Long Beach Rail Transit Fantasy

Posted Kirill Ougarov Transit

In the run-up to Metro LA’s announcement of its long-range plan for Measure R 2.0 funds, should the tax hike get passed, there have been many “dream scenario” maps released for LA County transit networks. With the sales tax pushing 10% in most of LA county, Metro’s plan is likely to be the last major expansion of LA’s transit system for a generation, barring massive infrastructure investment at the federal level during a Bernie Sanders presidency (I just don’t see any of the others investing heavily in infrastructure), so in fantasy-land they will stay. Unfortunately, all of the dream scenarios completely overlook Long Beach, the 2nd-largest city in the county and 3rd-largest in Southern California (#2 is San Diego; we always forget about San Diego). Well, I took some time to come up with one myself because if not I, then who? Full disclosure, the only qualifiers I used for these are “is the road wide enough for a rail line” and “will there be unnecessary engineering challenges.” For example, I originally envisioned a line up Lakewood Blvd, but that may not be optimal because the road goes under the Long Beach Airport Runway. For reference sake, I included both.

1. PCH/SWK (Sepulveda-Willow-Catella) Line

I’m surprised this hasn’t even thrown out there as a moonshot by anyone. This line would run either:

  • PCH Line: Primarily down Pacific Coast Highway from Torrance (where it would connect to/be part of the extended Green Line) to CSULB and then down the 22 to the shiny new ARTIC transit center in Anaheim. The second half of this is dependent on Orange County, so see the above about federal funding for how feasible that is in the next 25 years.
  • SWK Line: Running down Sepulveda-Willow-Katella, this line would also run from the Green Line to ARTIC, but on a more direct path. It may also be substantially easier to build.

1a. PCH Line

This line would provide a tremendous opportunity to the low-income residents of Wilmington, rail access to Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach City College, and an east-west connection for Long Beach itself. If connected to Anaheim, it would at last connect Long Beach to the regional rail network in a manner convenient for the ever-growing number of people commuting from Long Beach to Orange County as well as the popular attractions in Anaheim (Disneyland, Angel Stadium, and Honda Center). I should point out that the 22 is better positioned than most other freeways to support a light rail line because it only has one overpass on the section ween the 405 and the 5, and the line would go underground by that point to serve the Block and route to ARTIC. I believe tunneling would be easier than trying to route it through the Orange Crush and along the 57. Oh, and Anaheim just proposed a street car that would link ARTIC to disneyland. Bonus.

1b. SWK Line

This idea occured to me later on in the wring of this post, and it would simplify man of the practical questions around the PCH alignment. The downside is that it’s not as convenient for East-West travel across Long Beach Proper, but the idea alignment for that is down 7th Street, which I think is too narrow in most places.

2. Bellflower/Lakewood Line

This is the East Long Beach equivalent of the Blue Line, running from the PCH Line at the Traffic Cirle to the Green Line (hypothetically, it could go all the way up to the Gold Line East Pasadena). It would add Long Beach airport plus a number of densely-populated and lower-income communities to the transit network, and, if the Green Line is extended eastward to the Amtrak/Metrolink station, another connection to the commuter rail network. And, along with the extended Green Line and PCH Line, it would create a transit ring that serves most of South LA County.

Unlike the PCH Line, there are some obvious alignment challenges/options, so here is my rationale behind the decisions (or decision factors):

  • Lakewood vs. Bellflower: Both are suitable for a light rail line and would serve largely the same communities. The big question here is how much sense does it make to build rail along a road that passes under a runway. Not being a civil engineer, I have no idea, hence the twin routes.
  • Bellflower Southern Terminus: Bellflower/PCH is already a nightmare, I can’t imagine trying to add a light rail junction to the mix. Meanwhile, the traffic circle area has plenty of real estate. In the case of the Bellflower alignment, a shuttle would run along Wardlow to the Long Beach Airport and down Bellflower to CSULB. If the SWK alignment is chosen, either would extend to CSULB directly.

3. Del Amo Line

This is where the scope creep started to kick in for this post. Running down Del Amo Boulevard, (I contemplated an Avalon Line instead, plus a Hawthorne Line, but might as well simply say “rebuild Pacific Electric network” at that point). it would go from Cal State Dominguez Hills/StubHub Center to Knott’s Berry Farm and also connect to the West Santa Ana branch of the Green Line. The Silver Line bus line would be realigned slightly to reach the Del Amo terminus.

4. Beach Line

Going fully into scope creep, the Beach Line (will never get built because it is fully in Orange County, which hates transit) would run from the (relocated) Buena Park Metrolink station to downtown Huntington Beach. The idea is almost as much about keeping Del Amo from being another line “from nowhere to nowhere” like the Green Line in its present form. I didn’t give it that much thought, but I bet it would be popular.

I’m under no illusion that any of this will get built and have no idea how much it would cost besides “likely less than an aircraft carrier,” I just wanted to throw it out there. Thoughts?

2 Comments on “Long Beach Rail Transit Fantasy

  • Bob Davis says:

    “Thoughts?” In the immortal words of Sonny Boy Williamson II, “Don’t start me talkin’.” As someone who saw the PE rails ripped out of Olive Ave. in Monrovia, and who made overnight bus trips to San Francisco when that was the only full time streetcar operation west of El Paso, the current renaissance of electric railways and commuter train service in the LA metro area is like a dream come true. If the challenge of running the Lakewood Blvd line under the airport runways can be resolved, I’d want it to run all the way up Highway 19 to the Gold Line. Some of our local communities did a lot of upgrading of Rosemead Blvd. and I thought that all this disruptive construction would have been more tolerable if it included light rail tracks in the median. I live on the east side of San Gabriel near Temple City, and our only nearby transit service is the infrequent 266 bus line. One of the drawbacks of the PE was the lack of suburb-to-suburb service. To get from Glendora to Covina on PE (or nowadays on the Gold Line and Metrolink) required/requires going into LA and backtracking. The trip would be faster on a bicycle, and possibly even on foot.

    • “If the challenge of running the Lakewood Blvd line under the airport runways can be resolved, I’d want it to run all the way up Highway 19 to the Gold Line.”

      It could be done with either alignment, actually, since Bellflower merges into Lakewood before it becomes Rosemead.

      “One of the drawbacks of the PE was the lack of suburb-to-suburb service.”

      That’s what buses or similar sub-systems are for, but of course suburbs always under-invest in theirs. Ideally there’d be rail on most major boulevards, but that would take a large-scale acceptance that public transit is not meant to be and never will be profitable or even self-funding but is a net-positive regardless due to reduced pollution and road maintenance costs.

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