MTA Reports

  • 2/24/00—Mid-City/Westside Transit Corridor Study
  • 3/23/00—Agenda Item 12 Staff Report—Population & employment densities
  • 3/23/00—MTA Board meeting approves Exposition EIR process




February 24, 2000

Submitted by: Korve Engineering

Submitted for: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority



S.1  Status of Current Transit Investments in the Mid-City / Westside Transit Corridor

S.2  Purpose of this Study

S.3  Purpose and Need for Transit Investment

The central question is whether a significant investment is warranted for transit improvements in the Mid-City/Westside study area. The answer is yes for the following reasons.

  1. The Need for Transit Improvements has been Established in Previous Studies.

  2. Study Area Contains A Major Concentration of Activity Centers and Destinations.

  3. The "Centers Concept" Land Use Policy is Transit Based.

  4. There is an Existing Concentration of Transit Supporting Land Uses.

  5. High Study Area Population and Employment Densities Support Transit.

  6. There is a History of Transit Usage in the Study Area.

  7. There is a Significant Transit Dependent Population in the Study Area.

  8. Apparent Lack of East-West Transit Service Impairs Mobility for a Significant Proportion of the Study Area Population.

  9. The Study Area Is Expected to Continue to Capture a Large Share of Regional Population and Employment Growth.

  10. Continued Growth in the business Services Sector (Entertainment and Media Related) Underlies the Future Development Potential in the Study Area.

  11. There are Substantial East-West Travel Patterns that are Not Currently Served by a High Capacity Transit System.

  12. Peak Hour Congestion on Study Area Roadways Underlies Need for Transit Improvements.

  13. Local Policies are Oriented Toward Demand Management and Transit Solutions rather than on Physical Roadway Improvements.

S.4  Corridor Recommendations

Based on the "spider network" analysis (1997 & 2020), there are at least three major east-west corridors:

  1. The Wilshire Corridor extends 14 miles generally along Wilshire Boulevard from the current Metro Red Line station at Wilshire / Western to downtown Santa Monica.

  1. In the long-term, the recommended strategy is to incrementally extend the Metro Red Line subway westerly from Wilshire / Western. ...

  2. In the short-term, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) should be vigorously pursued during Phase 2 of this Study to San Vicente Boulevard when environmental consequences of the selected alternatives will be thoroughly analyzed. In Phase 2, the Final Environmental Documentation will be completed, as well as the Preliminary Engineering. If the Wilshire BRT still looks promising at that point, the final implementation decision should await the final results from the Metro Rapid Bus phase 1 & 2 Demonstration Project. At the current time, the KORVE team does not have sufficient information to accurately discern the benefits of BRT vis-à-vis Metro Rapid Bus. In other words, are the speed and ridership increases great enough to warrant a permanent transformation of the use, appearance, and function of Wilshire Boulevard, which will occur if BRT is implemented?

  1. The Exposition Corridor represents a distinct corridor from either the Santa Monica Boulevard Corridor or the Wilshire Corridor, based on investigations to date: it traverses extensive areas targeted by local jurisdictions for economic revitalization; is projected to experience higher than average population and employment growth; and suffers from comparatively poor transit service. It is recommended that both LRT and BRT full-length options be carried forward into Phase 2 with considerations of Minimal Operable Segments to Crenshaw, La Cienega and Venice/Robertson. ...

  2. Santa Monica Boulevard Corridor has long-term merit as a potential transit corridor. The corridor exhibits high travel demand and is lined with transit-supportive land uses. It is recommended that the Santa Monica Boulevard Corridor be further investigated as part of the LRP update.

S.5  Overall Study Area Implementation Strategy

S.6  Technical Overview

S.7  Evaluation

S.8  Conclusion


  1. Wilshire Corridor

    • Carry forward BRT into environmental clearance to San Vicente

    • Further consideration of Wilshire subway in Long Range Plan

  2. Exposition Corridor

    • Carry forward both BRT and LRT into environmental clearance to Santa Monica, with consideration of phased lengths to Crenshaw, La Cienega, and Venice/Robertson.




2.2  Alternatives Being Considered

2.2.1  No Action

2.2.2  Transportation System Management (TSM)

2.2.3  Alternative 1 - Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

Physical Characteristics


Option 1: Bus running in existing curb lane with bus station located on existing sidewalk. ...

