Monday, November 8, 2010

NBC Universal Evolution's Proposed Shuttle System an Inadequate Mitigation Measure

NBC Universal is planning a sizable development (3000 residential units, plus studios, office, and an expansion of the theme park.) on a portion of their property:

They're also planning to create a new shuttle system to mitigate some of the traffic impacts:

They outline how this proposed shuttle will work in mitigation measure B-2:

  • Service from Lakeside Plaza Drive Transit Center to the Universal City Red Line Station
  • Service from Lakeside Plaza Drive Transit Center to Downtown Burbank & Burbank Media District
  • Service from Lakeside Plaza Drive Transit Center to Hollywood
  • Service to operate with 15 minute headways during peak hours and 30 minute headways during off-peak hours
  • Shuttle system to be guaranteed for 20 years

On the surface, this seems like a viable way to shift some trips to transit.  However, I have several concerns with the proposed shuttle system:

  1. How will the system integrate with the existing Metro & Municipal service in the area?  Will the system use TAP cards? Will it accept transfers?  In order to get a meaningful share of trips originating or terminating in the project area, the private shuttle will need to integrate well with the greater Los Angeles Transit System.  Connecting with the Universal City Red Line Station is a start, but people want to go places other than those served by the red line.
  2. Fifteen minute headways are inadequate for peak periods. The shuttle route to the Universal City Red Line Station is 2 miles long.  This means that two shuttles will run during peak periods, and one shuttle during off-peak.  To be more attractive to users, service would have twice the number of shuttles and operate every 7 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off-peak hours.
  3. Even with the service improvement, ridership on the line will lag. In order to be a effective, a transit line must connect at least two places where people want to go.  For example, the Metro 704, 720, and 733 lines all connect downtown LA with Downtown Santa Monica
  4. Those going from much of the project site to downtown Burbank will have to transfer shuttles at the Lakeside Plaza Drive Transit Center.  This transfer penalty would mean that few people with a choice between the shuttle and a car would take the shuttle.

Also, they'll buy Metro one (1) articulated bus and operate it for 3 years, and then pay for a portion of operations for another 7 years. (this is measure B-1)

A more effective traffic mitigation alternative

NBC Universal not build a private shuttle system and instead pay a portion of the cost to extend the Metro Rapid 750 line or create a new Metro Rapid line through the site to Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena.

As you can see from the map above, the proposed Metro Rapid line or extension would connect major job centers along the route (in darker shades of blue).  The connection between these cities currently one of the biggest gaps in the Metro Rapid System.  The proposed line would connect:

  • Universal City Metro Rail Red Line Station
  • Universal Studios
  • Evolution @ Universal City
  • Warner Brothers Studios
  • NBC Studios (Alameda)
  • Burbank Metrolink Station
  • Downtown Burbank
  • Downtown Glendale
  • Americana @ Brand
  • Eagle Rock
  • Pasadena Gold Line (Memorial Park Station)
  • Pasadena City College
If the line is an extension of the Metro Rapid line 750, it would also connect:
  • Studio City
  • Sherman Oaks
  • Sherman Oaks Galleria
  • Encino
  • Woodland Hills
  • Warner Center
  • Westfield Topanga
(as an extension, every other bus from Warner Center may be a short line to Glendale (780 provides connecting service to Pasadena)

Universal Studios would be at the heart of the 750 extension.  If Universal Studios aims to further its position as a regional entertainment destination, it should welcome the opportunity to better connect the district to its employees and patrons.  Additionally, Metro Rapid extension allows Evolution employees and residents access to many other places than West Hollywood and Downtown Burbank.

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