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City Council Report

 

City Council Meeting: July 13, 2010

Agenda Item: 8-A

To:                   Mayor and City Council

From:              Eileen Fogarty, Director, Planning & Community Development

Subject:         Exposition Light Rail Station Integration in the City of Santa Monica

 

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council;

 

1.    Adopt City of Santa Monica’s defined “baseline” elements as the responsibility of the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (Expo) for incorporation in the Exposition Light Rail (Expo LRT) project in Santa Monica, including but not limited to:

 

a)    Bergamot Station: separate station platforms for east and west bound trains (side-loaded) with pedestrian track crossings at both ends of the station, subject to the California Public Utilities Commission approval, and entrances in the center of the platforms to integrate the station with the adjacent  Bergamot Art Center and the large ridership pool north of Olympic Boulevard;

 

b)    Memorial Park/Mid-City Station: entrances at both ends of the station platform, subject to the California Public Utilities Commission approval,  to facilitate circulation, capacity and customer service, and an off-street transfer area to accommodate surges in ridership and connections to bus, bike, and kiss-and-ride in place of a dedicated long-term parking lot;

 

c)    Downtown Station: incorporation of a station entry at the south end of the station platforms to serve the Civic Center and the high school, entry at the north end of the station platforms through a city controlled plaza, pedestrian circulation through the station from 4th to 5th Street, location of Metro mechanical/electrical appurtenances to accommodate circulation and respect aesthetics, remnant parcels from City owned land sufficient in size and shape to create economical development sites, platform elevation optimized to reduce discrepancy of track heights above existing Colorado Avenue elevations, assure station accessibility at north and south ends of the platforms, and address the value of the existing City-owned tunnel under 4th Street; and

 

 

d)    Downtown Circulation: train operations cannot create significant delays.  Circulation impacts that exceed 2030 LUCE projected conditions must be mitigated with measures acceptable to the City.

 

2.    For future enhancements which may be considered by the City Council, direct staff to return to City Council with recommendations and alternatives, including but not limited to the following potential elements associated with the stations:

 

a)    Unique canopies at the Downtown and/or Bergamot Stations designed to integrate with transit oriented development at station (these would require Expo Board approval.)

 

b)    Decorative pavement treatments in areas leading to the stations.

 

3.    Direct staff to develop criteria for construction phasing within the street-running section on Colorado Avenue for future consideration by City Council.

 

Executive Summary

Colorado sim.JPGThis report is intended to assist the City Council in defining the “baseline” obligations that are the responsibility of the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (Expo) for inclusion in the Exposition Light Rail (Expo LRT) in Santa Monica and also to initiate a discussion of potential City-sponsored enhancements.   The urgency is created by a revised Expo approach utilizing two competing design-build teams to develop “baseline” plans and associated bids for the project.  At the end of six months, one of the teams will be selected and the project budget will be set. A number of the City’s open issues that would normally be analyzed and addressed as the development of the project proceeds, particularly as they relate to cost, are now requiring definition much earlier in the process. The condensed timing of Expo’s design-build process creates an urgent need for the City to establish baseline expectations, performance criteria, and standards for the City of Santa Monica.

 

The design of the Expo LRT within the City of Santa Monica presents both an important opportunity for the City and a critical mission to ensure that the project is consistent with the City’s vision as expressed in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) plans reviewed with the community and the Council, and existing City policies.  The Expo LRT in Santa Monica will contain stations at Bergamot, Memorial Park/Mid-City, and Downtown, as well as a “street-running” segment on Colorado Avenue west of 17th Street. It is important that these elements are well-integrated and fit within the unique character of each locale to provide a strong identity and sense of place and to ensure that:

 

1)    The system is easily accessible to pedestrians, facilitates access to the system’s destinations, integrates well with the surrounding areas and interfaces seamlessly with other support transit systems, such as buses, shuttles, taxis, kiss-and-ride, and bicycles;

 

2)    Surrounding streets and public spaces continue to function well; and

 

3)    The project enhances and does not harm the character of Santa Monica.

 

The City of Santa Monica has provided longstanding support for rail transit on the Exposition right-of-way. The City sponsored legislation to create the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority to plan, design and build the Expo light rail.  The City’s new Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) tailored a vision and policies to support ridership and connections, and proactively integrate the system into the City fabric. During the Expo LRT conceptual planning phase the City Council and staff worked together with Expo to identify the current route, station locations, parking and design expectations for the light rail elements within the City of Santa Monica. The FEIR analyzed two alternative alignments in Santa Monica, 1) the selected alignment, which was the preferred alternative, and 2) an Olympic Boulevard alignment that was partially elevated. In working with Expo to identify and analyze the preferred street running alternative, the City was able to develop a design that better integrated into the community, promoted maximum access and ridership, and was significantly less expensive to construct. 

 

The Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority is a special purpose agency created for the sole purpose of designing and building the Expo LRT and will disband at the completion of its mission.  The line will be turned over to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) for operation following its anticipated completion in 2015. The California Public Utilities Commission has a role in reviewing and approving at-grade rail crossings. Construction of the project will require permitting from the City of Santa Monica as well as technical support.  

