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.
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.