On Transportation column, July 19 edition — late night service, Dark Knight Rises at a Metro Rail station near you, bullet train plan

LATE NIGHT SERVICE: In terms of late night train frequency, Los Angeles County is now on par with New York City. Yes, that New York City. The one with the big subway system and superheroes.

As you probably have heard, Metro is planning to run all of its rail lines and the Orange Line until 2 a.m. (the Orange Line will actually run a little later) on Friday and Saturday nights beginning the weekend of July 28-29. The trains will run every 20 minutes during late-night hours.

That’s the same frequency that trains run in New York in the wee hours; as a young pup I can recall waiting for the D or F trains for the long ride home to Brooklyn. Granted, the New York subway runs overnight throughout the week, owing to the fact that the city is densely populated and has low auto ownership rates.

This is still a pretty big step forward for Los Angeles. It means that Metro’s trains are running later than most other rail transit systems in the country on the weekends. It may not be the overnight service that some want, but I suspect there’s a lot of people who don’t need to stay at the bars until the very minute they close.

Then again, I wasn’t always a crusty old grump that nods off in front of the television during “House Hunters.” As a young buck I can recall some long, bone-chilling waits at the Howard Street station in Chicago for the shuttle to Evanston. Not a fun place to be on a January night.

Batman shows one way to exit a train. Please don’t try this on Metro. Photo: Batman Begins, Warner Brothers.

GO METRO TO BATMAN: Speaking of Gotham, “The Dark Knight Rises” will be playing at dozens of theaters across the region this weekend — and many of the theaters are near Metro Rail. This is important if you — like me — would like to avoid repositories for human stupidity that are better known as parking garages. Like the one at the Paseo in Pasadena, where motorists drive as if they’re in a Grateful Dead-sponsored demolition derby.

Here’s a short list of theaters showing “The Dark Knight” and nearby Metro Rail stations — please feel free to add to it in the comments section:

Beach Cities ArcLight — Green Line Rosecrans station

Hollywood ArcLight — Red Line Hollywood & Vine station

Pasadena ArcLight — Gold Line Del Mar station

AMC Universal Citywalk — Red Line Universal City station

Hollywood Vista — Red Line Vermont/Sunset station

I’m planning on seeing the movie Sunday night after hiding in the Eastern Sierra on Friday and Saturday. Anything to avoid a spoiler, you know.

HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Getting a handle on the construction timeline for the Anaheim-to-San Francisco part of the project is not an easy thing. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill to allow the state to sell bonds to pay for the first segment of construction in the San Joaquin Valley on Wednesday, but details about when bullet trains may actually roll into Union Station were not exactly in large supply.

I’ll do my best to explain the current plan, as I understand it.

State officials say the first order of business is to break ground next year on building tracks in the first 130 mile segment between Madera and Bakersfield.

The next phase of the project would involve building high-speed rail tracks between Bakersfield and Palmdale in the Antelope Valley. That’s significant because Metrolink runs between L.A. Union Station and Palmdale.

The next phase would be to build high-speed rail tracks south from Palmdale into the San Fernando Valley, with Burbank a possible target destination. That would allow high-speed rail trains to actually serve the L.A. area proper while the next phase is built between the San Fernando Valley and Union Station.

Finally, high-speed rail trains would share tracks with Metrolink and Amtrak between Union Station and Anaheim. Plans to build separate tracks — a $6-billion proposition — were scrapped because it would cost a lot and only save 10 minutes or so of travel time.

The issue with all of this, of course, is that persistent question about money, or lack thereof. The segment between Bakersfield and Palmdale is fantastically expensive due to several tunnels that would need to be built in the Tehachapi Mountains.

The state has a total of $9 billion to spend on the project, about half of which will go to the Madera-to-Bakersfield segment. Whether the federal government will continue to help fund the project beyond that is uncertain and likely depends on whether President Obama is re-elected in November and whether he can get Congress to go along with his funding requests.

Questions aside, there are certainly reasons to be happy about the bill signing by Gov. Brown. As I wrote yesterday, there’s $350 million now available for fly-through tracks at Union Station (a project environmentally cleared in 2002 but the document will need to be updated), $88.7 million for Metrolink fleet upgrades and grade separations and $115 million for the Regional Connector.

There’s also money available to electrify the Caltrain corridor between San Jose and San Francisco.

These are all good projects that will serve the daily needs of commuters — where the demand for rail travel is still the greatest.