Option 2a: Median running bus lane within existing right-of-way, with bus station located at the far side of the intersection with a non-standard lane transition through the intersection. ...

Option 2b: Median running bus lane with bus station located at the far side of the intersection with a standard lane transition in mid-block. ...

Option 3: Bus station located in the center of Wilshire with bus lanes on both sides. ... The disadvantages are that bus doors have to be on the left side to access the center platform, which means that only dedicated BRT buses with special doors would use the express lane (also means non-standard buses are required); only one travel lane in each direction along Wilshire if curb parking is allowed during off-peak hours; and no left turn movements are allowed at the key intersections (left turn lanes could exist at intersections where there is no bus station). ...

Financial Characteristics

The estimated cost for design and construction of Option 2a or 2b for the full route length from Vermont Avenue to Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica (14.0 miles) is approximately $169,000,000 (1999 dollars). Option 3 would cost somewhat less because the existing median would be preserved. Option 1 would cost considerably less since minimal street work is required and no replacement parking would be required. The cost estimate for the minimal operational segment (MOS) from Vermont Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard (4.9 miles) with Option 2a or 2b would be approximately $62,000,000, with commensurate cost reductions for Options 1 or 3. All estimates include costs for traffic related impacts and development of off-street parking. ... 

2.2.4  Alternative 2 - Exposition Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

Physical Characteristics

Major Issues. For the purpose of this study, it was assumed that the typical maximum operating speed of the BRT on dedicated busway would b 55 mph, equal to that of a LRT system. But there are a number of possibilities that may make this speed unattainable. As an example, a bus traveling 55 mph would likely require railroad type gates at highway crossings. While gates on a rail system operate in fail-safe mode, gates on a busway may not have this luxury. At present, there are no such installations in the United States and loop detectors alone may not provide the necessary threshold of safety appropriate for this speed. If busway highway crossings are governed solely by traffic signals, the maximum bus speed at the crossing may be much slower than 55 mph, primarily due to a lack of a positive barrier that a gate would provide.

Another issue is the frequency of headways on the busway. On a LRT system, up to three cars can operate as one train, allowing a minimum headway of 4 to 6 minutes. This would only minimally impact the surrounding traffic patterns if the traffic signals were properly coordinated with train movements. To maintain similar ridership, a BRT system using using a single articulated bus would have to decrease its headway three to four times, substantially reducing the time the crossing is open to vehicular traffic. This could result in a significant impact to surrounding traffic. To reduce this impact the BRT could utilize signal priority rather than full preemption, thereby causing less disruption to cross traffic.

A third issue is operating a BRT system that would have a significant portion of the alignment operating in mixed traffic on city streets. A fast running time between Santa Monica and Los Angeles is critical in attracting new ridership. It should be emphasized that any deviation from the Exposition ROW would increase the end to end travel time and may result in lower patronage. The running time using the ROW would be approximately 44 minutes between Metro Center and downtown Santa Monica. An alternative alignment using Venice Boulevard between La Cienega and Sepulveda Boulevards would increase that time approximately 12 to 13 minutes. If the line continued on Venice Boulevard to Lincoln Boulevard, and finally north to Santa Monica, the running time may be nearly double that of using the Exposition ROW for the entire route. The Phase II modeling will allow a more definitive analysis of these scenarios.

Other major issues related to BRT operation occur primarily in residential areas and include potential noise and vibration, air pollution, visual impacts, and pedestrian safety. Noise and vibration impacts would depend upon the bus frequency, speed of operation, and the type of bus used. Air pollution could significantly be reduced by the use of non-diesel buses. Landscaping similar to that described for a LRT system could reduce visual impacts. Pedestrian safety issues at crossings could be addressed through the use of special audible devices activated by the bus, tactile warning strips, and pedestrian gates. this and all the issues noted above will be thoroughly analyzed in Phase 2 of this study.

Financial Characteristics

The estimated cost for the full route length of Alternative 2 from 7th/Flower to Santa Monica (15.6 miles, 10.8 miles of which would be in a dedicated busway, and the remainder a Rapid Bus on city streets), including 36 BRT vehicles (and a credit of 17 standard buses that would no longer be required in regular MTA service) is approximately $188,000,000 (1999 dollars). ...