 

On February 4, 2010, the Expo Board certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) and adopted the Expo Light Rail Phase 2 project from Culver City to Santa Monica.  From Expo’s perspective, the agency is constrained by a budget set by Metro and the agency’s focus is on developing a cost-effective project on schedule.  With that in mind, Expo is utilizing two competing design-build teams prior to initiating construction drawings.  The design-build teams are well into their six-month contracts, after which Expo will choose one of these teams to finalize the design and build the full Phase 2 project. 

 

It is critical that the City define the character and quality of the light rail elements, and be assured inclusion in the Expo “baseline” project.  The City is nearing the end of a process of preparing conceptual station designs and streetscape criteria that are consistent with the community’s vision as expressed during the LUCE planning process.  Implementation of the LUCE transit vision in the “baseline” is needed to ensure compatibility not only with the current conditions, but also with a clear vision of the future – including future opportunities for multi-modal transit and targeted transit-oriented development.  These elements of the LUCE are critical components of the City’s long-term sustainability strategies and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The staff and consultants have prepared concept plans for each of the three stations to demonstrate the potential for each area.

 

At this juncture, the City staff has participated in several work sessions with staffs from Expo, Metro, and the design-build teams. Given Expo’s perspective, staff has received only a limited commitment for incorporation of the City’s criteria or conceptual design proposals into the work of the design-build teams. Following City Council’s direction on recommended actions, staff will immediately work with Expo to bring forward the City’s expectations and priorities for incorporation in the “baseline” plans and cost estimates.  This report provides recommendations addressing:

 

 

 

·         Downtown Station: two well-designed entrances at the north and south ends, pedestrian circulation through the site from 4th Street to 5th Street, location of Metro mechanical/electrical appurtenances to accommodate site circulation and capitalize on opportunities, remnant parcels from City owned land sufficient in size and shape to create economical development sites, and the need to address the existing tunnel under 4th Street. 

 

·      Downtown Circulation: train operations cannot create significant delays. Circulation impacts that exceed 2030 LUCE projected conditions must be mitigated with measures acceptable to the City.

 

Recommendations concerning the configuration of the Colorado street-running section of the line will be brought to City Council at a subsequent meeting, as staff is continuing to assess a configuration that will best address the range of demands for the corridor in a cost-effective way.

 

Background

The City of Santa Monica has provided longstanding support for rail on the Exposition right-of-way. The Council and the community’s commitment has included: creation of a “Rail Reserve” account from bus operating efficiencies in 1984; purchases of the Bergamot station site in 1989 and the Downtown terminus site in 2004 to preserve the sites for transit purposes; and sponsoring legislation to create the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (Expo), a special purpose agency to plan, design and build the Expo LRT project. 

 

The adopted rail alignment has been shaped by the City’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) process.  Policies have been incorporated into the LUCE to support the route, the station locations and land use strategies.  The street running alignment along Colorado was identified through the LUCE process.  The City Council requested, at its October 23, 2007 meeting, that the Colorado Avenue be studied in the Expo Light Rail Phase 2 EIR as an alternative to the Olympic Boulevard route. The Olympic Boulevard route included a 1/2-mile aerial segment into Downtown and an elevated Downtown station 30-35 feet above grade that would be out of scale for the urban Downtown setting. 

Three Stations.tif

   Colorado Alignment with three stations at Bergamot, Memorial Park/Mid-City and Downtown

At its March 3, 2009 meeting, the City Council formally adopted the “Colorado” alternative as the City-supported alignment for the Exposition Light Rail Phase 2 project within the City of Santa Monica, recommended its preferred alignment to Expo and affirmed policy positions for staff to:

 

·         Work with Expo to accommodate parking on both sides of Colorado Avenue west of 17th Street;

 

·         Analyze parking needs and work with Expo to revise parking recommendations at each station before plans are finalized; and

 

·         Work with Expo to minimize the visual impact of overhead train electrification wires.

 

It should be noted that in addition to providing a more integrated design, the chosen Colorado alignment is estimated to cost approximately $65 million less than the Olympic alignment largely due to the reduced need for elevated track construction. The City Council’s policy direction and twenty-three pages of detailed staff comments on the DEIR were submitted in a letter from the City Manager to Expo on March 19, 2009.   Detailed comments covered a range of issues, with a particular focus on the need for additional circulation analysis around the stations.  This analysis and Expo’s responses to many issues were deferred, with assurance by Expo that these issues would be addressed during the preliminary engineering phase.  Subsequent City Council meetings on July 14, 2009, August 11, 2009, October 27, 2009 and November 24, 2009 focused on addressing requirements for the light rail maintenance facility to be located in Santa Monica.  A separate design-build process will be undertaken for the maintenance facility.  Staff will work closely to make sure Council’s direction from those hearings is followed.

