Long Range Transportation Plans: A Historical Guide to Los Angeles LRTPs

Page content by Danny Seplow

Long Range Transportation Plans (LRTP) are long term plans that were originally created by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission beginning in 1987, and now by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA or Metro) since 1995.

The form they take varies from plan to plan, but in general they outline the current state of Los Angeles County transportation and create a list of goals to achieve and projects to complete over the next twenty to thirty years.

The LRTPs usually mention plans for highways, railways, buses, public campaigns, and other responsibilities of Metro or its predecessor agency.

Creation Process

While the exact process of creating the Long Range Transportation Plans changes slightly from plan to plan, the general process has remained fairly consistent.

The process to create a LRTP often takes several years to complete. Creation usually begins by coordinating with both the general public and transportation partners like Caltrans, Metrolink, the Southern California Association of Governments, and local transportation authorities.

Before deciding on which areas and projects to focus on, numerous studies are conducted to predict where the population will grow and which corridors will see increased congestion.

An analysis of current and predicted funding sources is also done before each LRTP is created. The LRTPs are divided into three plans to implement based on future funding.

The Fundable Plan assumes no new voter approved funding methods and recommends future actions based on assumptions of how current revenue sources will develop.

The Expanded Plan assumes reasonable increases in funding sources, allowing larger scale projects to be proposed. The Unconstrained Plan is useful for showing what needs to be done by proposing projects that would be completed if no resource constraints existed.

On the Road to the Year 2000 (August 1987)

The first Long Range Transportation Plan for Los Angeles County was released in 1987. Unlike subsequent plans, this LRTP was focused almost entirely on highways, street improvements, and traffic management. The plan also contained a lengthy section breaking down the advantages, drawbacks, and predictions of different funding sources.

The section on streets had two main topics. The first of which focused on pavement conditions, recommending better management and repaving more often.

The other focus was traffic management. In preparation of the 1984 Olympic Games, 110 intersections were computerized around the Los Angeles Colosseum, leading to better traffic conditions and less congestion. The trial was a success and the LRTP proposes expanding them to other intersections in the County. The section also recommends increased motorist education on vehicle maintenance and preventing congestion.

The freeway section contained many smaller projects that the LACTC hoped to see implemented or expanded. Recommendations were made to create a computerized system to get real time data about freeway traffic conditions and make the information readily available to the driving public through automated telephone information, changeable signs, and roadside radio, among others.

The plan highlights that a sizable portion of congestion is created by traffic accidents on the freeways. To combat this, the LRTP recommended restricting trucks from driving on freeways during rush hour. Moreover, it proposed roving service trucks to make accidents quicker to address and reduce traffic delays. Other proposed methods to reduce congestion as a result of automobile accidents included expanding the call box system and public education program to discourage spectator slowing.

Another aspect of the plan to reduce freeway congestion was to reduce travel demand. To do this, the LRTP suggested increasing carpool lanes on freeways and promoting ridesharing and telecommuting to work.

The document had over seventy pages dedicated to freeway improvements, some of which contained long term plans to hopefully have a rail line along them. Beyond these brief mentions and several other small notes, rail was almost entirely absent from this LRTP despite the Blue Line (now A Line) having already begun construction.[10] The bus system was similarly a minor element of the plan. Most later plans would contain entire sections dedicated solely to bus planning, but the 1987 plan only mentioned them in relation to other topics, such as ridesharing and carpooling.

30 Year Integrated Transportation Plan (April 1992)

The 1992 LRTP was the first to be completed after the first Metro Rail line opened in 1990. As such, the plan proposed over 400 miles of rail projects. Included, are the Red Line which was under construction at the time of the plan and a proposed Orange Line which would stretch to Westwood Village and Atlantic/I-5 off either end of the Red Line.

The plan also highlighted eight candidate corridors for further studies, each of which had enough congestion to warrant increased transit options. These could take any form, from an all-bus solution to fully grade separated rail.