2.2.5  Alternative 3 - Exposition Light Rail Transit (LRT)

Physical Characteristics

Alignment. In this alternative, an LRT operation would start from Metro Center (7th and Flower Streets), utilizing the existing Long Beach Blue Line tracks to Washington Boulevard. At this location, it would branch off the Blue Line and proceed south on Flower Street to the Exposition ROW, which it would follow to downtown Santa Monica via the Exposition ROW. Two similar alignments are being considered for this line, Alternative 3a (baseline) and Alternative 3b (Minimum Grade Separations). ...

From Vermont Avenue to downtown Santa Monica, Alternative 3a (baseline) would follow the refined alignment submitted to the LACTC (now MTA)  in the 1994 Draft Alternatives Refinement Study prepared by BRW, Inc. It would employ grade separations at La Brea Avenue, La Cienega and Jefferson Boulevards; National, Washington, Robertson, and Venice Boulevards; and Bundy Drive. ... Box cut & cover grade separations at Overland Avenue; and Sepulveda, Sawtelle, Gateway, and Pico Boulevards were also part of the study. Existing grade separations at National Boulevard (east of Motor Avenue and Motor Avenue would remain unchanged. ...

Alternative 3b for this segment would also follow the Alternative 3a alignment but would only have the following aerial grade separations: La Brea Avenue; the existing railroad separations at National Bou8levard and Motor Avenue; Overland Avenue; Sawtelle/Pico Boulevards; and an aerial structure between 10th Street and the Santa Monica Civic Center complex on the south side of I-10 near Ocean Avenue. The overall length of this line from Metro Center would be 15.5 miles. ...

Major Issues. Issues related to LRT operation occur in residential areas and include noise and vibration, visual impacts, and pedestrian safety. Noise primarily comes from bells and train horns at crossings while vibration is related to the type of track bed and the distance to nearby structures. ...

  1. An alternative to the crossing noises produced by gate mechanisms would be to reduce train speeds to 35 mph and allow the crossings to be controlled solely by traffic signals. This approach as been safely used on other LRT systems and would meet all CPUC requirements.

  2. Between crossings, major landscaping on each side of the tracks could greatly reduce the visual impact of the trains.

  3. Special pedestrian safety treatments (now being developed for the lRT in Portland) could be employed at all crossings that would discourage unsafe passage.

  4. Timber ties and special ballast could substantially reduce vibration and noise. ...

There have been suggestions to reroute the LRT north on La Cienega Boulevard, turning southwest at Venice Boulevard and traveling to Sepulveda Boulevard. At Sepulveda, the alignment would turn northwest and continue back to the Exposition ROW. This alignment would allow the LRT system to avoid traveling thorough residential areas. This detour would add nearly 1.5 miles to the project, extend travel times by 12 minutes, and increase the overall cost by approximately $120,000,000.

Financial Characteristics

The estimated cost for the full route length of Alternative 3a from its connection to the existing Blue Line (14.2 miles), including 21 LRT vehicles (and 14 standard buses to supplement the existing fleet to allow better station connectivity) is approximately $589,000,000 (1999 dollars). ...

The estimated cost for the full route length of Alternative 3b from its connection to the existing Blue Line (14.4 miles), including 21 LRT vehicles (and 14 standard buses to supplement the existing fleet to allow better station connectivity) is approximately $431,000,000 (1999 dollars). ...

2.2.6  Alternative 4 - Wilshire Subway Heavy Rail Transit (HRT) (via Pico/San Vicente)

2.2.7  Alternative 5 - Wilshire Subway Heavy Rail Transit (HRT)

2.2.8  Alternative 6 - Wilshire Aerial Heavy Rail Transit

2.2.9  Monorail on Wilshire Boulevard








MARCH 23, 2000



  • Identification of Potential Ridership Sources through engineering and traffic study methodologies- Sources of ridership for fixed guideway transit lines are generally the population and employment base that is located along the route. Population and employment densities located within 1/2 mile of proposed stations are one of the best indicators of potential ridership. Another indicator of potential ridership is existing transit usage along the corridor. The use of existing bus lines indicates whether a fixed guideway improvement could build upon an existing base of service.

