Ballpark bus, terrible Bay Area commutes, Gold Line: HWR, Aug. 17

Dodger Stadium Express update: the bus service to the ballpark from Union Station and Harbor Gateway will continue through October, as we’ve mentioned before. It’s a bygone conclusion/mortal lock that the Dodgers will be visiting the postseason at this point.

Even more amazing: the Dodgers are on pace to win 115.6 games with a .714 winning percentage. The Major League record for wins in a season is 116 games. Next up for L.A. is six games against the Pirates and Tigers, neither of which owns a winning record.

Art of Transit 1: 

Work at the Purple Line Extension’s Wilshire/La Brea Station earlier this week. Click above for more pics. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Art of Transit 2: 

Pulling part of the TBM from beneath the ground at 4th and Flower on the Regional Connector project. Click above for more pics. Photo courtesy Gary Leonard for Metro.

Metro tests airport-style body scanners aimed at detecting guns and explosives (LAT)

Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro.

More on Metro’s ongoing test of security scanners at one of the Red/Purple Line entrances at Union Station. From the story: “While we’ll never become a fully secured environment like you’d have in the airport, we do want to find a way to more effectively screen passengers,” Metro security executive Alex Wiggins said. “We are trying to stay ahead of the threat.”

As I wrote yesterday, not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of scanners, with critics saying it’s impossible to fully secure a rail system with many stations.

Redundant rail service In L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley wastes limited transit dollars (Ethan Elkind)

Ethan is an attorney who directs the climate program at the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at UC Berkeley Law and also authored the book “Railtown” about Los Angeles’ efforts to build a modern rail system.

And he’s not a fan of the Gold Line extension to Claremont/Montclair, which is set to break ground later this year. His beef: the line is too similar to Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line as the tracks will be parallel between Pomona and Claremont/Montclair (S.B. County has to pony up some dollars for the line to go beyond Claremont). Ridership on the S.B. line fell after the Gold Line to Azusa opened last year, with some riders choosing Metro as Metro trains are cheaper to ride and service is more frequent.

I think the counter-argument goes like this: while the two lines will be parallel, the Gold Line will ultimately connect riders to the northern cities of the San Gabriel Valley — the 210 corridor — whereas Metrolink follows the 10 freeway. So it’s not that much of a redundancy. And some Metrolink riders who can’t reach the 210 cities now, will be able to transfer to the Gold Line and ride to the Foothill Cities.

Question: will riders really abandon a 55-minute ride on Metrolink from Claremont to Union Station in favor of a Gold Line ride that goes north, then south and will take at least 70 minutes? We’ll see.

Ethan points out that the Gold Line will need density to gain riders and justify its existence — and he’s absolutely right. Here’s hoping that all the Foothill Cities will continue to add new housing and jobs near their light rail line.

A 2:15 alarm, 2 trains and a bus get her to work by 7 A.M. (NYT)

After a developer purchased her apartment building in Alameda in the East Bay, a woman moves to Stockton — 80 looooong miles from her job in San Francisco — and begins a commute that consumes three hours each way and involves two trains and a bus.

It’s a commute that is becoming more common as more people flee to the Central Valley to find affordable housing. This is really a story about the brutal housing market in the Bay Area.

Don’t skip the comments. Lots of interestingness there.

What riding trains taught me about Americans (Zocalo Public Square)

Embed from Getty Images

James McCommons pens a great piece about train travel across the U.S. and the folks he’s met. Sampling:

Over the years, I’ve dined with school teachers, a deputy sheriff, a distraught widower, an apprentice mortician, a veterinarian recruiting for slaughterhouses, a priest who discovered the call in Vietnam, an aging movie star, and a wheezy 98-year-old who was a door gunner on a Flying Fortress.

Kind of makes you want to flee the cube farm right now, eh?

11 replies

  1. I’m a new Gold Line rider. This whole “parking pass” think at Downtown Azuza is confusing. There is literally no way to buy a parking pass (or apparently to get on a “waiting list”) as the Metro site only allows you to enter your “authorization code” that you’d get if you previously signed up for the waiting list.

    But every single morning around 7:30am I park at the top level with one or two other cars (and sometimes only myself) with literally 60-70 empty “permit” spaces. And when I get my car – between 5-5:30pm – there maybe are a handful (10-12 at best) in the entire top level.

    So far I haven’t gotten a ticket or any notice but I am worried. Any news and/or advice??

  2. The article about the lady who moved from Alameda to Stockton and gets up at 2:15 a.m. prompts a number of responses:

    1. What is Ms. James’ family situation? It doesn’t sound like she has anyone at home other than herself, so all of the decisions she has made are for herself. I wonder if she would have made the same travel choices if she were married or had children living at home.

