On Transportation column, May 2

Photo by Gary Leonard for Metro.

 

EXPO LINE OPENING: First and foremost, a hearty congratulations to Los Angeles County taxpayers who mostly footed the bill for the $932-million first phase of the Expo Line. I thought the best part of this past weekend was watching those who paid for the rail line finally get a chance to ride it. That was sweet.

I also appreciate Source readers who have shown such a great interest in the project — the opening of Expo, by far, has brought this blog its largest audience since we started in late 2009.

I’ve also read your comments here and on Twitter and Facebook and forwarded them to the appropriate people at Metro. The biggest concern looks to be the issue of traffic signal synchronization for the train.

I’m told by Metro and city of Los Angeles officials that they are going to continue to work on improving all aspects of the line, including the signals. The issue here is rather obvious:  They’re trying to balance public safety and providing the public with fast and convenient mass transit.

Bruce delivering the soul classic 634-5789. Photo by Steve Hymon.

EXPOSITION PARK PARKING: Parking at the Bruce Springsteen shows at the Sports Arena last week was $25, which was one-quarter the price of the best tickets to the show. And that’s for the privilege of parking in a lot that took more than an hour to empty after the show as a sea of cars sat there and idling.

Hey, there’s no better way to come down from a transcendent Springsteen show by sitting in a traffic jam. (I merrily sat in a beach chair in the parking lot until the jam cleared).

USC football games and other events at the Coliseum are equally pricey when it comes to parking and the traffic problem is only compounded with the bigger crowds. Conversely, a round-trip ticket on the Expo Line is $3. I expect a lot of people will be riding the train to Exposition Park events or parking in downtown for cheap (due to a glut of downtown parking) and taking the train to one of the three stations in the USC and Expo Park areas.

Tailgating without a car, of course, can be a little tricky. I assume that USC fans are smart enough to figure something out; UCLA fans who take the Gold Line to the Rose Bowl shuttle manage. Of course, the Internet is always here to help with highly intelligent offerings such as this:

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDYPALOOZA: It was a big day at Metro on Thursday when the Board of Directors certified a pair of Final Environmental Impact Statement/Reports — one for the Regional Connector and the other for the Westside Subway Extension.

Getting the studies completed and certified is a big step toward getting shovels into the ground on both projects. The Federal Transit Administration still has to issue a “record of decision” — government-ese for “looks good to me” — on the FEIS/R for both projects. The hope here is that happens sooner rather than later given that the Obama Administration has frequently said it’s committed to creating new jobs.

How do I spell commitment? S-O-O-N-E-R.

I would categorize the Regional Connector and the Westside Subway Extension as super-duper-ultra-phenomally important-perhaps life changing transit projects for Los Angeles County.

The argument for the Connector is simple: it makes all the other investments that the county has made in rail that much better. The Blue Line, Gold Line and Expo Line will finally be tied together, meaning less transfers and quicker commutes for those either headed to downtown or passing through on the way to somewhere else.

Let’s be frank: this is a project that should have been built as part of the original Gold Line to Pasadena but lack of money and politics got in the way. It’s a nice little chunk of awesomeness that the project is finally going to be built.

The Westside Subway Extension is another project that probably should have happened long ago — if not for money, politics and a healthy dollop of fear. The Westside has jobs galore — and the traffic to go with it — and the subway will finally make travel to that part of the region humane. Not to mention fast, cheap and easy.

As for the controversy involving the opposition by Beverly Hills to a potential Constellation/Avenue of the Stars station location in Century City, I’ve been around long enough to know that every transit project here or pretty much anywhere else in the U.S. has at least one controversial issue. The vast majority of the time projects survive and get built. I’m unaware of any project that pleases everyone.

Current funding has the subway getting to Century City in the year 2026. So there’s time to resolve the issue, including negotiating the payment for an underground easement with the School district if the Board of Directors decides on that route.

In the meantime, the hope here is that a civil and rational discussion can be had with Beverly Hills — both the City and the School District. Many of the questions that residents and officials there have asked are hardly dumb — they’re fair questions that should be asked and that, I believe, Metro has answered and studied honestly.

That said, comments by officials that the school has plans to build structures 200 feet underground and that Constellation station supporters are “zombies” are ridiculous. And they hardly help the city’s own cause.

LIGHT RAIL CAR VEHICLE CONTRACT: It was with a sigh of relief here that the Board of Directors voted to approve a contract worth up to $890 million for the purchase of up to 235 new light rail vehicles.

