Celebrating a Significant Milestone for the Crenshaw/LAX Line

Metro trains line up at the new Southwestern Yard. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

Celebrating significant progress toward the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) joined federal, state and local elected officials and community leaders to mark the completion of the Southwestern Yard, designed and constructed to attain LEED Silver Certification with many “green” features. These features include: pollution reducing construction processes, easy access to public transportation for workers, treatment of storm water runoff and the use of low-emitting paints, sealants, coatings and materials. There is also energy-saving lighting and air conditioning.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks at the ribbon cutting. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

“We are well on our way to connecting our public transit system to one of the world’s busiest airports,” said L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This gleaming new rail yard is part of the effort to get the Crenshaw/LAX Line up and running, and offering passengers a convenient, not to mention state-of-the-art, way to reach the airport.”

The $172-million rail maintenance facility that will serve the future Crenshaw/LAX Line and Metro Green Line was designed and built by Hensel Phelps Herzog (HPH) under contract with Metro. Design work began in June 2015, construction in May 2016 and work was completed in January 2019 with the project on time and on budget.

Metro’s Southwestern Yard, the Airport Metro Connector/96th Street Station, the Automated People Mover and the Aviation/Century Station will become the gateway to LAX for travelers and will provide better and equitable access to employment centers in this area.

Light rail vehicles will be maintained and inspected at the 115,000-square-foot facility where other work will be done including body repairs, painting, storage and cleaning and washing. In addition, the facility will house general administration and support service staff, miscellaneous maintenance shops and equipment housing and storage. The rail yard will have the capacity to store 70 light rail vehicles and will have about 200 employees.

“The Southwestern Yard facility is a much-needed asset for Metro’s rail operations team and will be used to bring quality and reliable service to this region using advanced technologies,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “Both the Crenshaw/LAX and Green lines will benefit from this facility, which will also help Metro deliver great service and an enhanced customer experience.”

The Southwestern Yard is part of the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, the 8.5-mile light rail line that will meet with the Expo Line and connect with the Green Line near the Aviation/LAX Station. When the Crenshaw/LAX line opens in 2020 it will offer the communities of Crenshaw, Inglewood, Westchester and LAX a modern transit option that offers easy access to the rest of the Metro Rail system.

In 2020, Metro is expected to begin major construction on the Airport Metro Connector/96th Street Transit Station, which will be next to the new rail yard. The station will be the transfer point between local transit — including the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line — and Los Angeles International Airport’s future Automated People Mover (APM) that will whisk riders to the airport terminals. The station and people mover are forecast to be complete in 2023.

Black History Month: Stephanie Wiggins

Stephanie Wiggins at the February 12, 2019 presentation. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

In the second celebration of Black History Month, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presented a scroll to Stephanie Wiggins, the first female and first African American CEO of Metrolink.  In this role, she is now responsible for a commuter railroad that covers over 2.8 million train miles and transports over 400 million passengers per year.

“A true trailblazer, Stephanie Wiggins has enjoyed a stellar career in the transportation industry,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Stephanie Wiggins was named chief executive officer of Metrolink by a unanimous vote of the board of directors in December 2018. Wiggins assumed leadership in January 2019 and leads the 275-employee strong commuter railroad with a budget of $793 million.

As CEO, Wiggins directs an agency that operates a commuter rail network on seven routes across a six-county, 538 route-mile system.  Wiggins has held high-level positions at three of the five-member agencies that comprise Metrolink and is well-known as a customer -focused leader who finds solutions from a regional perspective.

Wiggins’ vision for the agency is to create value and exceed expectations by prioritizing a customer-first orientation with three pillars to provide an outstanding customer experience: safety and security, an integrated system, and modernizing business practices.

Prior to leading Metrolink, Wiggins was Deputy CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) where she assisted the CEO in providing leadership and formulating and achieving strategic public transportation objectives, including the passage of Measure M, a half-cent sales tax approved by 71 percent of voters in LA County. During her tenure at LA Metro, Stephanie also served as the Executive Director of Vendor/Contract Management, where she implemented procurement streamlining initiatives and greatly expanded Metro’s utilization of small and historically underutilized businesses.  Prior to that role, Stephanie was the Executive Officer and Project Director of the Congestion Reduction/ExpressLanes Program where she launched the first high occupancy toll lanes in LA County, the I-10 and I-110 Express Lanes, which improved travel times and travel reliability on two of the County’s most congested freeway corridors.

Prior to Metro, she served as Regional Programs Director for the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) and oversaw transit, commuter rail, rideshare, goods movement and rail capital projects.

Wiggins began her career in transportation when she accepted a temporary assignment at the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority and fell in love with the mission of the agency. The six-month temporary assignment turned into more than four years. She then accepted a policy analyst position with the RCTC where she worked for an additional nine and a half years in management and senior management roles.