 

Phase 1 of the Expo Line between Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City is under construction.  Phase 2 covers approximately seven miles through West Los Angeles and Santa Monica to reach the end of the line in Downtown Santa Monica.  When Phase 2 is completed in 2015, it will take approximately 46 minutes to travel from Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown Santa Monica on the light rail. The Expo line is projected to be one of the busiest light rail lines in the country, with a projected ridership of 64,000 boardings per weekday along the entire alignment.  Construction of a light rail system is expensive.  The estimated cost for the entire Phase 2 project is $1.5 billion. Measure R, passed by the voters in November 2008, will provide full funding necessary to complete the line. The projects to construct the bicycle path and the maintenance facility will be designed and constructed  by Expo through separate contracts.

 

Discussion

Competitive Design Process During “Stage A”

Expo is moving forward with the first stage (called “Stage A”) of design for Expo Phase 2 utilizing a competitive process between two design-build teams that were authorized to proceed on May 10, 2010.  Stage A is scheduled to be completed in six months, after which a single design-build team will be selected to finish design work and construct the project. During Stage A, the goal of each team is to establish a firm fixed cost (or “bid”) to design a “baseline” Phase 2 system, prepare a construction strategy and build the full project. This process is significant because after the scope and firm fixed cost are established in Stage A, any changes to the “baseline” project will be very difficult to accomplish, as changes will more than likely result in cost impacts. As a result, significant design decisions need to be made very early in the process and there will be limited opportunity for modification during subsequent phases. Therefore, it is critical that at this early stage a collaborative design process be established that includes the City so that the City’s key components and expectations for quality are incorporated into the baseline project definition.

 

The schedule calls for the two design-build teams to submit draft design packages in early September for review by Expo, Metro and the “third parties,” including the Cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles.  In early November each of the two design-build teams will submit final design packages and associated bids.  Expo staff will evaluate the design approaches, construction strategies and bids and recommend one team to be considered by the Expo CA Board in early in 2011.   The Expo CA Board will select one team to proceed with the full design and construction of Phase 2 based on the design/costs submitted by the design-build team.

 

City’s Expectations During The Design Phase

Originally Expo staff had committed to City of Santa Monica staff that the City’s “open issues” identified during the conceptual design and EIR review phase were to be considered placeholders and would be refined during the following preliminary design phase, as Expo had assumed a standard iterative preliminary engineering process following certification of the FEIR.  Now, as a result of Expo’s more cost-driven design approach, the necessary analysis and refinement process is greatly truncated, making deliberative decision-making more difficult to accommodate.  Many of the elements, particularly as they relate to cost, are now requiring definition much earlier in the process. In order for the two design-build teams to accurately bid the project, it is essential for the City to articulate its expectations regarding elements to be included as “baseline.”  It is also important for the City to provide standards and criteria pertaining to design and construction of the project, so that the design-build team’s cost estimates are comprehensive.

 

To ensure that the necessary components are included in cost estimates, so that Expo avoids costly change-orders in later design or construction phases, City staff has initiated several focused studies and design efforts to ensure that the City has the necessary information to explore alternatives and opportunities, and make good decisions about detailed elements of the project. The City’s scope of work is comprehensive and includes elements that are considered baseline, as well as potential enhancements that could require City financial or in-kind contributions.  The work to date has been an intense process, utilizing a combination of staff and consultant expertise, and recently, involving consultation with Expo, Metro and the two design-build teams.  

 

 Progress to Date

City staff has met several times, to date, with Expo staff, Metro staff and the two design-build teams to bring forward issues of critical importance to the City. City staff has presented its expectations for the light rail in the form of criteria and concept plans for the three stations and the street running section of Colorado Avenue and staff has also commented on preliminary drawings provided by the design-build teams.  In some cases Expo staff is providing direction to the design-build teams that is not consistent with City staff’s assumption regarding the anticipated process that would occur to define the “baseline” project.   Again, Expo’s directive is to define a project within a constrained budget, which may not coincide with the goals, objectives and policies of the City.

 

Based on the recommended actions by City Council tonight, staff will meet at the earliest convenience to convey to Expo the City Council’s recommendations and expectations for the scope of the baseline project.   Staff will return to City Council to provide an update on the progress in achieving a collaborative early design process and obtain additional direction, if necessary.  The discussion below covers specific recommendations for City Council’s immediate consideration with respect to the three stations, as well as identification of open issues that may require consideration at subsequent meetings.

 

Downtown Station (4th Street and Colorado Avenue)

 

The Downtown station is the western terminus of the Expo light rail line and the center

of a number of key Santa Monica destinations, including:

 

·         The beach and Santa Monica Pier,

·         The newly revitalized Santa Monica Place, providing improved connections from the 3rd Street Promenade to the Civic Center,

·         Downtown shopping, entertainment and dining,

·         The Civic Center area, including projects such as the Village, with over 300 units of housing, Palisades Garden Walk, and a renovated Civic Auditorium,

·         A pedestrian esplanade on Colorado Avenue between the station at 4th Street and the Pier, including wider sidewalks to distribute pedestrians and accommodation for bicyclists linking to the new bike center at the base of Santa Monica Place, and

·         Future freeway capping to better link Downtown with the Civic Center area - currently being studied through an initial feasibility study.

