund the Pur­ple Line, but the pro­posal still needs sup­port from the full Se­nate and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Still, of­fi­cials are op­ti­mistic. Metro has se­cured three pack­ages of grants and low-in­ter­est loans for tran­sit since the Repub­li­cans re­gained con­trol of the Se­nate in 2010: $830 mil­lion for the Re­gional Con­nec­tor and a com­bined $3.7 bil­lion for the first two phases of the Pur­ple Line.

An Olympic legacy

Rem­nants of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Olympics years still linger across the re­gion.

The most vis­i­ble re­minder of the 1932 Games ap­pears on street signs across the city. Olympic Boule­vard, a thor­ough­fare for­merly known as 10th Street, was re­named in 1929.

In 1984, the Olympics pro­vided the ul­ti­mate test for a suite of new trans­porta­tion tech­nolo­gies The Times de­scribed as a “panoply of Space Age elec­tronic gad­gets.”

Those tools — in­clud­ing sen­sors embed­ded in the street, me­ters on free­way on­ramps and video cam­eras to cap­ture traf­fic flow — later be­came ubiq­ui­tous.

Traf­fic dur­ing the 1984 Olympics was fa­mously light, in part be­cause of the scare tac­tics that of­fi­cials used to warn com­muters off the free­ways. The same strate­gies formed the play­book for an­other po­ten­tial traf­fic apoc­a­lypse a gen­er­a­tion later: Car­maged­don.

City en­gi­neers also con­nected a hand­ful of in­ter­sec­tions near the Coli­seum to each other by re­mote con­trol, the­o­riz­ing that traf­fic sig­nals that could talk to each other could move traf­fic more ef­fi­ciently.

Af­ter the Olympics ended, the traf­fic light syn­chro­niza­tion project plod­ded on. When­ever money be­came avail­able, en­gi­neers con­nected more sig­nals to a cen­tral com­puter sys­tem housed be­neath City Hall in a space that was for­merly a nu­clear bunker.

The last of the city’s 4,398 traf­fic sig­nals was syn­chro­nized in 2013, 29 years af­ter the Olympics.

Ir­fan Khan Los An­ge­les Times

WORK­ERS pre­pare for the ma­chine known as “An­geli” to break through a dirt wall at the Grand Av­enue Arts/Bunker Hill Sta­tion.

Penni Glad­stone

FOR ALL the anx­i­ety about con­ges­tion, traf­fic dur­ing the 1984 Olympics was pain­less. An­ge­lenos worked f lex­i­ble sched­ules, tran­sit agen­cies ran a large net­work of shut­tles, and truck­ers changed their de­liv­ery times.

Fred­eric J. Brown AFP/Getty Im­ages

CARL LEWIS, a mul­ti­ple gold medal­ist in track and field at the 1984 Olympics, joins city of­fi­cials at a news con­fer­ence wel­com­ing the Games back to Los An­ge­les.

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