This was huge. Metro CEO Art Leahy laid it out for the Board before the vote: the longer the Directors delayed picking a firm to build the light rail cars, the greater the risk that Metro wouldn’t have rail cars to run on rail lines that should open in the next few years such as the second phase of the Expo Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa and the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

That would be a wee bit embarrassing, wouldn’t it? The good news is that Metro now hopes to have 62 of the new cars by May 2016, enough to keep trains rolling on both Expo 2 and the Foothill Extension.

Big contracts often invite political meddling and such was the case with the rail car contract.

Here’s a story by the L.A. Weekly about the many Democrats across California who tried to insert themselves into the process of Metro selecting a rail car vendor. In this case, many Democrats from across the state backed a labor-backed firm with a bid that would cost Metro $50 million more than the winning bidder, Kinkisharyo International, LLC. Their argument was that the other firm would create many more U.S. jobs although Metro’s own analysis found the two proposals about the same.

As regular readers know, The Source has in the past linked to many stories about Congressional Republicans’ zeal to reduce government spending and transit spending. So it’s only fair to also link to this story about Democrats’ zeal to increase government spending, perhaps needlessly in this case.

 

18 thoughts on “On Transportation column, May 2

  1. That makes sense, and I’ve noticed the confusion that has caused at 7th/Metro during evening rush hour.
    The only real negative comment I have about the Expo experience is getting out of the parking lot at La Cienega. It’s virtually impossible to get out of the parking lot and head west, which is a big problem since this park-and-ride lot is supposed to serve passengers who live on the West Side. The left turn signal at the Jefferson exit (with access to Jefferson westbound) is marked for “buses only”, forcing all autos to turn right and head back towards downtown. If you want to head west you have to either: A) make an illegal left-turn or U-turn on Jefferson; B) turn into the residential neighborhood and make a U-turn; or C) drive an extra two miles to make your way westbound via La Brea. The La Cienega exit is no better, since it is also marked “right-turn only”, but there isn’t enough room to cross three lanes of rush hour traffic to reach the left-turn lane to head west. If I obey the rules and follow these restrictions it adds at least five minutes to my travel time.
    Two possible solutions:
    1) Allow auto traffic to use the bus bay to access Jefferson westbound. This shouldn’t cause a problem because there are very few buses using this bay and there is plenty of room for a few cars.
    2) Stripe a “Don’t Block the Box” area on La Cienega to prevent (or at least discourage) northbound La Cienega traffic from blocking the path from the parking lot to the left-turn lane to westbound Jefferson. I realize that this option would have the negative impact of tempting some commuters to try to make the illegal (and dangerous) left turn to southbound La Cienega, so it might require the installation of a solid median barrier on La Cienega.

  2. I would like to echo everyone else’s experiences with the Expo Line. It took me 36 minutes to go from La Cienega/Jefferson to the end of the line, and 30 minutes the opposite direction. Congratulations! We now have a $900,000,000 bus line.

  3. Why not open the stations of the Phase II incrementally, so that the Expo line is growing its coverage every few months? For instance, why not, after opening the Culver City station at the summer of 2012, then perhaps openning the next nearest station in Phase II on Spring 2013? …etc. This way, people can start participating faster. The revenue can grow faster.

  4. I WANT TO KNOW HOW EVERYBODY FELT ABOUT RIDING THE LIGHT RAIL TRAINS FOR PHASE ONE FOR THE GRAND OPENING.

    DID YOU ENJOY THE RIDE

    WAS IT FAST AND COMFORTABLE AND CONVENIENT

    PLEASE LET ME KNOW

    THANK YOU

    HOWARD PAUL SHORE

  5. @ Jonathan

    I agree with this. I mean, they are already opening phase 1 like this with Farmdale and Culver City stations not opening until summer. So I don’t see why the same can’t be done with phase 2. Take note metro.

  6. Jonathon and Connor,

    It doesn’t work like that. They build the rail line largely at the same time – they don’t just work from East to West. Remember on Phase I, the junction was probably the last thing to work.

  7. If the route had been built all the way from Long Beach to Pasadena in the first place, it could have kept the original name Pasadena Blue Line instead of being changed to Pasadena Gold Line. Is the Regional Connector going to make trains change from being Blue Line to being Pasadena Gold Line and other trains change from being Expo Line to being Eastside Gold Line? Will people be confused that the two Gold Lines don’t merge?

  8. Rita, once the regional connector is up, the plans are to rehab the naming of the lines.

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