News West Edition

Inglewood seeks futuristic rapid transit system

INGLEWOOD — Mayor James Butts Jr. and City Councilman Ralph L. Franklin are pushing forward an initiative to improve public transportation within the city.

The two elected officials have asked the South Bay Cities Council of Governments, a joint powers group comprised of different cities in the South Bay area, to incorporate an automated transit network (ATN) into the regional public transportation plan.

The city would like its ATN plan included in the council of government’s list of transit and highway projects that will be part of the long-range plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) for possible funding from the Federal Transportation Administration.

“Inglewood is in need of a ‘last-mile system’ that brings mass transit passengers from the train station to our entertainment district,” Butts said. “The system needs to be a shuttle service or preferably an elevated pod system. A last-mile system connects the transit station with a major entertainment or retail center within one mile of the station.”

Butts wants the ATN to link with the Expo Light light rail system to provide public transportation to the city’s planned entertainment district, which would include the Forum and the planned NFL stadium and a performing arts theater.

The South Bay Cities Mobility Matrix specifically includes improvements that address both existing deficiencies in the transportation system as well as anticipated future needs.

“Currently, the exclusive negotiating agreement for the transit-oriented development across the street from the Metro Station at Florence and La Brea is being negotiated with Thomas Saffron & Associates,” Butts said. “In the concept, they propose a trolley as a connector to the city’s new entertainment core. However, a trolley would foul surface street traffic flow plans that the city has perfected over the decades with the Lakers and Hollywood Park race track crowds.”

Butts is proposing a fixed-route transit system that would loop from the Metro station at Florence and La Brea through Market Street, down La Brea to Century Boulevard and Prairie Avenue with stops along the way.

The route would continue east on Century to Prairie, then north on Prairie with stops at the stadium development and the Forum.

The loop might then turn west on Manchester back to Market Street and loop back northbound to the Metro station.

Financing for the system would come through the Federal Transit Administration’s “small starts” provision with potential contributions from the Hollywood Park Land Company developers.

The objective would be to provide a low- or minimal-cost system to bring mass transportation riders to as many shopping and entertainment corridors as possible within the city.

Riders would have to produce a Metro transit access pass to ride.

Catherine Burke, a former USC professor, whose expertise includes public administration and innovative public transportation has touted what see calls a system of podcars, a new kind of service providing the convenience of an auto without the high costs for gasoline, insurance, maintenance and parking.

Podcars would be used in a personal rapid transit system that would feature driverless vehicles on a guide way with room for one to six seated passengers plus luggage.

The system could provide origin to destination services with no transfer or stops; or service on demand.

Metro’s 2009 long-range transportation plan takes a three-decade look ahead to identify what transportation options best serve the county’s needs and expectations.

It also identifies Metro’s board-adopted public transportation and highway projects, funding forecasts over a 30-year timeframe, multi-modal funding availability, sub-regional needs and project performance measures.

“The immediate plan would likely cost in the range of $10 million dollars to build,” Butts said. “This is only a first look estimate and can change depending upon specifics. As of today, the exact dollar amount has not yet been accessed for Inglewood’s futuristic transportation system.

“It will take five years or more for the mass transit system work to begin because the Metro rail line won’t be operational until then.”