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Regional Connector: Know All the Possible Downtown Stops

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Over the weekend, Metro held the second of four community meetings on the Regional Connector, which would connect the 7th/Metro stop with the new Gold Line stop in Little Tokyo via light rail. Like the Westside subway, which is following a similar timetable, the Connector is in the midst of its environmental review and hopes to open around 2018/19. If it is indeed built, Metro is looking at two options for the connectors: either underground or partly above-ground.

Several new stations would be built for the Regional Connector project depending on which alternative is ultimately selected. For its at-grade emphasis alternative, Metro has identified station locations in the Financial District, Bunker Hill, and the City Hall/Civic Center area. Metro’s underground emphasis alternative also would stop in the Financial District and Bunker Hill areas, and then continue underground. Planners are studying two possible station options on 2nd Street before the line would travel to Little Tokyo.

Specifically, these stops are being considered:

Subway alternative: Stops at 5th & Flower, 2nd & Hope, and Broadway & 2nd or Los Angeles & 2nd

Light-rail option: Stops planned for 5th & Flower, 2nd & Hope, and Main & 1st or 1st & Los Angeles.

The meeting, held at the Wurlitzer Building at 818 S. Broadway this past Saturday morning, went pretty smoothly, with staff explaining that the connector will shorten rides and save commuters—who are now forced to transfer at 7th and Metro or Union Station—about 20 minutes of time. Project manager Dolores Roybal-Saltarelli explained that both those stations are already swamped with commuters during rush-hour, and that the county expects millions more residents in the coming years (and more public transit users, considering new lines are opening every two to four years).

Roybal-Saltarelli was cool-headed when she was asked why the connector couldn't open more quickly. She said the schedule they have now is considered ambitious by most engineers and transit planners. "It's completely feasible that construction could begin in mid-2013," she said.

Most attendees were excited about the line. "It will reduce a lot of the congestion at 7th and Metro," said Gregory Sandoval of Glendale, who rides transit into the city for work. He said the Red and Blue Line platforms were already ridiculously busy. "Just wait until the Expo Line opens [in 2011]," he added.

The one dissenter was John Smythe, who lives Downtown. "I'm for leaving whatever is there," he said. "If you need to transfer, just go to Union Station." He said the money for the connector should be used for other priorities, like new lines.

Little Tokyo residents have been skittish about construction disruption, as well as stop placement, but Ann Kerman, who handles communications for the connector, said she was prepared to assuage fears in Downtown of disruption during the construction phase and density changes to Little Tokyo. "This project will do more to maintain the cultural integrity [of the neighborhood] than diminish it," Kerman said.

Kerman added that the Nikkei Project mixed-use development—near where the connector would link with the Gold Line—is moving forward too, and is in the midst of environmental studies. The Senor Fish restaurant catty-corner to the Gold Line stop will eventually have to be closed for the connector, but there are early discussions of putting another mixed-use development at that corner of 1st and Alameda (development plans like this may be part of the reason Little Tokyo residents are anxious).

· Nikkei Center Renderings Run Roughshod Over Crayon [Curbed LA]