Good morning from The Source satellite office in Mason, Ohio, where I’m on parental-unit duty this week…
From the Department of Twitterers Angry About Traffic:
Don’t believe the L.A. transit hype (Zocalo Public Square)
The Expo Line’s extension to Santa Monica hasn’t delivered the commuting relief that Zocalo’s Joe Mathews was hoping for. It’s still faster to drive from his home near the Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley to his job in DTSM whereas the commute using the Gold Line, Red/Purple Line and Expo Line is regularly taking four hours.
The crux of the article, which I thought was very fair:
I also felt frustrated—at California’s underwhelming ambition. Over and over in this state, from our famously frugal governor to our tax-phobic voters, we tend to choose the cheaper, easier path rather than the better, arguably necessary, one. For this vital east-west axis, Metro and local governments didn’t have to create a relatively cheap and slow light-rail line that stops at traffic lights. They could have built a proper subway-style line to whisk people efficiently over greater distances. That would have better served their cities, and attracted more riders (There were 12,000 Expo Line rides on the seven new stations my first day—as many people as board the New York subway every three minutes). But that would have cost a lot more money, and it would have been nearly impossible to get political support and funding.
•That last sentence hits the nail on the head. Each of the projects in L.A. County requires the support of the Metro Board and that usually means spreading the available funding across several projects in different parts of the county. The Metro Board ultimately decided to spend about $2.5 billion to build the entire Expo Line as light rail and $6-billion-plus for the Purple Line Extension subway to Westwood — a two-prong approach to getting rail transit to the Westside. And the Regional Connector — a 1.9-mile light rail tunnel with a cost of $1.4 billion — is getting built in DTLA to link the Gold, Blue and Expo Lines, and will shave some minutes off the time it takes to travel to/through DTLA by reducing the need to transfer.
•This isn’t the first time that the Expo Line’s speed has been mentioned in media coverage in less than a flattering way. I think it’s important for everyone to understand that for worse or better, the environmental studies for these projects never begins with the question ‘how do we get from A to B in 25 minutes?’* Rather, the question begins with ‘how do we improve transportation in this corridor?’ That results in several alternatives being studied with Metro staff recommending one based on several factors, including cost. When choosing among alternatives, speed is usually one factor. But not the only factor.
•As for the traffic signal situation along the Expo Line, I’ll repeat what we’ve said before: the signals are controlled by the cities where they are located. Most of the street-running part of Expo is in the city of Los Angeles. Metro works with LADOT (the city’s transportation agency) to coordinate the signals and train schedules, but ultimately the timing of the signals is up to LADOT. There are also street crossings without gates due to space constraints (for example, to accommodate things like left-turn lanes), meaning the train must adhere to traffic signals to get across those intersections.
•I do think that the Expo Line will serve well those who live in the Expo corridor, which is densely populated with DTLA at one end and DTSM at the other — and the riders in that corridor will have the quicker transit commutes. As for the long-distance commuters, I think the Purple Line Extension subway will be faster. Of course, that’s with a caveat. At this time, there are no plans to extend the Purple Line beyond the VA Hospital in Westwood. But the subway is expected to travel between DTLA and Westwood in about 25 minutes and that should be helpful for riders traveling to the Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood from DTLA and the San Gabriel Valley. Put a bus lane on Wilshire all the way between Westwood and DTSM and it may prove to be a quicker option for some riders.
So, should you believe the transit hype? My best guess is that it probably depends on where you live, where you commute, your access to a car, how much you want to spend traveling both in terms of money and time. Not every project is going to serve every resident equally but I think -that the county’s still emerging rail transit network is getting better and — as Joe concludes — perhaps it’s a positive that we can now pick our poison (cars or driving) when traveling long distances.
What do you think?
*Now that I think of it, there is one exception: the state Legislature mandated in the state bond measure for the California high-speed project that the bullet train be able to travel between L.A. and S.F. in two hours, 40 minutes. The obvious problem: the $9.95-billion measure doesn’t provide nearly enough money for such a high-speed project, the reason why funds are still being sought to build the bullet train.
Columnist Robin Abcarian gives Expo a try on her Venice-to-DTLA commute, using Lyft to reach the Expo station. Her conclusion: driving remained much faster, but Expo allowed her to escape the confines of the car and see a side of L.A. she barely knew existed and meet a lot of people — both familiar and not — along the way.
Metro’s Quality of Life report puts livability at the center of transportation (Investing in Place)
Positive review of the agency’s first Q of L report, released on Tuesday. This sentence says it better than I did in our post: “With this report, Metro broadens its focus from just commutes and congestion to a suite of objectives that provides a more complete understanding of how safe and reliable transportation options enrich our communities.”
Guess who is No. 1? Metro’s Instagram account, curated by my colleague Anna Chen! From Wired:
Categories: Transportation Headlines