Native Angeleno who has worked in public, academic and special libraries, as well as museums and college instruction. I am responsible for maintaining the Metro Transportation Library website, all of our social media properties, and digitization efforts to bring more of our resources to our users whenever they need them. For more information, visit The Metro Library website.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Go Play On The Freeway! Cap Park Proposals And A Look Back At The Highway Relationship To Park Planning In Los Angeles

Over the past few years, large cities have sought to increase the availability recreational space in crowded urban environments. The success of Chicago’s Millennium Park and New York’s High Line show imaginative planning and construction of new places to meet and play which have been embraced by the public.

But what to do when a city has been built out and there’s not much available land for a sizeable new recreational area? Some cities are looking at using existing roads and highways as the foundation for new public spaces. Some involve placing a “lid” on top of a roadway, thereby making it a tunnel under a park. Cap parks” are already under consideration in Cincinnati, Seattle, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Boston, Hartford and Charlotte.

We wanted to bring together information and resources on four current freeway cap park proposals in Los Angeles and take a look back at the genesis of park planning here.

In the L.A. region, imagination knows no bounds, and our iconic freeways could set the stage for community improvements that will literally alter the landscape of the city:
Hollywood Central Park” is a proposed 44-acre site atop the 101 Freeway between Santa Monica Boulevard and Bronson Avenue in Hollywood

Park 101” would be built above the “Big Trench” section of the 101 Freeway downtown

In Santa Monica, a 7-acre park is proposed for the 10 Freeway between 14th and 17th Streets

Also in Santa Monica, a cap park is being studied for the 10 Freeway between Ocean Avenue and 4th Street

The freeway cap park proposals are new urban spaces that integrate neighborhoods that were previously separated by roadways or other infrastructure. While the construction costs are immense, proponents are hopeful that economic development could help pay the way.

The Hollywood Central Park Feasibility Report’s executive summary notes that Hollywood provides less than 0.5 acres of open space for every 1,000 residents. The proposed cap park would include a plaza and viewing platform, sculpture garden or art exhibition space, multi-purpose fields and sport/recreational areas, street parking, amphitheatre, large open meadow, police sub-station, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a dog park.

In this overview of downtown’s Park 101 Project, the director of urban design at AECOM’s LA Office notes that “the proposed site separates some of our most prized and appealing landmarks: Olvera Street, Chinatown, and Union Station on one side; Disney Hall, the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angeles, and City Hall on the other – creating isolated pockets of activity rather than what we need: a livable, walkable, and unified downtown district.” The proposal for a "Central Park" for Los Angeles as a long-overdue feature of downtown's renaissance focuses on six design principles: maximize regional connectivity, develop a pedestrian focus, provide flexibility of open space, reconnect communities, be a regenerative tool, and create a "wow" factor.

In Santa Monica, officials are exploring the idea of creating a 7-acre cap park on top of the 10 Freeway between 17th and 14th Street.

Santa Monica City Councilman Kevin McKeown notes that the Expo Line’s anticipated arrival in Santa Monica in 2015 has led to a resurgence of interest around another project on the 10 Freeway between 4th Street and Ocean Avenue and that “the land we gain is more valuable than the cost of capping the freeway.”

This resurgence in grand park ideas reminds us of Los Angeles’ landmark 1930 parks study prepared by the Olmsted Brothers and Bartholomew and Associates. Parks, Playgrounds And Beaches For The Los Angeles Region was a comprehensive 178-page proposal for regional recreational planning in our burgeoning metropolis.

In 1930, when the city’s population stood at just over 1,200,000 (well over double what it had been in 1920), they wrote that
The prime use of highways is economic, but in addition to the economic use there is an enormous use for recreation, especially for the pleasure of simply riding through more or less pleasant surroundings. Probably nowhere else in the world does highway recreation form so large an element in the lives of people as in Southern California.

Now, in proportion as the highways and their surroundings are adapted to recreational uses, and remain so, the need for other recreational areas will be reduced. On the other hand, in proportion as the highway system is ill adapted to recreation, or tends to become so, the demand of specifically recreational areas is increased. Long stretches of congested streets, through mile after mile of monotonous urban surroundings must be offset somehow. The functions of the highway department are thus seen to overlap somewhat the functions of other agencies not chiefly interested in highways.

