Above: pics from the 1984 Summer Olympics when the old RTD provided bus service. Photos: Metro Transportation Library & Archive’s Flickr gallery.
And onto today’s news of which we’ll look at one topic in particular:
Los Angeles officially launches 2024 Olympics and Paralympics bid (United States Olympic Committee)
In one paragraph the news you have certainly heard by now: The United States Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that L.A. would be the bid city representing the U.S. It’s not a completely done deal yet — the L.A. City Council will have to approve a financial plan later that includes how to cover potential cost overruns. The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in Sept. 2017. Other potential bid cities are Paris, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg.
That’s the essential info. Speaking for myself, I think it’s exciting and can potentially be a good thing for our region if it sparks the kind of public improvements that will benefit residents and visitors beyond 2024. Admittedly, I’m a big sports fan (the Paralympics actually appeal to me more than the regular Olympics, FWIW). I’m also well aware of this factoid in one of the LAT stories: every Summer Olympics since 1960 has faced cost overruns, although some Games have still turned a profit (L.A. in 1984 being one of them).
I’ll share a few other thoughts below, but first let’s look at this map of venues by the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games. It’s worth remembering too that the five Metro Rail projects currently under construction — Expo Line 2, Gold Line Foothill Extension, Crenshaw/LAX Line, Purple Line Extension to Wilshire/La Cienega and the Regional Connector — are all scheduled to open by 2024.
If you look at the main clusters, many are served by Metro Rail and/or the Orange Line busway. Downtown L.A.’s and USC adjacent venues (in particular the L.A. Coliseum) are easily reached via the Blue, Expo, Red and Purple Lines. The Sepulveda Basin is adjacent to the Orange Line. Santa Monica will be reachable via the Expo Line beginning next year. Long Beach has the Blue Line and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena can be accessed via the Gold Line and bus shuttle (or by foot). The heart of Hollywood Boulevard has two Red Line stations.
Not ever venue is or will be near Metro Rail. If the Forum in Inglewood is used, that will be about a mile from the nearest Crenshaw/LAX Line stop. San Pedro doesn’t have Metro Rail service. The Carson cluster is several miles from both Metro’s Harbor Gateway Transit Center and the Blue Line. Perhaps most intriguing are the UCLA events. Under Metro’s current long-range plan, the Purple Line Extension is scheduled to reach the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood boulevards in, gulp, 2036.
If my arithmetic is correct: 2036 – 2024 = 12 years after the 2024 Summer Olympics. Double gulp! There has been talk at Metro for several years about accelerating a variety Measure R projects through the America Fast Forward plan to greatly expand federal funding for transit projects. Obviously that hasn’t happened with the Congress in seemingly permanent disagreement about that sort of thing. Metro is also looking at updating its long-range plan and a potential 2016 ballot measure to raise money for existing and new transportation projects. But a decision to go forward on either won’t be made by the Metro Board of Directors until next spring.
Here’s what L.A. organizers have to say about transportation in their bid documents:
The other transportation wildcard is connecting LAX terminals to the Crenshaw/LAX Line. The Metro Board of Directors last year approved adding a station to the line at Aviation/96th that will serve as a transfer point to a people mover that LAX is building. LAX officials have said they could potentially finish the people mover by 2023 but that will require some work given that involves completing environmental studies, design work and construction.
Some other thoughts:
•To echo the bid documents, when Los Angeles last hosted the Olympics in 1984, there were zero miles of rail transit in our region other than a few Amtrak trains. But traffic proved manageable between bus service being added and residents staying home or changing their work hours. We have 87 miles of Metro Rail today plus a Metrolink commuter rail system that reaches five counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura) and part of a sixth (San Diego). In addition, there’s the Orange Line and Silver Line busways.
•Of course, our metro region had fewer people and vehicles in 1984. In 1980, the L.A. metro area had about 11.5 million people — a number that is north of 18 million today. The number of motor vehicles registered in L.A. County in 1985: six million plus. The number of motor vehicles registered in L.A. County in 2015: more than 7.7 million. Traffic is an issue. Then again, traffic is an issue in most thriving cities around the world, including the ones with big transit systems (see: New York, London, Moscow, Chicago, etc.).
•Outside of a few computer enthusiasts, there wasn’t an internet in 1984. Seems to me that a lot more people could work at home these days if their supervisors allow them to. About five percent of workers in L.A. County currently do their jobs at home, according to the latest Census numbers.
•It also seems to me that the single greatest strength of the L.A. bid is the number of existing venues that can be used. My uninformed hunch is that if the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 turn out to be a boondoggle, that will strengthen the case for putting the 2024 Games in a place not starting from scratch. The IOC has already chosen Tokyo as host of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
•There’s no way of getting around the fact that L.A. is big and spread out place. Whether that works to our benefit or not remains to be seen. As my colleague Jody Litvak likes to say, a good thing about L.A. is that we’re so big that we can swallow big events such as the Olympics whole without any real impact felt by many people; after all, we have simultaneous big events happening frequently.
The other side of the coin, however, is that we don’t have that single public gathering place or civic focal point that other cities have. The Watts Towers are great but they’re not exactly the Eiffel Tower, right? Grand Park, Pershing Square, Exposition Park and Palisades Park are all nice but I don’t know that any of them really define our area. Regardless of what happens with the Games, it sure would be great to see the very transit-friendly Pershing Square (Red/Purple Line) get an overhaul that better connects the park — currently a wall-off fortress of sorts — to the surrounding community.
•Let’s talk about the current view outside my window at the Metro mothership looking from west to east across the L.A. River (the pic was not taken today):
The plan is to put the Olympic Village for the athletes in the giant Union Pacific rail yard seen above. After the Summer Olympics, the Village would then be converted to permanent housing for Angelenos to purchase. Here’s a rendering of the Village looking from east to west (the Metro building is just right of center across the L.A. River, the Cesar Chavez Boulevard bridge over the river seems to have gone missing):
The land needs to be purchased from Union Pacific. Beyond the Olympics, this strikes me as the kind of open space that can and should be developed into housing. The one challenge is that it’s near but not directly connected to rail transit — Union Station is across the river and the Gold Line’s Pico Aliso Station is sort of nearby. Same thing with the Los Angeles State Historic Park (i.e. the Cornfields) that are being developed — another big chunk of open space that’s nearby but not directly connected to the UP yards.
In summary, the Olympic bid is an intriguing development for our region, particularly if it accelerates the type of things that are already works-in-progress here: more transit, more infill development, better sidewalks and bike lanes, better parks and the types of amenities that can and should be found in any world-class city. The challenges, of course, will be just as extensive — in short, ensuring that the Games and upgrades to our region reach across racial and income divides.
Your thoughts? Comment please. Some reaction gleamed from Twitter this morning:
Categories: Transportation Headlines