Irvine Peoplemover Project - Historical Perspective and Status

Presentation to: The Orange County Transportation Technical Group of the American Society of Civil Engineers, July 9, 1998, by John Harris , Principal Planner, City of Irvine, California

Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity to give you an overview on some of the transit planning activities many of you may already be aware of.

There's not a lot to tell right now, but there are some interesting new opportunities. I'd like to tell you of Irvine's part in the program.

First I'll tell you how we got to where we are ­ then I'll tell you where we may be headed in the future.

I'd like to encourage you to ask questions ­ I'd like your feedback on the proposed program, and our process.

In the mid to late 60's The Irvine Company began planning the Central Area General Plan ­ the area that was to later become the City of Irvine.

The Company considered a lot of options for the form and content of the area. One of the main ones included how the area should be structured. They considered a strong central city; a series of smaller core areas; and ended up selecting a more linear structure.

The Irvine Industrial Complex ­ West was a thriving employment area around the John Wayne airport, and there was an identified opportunity for an additional major employment center in the area of El Toro MCAS.

The residential structure of the city took on the form of a series of residential villages ­ areas that also contained all of the local schools and local parks.

The connection between the two major employment areas took the form of a pair of arterial highways running parallel and approximately 2,000' apart (Barranca and Alton). This formed the "Activity Corridor" which contained the non-residential support uses including the junior and senior high schools, community parks, churches, medical and office commercial, and some of the higher density housing opportunities.

The center of the activity corridor was also designed to contain the major flood control facility and the route of a proposed transit link. By putting the transit link through the center of the higher traffic generating uses, the system could be double loaded for better ridership and support to the area.

When the City formed and began joint planning with the Company, the plan retained the basic form promoted by The Irvine Company. Specifically, the land use relationships and the backbone circulation system ­ including the transit component.

The overall system as we see it is a hierarchical structure of elements:

· The regional element is the Amtrak/Metrolink service between San Diego and Los Angeles. This provides for longer range trips with station stops at 3-5 miles and trains operating at approximate 30-minute intervals during peak periods.

· The sub-regional element is currently proposed as the Corridor Urban Rail project between Irvine and Fullerton. This element penetrates more dense residential and business communities with station stops approximately 1-mile apart. Service can be provided at intervals as short as 5-10 minutes. This can bring patrons to smaller geographic areas, which will be supported by various forms of collector/ distributor systems.

· Irvine's proposed IBC Guideway as a Collector/Distributor element would interface with the sub-regional system and bring patrons to within comfortable walking distance of specific origins and destinations. Service on this element could be provided much more frequently.

The intent of the transit plan was to define and preserve the option for public transit until the right time, and the right technology became available. The preservation of transit options and the relationship between the land use and the transit plan was ­ and is an important consideration.

One of the most important transit plan elements was the identification of a rail passenger station in the center of the new Irvine Industrial Complex ­ East. The area now known as the Spectrum. An additional element was the identification of a second smaller station on the west ­ then referred to as the North Irvine/Tustin station.

The City ultimately secured a commitment for dedication of the land for the Irvine Transportation Center. However, there were a couple of major conditions - first that the City obtain Santa Fe's approval for its existence, and State funding for its construction.

This was far from an easy proposition. The early effort to secure approval for the proposed rail station resulted in one of Santa Fe's top Vice Presidents stating in writing that he was "Unalterably Opposed to Irvine's station and rail passenger service on their line." Obviously it wasn't possible to obtain any State funding without a commitment for the station's existence.

The City diligently pursued this program for a number of years before we were finally able to secure Santa Fe's authorization for the station. Even then, we were limited to only two trains per day ­ one in each direction.

We applied for, and with the State's longer term vision for the facility's ultimate potential, received an initial State funding grant for the station in 1988. We immediately began the design, and plans for its implementation.

