Things I'm thinking about transit

San Diego relocated their baseball stadium from the 'burbs to downtown. Photo by Mark Whitt, via Flickr.

This is one of our occasional posts in which I express actual opinions…

1. Loved CicLAvia last month but I didn’t see anyone from Metro in any of the booths selling TAP cards to the masses. The cards are very useful and convenient — and I think it’s fair to say that not everyone has a TAP card yet, at least from what I see on buses and trains and what anecdotal evidence has burped out of last month’s gate-locking experiment. Big events such as CicLAvia are a good chance to get the cards distributed!

2. The Dodgers should be playing in a downtown Los Angeles ballpark that is part of the city and is easily accessible to mass transit — not sitting on an isolated hill surrounded by mall-like parking lots. The upcoming sale of the team is a chance to make that happen before a new owner sinks a lot of money into the current ballpark and developing some of the surrounding parking lots. If a downtown football stadium would benefit L.A. (and I think it would), then a downtown baseball stadium with many more games each season would be even more profitable.

Yes, I know there is a lot of sentimental attachment to Dodger Stadium among the natives (I’m a transplant). It’s a nice ballpark. But it’s not Fenway or Wrigley — the two baseball stadiums that should be preserved because they’re actually part of real neighborhoods in Boston and Chicago, respectively. The new ballparks built in the past two decades across the U.S. suggest that something could be built here that honors the past and that brings L.A. into the modern age.

3. It’s kind of interesting that none of the announced candidates in the mayor’s race in L.A. have ever served on the Metro Board of Directors. Metro is one of the nation’s largest transportation agencies and the mayor of L.A. has an automatic seat on the Board as well as the right to appoint three others to the Board. In other words, overseeing Metro and planning transit across L.A. County is a huge part of the mayor’s job.

4. I think it makes sense to first bulk up service in the evening hours on Metro Rail before adding late-night service. The next few months will be a good chance to see if the demand for more rail service at night is there. I have to admit: I’m not a late-night bar/club-goer, so it’s hard for me to say if there’s a huge demand in L.A. at 2 a.m. for rail service or if it’s something that a vocal few really want. I also know many of you disagree with me on this one.

5. I feel like I should have a strong opinion about high-speed rail in California. But I don’t. I do think the p.r. efforts on behalf of the project the past couple of years have not been good — especially the repeated proclamations about cost that didn’t seem to have any basis in reality — with the cost having gone from $33 billion to $98.5 billion. I think it’s very hard to get excited about a project with a $80-billion-plus funding gap and thus far no firm solutions how to solve it. The most realistic way to pay for it, in my view, would involve some type of user fee or tax spread across the state, but I don’t see how that’s politically possible at this time. Or maybe ever.

25 replies

  1. How can demand for rail service past midnight be proven if we don’t provide it first? Providing more frequent service in the evening doesn’t get any post-midnight riders on the train, so that demand will never be shown.

    I know a lot of people in Pasadena (myself included) who are frequent WeHo clubbers, yet we always have to drive there because there’s no Red or Gold Line service until 3am. Providing more frequent evening service doesn’t “activate” the post-midnight transit demand.

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  2. Yeah create a gondola or another transit system to get from Downtown to Dodger Stadium but don’t just abandon Chavez Ravine. It’s a monument you just cannot replace ever.

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  3. Couldn’t agree more. Move the Dodgers downtown to a 40,000-seat ballpark adjacent to LA Live that’s designed along the lines of Ebbets Field. Then rip up the asphalt at Chavez Ravine, dynamite Dodger Stadium and build some low-density, low-income housing where the stadium used to be. Like it was, oh, 60 years ago.

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  4. I actually wrote a similar story to the Mayor several years ago about this hilltop connection we desperately needs to take back the love Dodger’s owner has abandoned. It will make the Park and sense of connection to the neighborhoods if it becomes more friendly to visit in a public transit system. This will be one of the items that needs to me put on the terms for the owners to the Dodgers. There are visionaries that will do good in implementing this connection our Dodgers deserve and for the neighborhoods.