Downtown Projects.tif

 

This Downtown station must be capable of handling a high level of activity. Every rider exiting the train will become a pedestrian, and access to/from the train must be designed in a way that will gracefully accommodate the expected crowds.  Circulation in and around the station will be critical.  The City was able to reach agreement with Expo, prior to adoption of the FEIR, that the City’s existing and planned parking in the Downtown and Civic Center area is sufficient to serve the Downtown station and no dedicated park-and-ride spaces will be required.

 

 

The City has analyzed the site and developed station concepts (example in Exhibit A

below) to integrate the station into Santa Monica’s Downtown, Civic Center and coastal

area based on the following principles and objectives:

 

§  Provide a graceful transition from transit rider to pedestrian

§  Provide a positive experience for the first time rider and the daily commuter

§  Integrate public open space with the station

§  Incorporate space for a “transit store”

§  Establish a positive interface with all other transit/shuttle systems

§  Incorporate facilities to accommodate bicycle access and use

§  Assure the opportunity for integrated transit-oriented development

 

Downtown Station_red_streetnames.tif

      Exhibit A: Downtown station layout concept

 

Baseline Components

Major Downtown station components for which City staff has provided direction to the

design-build teams and which should be addressed in the City Council recommendations to ensure that they are included in Metro’s “baseline” are:

 

Station entrance/exit at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue: this station entrance/exit must be designed with care, to create a seamless and gradual transition to the Downtown and the beach area through a City-controlled plaza.

 

Station entrance to serve Civic Center and high school area: Expo has directed the design-build teams to include a second entrance at the southern end of the station.  This entrance must be designed to serve the Civic Center area by providing sufficient space for ticket vending and collection equipment,  queuing space, as well as a gradual transition in grade from the 4th Street Bridge. An adequate southern entrance could require modifying the I-10 off-ramp to 4th Street by moving the intersection to the south and establishing a traditional perpendicular intersection between the two streets, thus creating additional space to accommodate the station and the southern entrance.   Factors that must be taken into consideration include:

 

o   Since the preparation of the initial Expo concept plans for the EIR, Metro has added criteria for ticket vending and collection. Typically, this requirement adds 35’ to 70’ to the length of a double-ended station. Accommodating this additional length may require realignment of the 4th Street off-ramp.

 

o   Equipment associated with the end of the light rail terminus must be integrated into the station design to minimize the visual impact, including the end of track equipment (“bumpers” and an Overhead Contact System (OCS) electrification terminus pole).

 

o   Grade changes must be addressed at the southern pedestrian entrance, and staff has informed the design-build teams that the City does not allow “switch back” accessible ramps as an acceptable solution for public and private development and City projects.  Therefore, these types of ramps are not considered an acceptable solution for the Downtown station. 

 

Downtown Circulation Impacts: addressing potential circulation impacts in the vicinity of the Downtown station area is of major concern to the City.  In anticipation of the changes in Downtown traffic that will occur with the light rail operations, City staff has been working with a traffic consultant to model different scenarios to address potential future traffic patterns using a traffic modeling program called “VISSIM,” which allows highly sophisticated modeling with calibrations of train operations and signal timing, showing the system-wide traffic functioning at multiple intersections.   Staff is modeling potential solutions to address these issues, ranging from low-cost to capital-intensive solutions. Staff will bring the results of this work and recommendations to a future City Council meeting.  The City’s baseline performance criteria must be that train operations cannot create significant delays in the Downtown that exceed 2030 LUCE projected conditions. Specific areas of concern include:

 

o   The 4th and 5th Streets Freeway off-ramps – the  simulation is addressing the impact of the train operations on Colorado as the trains slow to enter the station, potential effects on the I-10 Freeway at 5th Street off-ramp, and the congestion of pedestrian, auto and bus operations at the intersection of 4th and Colorado.

 

o   The Big Blue Bus yard at 6th Street – it is important to assess train operations through the intersection of Colorado and 6th to ensure that current conditions are maintained for bus operations in and out of the Big Blue Bus yard. Additionally, Big Blue Bus operations must be maintained during construction.  Big Blue Bus is requesting a temporary driveway access off of 5th Street to ensure that the daily deployment of the fleet can occur on schedule when there is construction on Colorado in the vicinity of 6th Street.  

 

o   Traffic circulation around the station - there will be a high level of demand for passengers to interface with buses, shuttles, taxis and other transportation modes.  The design of this interface is critical to the overall successful design of the Downtown station. It is desirable to maintain clockwise vehicle circulation around the station site to maintain passenger ingress and egress at the curb. The intersection at 4th and Colorado must be designed to address heavy pedestrian and bicycle use, as well as transit access. 

 

o   Pedestrian Esplanade – potential impacts on Colorado west of 4th Street to the Pier are also being analyzed, since the project will significantly increase pedestrian activity and require a reduction in the number of travel lanes to provide additional space for pedestrian and bicycle circulation.

 

Future transit oriented development on the site: It is important for the City to retain a usable development site on remnant City property, including viable pedestrian access to the site.  The vision and development potential of the City owned lands must be addressed in the design of the station   

 

Pedestrian travel between 4th and 5th Streets: pedestrian travel will be prohibited on the sidewalk on the south side of Colorado between 4th and 5th Streets due to the three train tracks turning into the station site from Colorado.  A through pedestrian route must be maintained through the station site from 4th to 5th Streets near Colorado.  Staff provided station concepts for accommodating the desired pedestrian circulation to Expo and the design-build teams.