During this time the new John Wayne airport terminal was being built in a new location and the McDonnell Douglas Realty Company realized the value of their property's relationship to the terminal. They decided to do something to retain this accessibility relationship. They considered several options including the construction of moving sidewalks, and the "IBC Monorail" project was the result.

They committed to the design, construction, and operation of the system and worked with the Airport Authority, the County of Orange and the City of Irvine to formalize a plan for implementation. This included their early funding of the airport's construction of the footings for the piers in the parking structure.

With the approval of the Irvine Transportation Center, the allocation of State construction funds, and the proposed monorail all moving towardimplementation, the city became aware of the Planning and Conservation League's development of a proposed Statewide rail bond initiative.

This was an exciting opportunity for the local area, and the development community got solidly behind the program. Collectively they worked on, and contributed over $350,000 to support the signature gathering campaign ­ not knowing if the initiative would be able to obtain enough signatures to qualify for the ballot ­ or even if it did, if it would pass.

In June of 1990 the voters passed State Proposition 116 including the identification of the City of Irvine as the recipient of $125 million dollars for a "Guideway Demonstration Project." Also in 1990, after previous defeats, Orange County voters finally approved a local transportation sales tax, Measure M. This new version of the sales tax proposed a specific allocation of $340 million dollars for an Advanced Transit System.

Unfortunately about this same time, due to a declining economy, the prospects for the McDonnell Douglas development program, and consequently the Monorail, began to loose its support.

In mid-1990, the Irvine Transportation Center opened with Amtrak and Greyhound service. Metrolink's initial service followed shortly thereafter. With this station operational, the City continued to work toward the opportunity to develop its second station on the border with Tustin.

Also during this time, we acknowledged that we shouldn't attempt to implement the Proposition 116 program by ourselves. Instead, we joined with several other local agencies in the formation of the Central Orange County Fixed Guideway Agency. This locally funded group worked for some time to develop a plan for region-wide transit. After some time, the program was turned over to OCTA for their direct leadership.

The result of this mutual effort was the adoption of a Regional Transit Plan, which proposed what is now the Orange County Corridor Urban Rail project between Irvine and Fullerton. A key element for us was the formal inclusion of our long-standing plan including the proposed North Irvine/Tustin station.

Over the following few years the rail passenger service to our transportation center continued to expand but was still limited to only transporting commuters from Orange County into LA. Other than very limited Amtrak service, there was no opportunity for commuters from north Orange County and LA to reach the employment centers in Irvine. However, with the assistance of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, a new service was ultimately implemented to support the commuters from the Inland Empire.

OCTA has developed and continues to expand their StationLink bus shuttle services to meet the growing demand for commuter rail operations throughout the county, and is now proposing the introduction of the reverse commute. Also, a few years ago, the City of Tustin assumed the funds and the lead for design and construction of the Tustin Metrolink station.

The Irvine Transportation Center is one of the most successful stations in the entire southern California region. Unfortunately, with the delay in the construction of fully funded new stations in south Orange County, the Irvine station has reached its parking capacity and continues to turn commuters away.

In 1993 and 1994, the City initiated a reassessment of its General Plan transit component due to changes in demographics and socio-economic conditions that had occurred over the previous 25-years. The result was essentially the validation of the prior plan with few minor variations.

At the completion of our Master Plan of Transit System study, the City initiated a new plan for the portion of the El Toro MCAS within the City of Irvine. This 440-acre area at the end of the runways, and adjacent to the Irvine station, was also evaluated for its potential to support the proposed future transit linkages.

Now to get to where we currently are.

As you may be aware, OCTA has continued to work toward the development of the Corridor Urban Rail project and specifically the initial 28-mile segment from Irvine to Fullerton. This effort has resulted in the adoption of a federally required Major Investment Study. The resulting adoption of a Locally Preferred Strategy includes among other things, the expansion of Metrolink service, additional bus services, and the further investigation of urban rail.

