On Transportation: March 7 column

An amazingly bad photo I took of an Expo Line test train heading south at the junction while a Blue Line train in the background heads north. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

EXPO LINE JUNCTION: I spent some of last Thursday evening watching some Expo Line test trains run through the junction of the Expo and Blue line tracks at Washington and Flower in downtown L.A. This is an extremely important junction because the two lines merge there and then share two tracks to the current end of both lines at the 7th/Metro Center station.

The junction has to be able to handle trains running in both directions at very close intervals; the Blue Line already is running every six minutes during peak hours. Needless to say, that junction needs to work flawlessly for reasons of both efficiency and safety.

I know a lot of people are asking when the Expo Line will open. The short answer: No date has been set yet as testing of the line and the Automatic Train Protection system at the junction continues. To repeat: It can’t just work great. It has to work flawlessly.

EXPO LINE BIKE PATH: Speaking of the Expo Line, it’s nice to see some progress being made on the bike path running on the north side of the tracks in Culver City. The path should offer an easy way for areas residents and workers to reach both the Venice/Robertson and La Cienega stations.

It will also be interesting to see how cycling commuters get to the job rich Hayden Tract, which is south of National Boulevard and the train tracks. The challenge is that the bike path is on the north side of the tracks, which effectively seal the path off from the Hayden Tract.

I suspect the best route is this: From the La Cienega station, a cyclist can take the Expo bike path to the intersection of Jefferson and National. Instead of crossing to the north side of National and the bike path, a cyclist could cross Jefferson to the south side of National, continue a block on the sidewalk (walking the bike perhaps) and then make a quick left into Eastham Drive, a side street that connects to the rest of the Hayden Tract.

EXPO LINE TO THE BEACH NOW: Even though the first phase of the Expo Line will end in Culver City, those heading to the beach with bikes should hop off the train at La Cienega. Go west on the bike path to Jefferson, cross Ballona Creek on the bridge and then take the ramp down to the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

From there, it’s about six miles to Marina del Rey and a connection to the bike path along the beach. Go right to Venice and Santa Monica and go left to Playa del Rey, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach.

After it opens, the Expo Line will be a great way for cyclists to avoid the beach traffic that piles onto the Santa Monica Freeway during the summer in both directions. I’ve spent 90 minutes driving from Santa Monica to Pasadena on summer nights — and that’s no fun at all. Take your bike instead and you’ll also avoid beach parking hassles.

DOWNTOWN LIGHTING: Went for a walk after the Kings game on Saturday night. A lot of downtown L.A. is on the dark side — sometimes owing to trees blocking the light from streetlights, sometimes owing to the lack of lights or downtown’s very long blocks.

In other places, the color and quality of the lighting just feels off — in particular on Broadway. Transit and walkability will continue to play a big role in downtown’s resurgence and I suspect a little extra wattage could go a long way in making the ginormous downtown L.A. area feel a little more welcoming.

PAY WALLS: It’s nice to see another large newspaper — the L.A. Times — put up a pay wall. In the past decade the newspaper industry has found that giving away its product for free on the Internet is not necessarily an outstanding business model.

The big hope is that the paying public realizes there’s value to paying for quality journalism. For newspapers, the challenge will be creating something original and important enough to persuade people to pay for something they’ve been receiving for free. If it’s just more celebrity coverage, I know I’m not going to pay.

The transportation industry needs the media. Yes, it’s nice that Metro has created this blog and that many other government agencies are using the Internet to better reach taxpayers. As I’ve said many times, having government be the sole source of news about the government is not something that generally works real well.