 

Station appurtenances: station appurtenances such as the traction power sub-station facility, the train communication and control building, and drivers break room must be located to ensure sound pedestrian circulation and assure the potential for efficient/economical transit oriented development.

 

4th Street tunnel access:  Expo design-build consultants have asked the City whether it is necessary to maintain the City-owned tunnel under 4th Street that currently provides access between properties both sides of 4th Street.  Maintaining the tunnel has implications for track elevations and construction requirements for the station platforms. Maintaining the connection between 5th Street, the station site and the existing Sears Department Store provides access options and improves development potential for both sites.  The City will be valuing this asset.

 

Private properties on the Downtown station site: Expo has directed the design-build teams to design the Downtown station so that it does not require acquisition of all or a portion of either of the remaining private properties next to the Downtown station site. Acquisition of private property was identified in the FEIR for design of both station alternatives. Ultimately, property acquisition may be necessary to successfully accommodate all the required elements for the entrances, platforms, circulation, and appurtenances.  Inclusion of these properties will also be critical to the best design decision for the Downtown transit oriented development on the site.

 

Track elevations: Expo concept plans indicated a track elevation between 1.5’ to 4’ higher than the existing sidewalk/street-level on Colorado Avenue.  Staff has provided guidance to Expo regarding track and platform elevations to maintain east-bound bus service adjacent to the station, and seamless pedestrian access to both the northern and southern entrances.  Based on initial review of the design-build plans, it appears that several of these issues will be resolved.

 

Bus stop amenities:  the bus stops serving the station should be maintained and enhanced according to the Big Blue Bus bus-stop improvement program.

 

 

Potential Enhancements

 

Expo Canopy 3.jpgThese enhancements will not be included in the “baseline” and City Council may wish to provide direction for staff to return to City Council with recommendations and alternatives.

 

Station canopy: Expo established a standard canopy, as shown in Exhibit B, for the Phase 1 stations and Expo plans to use the same canopy design for Phase 2 to create a unified look for the line.  Nevertheless, the City may determine that the station canopy design should be more appropriate to the terminus of the line and more in scale with the buildings of the Downtown transit oriented development adjacent to the station.  An alternative to the adopted canopy would require Expo Board approval.

Exhibit B – Phase 1 canopy during construction

 

Plaza: the need for a plaza at the Downtown Station is discussed above. The City has identified Redevelopment funding for enhancement of the City-controlled Plaza area.  Staff has also applied for a federal grant, although there is no assurance that any will be forthcoming.

 

 

 

Memorial Park/Mid-city Station (17th Street and Colorado Avenue)

 

The LUCE vision for the Memorial/Mid-City Park station is that it will serve as the center of a mixed-use neighborhood anchored by an expanded Memorial Park. This station promises to be a busy station serving the large Santa Monica College student and employee population, including surges of patrons based on class schedules, and serving two major hospitals - UCLA/Santa Monica Hospital and Saint John’s Medical Center.

 

The station platform will be located within the street on Colorado Avenue, just west of 17th Street, where the track transitions from the dedicated Expo right-of-way into the middle of Colorado.   The station will be the focus of many activities occurring in a relatively small amount of space.  In addition to the operation of the light rail train through the intersection at 17th Street and Colorado, the needs of the transit riders, vehicles (including shuttles), and bicyclists must be addressed. The Expo Class I regional bicycle path paralleling the Expo line from downtown Los Angeles ends at 17th street and connects with the City’s existing on-street bicycle routes.  Expo has proposed an “up to 70” space park-and-ride lot at the southwest corner of Colorado and 17th Street. The City has consistently questioned the use of this land for parking, since the spaces would fill up quickly (and early) and create back-up and congestion in the station vicinity.  At the same time, there is a compelling need to accommodate the surges of patrons transferring to/from buses, shuttles and bicycles.  

 

The City has analyzed the site and developed a station concept (Exhibit C) to integrate the station into the Mid-City area based on the following principles and objectives:

 

§  Provide a graceful transition from transit rider to pedestrian, bus/shuttle user, bicyclist, or vehicle driver/passenger

§  Accommodate rider surges generated by large institutional users

§  Provide convenient pick-up and drop-off locations for residents

§  Create a sense of place and relate station identity with Memorial Park by providing visual connection and direct access

§  Balance pedestrian/vehicle activity to minimize conflicts at intersection of 17th and Colorado

§  Minimize conflicts for the train crossing at 17th Street and Colorado

§  Incorporate facilities to accommodate bicycle access and use

§  Minimize visual clutter and ensure aesthetic treatment of residual areas 

 

    Exhibit C

 

Baseline Components

Major Memorial Park/Mid-City station components for which City staff has provided direction to the design-build teams and which should be addressed in the City Council recommendations to ensure that they are included in Metro’s “baseline” are:

 

A westerly station entrance:  in addition to the entrance on the east end at 17th Street, a second station entrance and pedestrian crosswalk is included in the FEIR conceptual station plan at the west end of the platform, across from the park. The second entrance is critical to serving the large surges of riders, as described below.  Recently, Expo directed the design-build teams to delete the second entrance.  At City staff’s request, Expo has committed to preparing the study necessary to submit for a CPUC application. However, the application and approval process is lengthy and uncertain.  Removal of the second entrance is a major concern for the City.

