On Transportation column: June 13 edition

This week’s thoughts:

photo by Bradley Tollison, via Twitter

•The more big events in downtown L.A., the better for Metro Rail. Downtown is the hub of the rail system, of course, and events such as the NHL and NBA playoffs I suspect give people a chance to ride a transit system they may otherwise not use.

And every indication is that they are using it.

The victory parade for the L.A. Kings on Thursday at noon is yet another chance to use the system. The parade route on Figueroa between 5th Street and L.A. Live, is easily accessed by the Red/Purple Line subway, Blue Line and Expo Line. The Silver Line also offers easy transfers to Metro Rail in downtown L.A.

On a related note, I went for a nice, long hike across the Dodger Stadium parking lot before a recent game. That’s just a silly amount of pavement, people. Downtown transit-adjacent ballpark, please!

•May ridership estimates are in and show the Expo Line carried 11,347 average weekday boardings, 9,000 on Saturdays and 7,000 for Sundays. In total, there were an estimated 320,627 boardings in May, the Expo Line’s first full month of service. That’s not bad considering that two stations — Farmdale and Culver City — don’t open until June 20.

Again, I’d like to ask for everyone’s feedback who uses the line — use the comment board please. The one issue that keeps coming up is speed, particularly in the stretch along Flower Street.

•The question over whether to ask voters to extend the Measure R sales tax increase finally comes to the Board of Directors this month. The Board’s Executive Management Committee is scheduled to discuss the extension at their meeting on June 21 with the full Board taking up the matter on June 28.

I’m working on a fairly extensive post that should be ready soon about the extension, which is recommended by Metro staff as the best way to accelerate transit and highway projects, among other things.

•Media has overlooked that the lawsuit filed by the city of Beverly Hills against Metro over the Westside Subway Extension alleges that impacts of constructing the Wilshire/La Cienega station were not properly studied (it’s on page 6 of the lawsuit).

The La Cienega station is within Beverly Hills city boundaries and is part first phase of the project between Western Avenue and La Cienega that is currently scheduled for completion in 2020. Up to now, the controversy in Beverly Hills has involved the route of the subway tunnel from the Wilshire/Rodeo station to Century City in the second phase of the project, currently scheduled for completion in 2026.

 

33 replies

  1. Not to toot our horn, but we at Curbed picked up the La Cienega business before the suit was even brought. In their letter to Metro requesting the special hearing over the BHHS tunnel, Beverly Hills had a long list of seemingly-specious grievances about the La Cienega station–and it was pretty clear they were going to use those purported problems as part of their efforts.

    http://la.curbed.com/archives/2012/04/metro_oks_subway_to_la_cienega_work_could_begin_next_year.php

  2. I would say as far as responding to issues surrounding the Expo Line, again, the Flower Street segment comes up. The westbound trains seem to go a bit faster than the eastbound trains, which is interesting. However, even then, I would highly recommend much better light synchronization or perhaps a proposal to add crossing rail arms to allow the train to proceed more quickly. The same can be said about the segment between Expo Park/USC station and Western Ave. The train does move much more slowly around at point than any of us imagined it would. Between Western and Culver City station, however, I would say that the speed is decent, mainly due to the crossing arms as well as the fact that the train is above grade.

  3. From my experiences, and from those of my friends etc., it seems speed is the main issue. I have blind faith in Metro and will ride regardless but I am concerned about all the people who are on the fence (it’s LA after all).

    A large issue, and one which may currently be overlooked at Metro judging by red line service (but please correct me if I’m wrong), is the issue of how late the trains run. I’ve heard a lot of concern about becoming stranded on a night out (and I talk to A LOT of people about Metro). It eliminates public transit as an option if the last train leaves an hour and a half before the bars close. Also think of USC students going out in downtown or in Culver. It seems like there is huge potential to service the night life market but this would require the last train leaving no earlier than 130-2am.

    On that note, personally, when I go out in North Hollywood I need to leave the bars at 1140 to catch the red to catch the last Expo. If I arrive at 1030-11, leaving at 1140 puts a damper on the night and I just end up driving.

    Other than that, the fact that everyone lives in West LA / West Hollywood and has to drive 15-20 minutes to get to the Expo, by which point they could already be halfway to downtown.

