Los Angeles, California/Eastside Corridor LRT

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Eastside Corridor LRT

Los Angeles, California

(November 2000)

Description

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is proposing to implement a 5.9 mile light rail transit (LRT) line in the Eastside Corridor, connecting Downtown Los Angeles with low- to moderate-income communities in East Los Angeles. The proposed system would include 8 stations and will traverse eastward from Union Station (the city’s major intermodal hub, serving intercity, commuter, and regional rail service, as well as local and express bus services) along Alameda Street through the City Terrace, Belvedere, and East Los Angeles communities of unincorporated Los Angeles County. The project would terminate at Beverly and Atlantic Boulevards, where a 500 space park-and-ride facility is planned. The project is primarily at-grade, with a 1.8 mile mid-section underground in tunnel. The project is intended to improve mobility for residents and employees in the corridor, and provide improved access to employment opportunities throughout the MTA service area. 15,000 average weekday boardings are forecasted on the proposed line in 2020, including 9,700 daily new riders. The project is estimated to cost $759.5 million in escalated dollars, with a Section 5309 New Starts share of $402.3 million.

Eastside Corridor Summary Description

Proposed Project Light Rail Transit Line
5.9 miles, 8 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $759.50 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $402.30 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1999) $22.40 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 15,000 average weekday boardings
9,700 daily new riders
FY 2002 Financial Rating: Medium
FY 2002 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2002 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating of Recommended is based on the existing densities in the corridor and significant mobility improvements estimated to result from the proposed investment. The overall project rating applies to this Annual Report on New Starts and reflects conditions as of November 2000. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.

Status

Initial systems planning efforts for the Eastside Corridor began in 1989, and an alternatives analysis on the corridor commenced in 1990, resulting in the selection of a heavy rail subway line from Union Station to Whittier/Atlantic Boulevard in 1993. A Record of Decision on the corridor was issued in December 1994. The FTA and MTA entered into a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) on three heavy rail corridors (“MOS-3”), which included the North Hollywood, Mid-City, and Eastside corridors, in May 1993. In January 1997, FTA requested that the MTA submit a Recovery Plan to demonstrate its ability to complete the FFGA while maintaining and operating the existing bus system. Pursuant to the request, in January 1998, the LACMTA Board of Directors voted to suspend and demobilize rail construction activities on the Mid-City and Eastside projects. The MTA subsequently submitted a Recovery Plan to FTA in May 1998 and FTA approved the Plan in July 1998.

In 1998, the MTA undertook a Regional Transit Alternatives Analysis (RTAA) to analyze and evaluate feasible alternatives for the Eastside and Mid-City corridors. The RTAA addressed system investment priorities, allocation of resources to operate existing transit services at a reliable standard, assessment and management of financial risk, countywide bus service expansion, and a process for finalizing corridor investments. In November 1998, the LACMTA Board reviewed the RTAA and directed staff to reprogram state and local resources previously allocated to the Eastside and Mid-City Extensions to the implementation of RTAA recommendations. In June 1999, the MTA initiated a Re-Evaluation/Major Investment Study on the Eastside corridor, and began a draft environmental impact statement on the corridor in March 2000. In June 2000, the MTA board formally selected a light rail transit technology in the Eastside corridor as the locally preferred alternative. FTA approved the initiation of preliminary engineering in August 2000.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(38) authorized the Los Angeles MOS-3 for final design and construction. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $76.48 million for the original Mid-City and Eastside subway alignments. In FY2001, Congress appropriated $0.99 million for the Eastside Corridor Project.

Evaluation

The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be reevaluated when it is ready to advance to final design and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.

Justification

The Medium project justification rating reflects the high densities and transit supportive land uses in the corridor and the project’s anticipated mobility improvements, but notes the project’s low cost-effectiveness rating.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium

The Eastside Corridor LRT would serve approximately 15,000 average weekday boardings and carry 9,700 daily new riders. The MTA estimates that the project would result in the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 0.40 million hours 0.20 million hours

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 5,343 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the MOS corridor, representing 16 percent of all households located within ½ mile of the corridor.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: High

The Los Angeles region is classified as an “extreme” area for ozone, a “serious” area for carbon monoxide and particulate matter, and as an attainment area for nitrogen oxides. MTA estimates that in 2020, the Eastside LRT project would result in the following reductions in emissions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 57 annual tons decrease of 43 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) 0 decrease of 3 annual tons
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) decrease of 1 annual ton decrease of 1 annual ton
Particulate Matter (PM10) 0 0
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 2,074 annual tons decrease of 2,030 annual tons

MTA estimates that in 2020, the proposed Eastside LRT project would result in the following reduction in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units - BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 8,851 million annual BTU decrease of 16,112 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

MTA estimates that systemwide-operating costs per passenger mile would remain relatively constant when comparing the Eastside LRT project with the no-build and TSM alternatives.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2020) $0.32 $0.32 $0.32

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Low

MTA estimates the following cost effectiveness index for the Eastside LRT project.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $24.00 $25.30

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating reflects the dense urban character of the corridor and generally transit- supportive zoning in areas served by the proposed project.