Attachment A includes the following indicators of ridership potential along the Exposition right-of-way:

  • Population and employment densities within 1/2 mile and 1 mile of proposed stations;
  • Existing bus boardings within 1/2 mile of the proposed Exposition and Wilshire alignments;
  • Origins of boardings at selected stations along the Exposition alignment.

Table B-1 illustrates that employment densities along Exposition are less than Wilshire Boulevard (14,460 jobs/square mile versus 18,827 jobs per square mile), but greater than the Long Beach Blue Line (10,874 jobs/square mile), the proposed Eastside Corridor (7,762 jobs/square mile) and the Pasadena Light Rail Line Corridor (9,362 persons/square mile).

Table B-1 also illustrates that population densities along the Exposition right-of-way (12,040 persons/square mile) are less than Wilshire Boulevard (18,200 persons/square mils) and Eastside corridor (13, 816 persons/square mile), but denser than the Long Beach Blue Line (11,910 persons/square mile) or Pasadena Corridor (9,362 persons/square mile).

Figure B-2 illustrates the existing bus boardings within 1/2 mile of both the Exposition and Wilshire routes. Table B-2 provides a breakout of the bus lines that serve these areas and the boardings for each of these lines that occur with[in] 1/2 mile of the proposed alignments. The figures show that the Wilshire route currentsly has 99,000 average daily boardings and the Exposition route has 47,000 average daily boardings on the bus stops within a 1/2 mile of each alignment.


Our notes: 

  • Population and employment densities are for 1997 (also projections for 2020), more recent than our population densities from the 1990 Census.
  • These are without the Exposition detour along Venice and Sepulveda Boulevards, which increase both the population and employment densities.
  • We compared Exposition to Wilshire west of Western Avenue; the MTA used the entire length of Wilshire, including the very dense section already served by the Red Line subway. Exposition's population is denser than Wilshire west of Western.
  • These densities are much greater than most other cities with successful light rail lines.


3/23/00 MTA Board meeting approves Exposition EIR process

Jaime de la Vega (Mayor Riordan's transit deputy) proposed a substitute motion to proceed to EIR with BRT ("Bus Rapid Transit") only along Exposition, but detouring along Venice and Sepulveda Boulevards (around Cheviot Hills).

Supporters of Exposition, including Santa Monica Mayor Pro-Tem Pam O'Connor, Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl's deputy, a group from the Exposition Park and Figueroa Corridor Circulation and Parking Task Force, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas' deputy David Roberts, and a number of you (thanks!) spoke of the importance of studying light rail as well as busway, as the February staff report had recommended. And some Cheviot Hills/Rancho Park residents said the usual things against it.

In the Board deliberations, Supervisor Yaroslavsky began, saying, "Why punish ourselves on a route that has opposition?" He spoke for the Venice Blvd. detour, saying it was wide, "bisects two high-density communities" of Palms and Culver City, and although is "slightly longer than a direct route" it would serve more people.

There followed quite a bit of discussion about the median between USC and Exposition Park; an underground route east of Vermont will be also studied in the EIR.

With things looking bleak, Duarte Councilman John Fasana suggested they needed to look at the wider issues in the county and use the rights-of-way we have effectively. He then proposed an amendment to de la Vega's motion to add LRT to the EIR.

Mayor Riordan objected, saying light rail costs five times a dedicated busway [not true] and it would only confuse the issue. Supervisor Burke said she was talking about new high technology BRT, not Curitiba. Fasana replied that buses would require more grade-separations. 

Fasana's amendment was approved, 7-5. Riordan and his appointees plus Burke voted no; Molina was absent today; thanks to all the others who voted yes!

Burke wanted more detail in the EIR about where the projected ridership would come from—which bus lines would be canceled.

The final vote, for BRT and LRT EIR on Exposition with the detour, was 11-1 yes; Supervisor Antonovich voted no.

The good news: we're moving forward, there is relative consensus, the Cheviot Hills opponents no longer have a reason to object, Venice Boulevard could become a remarkable new transit-oriented place, there is room within the 100-foot Sepulveda Boulevard right-of-way to add light rail (and still keep most of the parking), and if properly designed the travel time won't slow by more than five minutes.

Thanks again for all your support! Our goals now are to broaden public support over the coming months, work with elected representatives to secure funding, and participate in the EIR process to assure a good result for the Westside.

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