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  5. If you demolish the Sports Arena adjacent to the Coliseum, ground lease the property to the Dodgers, they build a brand new stadium sitting atop an underground parking structure that can be used for football and baseball games, soccer matches, etc., and generate income for the Coliseum commission in the process, it would be win-win.
    a) Public transportation-adjacent, meaning the Expo line.
    b) Coliseum gets a revenue stream to stay afloat.
    c) Chavez Ravine becomes a downtown-adjacent residential version of Playa Vista, complete with Steve Soboroff and Rick Caruso as developers.
    LA’s high density commercial was originally master-planned with the letter “T”, meaning the upright pylon was Wilshire Blvd., while the crossbar was Figueroa.
    That would still be the case.
    Thanks Steve for the impetus.
    Timing for your thoughts is also perfect, with a new owner due on the horizon fairly soon.

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  6. To extend hours, you need enough time for maintenance. BART found that, by pushing back closing time on Fridays one hour, that they would have to delay opening Saturday one hour and it caused a Title VI violation, which MTA is hypersensitive about. Most concerts at LA Live, ball games, etc. end at about midnight. The last train passes by Hollywood at around 1 am which is enough for a late show at the Arclight or a performance at the Pantages or Kodak Theatre. I agree this leads to the absurd situation that service is greater at night than during the midday, and a better solution might have been to run all Metro Rail and Metro Liner at 15 minute headways until close, but night service is not well used, especially on weekday nights.

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  7. Great post. I completely agree on the dodger stadium. But, like many others, I disagree on the issue of late night service. While I think more frequency is always a good move, I don’t think more frequent evening service can be correlated with demand for later night service. Demand for transportation can only be seen once a system, or in this case, improved level of service, is actually implemented. How can people use something that isn’t there? In a broader sense, I see this as a very similar issue for Amtrak (and passenger rail in general) nationally. People argue that Amtrak is not well used used, therefore, further improvements to the system are not justified when the very reason people don’t ride Amtrak is because of the lack of said improvements which would actually make the system useful. Pardon me if this seems like a rant. This issue is just frustrating that’s all. The very issues often cited for holding back transit improvements nationwide are the result it itself holding back, resulting in a vicious cycle.

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  8. steve -

    2 points

    - the first being re the DODGERS. One of the finalists for the CORNFIELDS development was to move DODGER STADIUM there and make the Ravine into a park with some development. Unfortunately this revolutionary idea was too forward thinking for the powers that be. is there a way to resesitate it as an option? maybe http://www.weownthedodgers.org could help.

    the second – re the HIGH SPEED RAIL – there is a book RAILROADED that lays out a previous railroad boondoggle. I am curious as to why NO investigative reporter has not dug into the fact that there used to be effient rail service between LA and SF on the Union Pacific ‘s COAST DAYLIGHT and SAN JUAQUIN DAYLIGHT that both provided efficient daily train service. THe San Juaquin was on much the same route as proposed by the HSR authority. Why not use the funds to work (or strong arm) with Union Pacific to upgrade the current tracks so that an articulated higher speed train can run. Might be able to pay for it solely with the current federal grants and bond issue.

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  9. I agree with many of the comments and just wanted to add some touches based on the item numbers:

    1) Getting TAP cards out to the public is vital. The TAP vending machines should be set up at major bus stops, such as Santa Monica & Fairfax and any of the Rapid stops on the Wilshire 720. If a customer can purchase and validate a trip faster, then the whole service moves faster.

    If you can help it, experiment with setting up the TAP readers at the front and back doors on the Rapid buses (as you have on the Green line). That way the one person fumbling for change isn’t holding up the twenty others trying to board.

    2) Why move the stadium when you could simply route the planned Connector to go to the existing stadium? No more shuttle that no one wants to board — just ride from Pasadena or Long Beach all the way to Dodger Stadium? Make Elysian Park a place to go any time, not just a landing zone before a ball game.

    skip to 4) It’s not about bulking up evening service. You could run the same frequency if you add more carriages. Your goal is to get clubgoers to take transit so they don’t drive when they drink. Thus it’s easy enough to have them wait 15 minutes at 2 am instead of not using the service at all.

    Heck, you could even have a lull: midnight, 12:30, 1, then 2 and 2:15. That way maintenance can happen in phases but still be done via track switching.

    5) I’m mind-blown that I can’t take a train directly from LA to SF. That’s the equivalent of Boston to DC — everyone drives it a lot, and they’d appreciate not having to think about it. I agree with the other folks: bring back even the basic train service with minimal stops (even if it’s just the LA-Oakland run) and see what happens.

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