EXPO LINE UPDATE, SORT OF: I was along the Expo Line alignment early Saturday evening and it was exciting to see the number and frequency of trains running along the tracks between La Cienega and downtown L.A. at night.
As for an opening date….still no official word. But I can tell you that testing is going well. Some approvals are still needed by local safety officials and the state Public Utilities Commission before the line can be opened to the public (as is always the case). Hopefully there will be good news fairly soon.
HIGH-SPEED RAIL: I think it’s positive news that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is working on agreements with commuter rail agencies in both Northern and Southern California.
The agreement, as has been reported by the media, would provide money for electrifying and speeding up Caltrain service between San Jose and San Francisco and upgrade Metrolink for faster trips between the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles. That’s a big upside in my view — because commuter rail is something that many people use most workdays and it helps alleviate traffic in metro areas.
As for high-speed rail, considerable challenges remain. Even if the first segment gets built between Bakersfield and Chowchilla (near Fresno), there would still be big gaps between Fresno and San Jose and Bakersfield and the Antelope Valley. Those will be big, expensive gaps to fill and funding to do so remains uncertain.
MOVE L.A.: The transit activist group’s annual confab — called “L.A. on the Verge” this year — is Friday at Union Station. One of the items billed for discussion is the prospect of asking voters to extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax past its 2039 expiration date. I think it will be interesting to hear what different folks say — particularly those from Metro.
I also think it’s wise to mention that this is something that the Metro Board of Directors hasn’t yet tackled or decided upon. It is, in my view, still a hypothetical conversation, especially since any Measure R extension would have to be accompanied by a spending plan. Transit spending plans — never easy, people.
GO METRO TO CONCERTS: We’re going to try to highlight on The Source more local concerts that are transit accessible.
It makes sense. Our audience is made up of a lot of people who want to see live bands. And, as it happens, there are a lot of great venues in town sitting right next to bus or rail stops — Staples Center, L.A. Live, the Wiltern, the El Rey Theatre and the Troubador, to name just a few.
GAS PRICES: It’s late February and we’re seeing gas prices rise across the country — with local prices above $4 gallon. As for what’s causing the increase, who knows. Maybe it’s the regular scheduled maintenance of refineries, maybe it’s a supply shortage on the drilling end, or maybe high gas prices are convenient to some in an election year.
If the rise continues, it will be very interesting to see how transit agencies across the country respond. Ridership records were set in 2008 before the full effects of the Great Recession first hit and when gas prices first crossed the $4 threshold for long stretches.
In the time since, many transit agencies have seen wilting budgets and have had to raise fares and/or cut service. Yet the prospect of, gulp, possible $5 gallon prices would seemingly put agencies in position to recapture some riders they’ve lost and gain new ones who don’t want to face $70 fillups.
Will agencies be proactive? Do they have the money to be proactive? Stay tuned.
BONUS THOUGHT ON DODGER STADIUM: Good story in the Times by Bill Shaikin on how the new owner of the Dodgers will have to absorb some serious stadium costs — many millions in needed renovations, annual payments to use the surrounding parking lots and taking on a loan that the current owner says compels the team to stay in the current ballpark until 2030.
Doesn’t sound like a very good deal to me. But I still don’t hear anyone saying that perhaps it’s time to bring the stadium into downtown proper where it can be surrounded by something other than asphalt. Hmm.
BONUS THOUGHT ON ACADEMY AWARDS: I liked “The Descendents” but I really thought “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was better (the climatic scene on the Golden Gate Bridge and in Muir Woods — simply awesome). And why wasn’t “50/50″ or “Ides of March” nominated for Best Picture?
As for “War Horse” — didn’t see it. Still haven’t forgiven a certain filmmaker for the mess that was the last Indiana Jones movie. “The Artist” — very entertaining and there’s a nice L.A. bus scene in there, btw.
BONUS THOUGHT ON TRANSIT-ACCESSIBLE L.A. KINGS: That was really a bad penalty to take against Phoenix last night, Kyle Clifford — especially with your team in a tight playoff race (Go Metro to the Kings and get 10 percent off ticket prices). That said, if Clifford would like to make amends by serving as a ringer in the Puckalolos game next Tuesday night at the transit-accessible Pasadena rink (Gold Line Del Mar station), I can arrange a roster spot. One thing: no checking — just incidental bumping!