In support of their program OCTA obtained a limited commitment of federal funds to assist in the urban rail effort. As a result, OCTA has awarded a consultant services contract to complete Detailed Conceptual Engineering and Draft environmental documents. The program is designed to also investigate a new lower cost alternative, and complete approximately fifteen percent of the project's engineering efforts.

Most important from a local perspective is the effort's provision to include the participation of the local corridor cities. The locally affected agencies will receive OCTA funds, and/or consultant assistance in defining specific aspects of the program in their individual communities.

Concurrent with OCTA's program, local interest in Irvine's Proposition 116 element continued to grow. New technologies are now being developed that could hold real promise for Irvine's local component of the system.

As a result, and in conformity with OCTA's more regional program, Irvine's City Council took several recent actions to move our project forward. Specifically, they allocated staff time to obtain a commitment for the required local match to the $125 million dollar grant, and directed the initiation of a study to investigate the potential for a local project in the Irvine Business Complex.

As part of the corridor urban rail project, the City and OCTA prepared an application to the California Transportation Commission and received the initial $2 million dollar allocation for work on the two separate by related component parts of the system. We have developed the cooperative venture to concurrently evaluate an automated-elevated guideway project as a collector/distributor element in our IBC area.

Based on these approvals Irvine prepared a Request For Proposals and awarded a similar consultant services contract to run concurrent with the OCTA program. The Irvine contract will complete Detailed Conceptual Engineering and environmental work to consider the potential for a guideway project in the Irvine Business Complex as the early implementation of an initial element of the regional plan.

The IBC's automated-elevated Guideway is proposed to be a demonstration of new technologies, and hopefully, new ways of accomplishing system development and implementation. We're investigating the opportunity to use the Design, Build, Operate, & Maintain (DEBOM) process for implementation. This may require special institutional arrangements and accommodations regarding funding restrictions and operations agreements. To assist us in this important aspect of the project we've also hired the firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott, and specifically Mr. Geoffrey Yarema as our project attorney.

So, the question remains! Where might we be going with transit programs in Orange County over the next few months, or years?

The results of these separate but related studies, and the State and federal evaluation of the real potential for these system elements will help to define how real these elements may be, and how soon they may be able to continue to move forward into implementation and operation.

There's a lot of work remaining before us and some of you here will probably have a role in the process. As an example; nationally ASCE will be continuing its role of helping to define performance criteria and other system characteristics. If you have an interest in the role transit could play in meeting our future transportation challenges, we need you to provide your input.

I know that one of the questions that will be asked of us is ­ why are we suggesting the initial segment of our system in the Irvine Business Complex?

The IBC was selected due to the extent of currently entitled development intensity; the presence of the John Wayne airport; and its more diverse composition of land uses. These include higher density residential; Office; industrial; retail; hotels; and restaurants. This mix of uses provides the greatest potential for service demand.

The Concept of our proposed project suggests:

The IBC project will focus service in the area from Main Street south to Campus Drive, and from MacArthur Blvd. east to the San Diego Creek flood control channel service road.

We will be looking for technologies that:

The technologies we will be considering need to be certifiable, but don't necessarily need to currently be in revenue service.

Irvine's consultant contract includes a series of tasks currently proposed for completion in the following time periods:

The first 5-6 months of effort - to November 1998

The preparation of technical background reports.

The identification of compatible technology will be accomplished through a vendor workshop. This will include an international symposium of vendors and contractors . The final effort of this phase will be to define and screen the technology alternatives.

During the next 5-6 months - April 1999

The Draft EIR will be prepared and public hearings will be held. At the end of this effort the City will select a Locally Preferred Strategy and the guideway technology.

During the next 3-months - July 1999

The consultant will complete the Conceptual Engineering on the Locally Preferred Strategy, and the final EIR.

Based on the California Transportation Commission's approval of our 2nd funding request, during the next 3-months - through October 1999, we will:

The Irvine City Council has authorized staff to complete a work program that will:

There are a lot of Items yet to be completed:

John Harris can be reached via e-mail at:


Last modified: November 7, 1998