Boyonabike!

Life beyond the automobile in Southern California

Archive for the tag “El Monte Bus Station”

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The new year provides an opportunity to look back on 2015 and ahead to 2016.  As always, it’s a blend of  disappointment that much-needed changes have been so slow in coming, gratification for the accomplishments, and hope for a continued shift in our transportation priorities in the future.  What is offered here is a highly personal, mostly local, list of the best of 2015 and some of my aspirations for bikes and alternative transportation in 2016.

The best of 2015:

  1. A shift in the conversation about climate change.  2015 may well be seen as the year the global community got serious about recognizing the necessity of radical action on climate change.  The Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change, “Laudato Si,” provided a powerful moral argument for reducing carbon emissions while addressing the combined social and environmental injustices of the current economic model.  Then, in December, leaders of over 190 nation-states met at the Paris Climate Summit and agreed to commit their nations to voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Pressure from citizen activists from around the world and from vulnerable nations elicited an “aspirational” goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial averages.  While the agreement lacks any binding enforcement mechanism, it is an important starting point from which continued climate justice activism can and must proceed.  In order for these goals to have any chance of success, transportation sustainability (and equity) are going to play a role.  That means transit and bikes.
  2. Construction of Phase 1 Extension of the Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa was completed.  The extension opens up possibilities for more transit choices in the San Gabriel Valley, and eliminates one more excuse for people who live nearby to go car free or car light.

    Bike parking at Arcadia station.

    Bike parking at Arcadia station.

  3. CicLAvia came to Pasadena!  The fun of cruising down a car-free Colorado Blvd. with thousands of other people still brings a smile to my face and reminds us why we must continue to push for more car-free space (temporarily or permanently) in our cities.  The car-free movement continued to spread in 2015, as iconic Paris opened its streets to people for a day in September. CicLAviaPas3
  4. New Bike Co-Op opened in El Monte.  BikeSGV’s new bike co-op, the Bike Education Center, provides a space for people from the local community to build or fix their own bikes.
  5. Metro’s Bike Hub at El Monte Bus Station. An important amenity for transit users who want a secure storage space for their bikes and a place for quick bike repairs right on the premises of the transit station.
  6. Pro-Bike Mayor elected in Pasadena.  The election of Terry Tornek as Mayor of Pasadena means that City Hall will continue to provide strong leadership for transit, walking, and bicycling in the city.
  7. Mobility 2035.  LA City Council passed an ambitious mobility plan that, if implemented, will provide more sustainable mobility choices for people in LA.
  8. Local bike infrastructure.  This is the weakest of 2015’s accomplishments.  But it is important to applaud any improvement.  For me, the bike lanes on First St. in Arcadia, near the new Gold Line station, even though they only stretch for about half a mile, are a sign that the city is trying to accommodate bicycle commuters.  Here’s hoping they are extended in 2016.

What I’m anticipating/hoping/wishing/working for in 2016:

  1. Gold Line extension opening, March 5, 2016.  This is a red-letter day for sure.  Looking forward to that first ride out to Azusa.
  2. Monrovia’s new bike plan.  Monrovia, at the behest of it’s local active transportation advocacy group Move Monrovia, has contracted with Alta Planning to produce a bike plan for the city.  I’m anxious to see the new plan and work with local advocates to make sure it gets approved and funded.
  3. Golden Streets 626: The San Gabriel Valley’s big open streets event, June 26, 2016 (i.e., 6.26)
  4. More bike lanes … everywhere.  Bike lanes are good.  Buffered bike lanes are better, and protected bike lanes (a.k.a. “Cycle Tracks”) are best.  I’m especially hoping to see some progress in Pasadena, Temple City, Arcadia, Monrovia. Et tu, El Monte?

    First Av. bike lane to Gold Line in Arcadia.

    First Av. bike lane to Gold Line in Arcadia.

  5. More bike racks (not the crappy, wheel-bender kind) … everywhere.
  6. Commitment from university administrators for a transit center on Cal Poly Pomona’s campus.  Cal Poly Pomona, where I teach, currently has no transit stop on campus.  Bus riders are forced to walk a long distance to sit on a splintered bench on Temple Ave.  Yet the University is building a multimillion-dollar parking garage and raising student parking fees.  Time for this otherwise “green” campus to make its transportation system green, too.

