The future of car free or car light living in the San Gabriel Valley depends on expanded transit and its integration with networks of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and a good network of bike lanes. In the last month Metro has unveiled several new transit oriented amenities in the San Gabriel Valley that are steps in the right direction for sustainable transportation in these communities. I offer here a brief overview that, while laudatory, includes some critiques and suggestions for making them even better.
First is the completion of the Gold Line extension in the San Gabriel Valley from its current terminus in East Pasadena to its new terminus in Azusa. The Gold Line extension will have stations in (from west to east) Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, and Azusa. This will connect these foothill communities to Metro’s growing transit network and, if past experience is any indicator, draw significant ridership from surrounding communities. Trains will not begin running until some time in Spring 2016, but the track is laid and the stations are completed. I attended the dedication ceremonies for the Arcadia and Monrovia stations and checked out the facilities.
The Arcadia station at the corner of Santa Clara and First Street, is well situated to encourage transit-oriented and pedestrian-oriented development, if the city of Arcadia is willing to steer development in this direction (not a sure thing, given the city’s traditional suburban car-oriented mentality). Nevertheless, it has the potential of becoming a destination area for the city, and is a pleasing design, with a clock and pedestrian plaza in front.
Bike access is slowly improving, with new bike lanes on First Street for several blocks north and south of Santa Clara. The city needs to extend the network of bike lanes east and west, as well as further north and south of the station if it wants to have meaningful bike connectivity to the station. Bike parking is conveniently located and plentiful.
My reaction to the Monrovia station is a bit mixed. The city of Monrovia has plans for a “Station Square” transit-oriented development, which should lend itself to pedestrian access to the station, but at the moment the most notable thing about the Monrovia station is its gigantic parking structure. I suspect more money went into building this storage structure for empty cars than went into the actual station itself.
I was also a bit disappointed in the bike parking. While there are numerous bike lockers available for rent from Metro inside the parking structure, one must rent these from Metro by the month, meaning it will only be useful for a small proportion of regular commuters. I’ve often thought that Metro should allow daily/hourly rentals for at least a portion of its bike lockers. After all, I usually take my bike with me on the Metro, but there may be occasions when I’d like to ride to the station and keep my bike secure in a locker for an evening in LA, for example, and retrieve it when I return. Paying a monthly rental fee for such occasional usage doesn’t make much sense.
The station has a small number of artsy new bike racks that consist of curved metal poles with round holes that may or may not be very practical.
Most bicyclists locked their bikes to the railings in the parking structure instead, an indication that Metro’s artsy racks might be more artistic than practical.
At this time Monrovia is preparing a new bike plan with input from the local bike advocacy organization, Move Monrovia, but as yet there is no wayfinding signage for bikes and no bike lanes near the station.
Metro also opened its new Bike Hub at the El Monte Bus Station. The Bike Hub is a membership-based amenity that provides a space for basic bike maintenance, repair and secure indoor bike storage conveniently located at El Monte station. It is the first of several Bike Hubs that will be located at transit stations around Southern California.
These new transit and bike facilities are small but significant steps forward for the San Gabriel Valley.