The Expo Light Rail comes to Santa Monica in 2015, with stations at the Bergamot Art Center, 14th Street and Colorado Avenue, and its terminus will be located at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue.
On July 13, the Santa Monica City Council had the opportunity to review the baseline expectations for the rail stations that will be the obligation of the Metro Line Construction Authority (Expo) to include in their construction of those stations. Baselines need to be established now because Expo is utilizing a competitive process that pits two design-build teams against each other to develop baseline plans and bids for the project. By early November, each team must submit their final design packages and bids and in early 2011, the Expo Board will select the team who will construct the Expo Light Rail.
The council voted unanimously to endorse having all three stations include sensitive placement of mechanical/electrical and train control buildings and bus stop amenities. They also unanimously endorsed specific baselines for each individual station. For Bergamot Station they approved two entrances, side platforms with center entrance ramps, and east-end track crossing subject to the approval of the California Public Utility Commission.
Endorsements for the Memorial Park/Mid-City Station (14th Street and Colorado Avenue) included two entrances, with the west entrance subject to a California Public Utility Commission approval. Also endorsed were multi-modal access with the southwest corner serving as a transit interface for shuttles, bicycle and for drop-off and pick-up light rail riders. Long-term parking will also be incorporated as shared parking near the station.
Approvals for the Downtown Station (4th Street and Colorado Avenue) included two entrances which will be well designed transitions that serve the north and south ends and respect the city controlled plaza. Circulation through the station will include pedestrian access through the site from 4th to 5th Street and other transit and shuttle access around the site. Also endorsed for this station was preserving the potential for transit-oriented development on the property.
Council member Kevin McKeown cautioned that “these stations were deliberately put in the middle of things and the entrances and exits to these stations are critical to the functionality of these stations as intended.” Therefore, Expo should not in the interest of saving money reduce or change the placement of the entrances and exits because that would be shortsighted.
Council members also directed staff to return to them with potential mitigation strategies to address the downtown traffic impacts from the light rail operations and recommendations and alternatives for future station enhancements. These enhancements might be unique canopies for the Downtown and Bergamot Stations and/or decorative pavement treatments in areas leading to the stations or other options.
Council member Gleam Davis noted that “having these stations not only represents an opportunity for mass transit … but also for people to know they are in Santa Monica and for people to know we’re embracing mass transit.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Pam O’Connor stressed that everyone involved needs to make sure Expo “works for the end users because the bottom line is … if we end up with a system that discourages people from using it … we will have failed. Build it right the first time.”
The council will be discussing additional Expo Light Rail concepts on August 10.