The Northeastern Lines: A Viable Alternative to the Foothill “Sprawl Line”

expo-line.gifI’ve been unusually busy lately, so I have not had time for more regular posting. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some of my thoughts on last Monday’s Westside Extension meeting at LACMA. But first, here are some more thoughts on the proposed Gold Line Foothill Extension.

I’ve made no secret of my low regard for the Gold Line Foothill Extension, or the “Sprawl Line” as a friend of mine recently referred to it. The line amounts to little more than a pork barrel project to prop up the San Gabriel Valley’s collapsing housing market. It’s also being used by County Supervisor Mike Antonovich as a vehicle to exact a chunk of flesh from transit funding for his district. To that end, he is using his approval of the Purple Line extension to extort funding for what promises to be a white elephant. Have we learned nothing from the planning debacle of the Green line?

So far I’ve been disappointed by most of the reactions in transit circles to this situation. Even though most people seem to agree this line is a terrible idea, they all seem resigned to the fact that it will eventually be built because of the organization of Foothill cities and the clout of Antonovich, a suburban warrior who is openly hostile towards public transportation, the central city, and urban issues in general. However, this line is worse than just a waste of transit funding. It is destructive towards the goal of containing and reversing LA’s uncontrolled growth. To justify the investment in this line, LA County would need to recommit to unsustainable fringe development while continuing to starve the central city of criminally overdue infrastructural improvements. Furthermore, the amount of development required to justify the Foothill Sprawl Line would amount to the building an entirely new city from scratch. Honestly, can we really afford that?

by John von Kerczek

Read the full article here


  1. demockracy says

    The real test of whether this is a waste is the design. Streetcar (light rail) suburbs require 10 dwelling units per acre around the stops for such systems to be viable — in other words to provide the requisite number of transit riders.

    Heavy rail (like BART, and I believe your system) requires even greater density (20 du/acre at least, preferrably 30+), otherwise it’s doomed to fail — or at least need continuing subsidy — for lack ridership.

    Naturally, any system’s success also depends on pedestrian access. Discontinuous sidewalks, or even sidewalks directly next to fast-flowing transit discourage riders.

    On the other hand, even if densities aren’t presently at this level, a move toward pedestrian-friendly street design (see for details), and financing efforts to aid in building the mixed-use neighborhoods that would support such transit are conceivable possibilities.

    Knowing California politics, however, I’m skeptical. I doubt your supervisor even knows what pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use (and mixed density) really looks like. FYI, it’s preferred over sprawl by the market.

    I doubt he’s also promoting financing for building the neighborhoods to make transit viable along what will be a fixed rail line (the *only* advantage of rail over bus or BRT — both are *much* cheaper).

    …But at least you have some alternatives to promote to make this palatable if it turns out to be inevitable.

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