Here are six transportation storylines to keep an eye on in 2019.
Blue Line Closure: Brace for impact. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is set to begin a massive, $350 million modernization of its oldest rail line. Expect commuting headaches as there will be a pair of four-month closure periods for the Blue Line, which links Downtown with Long Beach. From Jan. 26 to late May, service will be halted from the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station to the Long Beach terminus. From late May through September, service from the Willowbrook station to the Seventh Street/Metro Center station in Downtown will be closed. Metro plans to run shuttles between the impacted stations, but rest assured, for the tens of thousands of people who use the line each day, there will be upheaval.
Main and Spring Forward: The street-improvement project from 14th District City Councilman José Huizar and the Department of Transportation is scheduled to finish this year. Main and Spring Forward involves bringing improved signal crossings, new bike lanes and protected barriers to a stretch of Spring Street between First and Ninth streets. Work wrapped on the Spring Street portion of the project in October. The next phase will deliver similar improvements to Main Street from Cesar Chavez Avenue to Ninth Street. The $1.9 million project is part of the City’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to eliminate pedestrian injuries and traffic fatalities by 2025. Expect traffic delays as crews complete the work.
Dockless Scooters: By now, you have noticed the prevalence of electric scooters standing (or laying on their side) at various locations across the Central City. Those dockless scooters will remain in the new year as the city finalizes guidelines to regulate the mode of transportation. Dockless scooters are allowed in Downtown Los Angeles on a one-year pilot program approved by the City Council in September. Currently, operators such as Bird and Lime are each allowed to deploy up to 10,500 of the devices in the city through a temporary permit. Fans of the scooters laud the pick-up-and-go nature of the machines, while detractors are concerned over sidewalk clutter and safety (few riders wear helmets). If the number of scooters in Downtown approaches the ranks seen in communities such as Santa Monica, things could get ugly.
DASH Expansions: The new year will also bring changes to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s fleet of DASH buses. Riders of the shuttle-style neighborhood buses will soon notice expanded hours, increased stop frequency and changes to Downtown routes. The alterations will be rolled out throughout 2019 and into 2020. Among the most welcome is the DASH A route, which ferries riders through the Arts District. It saw some expansion in September.
Regional Transit: It’s going to be a big year for huge projects. Metro is in the planning stage for a new rail line connecting Downtown to Southeast Los Angeles County. The 20-mile, $4.6 billion West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor would be funded through Measure M and would run from Artesia to Downtown. Although construction is not likely to begin until 2022, Metro is determining the Downtown portion of the route and whether it would end at Union Station or in the Financial District. Recently, a number of local stakeholders complained about a proposal to pull the Pershing Square station out of consideration. Then there is the ongoing work on the $1.8 billion Regional Connector. The massive project will create three stations in Little Tokyo, on Broadway and Bunker Hill as it streamlines cross-county travel. The project is forecasted to open in 2021.
Metro River Bike Plan: One of the city’s potentially most inviting bike routes could move forward this year. Metro hopes to create an eight-mile bike path along the Los Angeles River in Downtown that would connect to paths to the north and south, creating a 32-mile path that runs from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. Dubbed the Los Angeles River Bike Path Gap Closure Project, it has a budget $365 million due to some big engineering hurdles. Plans call for a groundbreaking in 2023 and an opening by 2027. The new year will involve revealing the final design scope of the project, and dreaming about a future of easy bike travel.