Per the 1991 Air Quality Management Plan, LACTC planned to fully electrify both commuter rail and urban rail within Los Angeles County by 2010.

The bus system received much more attention than it did in the 1987 plan. A 55% expansion of the bus network was proposed to occur in the next thirty years over two phases.

First, a rapid increase would occur to allow necessary transportation while the rail systems were being built. Then, once several rail lines had opened, the rate of increase would slow to keep pace with the growth of LA County.

Another focus of the bus expansion was reducing emissions. To do this, all buses would be clean-fueled by 2004, with the highest-ridership routes being electrified.

Moreover, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 mandated that all newly acquired transit vehicles meet specified accessibility requirements and that a complementary paratransit system be implemented for those unable to use fixed transit.

The highway component of the 1992 LRTP was less robust than that of the 1987 plan. The plan focused on six ways to improve mobility in LA County: Incident management, carpool lanes, transportation system management, freeway gap closures, state highway system improvements, and bikeway improvements.

Freeway Service Patrols (FSPs) were mentioned as well in the previous LRTP. They were incredibly successful so the 1992 LRTP proposed to more than double the fleet of tow trucks. Carpool lanes were another topic of the previous plan that the 1992 LRTP sought to expand upon.

Two of the focuses present throughout the 1992 Long Range Transportation Plan were the environment and equity. Numerous aspects of the plan sought to lower emissions, including carpool lanes, railroad electrification, zero emission bus implementation, and other congestion management strategies.

The LRTP was aware of the important role that transit plays in equity and economic opportunities. To this end, the plan sought to ensure equal access to transit for all communities within Los Angeles by factoring it into all planning considerations.

Moreover, the plan had an equity component, calling for implementation of the Minority- and Women- Owned Business Program, in which LACTC would utilize minority- and women- owned business in contracting procurement, construction, and personal services.

Not a part of the 1987 LRTP, the 1992 plan contained an entire short section on Transportation Demand Management (TDM).

Unlike the other aspects of the plan which attempt to increase the supply of transit, TDM seeks to reduce the demand for transportation, either single-occupancy trips or altogether. TDM would also have the by-product of reducing emissions and improving air quality. To achieve these goals, the TDM section proposed large campaigns to encourage ridesharing, carpool lane use, and public transit use.

Like the previous LRTP, the 1992 plan had both predicted costs within each section as well as an extensive finance section at the end of the document. This section details the expenses of the projects in the rest of the plan for both fiscal year 1992 as well as the next thirty years. The section also lists and analyzes different propositions, bonds, and federal and state agencies that can supply funding.

Transportation for the 21st Century (March 1995)

The 1995 LRTP was the first to be created by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority after the merger of Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and Southern California Rapid Transit District in 1993.

Unlike the previous LRTPs that were each 30-year plans, this one was a 20-year plan. It was shortened because the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) mandated that long range plans be fiscally constrained within a twenty year time frame and because a twenty year time frame is more reasonable to make predictions about future conditions and funding.

In addition, the document is prefaced with a statement about the financial difficulties and recession facing LA County. This preface also highlights the importance of improving air quality and affordability, for both the state and riders.

Also, unlike previous plans, the 1995 LRTP began with a lengthy dissection of current and future predictions of Los Angeles County demographics. Included are breakdowns of population growth, job density, average freeway speed, and statistics about neighboring counties. These charts served to highlight that mobility benefits are paramount in planning decisions.

Rail was one of the major aspects of the 1995 LRTP. Metro understood that urban rail was expensive and only necessary on the highest trafficked corridors in the city. To this end, railbus was proposed as a cheaper alternative that could run on the same tracks as light rail transit vehicles. These would use Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology, which were popular abroad but would require modifications to meet U.S. emissions, car strength, and ADA requirements.

Also mentioned was funding set aside for Metrolink, the commuter rail network for Southern California, which was partially funded by the MTA.