  4. I enjoy the Expo line, however personally it is not much a utility for my day to day life. I wish the Bus service went further south from La Cienega. In example, the 217 going to Aviation Station (which would kinda simulate the Crenshaw Line), or the 42 from Expo & Crenshaw to LAX Transit Center. I also wish that Crenshaw had gates to give the train right away instead of waiting at traffice stops. I rode along the Expo last night, and we clocked it at 55 mph, which isnt bad at all, however I still feel that 5-6 minutes could be shaved off that trip with speeding it up along flower, and installing gates at particular crossings. I guess that would not help surface traffic on Crenshaw, however, I am not much of an advocate for motorists, so I feel they should wait for the people that make an effort to ride public transit, and may have a longer trip than a motorist in regards to the clock. Im sure Metro will improve, since in the grand scheme of things, we are kind of our pubescent years.

  5. I feel from the few times that I have ridden the Expo Line the Flower Street Segment between Washington and Jefferson has been on the slow side. It takes quite a while to get to USC. While the Expo Park to Western is quite fast as far street running light rail is concerned. Im always shocked how much faster it is to get to Western from Expo Park considering how slow it was from Pico to Jefferson.

    But aside from that I still love the line and super excited for the Culver City station opening next week since it will provide much better bus connections to destinations west than the La Cienega Station could.

  6. I’ve taken it a few times. Flower Street is a disaster. Eastbound on the second day we were delayed at least 5 minutes. This week westbound to sit 11/2 minutes before Wash. and about the same after it is such a disincentive to riding! (At Crenshaw we also sat for a good while)They must do what they did on Wash. for the Blue Line and let the trains roll! The lights MUST give priority to trains with hundreds of people on them and not to a few cars with 5-10 people in total!

  7. I have taken the Expo train many times since it opened, and I have enjoyed being connected to the rest of the system. I have lived near Culver City for 13 years and the Expo Line’s opening marked the first time I had reasonable access to public transit (other than buses). I have used the train to go to Staples Center, Hollywood, Pasadena, Long Beach…all over! I have taken my bike on board and have also had a friend meet me at La Cienega with his bike to ride on the Ballona Creek Bike Path to the Ocean.

    However, like you mentioned…the speed of the line is a serious issue. I see no logical reason why a nearly $1,000,000,000 train carrying large numbers of people should be sitting at stop lights waiting for two cars to turn left in front of it (and a pedestrian to cross the street). Easily 6+ minutes could be shaved off the total trip by giving the train proper signal preemption and (eventually) correcting the safety overreaction of the 10MPH speed limit around Farmdale. I think I could ride my bike faster up Flower Street than the train travels…and as Metro and LADOT have it set up right now, the train would probably have to wait at a stoplight for my bike to pass it.

    There are far too many opportunities for the train to have to stop at signals, be it at Western, Crenshaw, Normandie, Vermont, Jefferson, 23rd, Washington, or at many others in between. I find myself frustrated when I ride it…watching regular traffic pass the train left and right. Even the traffic crawling along the 110 freeway during rush hour moves faster.

    The westbound trains run mostly on time, but the Eastbound trains are completely unpredictable. The closest to an on time arrival into 7th street Metro has been 2 minutes late. The worst well over 10 minutes late. I have missed many transfers to the Red line. I want to like the Expo Line, and I keep hearing rumors of signal preemption and synchronization, but it doesn’t seem to have happened yet.

    I was disappointed to see the new timetables for the Expo Line…and that there are 3 minutes planned between Culver City and La Cienega….and that no time has been shaved off the rest of the line. I hope that in time they can speed this line up.

  8. Expo Line complainers:

    What were you guys expecting from a government project? Government can’t get anything right.

  9. I took it for a couple weeks to try it out, but it just never beat the times I could get with the 733. I think this will change for me personally once the Culver City station opens – or I hope so at least.

    Like everyone else, I agree that the Flower Street segment has been dreadful. Signal timing seems to be the main source of delay. I’ve observed several intersections from outside the train over the past few weeks and I can’t tell you the number of times the light turned red for the train just as it arrived at the intersection, forcing the train to wait through an entire signal cycle.

    Maybe you can elaborate on the signal sync mechanisms in a future article: Do they work like the rapid bus ones where the train can only hold a green light longer? Or is the train supposed to command a green light upon arrival? Is there a way that the train can jump its turn in the signal cycle (i.e. reorder the turn arrows, etc.)? Or is the whole system based on pre-timed slots where once a train misses its window everything falls out of sync?