80 years later, we are considering placing public recreational space on top of the highway system that was planned in response to a surging population without nearly as much regard for open space. The entire report is a wonderful read, with intriguing maps, plans and detailed notes. The primary conclusion in the report’s introduction states that
Continued prosperity will depend on providing needed parks, because, with the growth of a great metropolis here, the absence of parks will make living conditions less and less attractive, less and less wholesome, though parks have been easily dispensed with under the conditions of the past. In so far, therefore, as the people fail to show the understanding, courage, and organizing ability necessary at this crisis, the growth of the Region will tend to strangle itself.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

From Bad To Worse: Mapping The Transit Funding Crisis

Last summer, Transportation For America published Stranded At The Station: The Impact Of The Financial Crisis In Public Transportation. It reviewed the recent growth in ridership and outlined the numerous benefits of public transit in terms of mobility, economic issues, equity, health and safety concerns, and environmental and energy impacts. The report also delineated how dozens of transit agencies would be be cutting service, raising fares, or both.

Eight months later, the prolonged economic downturn has several transit agencies around the country in crisis. T4America's Stranded At The Station: Mapping The Transit Funding Crisis profiles more than 150 U.S. transit agencies' service reductions, fare increases, and staff layoffs. The transit agencies' links on the map also provide an opportunity for readers to share their stories of how these transit service changes have impacted them. T4America will in turn share these stories with Congress.

The accompanying story notes: "With public transportation ridership at record highs, transit agencies across the country are facing unprecedented fiscal crises in this economic downturn, with many laying off workers, cutting back service drastically, and raising fares at the worst possible time. Americans took nearly 10.7 billion trips on public transportation in 2008, a four percent increase over 2007 and the highest level since 1956. Public transportation use has increased 38 percent since 1995 — nearly triple the growth rate of the population of the United States. Incredibly, these record ridership numbers are being met with one trend at transit agencies from coast to coast: Service cuts, layoffs, and fare increases."

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Beauty Of "Crowdsourcing" From Social Media

Photo credit: James Cridland via Flickr

We want to let you know about a correction to a previous post showing a photograph of the Los Angeles Railway W Line in front of the Southwest Museum, dated 1914. Very shortly after we announced the launch of this blog, we heard from the Braun Research Library at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian at the Autry National Center of the American West:

"I was looking at the blog and noticed...the Southwest Museum – the date of the photograph is 1920 – the scaffolding that you see is for the Elevator shaft that was added in late 1919 early 1920 when then the tunnel and elevator were installed."

One of the benefits of providing web-accessible resources is receiving more detailed or accurate information on items in our collections. In this case, the librarians working in the building in question provided us with a correction that will benefit everybody.

User feedback is a great value-added feature of increased access to resources, and is being embraced by many types of institutions. In the first nine months after the Library of Congress launched its Flickr Commons site, it began enjoying some stunning success with user participation: 4,548 of the 4,615 images had at least one community-provided tag added. Users had not only viewed, but have added enhanced data to nearly 99% of the photos in the collection.

We have corrected the date on the post as well as in Flickr and invite you to look around our Flickr photo collections. If you can further identify dates, people, events, or locations, that's even better.

If this is any indication of how enhanced access to resources in turn informs us and other users as well on our first day "out there," we're encouraged!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hooray For Hollywood: Your Streetcar Is Here, But Your Subway Doesn't Arrive For Almost 50 Years

No. 736 on Pacific Electric Railway's San Fernando Valley Line, circa late 1940s.

Northbound Highland Avenue just south of Hollywood Boulevard. Note the large group of people at the boarding area in the middle of the street. The Hotel Hollywood is at the northwest corner of the intersection which is the current site of the Hollywood & Highland Entertainment Complex and Metro's Red Line Hollywood/Highland station.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting To Dodger Stadium: The Aerial Gondola And Escalators That Never Were

Image via Flickr by Atwater Village Newbie

The successful launch of the Dodger Stadium Express this month allows many people to not only fight traffic and reduce air pollution, but to take other public transportation to Union Station to take advantage of the shuttle service.

We wanted to take a look back at some of the other proposals for getting people up to Chavez Ravine to watch baseball. Twenty years ago, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission released the 1990 Dodger Stadium Transit Access Study. It assessed various routes and modes of transportation, including shuttle buses, automated guideway transit shuttle, a light rail transit spur, a gondola tramway, and a pedestrian escalator!

