Downtown denizens and transit nerds packed the Los Angeles Times community room last night to hear design updates on the two-mile Regional Connector, which will link the Blue, Gold, and Expo lines and create three new DTLA stations. Metro's top planner Martha Welborne led the discussion, impressing the audience with early concepts for stations and placement (see images). Most notable is that the stops, all underground, will likely have an open-air quality, with some sort of glass covering the portals, allowing light to stream through. "The designers came up with notions of transparency, light, optimism and beautiful views," Welborne told us. "The concept is when you're coming out of an elevator or an escalator, you'll still have shade protection but you can look through the roof and see the surrounding buildings and the context you're in." Unlike other Metro subway stations, the RC stops--at Second/Hope, Second/Broadway, and First/Central--will have ticketing, maps, and information in semi-enclosed, surface-level plazas, allowing less clutter underground.
Reducing clutter at stations is a big goal for the RC; Welborne pointed out the Expo Line as an example of design that has too much going on (A burn, yes, but not as bad as when LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne called the Expo designs "aggressively banal.").
As you'll notice in the last rendering, there's a large "M" on one of the stations. Welborne said the agency and their designers want to brand the stations, and the pylons that currently designate Metro's 80 rail stations aren't quite cutting it. The "M," though, probably won't make it, as Metro operations believes they will be too hard to keep free of graffiti. The designers are thinking of other iconic signage systems, e.g. those used in New York, London, and Paris. Whatever is chosen will be incorporated throughout LA's entire system.
The Second/Hope station is being designed by AECOM and will be tucked behind the Broad Museum and the Disney Concert Hall. Access to both venues from the station will be easy, Welborne says.
Second/Broadway is being designed by Barrio Planners. The entrance to the station will be on Broadway, allowing access to the pedestrian-friendly street, as well as the planned Downtown streetcar. There's hope that an outside source will kick in for a second entrance on Spring Street to provide easier access to the Civic Center.
The Tokio Tanaka-designed station for First/Central will replace the Little Tokyo Gold Line stop, currently on surface level. This new stop will only be 40 feet underground, so unlike the Second Street stations, it won't have a mezzanine with amenities, allowing commuters to go directly from the street to the train platform. Welborne acknowledged the sad fact that Senor Fish and the Spice Table will need to be displaced for the station, but said Metro is doing all they can with the project to minimize the purchasing and relocation of buildings and businesses.
Utility relocation for the line will continue for another year, with hardcore construction starting in late 2013. With a smile, Welborne said she couldn't talk about the lawsuit brought by Flower Street business owners upset over tunneling methods for the project, but added that it wasn't hindering work (a judge will hear arguments on September 14 on whether construction can continue while the lawsuit is decided).
· Regional Connector Archives [Curbed LA]