The plan also proposed joining with other local and federal agencies to fund the Alameda Corridor project. This fully grade separated freight line would connect the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles to reduce shipping delays and increase efficiency.

The 1995 plan saw improvements to the bus system as being both necessary for increasing rail ridership and general mobility for residents. If the buses were not quick and reliable, rail ridership would not reach full capacity because many would be hesitant to use it.

The plan also proposed investing in Advanced Technology Transit Bus (ATTB), low or zero emissions buses. It also hoped to replace retired buses with larger buses to increase capacity. Moreover, the LRTP put forth the idea of a “Mobility Allowance,” which would directly give local jurisdictions the budget normally allocated for MTA operations in low demand areas, allowing increased flexibility of meeting transit needs.

An intermodal transit center was proposed, which would be a hub adjacent to Union Station for rail, buses, and cars to exchange passengers.

For highways, the plan sought to close the remaining gaps in the network, increase construction and use of HOV lanes, retrofit existing highways with sound walls when necessary, and create a Transportation Management Center (TMC). The TMC would serve as the brain of the highway system and respond to congestion, blockages, and bottlenecks.

Furthermore, Freeway Service Patrols once again saw proposed expansion in coverage and technology use. technology use.

Also included were goals to improve traffic signal coordination on arterial streets and increase access for pedestrians and bikers.

Like previous Long Range Transportation Plans, the document includes a substantive section analyzing current and possible future funding sources. However, on account of the recession at the time, heightened austerity measures were considered to make up budget shortfalls.

2001 Long Range Transportation Plan for Los Angeles County

The 2001 LRTP changes the format of previous plans slightly. MTA switched from a 20-year plan to a 25-year plan. This was also the first LRTP to have an accompanying technical document that further elaborated on proposed projects.

In general, the 1995 plan more thoroughly analyzed the previous accomplishments of Metro and what issues remain before proposing solutions when compared to previous LRTPs.

The plan proposed several new corridors for increased mobility, however many of them were without final board approval on what form of transit they would utilize.

These corridors included Eastside, Exposition, Crenshaw, and Pasadena. Concurrent with the development of Metro’s 2001 LRTP, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the agency in charge of LAX was developing the LAX Master Plan to renovate the airport. The LRTP proposed that the Green Line extension to LAX proceed with or without the LAX expansion and without MTA funding. In addition, plans were included for how to continue supporting Metrolink and how to expand it.

Beginning in 2000, a successful trial program for Metro Rapid was carried out. The Metro Rapid buses had several advantages to make them more efficient than traditional buses, including signal priority, fewer stops, headway rather than timetable based schedules, and low floor buses. The success of the trial lead the plan to call for an expansion of the program.

In conjunction with discussions of rail and bus planning, several alternative transit strategies were proposed. One of these was Fareless Square, a program that would see all midday buses downtown operate free of charge to attract future riders.

Other programs included transit oriented development of land, integration of transit fare structures with local agencies, and transit malls, which would restrict a portion of downtown to pedestrians and transit, excluding private automobiles.

As with most Long Range Transportation Plans, the 2001 plan included a section on Transportation Demand Management (TDM) to reduce the demands on transit. TDM attempts to make transit more efficient, reduce trips taken, and incentivize alternative transit methods.

The plan continued Metro’s long term push for ridesharing, and increased accessibility for pedestrians and bikers. Also included were strategies to discourage driving alone. These included exploring incentive approaches, parking pricing and other vehicle fees.

The highway section of the 2001 long range plan reiterated and continued many of the programs from previous LRTPs. These include plans to increase HOV lanes, close gaps, build more sound walls, and widen freeways.

Also included was a proposal to study highway truck lanes in the future. Freeway Service Patrols again saw calls for expansion. Unlike previous plans, arterials had higher importance placed on them in the 2001 LRTP. Increased interconnection of arterials, reduced bottlenecks, and street enhancements were all proposed. The plan also suggested reducing congestion by increasing truck and train usage for goods movement.