Existing Conditions: The corridor study area contains a variety of land uses: commercial uses in the Central City north area; industrial uses between Central City north and the Los Angeles River; commercial uses lining much of the proposed alignment; and increasingly residential uses within the Boyles Heights and East Los Angeles communities. There exists a mixture of residential, commercial, and public uses along 1st Street in Boyle Heights. Population in the corridor is relatively dense (10,300 persons/sq mile). Existing parking in the corridor is primarily on-street, with the exception of small lots to serve local businesses. Much of the corridor is auto-oriented, with pedestrian facilities limited to sidewalks; however, major shopping areas in Boyle Heights are pedestrian-oriented, including the El Mercado area at First and Lorena Streets. The LA County Planning and Zoning Code contains development and parking standards for, and requires pedestrian amenities in, specified transit-oriented districts, include the Eastside corridor.

Future Plans and Policies: The corridor contains a number of development proposals which are planned or currently under construction, and which would ultimately increase densities throughout adjacent communities. The Pico Aliso and Aliso Village Urban Revitalization Demonstration Projects will provide for significant new residential and community resources in the corridor; medical and cultural centers are also planned. The LA Land Use and Transportation Policy and MTA’s Joint Development Policy encourage the development of transit- and pedestrian-friendly development in transit station areas. Specifically, the Land Use and Transportation Policy contains incentives to reduce parking and increase densities within ½ mile of transit stations. While population and employment in the corridor through 2020 is expected to increase by 20 and 30 percent, respectively, the study area’s share of regional population and employment is forecasted to decline; the MTA provided no evidence of significant policies that address growth management issues in the City, County, or region.

Other Factors

MOS-3 FFGA: The FTA and MTA entered into a full funding grant agreement (FFGA) on three heavy rail corridors (“MOS-3”), which included the North Hollywood, Mid-City, and Eastside corridors, in May 1993. In January 1998, the MTA suspended work on the Eastside and Mid-City corridors. The Eastside corridor LRT is being pursued by MTA as a replacement project for the Eastside heavy rail project issued under the original MOS-3 FFGA.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 New Starts Share of Total Project Costs: 47%

The current financial plan for the Eastside Corridor LRT project proposes $402.3 million in Section 5309 New Starts funding (53%); $116.0 million (15 %) in Section 5309 Rail Modernization and FHWA flexible funds; and $241.8 million (32 %) in State funding;

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the high level of local capital funding committed to the proposed project.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: The capital financial condition of the MTA is good. The agency enjoys a very good bond rating and plans to issue very little debt for planned capital improvements. The MTA’s sales tax base is strong.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The MTA was in design and had performed some geotechnical work on the proposed heavy rail subway in the Eastside corridor when work was suspended in 1998. Consequently, current tunneling and other infrastructure cost estimates in the corridor alignment are relatively advanced, and considered reasonable.

Existing and Committed Funding: In July 2000, the California State Assembly and Senate approved Governor Davis’ Transportation Congestion Relief Plan, including $236.0 million for the Los Angeles Eastside LRT project. The sources of these funds are a surplus in state general funds and a commitment of six years sales tax revenue on motor vehicle fuel. While the program is new, the underlying revenue sources already exist and do not require voter approval. These funds are considered committed, but have a six year sunset provision. Additional state funding comes from California’s Regional Improvement Fund; the $5.1 million in these revenues are also considered committed to the project.

New and Proposed Sources: The July 2000 passage of California State transportation budget commits $236.0 million of new funding to the project.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan.

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the MTA’s improving operating condition, although FTA is concerned about some of the agency’s revenue assumptions in its twenty year operating plan.

Agency Operating Condition: In the past, FTA has found MTA’s operating condition to be poor. Recent operating revenue forecasts project zero operating balances through 2025, although realizing such balances will require significant progress in implementing a new fare structure and containing growth in operating costs.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Little information was provided on the project’s operating cost estimates and contingencies.

Existed and Committed Funding: The MTA assumes operating costs will be covered by existing operating revenue sources and a 20 percent fare increase to be implemented in FY 2003, with triennial increases thereafter. The MTA further assumes the implementation of a zonal fare structure on the rail system. The MTA board is anticipated to act on these fare policies in the fall of 2000. The MTA also proposes to limit the cost of bus operations to 1 percent annually through 2004.

New and Proposed Sources: No new sources of operating funding are being proposed by MTA.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
($million)
Appropriations to Date
Federal:
Section 5309 New Starts $402.30 $0.99 million appropriated for the Eastside Corridor Project through FY 2001
Section 5309 Rail Mod $38.90 N/A
STP $77.10 N/A
State:
Traffic Congestion $236.60 N/A
Relief Fund $5.20 N/A
Regional Improvement Fund $0.00 N/A
Total: $759.50

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Eastside Corridor Map of a 5.9 mile light rail transit line in the Eastside Corridor including 8 stations and will traverse eastward from Union Station along Alameda Street through the City Terrace, Belvedere, and East Los Angeles communities of unincorporated Los Angeles County terminating at Beverly and Atlantic Boulevards.