Most of these options would have connected to the Gold Line Chinatown Station, but the gondola tramway, "similar to the Palm Springs aerial tramway...would utilize an aerial cablecar system that would travel from the future City North Area, via Radio Tower Hill in Elysian Park to Dodger Stadium."

The full-text document (45p. PDF) includes maps and illustrations.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

100 Years Before The Gold Line...

W Line, 1920, from Metro Library's Los Angeles Railway Flickr Collection

Long before the Arroyo Seco Parkway became the first of many iconic freeways in the Los Angeles area, the Los Angeles Railway rolled through the Mt. Washington and Highland Park neighborhoods where the Gold Line now runs.

Economic Impact Study: Measure R Projects, 2009-2038

One driving force behind this blog is the multitude of highway and transit improvement projects being planned and completed over the next 30 years. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation has released The Construction Impact Of Metro's Measure R Transportation Projects 2009-2038 (19p. PDF), an analysis of the economic impact on the region.

The study finds that total spending, budgeted to exceed $34.7 billion will generate $68.8 billion in economic output (measured by business revenues) in the five-county Southern California region, adding 507,500 jobs with earnings of $22.4 billion over the thirty-year period, or an annual average of 16,900 jobs with $746 million in annual earnings.

Total tax revenues collected will exceed $9.3 billion, or an annual average of $310 million. Approximately 70% of the total ($6.6 billion) will be earned at the federal level. More than $2.3 billion in state taxes will be paid over the thirty year period.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Broadway at Olympic Boulevard, 1940

As you may already know, The Metro Library collects news headlines related to transit and transportation from newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs, advocacy organizations and other sources to help inform thousands of people every day. We publish the Transportation Headlines blog and also provide its content via email subscription as well as RSS feed.

Now, we are offering a new resource for information related to transit and transportation in Southern California - our Primary Resources blog to compliment the daily aggregated news items. We have a lot of important resources from our collection and beyond to share with our transit and transportation community.

Several considerations make this the right time to launch a new channel for additional resources that our users will find both interesting and valuable:

Metro is embarking on an ambitious plan for many new Measure R-funded transit and highway projects, several of which are being planned and executed at the same time.

Transit and transportation advocacy is growing thanks to social networking and other communication tools. Resources can be disseminated, consumed, and redistributed more easily than ever before.

We are actively collecting and digitizing not only Metro’s publications and reports, but also harvesting and preserving important documents and other digital assets in the field of transportation that compliment our collections

Our collections include key resources from several of our predecessor agencies including Los Angeles Railway, Pacific Electric Railway, Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, Southern California Rapid Transit District and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.

As we continue to digitize these items, we will offer access to rarely-seen documents as well as maps, early transit plans, historic employee newsmagazines, renderings, and other assets from these collections.

But not everything valuable is old: We hold numerous Environmental Impact Reports and Statements, transit studies, engineering plans, and documents related to projects’ archaeological and cultural resources. Interesting and timely information from these items will also be included in future blog posts.

Approximately 40% of our book and report collection is unique and found nowhere else. We currently have over 6,000 photos in our Flickr collection online, our own YouTube channel with extensive playlists, and a growing Scribd document collection.

While we collect and digitize Metro’s publications and reports, we are also actively harvesting and preserving important documents and other digital assets in the transportation field to compliment our collection. We will share these resources and provide some context for why they are important to our mobility agenda.

Transportation is a complex, interdisciplinary subject area. Many librarians and archivists are working to provide more access to information which will assist in making better decisions and help keep the public informed. We will spotlight these activities within the transportation research community.

Finally, we recognize the special role that transit and transportation have played in Southern California history. We will occasionally explore the unique challenges to and opportunities for our library and archive partners in L.A. As Subject, which highlights those lesser-known institutions celebrating the history and culture of the Los Angeles Region.

Los Angeles County is incredibly vast and complex: nearly 10 million residents spread across 88 cities and 30 years worth of pending transit and transportation projects impacting every corner of the region that almost 1/4 of Californians call "home." The need for timely and accurate information is greater than ever before.

We will look back at interesting (and often humorous) historical resources, and we look forward to bringing new information and knowledge to light for our community.