In contrast to previous plans, non-motorized transit was given a large amount of attention in the 2001 long range plan.

These proposals include encouraging cities to develop on street bikeways to make it easier to travel between Metro stops by bike, increasing bike lockers/racks at rail stops, and putting more research and energy into studying bike use and doing projects with that data. There are also calls to invest in pedestrian improvements and making it bigger focus of design decisions.

The major themes of the 2001 LRTP were outreach, equity, and the environment. To this end, there was a focus on minority outreach, community outreach, environmental justice, Title VI analysis, and air quality.

Also mentioned was the Consent Decree of 1996, which included goals to reduce overcrowding, keep fares low, and lower the bus fleet age. Similarly, the plan contained goals of expanding jitney service and other paratransit strategies.

Also highlighted in the plan was the important yet indirect role Metro plays in land use development. Metro has had art in the public transit system since 1989, which the plan hoped to continue and expand the budget for.

Like all previous LRTPs, there is a detailed section about funding sources and how they could be used to pay for the proposed projects and programs.

Unseen in previous plans, however, is a breakdown of Los Angeles County by sub-region. The nine sub-regions each have details of challenges, key objectives, and priority projects that would assist Metro in future dialogues with smaller local partners.

2009 Long Range Transportation Plan

The 2009 LRTP switched back from a 25-year plan to a 30-year plan. This plan also differed from the traditional format by being comparatively shorter, including more and larger photos, as well as being sparser in text.

However, the supplementary technical document expanded on many of the brief points made within the main plan.

Furthermore, unlike previous plans with several large sections that encompassed most of the plans, the 2009 plan had numerous smaller several page sections. The 2009 plan was prefaced by highlighting the importance of Measure M passing in 2008, allowing Metro to finance many new projects.

The plan also began by showcasing the progress made since 1980 proving how transformative 30 years can be. There is also a list of accomplishments since the 2001 LRTP.

Environmental justice and sustainability were major themes of the 2009 plan. Like previous long range plans, it expressed a goal of reduced emissions and clean air, but this was the first to mention climate change by name rather than focusing on air quality as a public health concern—which the 2009 LRTP still does as well.

To this end, the plan proposed investments in solar panels, carpool lanes, bike lanes, metro rapid, and alternative fueled buses.

Released during the Great Recession, finances were an important aspect of the 2009 LRTP. To address the “funding crisis,” the plan states that Metro would investigate new funding streams with urgency. Furthermore, it proposed Public-Private Partnerships which would see Metro work with the private sector to achieve transit goals through private funding and risk sharing. Another solution proposed was congestion pricing. The plan outlined a 1 year trial period of variable fees changing throughout the day depending on current traffic conditions on ExpressLanes on the I-10 and I-110. The lanes would still be toll free for carpooling vehicles.

The LRTP called for expansion of rail, busways, Metro Rapid, and local buses. Specifically, it highlighted future construction for the Gold Line, the Regional Connector, the Exposition Line, and the Purple Line. To make transferring between transit modes easier, Metro pledged to implement the Universal Fare System/Transit Access Pass (TAP).

The plan also outlined how Metro had a role in the future plans for California’s future high speed rail project and the LOSSAN (Los Angeles to San Diego to San Luis Obispo) Corridor, jointly operated by Amtrak and Metrolink.

            Like previous plans, the 2009 LRTP called for increased Freeway Service Patrols (FSPs), callboxes, closing gaps of carpool lanes, and sound walls.

It also suggested Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to computerize and automate traffic signals on Arterial streets.

The plan suggested coordination with sub regional, state, federal and neighboring governments to coordinate the movement of goods as well as continue current projects.

Similar to the previous LRTP, the 2009 plan contained a breakdown of LA County into nine sub-regions, however it was not as robust an analysis previously conducted.

As with almost every LRTP, Transportation Demand Management was the focus of a part of the document. The 2009 plan did not substantively deviate from previous plans, however, it did emphasize the importance of land use planning, especially with private-public partnerships to create mixed use developments around Metro rail stops.

