Los Angeles, California/San Fernando Valley East-West Transit Corridor

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San Fernando Valley East-West Transit Corridor

Los Angeles, California

(November 2000)

Description

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) is proposing to implement a 14.2 mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in the San Fernando Valley area of the County of Los Angeles. The proposed BRT would connect the mature suburbs and urbanized area of San Fernando Valley with the North Hollywood Metro Red line subway station. The proposed system would include 13 stations that would serve major activity centers including North Hollywood, the Van Nuys Civic Center, Peirce College, Valley College, and the high density commercial development along Ventura Boulevard. The project would terminate at the proposed Warner Center Transit Hub at the intersection of Owensmouth Avenue and Erwin Street. The LACMTA proposes to use former Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way between Chandler and Burbank that was purchased in 1991 for a future rapid transit corridor. The project is intended to improve mobility for residents and employees in the corridor, reduce travel times from 55 minutes to 30 minutes for bus riders in the corridor, and provide relief for congested conditions on area roads and the Ventura Freeway. Additionally, the BRT would provide an extension to the successful Metro Red line system and improve connectivity to the rapid transit system for bus riders throughout the San Fernando Valley. 23,800 average weekday boardings are forecasted on the proposed line in 2020, including 15,200 new riders. The project is estimated to cost $300.3 million in escalated dollars.

No Section 5309 New Starts funds are proposed for this project, therefore the project is technically exempt from the New Starts evaluation process. The LACMTA wishes to retain eligibility to apply for federal funds at a future date, thus, they have submitted the New Starts criteria to FTA for rating and evaluation.

San Fernando Valley East-West Transit Corridor Summary Description

Proposed Project Bus Rapid Transit
14.2 miles, 13 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $300.30 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $0.00 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $15.40 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 23,800 average weekday boardings
15,200 daily new riders
FY 2001 Financial Rating: Medium
FY 2001 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2001 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating of Recommended is based on the existing densities in the corridor, the mobility improvements estimated to result from the proposed investment, and the commitment of local funds to construct and operate the project. 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 planning efforts for rapid transit in the San Fernando Valley Corridor began in the 1980’s, and resulted in the selection of the MOS-4 extension of the Los Angeles Metro rapid transit system into the Valley. However, by 1998, it was realized that rail rapid transit may not be the most cost-effective mode for the San Fernando Valley. Thus, in 1999, the MTA undertook a Major Investment Study re-evaluation to analyze and evaluate feasible alternatives for the San Fernando Valley – Burbank Chandler Corridor. In February 2000, the MTA board formally selected Bus Rapid Transit technology in the corridor as the locally preferred alternative, and requested formal FTA approval for preliminary engineering on the LPA in July 2000; FTA plans to approve the project for preliminary engineering in December 2000.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(25) authorized the Los Angeles MOS-4, San Fernando Valley, for Final Design and Construction. Through 2001, Congress has not appropriated any Section 5309 New Starts funds for this 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 entering 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 project’s anticipated mobility improvements, and transit supportive land use polices adopted by the Los Angeles City Council.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium

The San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transit would serve approximately 23,800 average weekday boardings and carry 15,200 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 3,552 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the MOS corridor, representing 10 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 San Fernando Valley BRT 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 113 annual tons decrease of 46 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 16 annual tons decrease of 5 annual tons
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) decrease of 3 annual tons decrease of 1 annual ton
Particulate Matter (PM10) increase of 1 annual ton 0
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 4,261 annual tons decrease of 2,332 annual tons

MTA estimates that in 2020, the proposed San Fernando Valley BRT 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 6,688 million annual BTU decrease of 12,841 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

MTA estimates that systemwide-operating costs per passenger mile would remain relatively constant when comparing the San Fernando Valley BRT 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-Medium

MTA estimates the following cost-effectiveness index for the San Fernando Valley BRT project.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $9.70 $15.80

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the moderately strong population densities in the busway corridor, and acknowledges provisions in City of Los Angeles plans and policies to focus development in regional centers served by the corridor as well as to improve the mix of uses and pedestrian friendliness of new development.