Feeling the need for personal and academic growth, Wiggins earned a Master of Business Administration from the USC Marshall School of Business in 2007. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Whittier College in 1992.

Wiggins is a self-proclaimed “military brat” whose father made his career in the Air Force. She credits her experience moving from base to base and country to country as a child for teaching her the importance of diversity.

Wiggins is the founding president of the Inland Empire Chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar. She is the recipient of many awards including the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials 2018 Women Who Move the Nation Award. She is a Board Member of the Los Angeles Chapter of Friends of the Children.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presents scroll to Stephanie Wiggins. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Modernizing Metro: The New Blue

The Metro Blue Line is undergoing a comprehensive $350-million modernization to improve reliability, upgrade safety and enhance the customer experience. Work to update the Blue Line — which opened in 1990 and is Metro’s oldest rail line — has been ongoing since 2014 with a series of safety and operational improvements.

“The Blue Line is Metro’s workhorse and in need of significant investments — not just to  provide a modern feel, but also to ensure  the infrastructure continues to work for many more decades to come,” said Metro Board Director and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The upcoming improvement project will require two extended four-month closures. Work on the southern segment of the line began on January 26.

In addition, Blue Line service to Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station will be closed for eight months while the station is rebuilt with more capacity, a new customer service center and community plaza, easier connections to local buses and surrounding communities, and upgrades to safety and security systems. During the closure, Green Line service will operate normally at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station.

Work on the Blue Line will include improvements to the signaling, tracks and overhead wires that delivers the electricity to power the trains. Four new crossover tracks will be built to reduce service interruptions. There will also be numerous station improvements, including new interactive digital map displays for all stations, which will display train arrival and departure times, service alerts, and maps of the system and nearby area. Other visible amenities will include new signage and landscaping.

The Metro Board of Directors recently approved the naming of rail lines with letters and colors to accommodate a growing system and make our rail and bus rapid transit network easier to understand and more custom friendly. Upon completion of the entire New Blue Improvement Project, the new name for the Blue Line will be the “A” Line with the color blue.

“We have implemented a comprehensive public outreach program to notify the public of Blue Line rail service interruptions, construction and the bus shuttle service,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “Metro is committed to improving reliability, upgrading safety and enhancing the customer experience on the Blue Line.”

The closures are as follows:
Southern segment:

  • January 26 to late May 2019: rail service will be suspended from the Blue Line 103rd St/Watts Towers Station to the Downtown Long Beach Station and replaced by expanded shuttle bus service. The Blue Line will continue running between 7th St/Metro Center in downtown Los Angeles and 103rd St/Watts Towers Station.

Northern segment:

  • Late May to September 2019: rail service will be suspended from the Blue Line Compton Station to 7th St/Metro Center and replaced by expanded shuttle bus service. The Blue Line will continue running between Compton Station and Downtown Long Beach Station. Red and Purple Line service will operate normally at 7th St/Metro Center.
  • During the northern segment closure, Expo Line rail service will be suspended for 45 days at 7th St/Metro Center and Pico Station with train service in that segment replaced by bus shuttles. Expo Line trains will continue to run between LATTC/Ortho Institute Station and Downtown Santa Monica.

Metro will offer three types of Blue Line Bus Shuttle Service during the closures:

  • Blue Line Local Bus Shuttle Service will be free with buses serving all closed Blue Line stations and 103rd St/Watts Towers, where customers can transfer to the trains heading to/from downtown Los Angeles. The shuttles will run the same hours as the Blue Line, seven days a week.
  • Blue Line Select Bus Shuttle Service will have a $1.75 fare and serve busier stations during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Customers with a valid TAP card can transfer for free to the Blue Line or other lines within two hours of starting a trip. Select bus shuttles will run Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. During the closure between Downtown Long Beach and 103rd Street Station, the Select Bus Shuttles will serve the following stations: Pacific, 1st Street/Downtown Long Beach, 5th Street, Anaheim, Pacific Coast Highway, Willow, Wardlow, Willowbrook/Rosa Parks, and 103rd/Watts Towers. During the closure between Compton and 7th St/Metro, the Select Bus Shuttles will service 7th St/Metro, Pico, Grand/LATTC, Willowbrook/Rosa Parks and Compton.
  • Blue Line Express Shuttle Service will have a $1.75 fare with limited stops between Long Beach and Downtown Los Angeles during morning and afternoon rush hours. Customers with a valid TAP card can transfer for free to other lines within two hours of starting a trip. The Express Bus Service will run Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Stations served will be Pacific Ave, Downtown Long Beach/1st St, 5th St, Anaheim St, Pacific Coast Hwy, Willow St, Wardlow, LATTC/Ortho Institute, Grand/LATTC, Pico and 7th St/Metro Center.

Metro is launching a robust outreach campaign to Metro customers, cities, communities, stakeholders and the public about the New Blue. The New Blue website at http://www.metro.net/newblue includes a fact sheet and map with the three bus shuttle services.