    What passes for a "transit center" at Cal Poly Pomona.

    What passes for a “transit center” at Cal Poly Pomona.

  7. Buffered bike lanes on Sierra Madre Blvd.  This has long been on my wish list.  There’s no reason it can’t be done.  The street is wide enough, the traffic speeds warrant it.  Hasn’t happened yet.  Still, I’ll keep asking ….

Happy car-light 2016 to all, and remember, there’s no such thing as a “green” car.  Whenever possible, leave your tin polluter box at home.  Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Walk, bike, take the bus or train.  It makes a difference!

New Transit Developments

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.

Arcadia Station

Arcadia Station

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 parking at Arcadia station.

Bike parking at Arcadia station.

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.

Monrovia Gold Line station dedication

Monrovia Gold Line station dedication

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.

Parking structure dominates Monrovia Gold Line station.

Parking structure dominates Monrovia Gold Line station.

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.

Artsy-fartsy bike racks.

Artsy-fartsy bike racks.

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.

A practical option for locking bikes?

A practical option for locking bikes?

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.

El Monte Bike Hub grand opening.

El Monte Bike Hub grand opening.

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.

Secure bike storage at El Monte Bike Hub.

Secure bike storage at El Monte Bike Hub.

These new transit and bike facilities are small but significant steps forward for the San Gabriel Valley.

New El Monte Station

This week transit riders in L.A. got to enjoy the new El Monte Bus Station, under construction since 2010.  Metro boasts that the new station is the largest bus station west of Chicago, and the two-level station certainly has a much larger capacity than any other bus station in Southern California. My first impressions are that the station is attractive and comfortable, with an open, airy design that makes it a model transit hub, second only to L.A.’s classic Union Station.  There are lots of amenities for cyclists, including plenty of bike racks (the good kind that you can lock your frame to, not the cheap, “wheel bender” type of racks) and bicycle tracks along the station’s stairways so you can roll your bike alongside you as you go up or down the stairs.  In the future, El Monte Station will also have a bike station that has indoor storage for bikes, air pumps, and space to make minor repairs or fix a flat.

For the past couple of years, Metro has converted an adjacent parking lot into a makeshift bus terminal while the new station was under construction.  Before that, the old El Monte Bus Station was a dreary, dated structure that was well past its prime.

The new structure, by contrast, offers the commuter a safe, pleasant place to change buses or park-and-ride.  There are easy-to-read LED signs on the bus bays, making it easy to find your bus, and plenty of space to sit.  The top level of the structure has sweeping canopies above the waiting areas, protecting riders from the sun or rain, while providing a pleasant view of the San Gabriel mountains to the north.

The lower level has  been designed with several large atria, so it doesn’t feel closed in and there’s plenty of air circulation, so you never smell bus exhaust.  The restrooms on the lower level have been designed with safety and cleanliness in mind.

Talking to other station users this week, everyone seems to like the new station, including many of the bus drivers.  So far, I can only offer a couple of minor suggestions to Metro officials: the restrooms, though clean and safe, are only located on the lower level, meaning that those with bus stops on the upper level must go downstairs to use the restrooms.  Further, there are only three restrooms for a station Metro says is designed to accommodate 20,000 passengers a day.  During the morning commuter rush on Thursday, for example, I noticed lines of 4-5 people waiting outside each restroom door.  Just hope you’re not in a hurry to catch a bus when you need to use the restroom.  One other minor critique:  the bike tracks have been placed too close to the edge of the stairways, right next to the railings, which means that anything that sticks out from the side of your bike (handlebars, pedals, racks) will catch on the railings, requiring bicyclists to tip their bikes at about a 45-degree angle while negotiating the stairway.  As a bike commuter with a heavy pannier, this makes pushing the bike up the track a more difficult ordeal than it needs to be.  Moreover, at that angle, my bike tires had a tendency to fall out of the track, and I had to wrestle my bike back on the track several times before continuing up the stairs.  After that, I and most other cyclists would simply take our bikes on the escalator or elevator instead.  If Metro could reposition the bike tracks about 6-8 inches away from the railings, it would mitigate this issue.  Otherwise, I’m afraid they’ll rarely be used.

Aside from these small critiques, the new El Monte Station is a clean, comfortable, attractive transit facility that I hope will induce more people to discover the benefits of riding the bus.

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