Existing Conditions: The proposed 14-mile busway does not directly serve a CBD, but it does provide indirect service to the Los Angeles CBD through its connection with the Metro Red Line at its eastern terminus in North Hollywood. Employment in the corridor totals 58,000 of which over 17,000 is concentrated in Warner Center, at the western terminus of the line. Average population density in station areas is relatively high, averaging 8,900 persons per square mile. While much of the housing in the corridor is single-family, 3 to 4-story multi-family housing tends to be clustered along major arterials and near proposed station areas. There are some low-density industrial parks that are gradually being replaced by higher density retail and office development. Pedestrian accessibility in the corridor varies from proposed station site to proposed station site, but is generally good. The street system is a grid network and connectivity is good, but the arterial streets are typically wide and are heavily congested. There are several high density commercial centers, however, much of the corridor contains auto-oriented retail plazas and office development along commercial strips.

Future Plans and Policies: Los Angeles County is projected to grow by 33 percent in population and 40 percent in employment between 1994 and 2020. The Los Angeles General Plan Framework designates existing activity centers – of which there are four in the corridor -- as focal points for future growth, while protecting other areas from upzoning. The city’s policies also call for concentrating growth within one-quarter mile of transit stations and creating a pedestrian oriented environment in these areas. Recommended densities in “major bus centers” range from 20 to 40 dwelling units per acre and 2:1 to 3:1 commercial floor area ratio (FAR). Community plans covering the corridor recognize the potential for additional commercial, residential, and mixed-use development in transit station areas, but also emphasize appropriate buffering and transition to existing single-family neighborhoods. The city’s zoning codes include “pedestrian-oriented districts” and “mixed-use districts” consistent with the general plan; these districts would be applied to many of the busway station areas. The city also anticipates developing new street standards for “pedestrian priority segments.” The general plan as well as specific plans for the corridor allow for a phased reduction in parking requirements as development increases and transit service is improved.

Local Financial Commitment

No Section 5309 New Starts funds are proposed for this project. The LACMTA wishes to retain eligibility to apply for federal funds at a future date, thus, they have formally requested to complete FTA’s planning and project development process. In July 2000 the State of California committed $145 million to the project.

Proposed Non-Section 5309 New Starts Share of Total Project Costs: 100%

The current financial plan for the San Fernando Valley project proposes $145 million in State Traffic Congestion Relief funds (48%); $155 million (52%) in bonds backed by local Proposition C revenues, and $300,000 (<1%) in State Regional Improvement funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High 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 capital cost estimates and contingencies are reasonable for an at-grade exclusive busway in the early preliminary engineering stage of project development.

Existing and Committed Funding: In July 2000, the California State Assembly and Senate approved Governor Davis’ Transportation Congestion Relief Plan, including $145.0 million for the San Fernando Valley BRT 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 $300,000 thousand in these revenues are also considered committed to the project. LACMTA will issue bonds backed by Proposition C to provide the remaining $155 million for the project.

New and Proposed Sources: The July 2000 passage of California State transportation budget commits $145.0 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 questioned the MTA’s operating condition. However, recent operating revenue forecasts project zero operating balances through 2025. Realizing such balances will require significant progress in implementing a new fare structure and containing growth in operating costs, which the MTA is currently addressing.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The financial planning assumptions are reasonable for a project in this stage of preliminary engineering.

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 board also proposes to limit any future increased in the cost of operations to 1 percent annually through 2004. The San Fernando Valley BRT will have a very small effect on operating funding requirements, since it would represent only about 1.5 percent of system-wide operation and maintenance cost.

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

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
($million)
Appropriations to Date
Federal:
Section 5309 New Starts Funds $0.00 $0.00 million appropriated for the San Fernando Valley Corridor Project through FY 2001
State:
Traffic Congestion Relief Fund $145.00 N/A
Regional Improvement Fund $0.30 N/A
Local:
Proposition C Bonds $155.00 N/A
Total: $300.30

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

Map of proposed 14.2 mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line that would include 13 stations that would serve major activity centers including North Hollywood, the Van Nuys Civic Center, Peirce College, Valley College, and the high density commercial development along Ventura Boulevard terminating at the proposed Warner  Center Transit Hub at the intersection of Owensmouth Avenue and Erwin Street.