Similarly, pedestrians and bikes were again a subject of the plan with calls to expand bike networks, bike safety, bike lockups, and pedestrian linkages for bus and rail stops.

2020 Long Range Transportation Plan

The 2020 Long Range Transportation Plan continued being a 30-year plan from the previous LRTP. Likewise, it followed the trend from the previous plan of containing numerous smaller sections rather than several large overarching chapters like the earlier LRTPs.

The motif of the plan was “Our Next LA” and was the first LRTP to have a consistent motif of this kind. The plan was prefaced by highlighting that Metro sought to make transit better for learning and recreation, not just commuting to work.

The 2020 LRTP was released during the early stage of the COVID-19 global pandemic while there was still uncertainty about the course it would take, but the plan emphasized that it is a long term plan and adaptable. However, the pandemic did mean that there was an anticipated financial shortfall due to lack of revenue from stay at home orders.

The pandemic also reduced congestion by forcing many to work from home, achieving one of MTA’s long term goals of increased telecommuting.

The plan sought to respond to recent events by attempting to balance sanitation during the pandemic, compassion for the homeless, and calls for police reform. The document dedicated half a page to the importance of being a service provider to homeless residents of Los Angeles.

Access to opportunity was a major theme of the 2020 LRTP. The plan mentioned the 2018 Equity Platform which contained four pillars that shaped the 2020 LRTP: Listen and Learn, Define and Measure, Focus and Deliver, and Train and Grow.

The LRTP also highlighted reduced transit fares to low income individuals through the Low-Income Fare is Easy (LIFE) program and suggested considering free fares for students and possibly all commuters if enough funding can be raised.

The plan mentioned the 2018 Metro Board of Directors decision to adopt the Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) policy. This policy calls for consideration of land use and community development in transit plans. It also recommends dense, equitable, mixed use buildings near transit stops, sometimes on Metro owned property.

Furthermore, the 2020 LRTP outlined support for local business through the Business Interruption Funds (BIF) to assist businesses impacted by rail construction and the pilot Business Solution Center (BSC) program to assist and support small businesses along the Crenshaw Line construction.

The plan suggested several ways that LA Metro could be more accessible to all residents. It recommended making wayfinding more accessible for visually impaired riders, including an app to help navigate Union Station. Likewise, the LRTP hoped to make ridership more appealing for women who have different transit needs than men, especially a heightened need to feel safe on public transit.

Similarly, First/Last Mile connectivity was a major piece of the document, attempting to make transit trips easier by eliminating obstacles like safety and infrastructure concerns on the first and last miles of a commute.

The plan addressed environmental justice by proposing a commitment to Green Construction during building of new lines and infrastructure. It also aimed to make the entire bus fleet zero-emissions. These proposals would both slow climate change and give Los Angeles battery quality air.

The 2020 LRTP addressed transit needs by proposing several new rail line extensions and connections, most notably the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project due to finish in 2021, which will include the 1.3-mile Destination Crenshaw, an open-air African American museum along the track.

Bus Rapid Transit was another focus. The plan suggested converting key sections of curb lanes to bus only lanes throughout the county.

To address congestion, the 2020 LRTP hoped to expand ExpressLanes, among other policies. As in previous LRTPs, ITS and other technologies were proposed to make roads run more efficiently and increase regional integration.

The plan also suggested piloting Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) on the I-210, which would monitor ramps, traffic, and traffic signal coordination. As in previous plans, FSPs, callboxes, and the movement of goods were all mentioned, however they were minor points.

One of the goals of the 2020 LRTP was complete streets, an initiative with a goal of making streets accessible and enjoyable for all citizens through easier street crossings for pedestrians and bikes, access for cars and commercial vehicles, more greenery, fewer potholes, and transit transfers.

In a similar vein, the plan suggested closing the gap in the LA River bike path.