When the Gold Line comes, it will change La Verne
by Kristine Delgadillo
photography by Daniel Torres
It is the year 2024, and parking is not an issue. Students are now able to scoot around the Los Angeles grid via the Foothill Gold Line. With its station in close proximity to the University of La Verne, Metro has made it so Union Station and Montclair are linked. Student internships and jobs are now within reach. A bonus gift will be the extra time that comes from being able to read and do homework to and from the University while the train rolls down the tracks.
Imagine that. Public transportation that serves the University, and it is coming in the near future. Well, maybe. There are always conditions. The Foothill Gold Line master plan is currently being reviewed, revised and discussed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Joint Powers Authority, the Technical Advisory Committee, the city of La Verne, the Pomona Fairplex and the University of La Verne. Though there are many positive expectations for this Gold Line station, preparation is still a long and hard process filled with obstacles. The good news is that some of the funding is in place, thanks to residual Measure R dollars that funded the Gold Line Pasadena to Azusa segment. Measure R was voted on by Los Angeles County residents in 2014. Residents were asked to ante up a half cent sales tax increase—above and beyond other California counties—to make it happen. The first passage of the sales tax increase took place in 2009. With its passage, the Gold Line was built from Pasadena to Azusa. That was a big step toward bringing the Gold Line to La Verne.
Those with keen memories know that the return of the train has been talked about for years. Yet, it has ripened to a real possibility in the last 13 years as cities have joined forces to find solutions to obstacles. The new addition will not just serve La Verne. Neighboring cities will open stations, as well: Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair will join the track. Most cities east of Azusa are watching, hoping and actively planning. When finished, the Foothill Gold Line will transport passengers from Montclair to downtown Pasadena in about 40 minutes; to Los Angeles in about 75 minutes along 37.5 miles of track. Representatives of the University say they cannot wait for the train to come.
Foothill Goldline rallies support
Clive Houston-Brown, ULV vice president of facilities and technology, has been working with the Foothill Gold Line company as well the city of La Verne to coordinate arrival plans. According to Houston-Brown, funding is the first hurdle to overcome. Aside from the residual Measure R dollars, an additional tax measure will likely be proposed and slated for vote to ensure that Los Angeles County residents agree to give additional tax dollars to extend this project. Houston-Brown is confident the bond will pass in the first round of voting because of the support the Gold Line has from the city and University. “The city of La Verne thinks it will bring vibrancy. We [the University] are really encouraging the Gold Line to be built. We are hoping this metro stop will make La Verne more like Old Town Pasadena, in the sense that people will come to downtown La Verne.”
But before you start thinking you hear the train whistle in the distance, think again. Things are never that easy. The station will still take another eight years to be completed, says Houston-Brown. As of now, the projected finish date is 2024. And while the University is in support of a light rail stop near its campus, it does have a few concerns. Houston-Brown says the Foothill Gold Line engineers suggest completely closing off A Street and E Street and designating the intersection of White and Wheeler Avenues for the station. Lisa Levy Buch, director of public affairs for the Foothill Gold Line, confirms some streets might be closed in La Verne, depending on the decisions of the design-build team of the Foothill Gold Line in coordination with the city of La Verne. In addition, construction will take its toll on commuters. “I would assume that we will most likely need to close each grade crossing for several weeks as we update the utilities underground and install the above ground infrastructure, including communications and safety systems, track, new curbs, gutters, and sidewalks,” Buch says.
This plan does not sit well with University officials. One of the reasons the University is supporting the construction of the Gold Line station is so parking problems for commuters are improved, and street congestion on D Street could be improved. However, if Gold Line officials plan on closing off two entire streets, that would cause another problem altogether. “ULV is not happy about closing off these streets because it will ruin the traffic flow. Overcrowding at La Verne is a problem we want to solve, not make worse,” Houston-Brown says. He is joined by La Verne Mayor Donald Kendrick in this mandate. La Verne City Council minutes from June 15, 2015 when the city approved a cooperative agreement with Foothill Gold Line reflect the city’s wishes: “The mayor stressed strong desire to not have permanently closed streets.”
Mayor Kendrick reveals partner plans
Transit Oriented Development is an initiative dedicated to helping communities thrive from public transportation opportunities. Its mandate: to create sustainable communities where people of all ages and incomes have access to public transportation. In addition, TOD promotes location efficiency where people can walk, bike and take public transit. TOD suggests ways to boost transit ridership and reduce automobile congestion while creating a sense of community and place. “[Transit oriented communities] make it possible to live a lower-stress life without complete dependence on a car for mobility and survival,” the TOD website says. The logic here is that because people will feel safer and more inclined to walk and ride transit, they will be less compelled to use cars, thus, reducing traffic congestion.
The use of public transportation also encourages a more sustainable lifestyle, which is a core value of the University and a value supported by the city. The expansion of the light rail will benefit small businesses, schools and residents, says La Verne Mayor Donald Kendrick. “I think we’re going to see people coming from outside of La Verne into the city on weekends and the evenings to experience dining and other entertainment.” Kendrick expects the city of La Verne to expand and create a new energy for the community. “First Street, along Arrow Highway and the north side of Fairplex will change completely from the way it is today. There will be retail, office space, residential areas; people who live in the TOD area that will not own cars. It will be a hub of activity,” he says. “I am excited; it allows La Verne to continue to grow in a very positive way.” Kendrick believes the expansion of the Foothill Gold Line will be very beneficial to the city and will help expand the University by making it easily accessible to students who do not live in the area. “We don’t know all of the outcomes that the Gold Line will bring at this point in time, but the traffic that’s going to come is not necessarily bad. A lot of things need to be done in order for the school to expand, and the Metro will help the University grow,” he says, noting that the University will be more accessible to commuting students.
The mayor says representatives from the city of La Verne, the University of La Verne and the Pomona Fairplex have been working together to find the best possible plan to benefit everyone involved and to make the process as simple as possible. “We have all been meeting monthly for the decision-making of this process and how we can benefit each other,” he says. “We’re working together as one, and when it is all said and done, we can be proud of what we accomplished.”