Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Getting the LA Metro Gold Line into the Inland Empire


LA's fast expanding rail transit network promises one day to connect light rail trains from Los Angeles east through the San Gabriel Valley into the Inland Empire with the Ontario Airport potentially serving as the easternmost terminal station. The specific route that will accomplish this is the Metro Gold Line.

Just over 10 years ago, Gold Line Phase 1 opened between Los Angeles Union Station and Pasadena and spanned 13.7-miles. This route through Pasadena took decades to plan, fund, and build, but it proved to be very successful by the mid 2000's. The line was proposed in the early 1980s as a part of a more extensive regional urban rail network which is known today as Metro Rail.

Eastside Extension

LA's master plan included a branch through Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. In November 2009, the Gold Line Eastside Extension opened to the public which extended the Gold Line from Union Station southeast toward Monterey Park. Officials are exploring additional branches further east.

Foothill Extension toward the Inland Empire

The Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa broke ground in 2010 and is scheduled to be completed around the second half of 2015.

From Azusa, another extension is proposed to go toward Montclair. Once completed, a trip from the Montclair area to downtown Pasadena will take just over 40 minutes and further to Los Angeles will take approximately 75 minutes. Keep in mind that for those longer-haul trips, Metrolink remains an option. A trip from Montclair to LAUS currently takes just over an hour. The Gold Line extension project will begin advanced conceptual engineering this year. Cost approximately is $950 million. No funding has been secured for now. Once officials have the money, final design and construction will take about four years to complete.

Ontario Airport Extension

The Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority recently approved studying an extension of the line past Montclair and into the Inland Empire towards the Ontario Airport that will be $450 million. The study will look into two other transportation modes to see what would work best to connect Gold Line passengers to the airport. A previous study commissioned by the agency in 2008 concluded that a light rail line to the airport was feasible. Sadly, light rail transit in this area ranks low in a list of recommended projects formulated by a San Bernardino Associated Governments committee. However, expanding mass transit in general through the region is not on the back burner.

Omnitrans has big plans to extend the sbX bus rapid transit system all the way to Montclair. Both the starting E Street sbX line and the Redlands Passenger Rail project will boost transit ridership on the Metrolink San Bernardino Line once the San Bernardino Transit Center opens. Another transit infrastructure project involves improving the track capacity of this busy Metrolink train route. That could mean additional trains as advocated through Metrolink Max. Transit will thus improve through this region.

However, establishing seamless transit connections to/from the Ontario Airport cannot be ignored and placing the eastern terminal of the Metro Gold Line at a major destination like a commercial airport would make this light rail transit route very productive. If public officials can entice both the major and start-up airline carriers to land more of their planes at ONT, improving its ground transportation infrastructure which includes the Gold Line extension would be more feasible and desirable. There's lots of means, opportunities and ideas to get this light rail line funded and paid for. Let's start debating some real solutions.

2 comments:

  1. If the City of Ontario takes over ONT again, a start to encourage more transit passengers at the airport might be to link the Rancho and East Ontario Metrolink stations to the airport via shuttle bus. Maybe throw in a link to Montclair once the Gold Line arrives. Airport transit links often under-perform, so perhaps a multi-billion dollar project to extend the Gold Line to the airport isn't the best idea, especially without a base of transit users going to the airport in the first place.

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    1. That's a sound short-to-mid range solution and the actual longer-range integration of the Gold Line with the airport still needs to be debated. When the political obstruction with ONT ends and airport ridership grows--should it, demand and traffic will increase to the point where the Gold Line will be more feasible. Both commuting employees and travelers would use it. Should it connect directly with the terminals or at a ground transportation center with a shuttle bus transfer? Likely the latter, but still debatable. The 2008 study found extending the line to ONT feasible but as both of us pointed, the ONT ridership base must be improved first. SANBAG should consider these facts.

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