CARMAGEDDON II ANNOUNCED: Well, I suppose I should say something. So here are two bold predictions: the Los Angeles region will live to see October and having the Expo Line now open will help with transit travel on the Westside, unlike the first apocalyptic shutdown of the 405.

19 replies

  1. I’ll be taking the Red Line to ArcLight in Hollywood for The Dark Knight Rises tomorrow!

    An interesting thing about Gotham and Public Transportation… the fictional city’s transit system was actually build by Bruce Wayne’s (Batman’s) wealthy father as a way to give back to the city and improve it.

    Thomas Wayne explains to a young Bruce near the beginning of the first film, “Gotham’s been good to our family, but the city’s been suffering. People less fortunate than us have been enduring very hard times. So we built a new, cheap, public transportation system to unite the city.”

    See: http://steven-white.com/2012/03/16/civic-philanthropy-how-can-cities-leverage-donations/

  2. A couple of theaters to add to the list:
    Regal LA Live — Blue/Expo Lines Pico Station; 7th/Metro (Red/Purple Lines) a bit farther away
    Laemmle North Hollywood — Red/Orange Lines North Hollywood Station

  3. Hey, Steve:

    How does the extra HSR funding for the Regional Connector affect plans to build that extra station at Flower and 5th? Does that open up some options that may not have been available before due to lack of funding, or were the HSR funds always assumed to be part of the project budget?

    • Hi Alex;

      It’s not an extra $115 million on top of the Regional Connector’s funding — it’s money that the project has been counting on all along to pay for the project as is — with no 5th Street station.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. Steve, Along with those great places, you also have these great theaters as well:
    Cinemark Theaters – Blue Line Transit Mall Station
    Regal Cinemas LA Live – Blue/Expo Line Pico Station
    Pacific Culver Stadium 12 – Expo Line Culver City Junction Station
    Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills – Expo Line Crenshaw Station

    I have already bought my tickets for the Dark Knight Rises for this weekend!

  5. Can someone clear up what I have read and heard regarding the high speed rail project? I have read that the initiative that passed to provide the bonds for the high speed rail specifically spelled out criteria for the high speed train. One was that it make the trip from L.A. to San Francisco in a certain amoun t of time. I have read that it is impossible for the time criteria to be met with the inland route that is approved. Also, I have read/heard that the initiative also spelled out clearly that no bond money can be used for local projects like the downtown connector for instance. Is any of this true? Is all of it true? What’s the deal? This probably sounds like a troll-like question, but I honestly have heard conflicting information on these two points and would like to get to the truth.

    • Hi David;

      The state law authorizing the bonds to go the ballot in 2008 had specific criteria that the train had to meet for the initial segment from Anaheim to San Francisco. Among those criteria was a trip to be made in 2 hours and 40 minutes. I think it’s fair to say that such a trip is technologically feasible on any route chosen and state officials are still saying it could be done — but I think it’s a matter of how much money the state is willing to spend to build an alignment capable of reaching those speeds (i.e. without steep hills or sharp turns, etc.) I don’t know whether the train will eventually be able to do that or what compromises, if any, will have to be made along the way.

      The bond proposal in 2008 also stated that some money would be used to build projects that would help connect to high-speed rail — such as the Regional Connector and improvements to Metrolink and Caltrain.

      Hope that helps. I agree completely that good information on the project is hard to come by despite all that has been written about it.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. Running Metro Rail until 2am with 20 minute headways is great! But don’t oversell it. The NYC subway, PATH (NYC to Northern New Jersey) and PATCO (Philadelphia to South Jersey) run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s definitely not the same thing here.

    The DC Metro runs until 3am with 20 minute headways on Friday and Saturday nights, but shuts down around midnight every other night, so that’d be a much better comparison.

  7. Couldn’t resist adding another one (it’s fun trying to find these):
    Cinemark at the Pike, Long Beach — Blue Line Transit Mall Station

  8. Pacific Culver Stadium 12 – Expo Line Culver City Station. Walk 3 blocks west on Washington Blvd. Located to the left of the 6 story brick Culver Hotel.
    9500 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, CA – (310) 360-9565

  9. The last Silver Line bus leaves downtown LA before 1:30am so it runs later than the Red/Purple and Blue/Expo lines. The El Monte portion is also served by Foothill’s Silver Streak which runs 24 hours a day.

  10. Silver Line to Edwards Stadium 8 – two blocks north of El Monte Station
    Orange Line to the AMC Promenade at Warner Center

  11. For movies
    One station you should not forget about
    It is currently the western terminus of the Orange Line.
    Warner Center- Home to AMC Promenade 16
    They recently renovated it which is awesome foor dark knight