Five things I’m thinking about transportation, Feb. 22 edition

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!

9 replies

  1. I have a sentimental attachment to Chavez Ravine, but I’d certainly be interested in an L.A. River-front Stadium near Union Station as part of a larger river revitalization/greening project.

    Carter Rubin
    Contributor, The Source

  2. “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.”

    Or others, like increasing number of motorists, will just downgrade their commutes to a scooter or a motorcycle whose fuel efficiency costs are actually cheaper than riding public transit or driving an automobile.

    LA Metro needs to realize that the alternative to cars isn’t only public transit. Look around; why do you think there are more two-wheelers today in LA than five years ago? What is Metro doing wrong that made some car drivers to switch commutes to scooters and motorcycles as opposed to public transit?

  3. Carter, that’s a great idea, and one I have not heard floated at all before! It would be near transit, in an area of Downtown that still has a good amount of underused space, and could definitely be tied in to other efforts concerning the river.

    I think anyone else who has talked about a Downtown baseball stadium has looked toward South Park… but I just don’t know if the area can handle the added number of events that baseball brings, and I think the remaining areas in South Park to be developed need to have more regular use (hotels, apartments, restaurants, retail, etc etc etc) to feed and be fed be the current (and future) arena/stadium — not an additional stadium.

  4. Re: Stadium
    I remember Thom Mayne’s proposal to move the stadium to the cornfields and near transit and to redevelop the ravine. Any talk of moving the stadium must be coupled with an intelligent solution for Chavez Ravine that meets community needs while not exchanging one auto-centric nightmare for another.
    Re: Academy Awards
    I’m going to assume it wasn’t the weather that impressed you in the Apes, but rather the climaCtic rampage on the Golden Gate. Aside from my obsessing on a trifling matter, I agree it was a very good movie, better than Ides even. 50/50 on the other hand, a frozen dinner has more flavor and originality. Doctor = cliche, mother = cliche, dopey friend = cliche, young psychologist, well, you get the pattern. I give it one note of praise, the scar on his back is compelling makeup. The Artist was simply refreshing. I hope it beats the Descendants.

  5. @Fukusawa Are you sure about that? Licensing, tickets, registration, gas, insurance, wear and tear, and possible theft are cheaper than a Monthly pass? I think not my friend.

  6. A new Dodger Stadium near union station would be a fantastic add to downtown. With Metrolink having spare capacity on evenings and weekends, a perfect fit. And probably the same with the subway and light rail. Keeping it away from Staples allows both venues to run on the same day/night if needed. As for Chavez Ravine, a second chance to right a wrong.. A mix of park expansion/facilities, housing, maybe some shopping, a school, community center.
    Another cool idea to me is to build an overlook that looks out over downtown and then maybe build a ‘sky-bucket’ up from the Gold Line Chinatown station. Would allow an option for the Chavez neighborhood to better connect to the transit system and to downtown in general.
    Sounds like a win-win to me.

  7. @Transit Rider

    Depending on how short your commute is and what you value more, yes.

    The whole flawed concept of public transit in LA being an alternative to car is based upon the flawed theory that everyone lives far out in the suburbs and works in Downtown LA.

    The reality is far from that as there are just as many who live and work nearby. Some people live in apartment complexes within LA and work at shopping malls or supermarkets nearby. College kids share apartments with roommates near their universities. Others live in small houses in South LA and work at factories in Vernon. There are those who live in homes where their office buildings and business parks are less than 10 miles from where they live.

    For shorter commutes, there are a lot better alternatives than the car or public transit: Walk, run, bicycle, moped, scooter, motorcycle. Just visit around UCLA or near USC and you’ll notice why there’s so many Vespas and Buddy scooters around there nowdays. Look around the streets of LA more closely and you’ll see a lot more motorcyclists and scooter riders these days. Before, it was rare to even see any two wheeled vehicle at a supermarket parking lot; nowadays you often see two or more at any given time. At the same time, motorcycle and scooter sales are rising at record pace as gas keeps rising. Harley Davidson stocks were trading at $8/share in 2009, today they’re trading close to $50/share.

    Not everyone is going to move to public transit even if gas prices reaches European levels. For shorter distances, public transit doesn’t provide the freedom, speediness, efficiency and cheapness as opposed to these alternatives.

    Why should short distance commuters fork over $75/month in monthly passes if they can easily get by under $4.00 a week on a scooter even at today’s gas prices? It’s not like the bus is any cheaper or offers any faster service or the freedom to get there when you want to go. For them, if a car or public transit doesn’t cut it, they can walk, run, bicycle, moped, scooter, or motorcycle.

  8. Re: Concerts:

    I know the Expo Line opening date is still up in the air, but the upcoming Roger Waters concert at the Coliseum is in May. Will the line be open late enough for concertgoers for that night? Assuming of course that the Expo line is open by then.