Free Transit on Election Day

A new motion eliminates a leading barrier to voter participation, by providing all riders with free Election Day rides on Metro.

The authors — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia — put the proposal forward at the Metro Executive Management Committee meeting, directing the transit agency to lift fares for all riders on Nov. 6, 2018.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 2016 Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE) found that 51% of California voters cited a lack of transportation as a factor for not voting. Other studies have shown that lack of access to transportation to get to polls disproportionately affects minority voters, people with low incomes, persons with disabilities, and young people; these populations are also the ones most reliant on Metro for mobility.

“On Election Day, our priority must be making sure voters in all corners of the county are undeterred from getting to the ballot box and exercising their right to vote,” said Supervisor and Metro Director Ridley-Thomas. “Free rides are a great way to help make that happen.”

“A lack of transportation should never stand between a voter and the polls,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Every vote counts in this democracy, and we have to do everything we can to help Americans exercise our most fundamental right.”

“Voting is one of the most important acts of civic engagement,” said Metro Chair and Supervisor Kuehl, “And Metro wants to make sure our County voters get the message: ‘Please vote! We want to make it easy for you.’”

“Unfortunately, transportation is an obstacle many voters face when trying to get to their polling place,” said Mayor Garcia. “I’m glad that free transit will be offered as a resource to ensure every voter has a way to get to their polling place and cast their vote.”

The motion will go to the Metro Board of Directors for approval at its regular meeting on October 25.

Improvements Underway at Metro’s
Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority kicked off major upgrades to the Blue Line’s Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station. The $109-million project will radically transform the fourth-busiest station in the Metro Rail system by improving access, expanding capacity, adding community space, and better connecting the station to the surrounding neighborhood.

Metro Board Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the press conference to launch the Rosa Parks/Willowbrook Station improvement project. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.

“The entire Metro system will benefit from the complete transformation of this highly utilized station,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a member of the Metro Board of Directors. “These long overdue improvements will increase safety, accessibility and mobility for current and future riders, and further solidifies the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station as the linchpin of transit-oriented development for the Willowbrook community.”

Among other improvements, the station will have a new Customer Service Center, Transit Security Center, Bike Hub and self-cleaning, automated public restrooms for patrons. The open-air plaza has also been designed as a public resource to be used for community events, special exhibits, celebrations and movie nights. The improvement project is funded by a combination of local money and state and federal grants.

Early construction work will take place over the rest of 2018. In early January, the station will close for eight to nine months as part of the New Blue project to modernize the Blue Line, which opened in 1990 and is Metro’s oldest light rail line. During the closure, rail service to the station will be replaced by bus shuttles.

“The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station has been used by millions of people over the years and it’s time to prepare the station for many more decades of heavy use,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who chairs the Metro Board. “The community deserves a better station and I’m pleased to see this very important work finally getting underway.”

“The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station Improvement Project is a welcome addition to the Willowbrook community and a positive step toward a more equitable transportation system. Safe, reliable, and affordable public transportation helps families better connect to education and job opportunities. My constituents throughout the 44th Congressional District will benefit greatly,” said U.S. Congressmember Nanette Diaz Barragán.

Improvements to the station include:

• expansion of the Blue Line platform to reduce crowding, along with an overhead canopy to protect passengers from the sun and rain;

• the creation of a new pedestrian crossing and entrance on the south side of the extended Blue Line platform;

• upgrades to the elevators, escalators, stairs and the mezzanine between the Blue Line and Green Line platforms;

• consolidation and upgrades to the bus bays to provide a safer and more comfortable area for riders; and
• new site-specific artwork by artists Jamex, Einar de la Torre and George Evans.

The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station will remain open until January 2019, when it is expected to close until September 2019. Rail service closures during that time will be as follows:

• January to May 2019: Rail service will be suspended from the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station to the Downtown Long Beach Station and replaced by Metro bus shuttles. The Blue Line will continue running between 7th St/Metro Center and 103rd St/Watts Towers Station.

• May to September 2019: Rail service will be suspended from the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks to 7th St/Metro Center and replaced by bus shuttles. The Blue Line will continue running between Compton Station and Downtown Long Beach Station. Red and Purple Line service will operate normally at 7th St/Metro Center.

• During the northern closure, Expo Line rail service will be suspended for 45 days at 7th Street/Metro Center Station and Pico Station with train service in that segment replaced by bus shuttles. Expo Line trains will continue to run between LATTC/Ortho Institute Station and Downtown Santa Monica.

“The transformation of the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station into a modern transit hub is being made possible by our local, state and federal funding partners,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “In addition to providing a better mobility experience for our customers, this crucial work will improve the quality of life for the Willowbrook community.”

For more information, including a fact sheet and renderings, visit https://www.metro.net/projects/blue-line-willowbrook/.