 

An off-street transfer area to accommodate rider connections and surges: city staff is proposing that the residual land purchased by Expo next to the station (southwest corner of Colorado Avenue and 17th Street) be utilized as shown in Exhibits C and D and described below.

 

o   Pedestrian/rider interface plaza: sufficient space must be provided to accommodate large surges of riders, particularly students arriving for classes scheduled on the hour and hospital shift workers.  City staff has proposed a large pedestrian plaza area on the site next to the station as a transition area to accommodate riders waiting for or exiting from a shuttle.

 

o  Short term drop-off and pick-up: instead of park-and-ride spaces that will fill quickly, the station plan should incorporate short-term drop-off and pick-up parking spaces, as this station location will be the most convenient for kiss-and-ride access.   Access to the spaces should be accommodated from 16th Street to minimize circulation conflicts at 17th Street.

 

o  Shuttles serving the station: the college and the hospitals plan to run shuttles to and from the station.  The drop-off and pick-up locations must be planned for convenience and efficiency.  There should be no driveways into the southwest corner property on 17th street in the immediate vicinity of the station and, instead, the area should be designed to accommodate multiple shuttles.

 

o  Demand for bicycle facilities: the Expo regional bike path from Downtown Los Angeles connects to the City’s street network at this location.  In addition, many Santa Monica College students will likely travel the short distance from the station to campus by bicycle.  The station area must accommodate bike storage and rentals.  City staff is recommending a large area for bicycles. The station ramps, ticket dispensing and collection equipment and platform widths should be designed for passengers who take their bicycles on and off of the trains.

 

 

 

Memorial Park.tif

 

Exhibit D: Memorial Park Station Concept Plan - Pedestrian Plaza, Bike Center and Kiss-and-Ride

 

Park-and-Ride: any longer-term parking should be provided away from the most congested area.  As suggested in the LUCE, longer-term parking could be accommodated as a part of a shared parking program incorporated into a joint development opportunity at an adjacent private development and/or as part of the Memorial Park master planning process and implementation.

 

City buildings: the widening of the roadway to accommodate the station may require partial taking of City maintenance buildings on south side of Colorado at the former Fisher Lumber site.  Expo must address the impact on these buildings.  

 

Residual Lands: the transition of the alignment and the station configuration create residual areas that require landscaping and aesthetic consideration along with placement of related light rail infrastructure buildings.   Expo has considered use of residual lands for surface parking to replace lost on-street spaces.  This location is not effective for replacement parking because of its distance from lost spaces and its location near the transition of the light rail train into 17th and Colorado Avenue.

 

Width of Colorado pedestrian crossing at 17th Street: the City has consistently requested that one of the two through eastbound lanes at 17th Street be deleted, as there is only one lane from 4th Street to the 17th Street intersection. The two through east bound lanes in combination with a left-turn lane and right-turn lane create an unnecessarily wide and unfriendly pedestrian crossing to the station platform.  As proposed, pedestrians must cross four traffic lanes to reach the station entrance.  The traffic analysis conclusions in the FEIR require only one through lane rather than two.  Although not yet finalized, Expo has responded that they are most likely going to accommodate the City’s request to reduce the width by one through lane.

 

Location of traction-power sub-station and train communication/control structure: these structures must be located away from circulation paths and designed with concern for aesthetics. There are significant remnant parcels where the facilities could be located. System equipment should not be allowed to be located in the Colorado Avenue right-of-way, unless undergrounded.  Expo has assured staff that the facility will not block the potential second entrance.

 

Bus stop amenities:  the bus stops serving the station should be maintained and enhanced according to the Big Blue Bus bus-stop improvement program.

 

Bergamot Station (26th Street and Olympic Boulevard)

 

The City’s Bergamot Station has made a name for itself as a center for the City’s art community and the City intends to maintain this focus. The LUCE focuses on creating a new pedestrian-oriented transit village with creative arts and a new residential component.  The LUCE vision identifies the station as the hub of Santa Monica’s east-end districts.  The LUCE proposes to re-establish the City’s street grid pattern within the existing large industrial blocks.  The City is addressing this issue though an area planning process that will commence this year.  It is critical that the Bergamot light rail station be conveniently accessible from these areas, to encourage ridership and reduce vehicle trips. The station planning will address access from the Bergamot Art Center on the south side and locations across Olympic Boulevard for the existing and future job base.  Integral to the station design and the planning for the area is the new Olympic Boulevard pedestrian crossing and pedestrian track crossings at each end of the station platform to allow travel in each direction. The City has analyzed the site and developed a station concept (Exhibit E) to integrate the Bergamot Station into the surrounding area based on the following principles and objectives:

 

§  Create a destination light rail station as the hub of Santa Monica’s east-end districts, including direct linkages to the Bergamot Arts Center and existing/ future commercial and residential uses on the north side of Olympic