  10. 1. Trains need to be washed and cleaned more frequently. Exteriors are dirty and food waste is on the floors (despite being no food/no drink environment).
    2. How about color coding the sides of the trains to match the color of the route for all metro trains?
    3. Better signage is needed at 7th and Fig to indicate whether the train is Long Beach or Culver City bound. The original design should have had a center platform and not two side platforms. Too late for that. The result though is you are never sure whether to stay on the platform on the east side of the station or to cross over to the west side.
    4. I agree with the comments about slow speeds at Farmdale. I am hopeful that they are a result of it being a construction site and not because of the school. If so, that problem should resolve itself next week.
    5. Also agree with comments about Flower. Too slow.

  11. 11,347 average weekday boardings? That’s less than every single May ridership prediction. Not encouraging. Please improve the signal prioritization.

  12. I wonder why we couldn’t have just grade separated these choke points to avoid even rail and car traffic to cross at street surface levels to begin with.

    Were there some vocal opponents in the area when it was built that grade separation wasn’t considered?

  13. Frank M., See if the private sector will build you a train (without government funds). They won’t. Or even run a bus for you (without government funds). They won’t. Or create any other mode of transport without government funds. They won’t. You’re peddling pure ideology, pal, and it adds nothing to the discussion.

  14. Of course they won’t because it’s ILLEGAL to do so to begin with.
    http://articles.latimes.com/2005/apr/17/opinion/op-mta17

    Legalize private mass transit to start competing with poor government run public transit. Then we can see how the privately run transportation agencies from Asia come into LA and start making real change.

    Why do you think Metro wants to keep private competition out with such laws? Because they love the taxpayer monopoly.

  15. The problem with encouraging private mass transit is that the market is so distorted to begin with. Wanderer challenges Frank M to see if the private sector will build a train for him. Of course, Wanderer fails to realize the distortions caused by subsidizing private automobile transport the way we do. This includes a gas tax that is too low, parking minimums that discourage dense development, lack of tolling and an overall entitlement of drivers to the road network.

    So I think the first thing you must correct is that situation, and then look at some of the distortions in the market for transit. I don’t think it’s necessarily about privatization, but competition. There was some competition between Foothill Transit and Metro for the I-10 corridor, and now fares have been lowered on Foothill Transit’s Silver Streak so they can better compete with Metro. They will also accept each other’s passes, a rare display of cooperation among two bureaucracies. The market is still distorted, of course, but competition did result in a better deal for the consumer. But how do you encourage competition on a widespread basis?

    I think that, overall, people undervalue transportation in general, and this sentiment has been caused by government intervention in transportation.

  16. Private transit: A car, bike, motorcycle, taxi, etc. Public transit is what it is, and is improving, with planning through the roof. We can idealize how China builds its Subways, and how Japan operates theirs, but lets deal within reality; It is called reality because it is what is actually happening right in front of us. Non figmental.

  17. Problems with the Expo Line:

    1. Slow on Flower. Close down the smaller side streets and install gates on the others.
    2. Slow thru Farmdale. Can’t they just bypass the stop when kids aren’t around? The people who fought for this mitigation singlehandedly ruined the Expo Line. Thanks.
    3. Confusion about which side to board on at Metro Center
    4. Paying for a transfer from Expo to the Red/Purple Line is ridiculous. Why can’t they allow free transfers? This discourages ridership.
    5. This is nitpicking, but trains are way too old. It is hard to get excited about a new train line when you are riding 30 year old trains.

  18. The planets converged, the stars aligned, I coaxed and five transit sceptics gingerly boarded the eastbound Expo Line with me to see how much LA light rail could improve their lives. They enjoyed the views from the aerial stations, marveled at the smooth ride through South Central and then sat and sat and sat and sat and sat while waiting to cross the dreaded “Y” at Flower and Washington. By the time we limped into Metro/7th I heard “Never again,” and “Never again,” and “Never again,” and “Never again,” and “Never again.”

  19. “Private transit: A car, bike, motorcycle, taxi, etc. Public transit is what it is, and is improving, with planning through the roof.”

    And within private transit, there’s also competition. A car can be divided to competition between GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, etc. A motorcycle can be divided to competition between Harley Davidson, Triumph, Ducati, Yamaha, Kawasaki, etc.

    Then why not let there be competition between mass transit as well? There’s no reason why LACMTA should enjoy the tax monopoly because there’s no real competition from others that threatens their poor service and financial troubles. Since there’s no real competition, they know they can keep coming back to taxpayers.

    If within the car, there’s competition between GM and Toyota, why is it illegal to have competition between LACMTA and some foreign transit company? Or why is it illegal for even domestic companies like Greyhound to go head-to-head against LACMTA?