§  Provide convenient access for pedestrians and bicyclists

§  Provide a positive experience for the first time rider and the daily commuter

§  Integrate public open space with the station

§  Establish a positive interface with supporting transit services

§  Incorporate facilities to accommodate bicycle access and use, and eliminate conflicts with pedestrians

§  Assure the opportunity for integrated transit-oriented development

 

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Baseline Components

Major Bergamot Station components for which City staff has provided direction to the design-build teams and should be addressed in the City Council recommendations to be included in Metro’s baseline are:

 

Side-loaded Platforms: provide separate side-loaded station platforms for east and west bound trains to create a seamless interface with the Bergamot Art Center and the many transit riders accessing the train from across Olympic Boulevard, both for current developments such as Water Garden and future developments, such as Hines/Papermate.  The side-loaded platforms reduce the platform length because ADA ramping can be accommodated at the center entrance instead of at the platform ends. The reduced length will accommodate a continuous pedestrian pathway and spine from a new north/south street within the Papermate site across Olympic boulevard to the Bergamot LRT Station and into the Bergamot Art Center. The current Expo layout for the station does not address this opportunity, with a center-loaded platform that has only one entrance on the west end of the station and a potential platform length that blocks pedestrian access from the new east-end crossing. Additionally, as planned, the center platform configuration requires fencing that bisects the area. The station is fenced off from the entire length of the Olympic Boulevard sidewalk on the north side of the station and from the Bergamot Art Center on the south side to prevent transit riders from crossing the track except at the intersection of 26th and Olympic Boulevard.  Expo has instructed the design-build teams to explore the side-loaded configuration as an option but has made no commitment, to date.

 

Bergamot Station Configuration_streetname.tif

 

Exhibit E - Bergamot Station with Dual Platforms Providing Direct Access to Both Sides

 

 

Two station entrances: two station entrances are shown on the FEIR drawing. As identified in the LUCE, a new road intersecting Olympic Boulevard with a pedestrian crosswalk to the station are directly aligned with the east end of the station. The eastern entrance also provides direct access to the Pico Neighborhood and the Bergamot Art Center.  Recently Expo directed the design-build teams to delete the second entrance on the east end of the station, leaving only one entrance at 26th Street and an emergency exit at the critically important eastern end of the station.  At City staff’s request, Expo has committed to preparing the study necessary to submit for a CPUC application.  However, the application and approval process is lengthy and uncertain.  The removal of second entrance is a major concern for the City.

 

The train control/communication structure: location of this structure is a concern to the City.  It is important that it be located with consideration for the circulation flow around the station area and to minimize visual clutter.  Expo has assured staff that the facility will not block the potential second entrance.

 

Bus stop amenities:  The bus stops serving the station should be maintained and enhanced according to the Big Blue Bus bus-stop improvement program.

 

Potential Enhancements

 

These enhancements will not be included in the “baseline” and City Council may wish to provide direction for staff to return to City Council with recommendations and alternatives. The Bergamot Transit Village and the Mixed Use Creative Districts contain potential for generating transit funding enhancements, both through Development Agreements and incorporation into the City’s Nexus Study.  This funding could potentially be used for station and transit interface enhancements.

 

26th Street intersection and station access: the geometrics of the 26th Street intersection create a very long pedestrian crossing at Olympic Boulevard to access the station.  City staff is proposing a realignment of the east leg of the crosswalk across Olympic at 26th Street to provide a more direct access to the west end of the station.

 

Station canopy: The City may determine that the station canopy design should be integral to the Bergamot Art Center and any associated transit oriented development.  This topic could be addressed as part of the master planning process for the area.

 

Pavement treatments:  Approaches to the station could be enhanced with decorative paving. The concept plan shown in Exhibit E provides a gradual transition to the station platform enhanced with a paving treatment.  This treatment could be incorporated into future area improvements.

 

COLORADO STREET RUNNING

 

The street running section is an opportunity to create an active and vibrant community along the transit line, providing the optimal access to promote ridership, and achieving the character and vision outlined in the LUCE.  It is essential that the at-grade Expo LRT alignment be designed so that it is integrated into the street and the community, rather creating a divide.  Staff is still in the process of analyzing the street-running section and will develop detailed recommendations and alternatives for City Council consideration at a future meeting based on the following principles and objectives:

 

 

§  Ensure safety and functionality of the street

§  Preserve on-street parking to ensure a healthy businesses environment

§  Balance the needs of transit, pedestrians, vehicles and other users within the vision of a “transit parkway”

§  Create a handsome tree lined mixed-use street

§  Minimize visual clutter

§  Meet the City’s sustainability standards

 

The street-running section assumes the “Transit Parkway” theme developed for Phase 1 of the alignment and applies it to the unique conditions of this segment, with increased tree canopy and retention of the existing green parkways between the curb and sidewalk.  Construction of the Expo LRT will entail a nearly complete reconfiguration of Colorado Avenue between 17th Street and the Downtown station.  There are challenges presented in the eighty foot right-of-way, including accommodation of multiple major underground utilities and retention of existing parking to serve the businesses.  Staff is analyzing options for the future street configuration – sidewalks, parkways, parking, and lanes – to identify the best balance of space allocation for all users and adjacent properties.  In addition, a detailed review of technical requirements relative to the train system components including poles, wires, landscaping, fencing, signage, and materials are being addressed. The street-running section also requires careful analysis of additional pedestrian crossings, which will require California Public Utilities Commission approval.  Accommodation and channeling of pedestrians is critical to successful integration of the light rail line into the urban environment.  In addition to options for street configuration, at a future City Council meeting staff will provide potential enhancements for the street-running section for consideration, including decorative lighting bases, decorative fencing at “T” intersections, possibly parkways and trees to match conditions on the other side of the street, and curb extensions at pedestrian crossings.

 

 

 

OTHER COMPONENTS AND CONSIDERATIONS

 

Construction Phasing:  The City Municipal Code allows construction to occur between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Authorization to construct outside of these hours is only allowed with proper approval by the City per Municipal Code Section 4.12.110/130/140.

 

Construction phasing and timing is an important consideration for this project in order to strike the best balance of competing interests such as: public convenience, business interests, pedestrian, bicycle, vehicle and emergency access, length of construction period, and the cost of completing the project.  The City would generally require that a lane of vehicle traffic be maintained in each direction.

 

Alternatively, the City could allow the contractor to close sections of street within a block or blocks, and allow local access to businesses, residents and pedestrian as well as emergency vehicles.  The larger the area of work the contractor is allowed, the more production can be achieved and the shorter the construction duration and impact will be to local access.

 

The design-build teams competing for the work on this project have expressed an interest in closing streets by blocks in order to increase productivity and to complete the project expeditiously thereby reducing the overall construction effort and cost. On occasion, the City has allowed closures of streets during non-peak hours providing that access to businesses, residents and emergency vehicles is maintained at all times.  Due to the nature of this project, City staff will be working with Expo to develop construction phasing and work hours that will strike the best balance of competing interests as noted above and provide maximum overall benefits to the community.  Staff may be bringing alternative options to City Council for consideration.

 

Aerial Structures:  Several segments of aerial structure (trackway elevated above the ground on an earthen filled berm contained within decorative concrete walls and/or on a column supported concrete structure) will be constructed within the City.    There will be a major structure over Cloverfield and Olympic Boulevards, ramping upward just west of 26th Street, spanning the two streets on columns and transitioning down on the Exposition right-of-way on the north side of Olympic Boulevard.  Additionally, a structure over Centinela Avenue will transition down onto the Exposition right-of-way at the eastern end of the City.  It is important that the structures be designed with security in mind, with visibility and sufficient lighting underneath, and that the structure is supported on columns, rather than a wall structure, as it crosses over streets and the bike path.  Landscaping can help to soften the effect of the structures but should not provide hiding spaces.

 

Photo Enforcement: Metro is requiring that photo enforcement be used at protected left-turns locations where vehicles cross “street running” sections of the light rail.  In Santa Monica this could potentially apply at three intersections: 17th/Colorado,  Lincoln/Colorado and 5th/Colorado.  This enforcement system was initiated in response to the significant number of left-turn accidents that were occurring during the first years of the Blue Line operation in downtown Los Angeles.  Since then, photo enforcement systems have been installed at numerous street-running intersections on the Metro Blue, Gold and Orange Lines. The photo enforcement program has been extremely successful in deterring motorists from making illegal turning movements and lowering vehicle-train accident rates by over 50%.  The rate of citations has also dropped dramatically over the years, from an average of 1,200 per month, countywide, when introduced, to currently 250-300 per month, indicating that photo enforcement serves as a deterrent. 

 

The City would not be involved in the administration of the photo enforcement system. Metro retains a consultant to maintain the cameras, process and review the photographs and prepare citations for signature by a sworn Police Officer (L.A. County Sherriff’s Department).  Santa Monica’s Police Department staff is currently reviewing Metro’s photo enforcement program.

 

Financial Impact

Based on direction from City Council, staff will work with Expo to develop cost estimates for any proposed enhancements that City Council wishes to consider. These estimates would be brought back to City Council at a future meeting for consideration, along with a proposed funding plan.

 

The associated costs of the “Baseline Component” recommendations are expected to be paid for by Expo.  However, there is a difference of perspective as to what is considered “baseline”.  From staff’s perspective, the City was not aware that Expo would be making decisions regarding a “baseline” project prior to the current preliminary engineering stage.  From Expo’s perspective, the “project budget” is based on the project adopted at the time the FEIR was certified.   The divergence in positions could result in a significant cost difference.   Additionally, as Expo, the design-build teams and the City continue to investigate refinements to the design proposed in the FEIR, costs previously unanticipated by EXPO, such as mitigation for traffic impacts and relocation

 

 

 

 

 

 

of utilities are arising. Once the investigations are complete, the prioritized list of items

that require financial negotiations with EXPO will be brought forward to the Council for review.

 

Prepared by: Ellen Gelbard, Assistant Director, Planning and Community Development Department

 

 

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

Eileen Fogarty, Director

Planning & Community Development Department

 

Rod Gould

City Manager