    The US has always been about competition and that is the biggest driver of our economy for many years. The railcars were killed off by GM due to competition. Then GM struggled against competition from Toyota and Nissan. Zenith and RCA once competed against each other, they both then went the way of the dodo from Sony and Panasonic, and now Sony and Panasonic are struggling to keep up with Apple and Samsung. And look how much competition has achieved in advancing things in fifty years.

    If Metro sucks, then let’s start bringing in the contenders who think they can do better. And if the contender has an idea to do it cheaply, efficiently, and without tax payer support, all the better.

    Hey, that’s how Apple began; he thought he can make computers better than others when everyone said there’s no money to be made in computers and people laughed at Steve Jobs. Now the iPad and iPhone has become part of American lifestyle and is now the company is richer than ExxonMobil.

  20. There is LEGAL private transit in Los Angeles, it’s called Super Shuttle. And there’s competition in the form of Prime Ticket.

    In the case of Honda vs. GM, both are required (as are Nissan, Toyota, Ford, etc.) to follow the same safety and environmental regulations. If a private company wants to compete with Metro, let them follow the same rules as Metro.

  21. Nope. Private mass transit is ILLEGAL in Los Angeles.

    Super Shuttles cannot cruise around LA, go to any Metro Bus stop, pick up passengers, charge them by the distance and drop them off at another bus stop.

    Much like cabs, Super Shuttle vans in LA have to be called or “radioed in” for in advance; they cannot be cruising around the City of LA and start picking up passengers.

  22. BTW, yes it’s even defacto ILLEGAL to hail down a cab in LA too because of stupid regulations and fines that “they impede traffic” (like buses don’t?) when they pick up passengers from the street.

    http://la.curbed.com/archives/2007/11/hailing_at_taxi_1.php

    Hence there is no private mass transit in LA. Stupid laws and regulations prohibit all of these activities, providing Metro defacto monopoly in mass transit, courtesy of taxpayers expense.

  23. James,

    I would be more confident that Japanese private transit buses, if allowed to compete directly with Metro, would have even stricter safety and tighter environmental regulations than Metro or any other transit buses serving any of American cities.

    They even have automatic engine shut off/idle state mode when the bus makes stops at traffic signals, they make automated announcements that the bus is about to make a turn (“the bus will be making a right turn”) and when it’s going to brake (“the bus’ brakes have been applied”) so the passengers can “pre-react” to that motion, the buttons that the passenger presses when alighting lights up and the button is also raised in braille.

  24. Wait, wait, wait.

    You mean to tell me you can get arrested in LA for hailing a cab from the street?

    What bonehead put this dumb idea into law?

    • No, not arrested.

      But I do believe there are certain places where cabs are not allowed to stop in order to keep traffic moving.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  25. […] SOUTH LA: The latest (May) ridership numbers are in for the six week old Expo Line and it “carried 11,347 average weekday boardings, 9,000 on Saturdays and 7,000 for Sundays. In total, there were an estimated 320,627 boardings in May, the Expo Line’s first full month of service.” Ridership was estimated at 9,000 on the line’s first real day of service back in May. And two more stops (including the Culver City terminus) are coming online this week, so that should bump things up. [The Source] […]

    • Hi Ben;

      The article is dated May 5, which means it was published about a week after Expo opened. I don’t have any reason not to believe the numbers we published.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  26. I guess what I meant was, is their premise legit? They say that the project is a failure (a harsh, and in my opinion premature judgement) because of the way-low ridership, compared to official projections. But the number you post are even lower that *that*. So, should L.A. be concerned that so much money has gone into a line that hasn’t (so far) had much in the way of riders, compared to what Metro expected?

    • Hi Ben;

      I don’t agree that the project is a failure. I think it’s way too early to judge. The entire first phase doesn’t open until tomorrow and the second phase extends the line into the job rich media gulch areas and downtown Santa Monica. Every one of Metro’s rail lines — as well as rail lines in other cities — has seen ridership rise over time, often significantly.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  27. Just a person,

    In that blog that you cited, it says
    Taxis are NOT allowed to pick up or drop off passengers at bus stops

    This exemption still makes municipal buses hold an unfair monopoly over mass transit.

    At first glace, it’s supposed to make sense; you don’t want anything impeding where buses can stop.

    What the intent is, if we allow taxis to pick up and drop off passengers at bus stops, it opens doors to true competition, which we’d rather not do because we love the taxpayer funded mass transit monopoly.