    2. Her actual commute time of three hours is somewhat longer than a comparable trip from Oceanside to Union Station (Oceanside is about 80 miles from downtown L.A.). She would leave Oceanside at 4:38 and arrive at Union Station at 6:40, allowing for a short subway ride to her office. Those extra 38 minutes each way, per day, add up, so Metrolink sounds like a pretty good deal, timewise at any rate.

    3. The article didn’t indicate how much commute time she used when she was living in Alameda. She had to get to a BART station, park and take about a 40 minute BART ride — perhaps an hour total. So her new commute is, in reality, just two hours longer than when she lived in Alameda, although there were less transfers when she lived in Alameda. That’s still a lot of travel time but I’m surprised that the author didn’t provide the context.

    • The commute is horrible but as the story notes, she doesn’t have to get up at 2:15 a.m. — but likes to take her time in the a.m. Which I totally understand. I hate rushing out of the house, too, but I only have a seven-minute drive to the train station and then a 20-minute train ride.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. If Metro will still be cheaper than Metrolink, then yes, there will be people willing to add 15 minutes to their commute each way. It doesn’t matter if the line goes in different directions, as long as it reaches the destination – much like with people talking the Red Line east and transferring to the Expo Line heading west, or vice versa.

    The bigger issue you guys might have to face would be overcrowding of Gold Line trains. They’re limited to three cars, right? The redundancy of the Metrolink line could be necessary to deal with the overflow; commuters would just need an incentive to ride.

    • Hi Pat;

      That’s correct. Gold Line is limited to three-car trains. My expectation is the bulk of the riders on the extension to Claremont/Montclair will likely be riding to destinations within the Foothill Cities. To some extent we see that now — with many people riding the Azusa extension to Pasadena, especially the stations near big job centers (Fillmore, in particular).

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. I hate to sound like I am saying the same thing over and over, but the electrification of commuter rail combined with more frequent times, and working with the BART time table would help cut much of Ms. James’s commute times.

    There has to be more concerted effort to view both commuter rail and heavy rail as one continuous system and try to synchronize it accordingly, like what they do in Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Australia, Switzerland, Italy, and almost every first world power BUT the United States.

    While it is but a dream, electrification of the Metrolink system combined with synching it to metro rail schedules would help commuters and increase ridership in the long run.

  5. I’d be hesitant to attribute the drop in Metrolink ridership solely to the Gold Line extension.

    Metrolink service on the San Bernardino Line has been deteriorating significantly ever since they introduced Positive Train Control. Less frequent trains running with more delays and longer travel times. They even cut the highly popular express service.

    I understand why PTC is necessary, but all these other issues add up to a much lower quality service from a rider’s perspective. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the real reason ridership is dropping along that line.

  6. Most people riding on either Metrolink or the Gold Line who exit their train at Union Station don’t work at Union Station (Metro staff excluded). Most of these people transfer to another train or bus to head into DTLA or other locations in the LA basin. When the Regional Connector is completed, Gold Line trains will continue on the RC towards Long Beach. As a result, a lot of riders will save a transfer that they will still need to make if they ride Metrolink. This will provide a great convenience for Gold Line riders from the SG Valley to DTLA. This convenience, along with the greater service frequency on the Gold Line, will counter whatever travel time savings Metrolink can provide, and will entice even more commuters to switch from Metrolink to the Gold Line.

  7. Re the airport-type body scanners: The original LA TIMES story had comments from:
    Edward Lewis, who wrote:
    I carry a pepper spray whenever I board one of these Metro rails, because law enforcement aren’t around most of the time when some foul-mouthed hobo starts causing a commotion that sometimes escalates into a shouting and, in rare cases, into a physical confrontation inside the train.
    and from Fred Garvin, who wrote:
    The MTA should have a device that can recognize marijuana smoke, cheap booze and the stench from the bums that infest the trains. Instead of wasting money on this, how about actually doing something about all the people who refuse to pay

    These are very real concerns and do NOT encourage patronage on LA Metro. I’ve noticed that since the passage last Nov of the ballot prop legalising recreational marijuana, pot smokers have felt free to light up on the streets, even tho the new law doesnt take effect till 2018 and prohibits public marijuana smoking.

    • A device that recognizes marijuana smoke, “cheap booze” and “the stench from bums”? You want Metro to invest in magic? Also, if I’m drinking fancy booze on the train…I’m off the hook, right? What if it detects “the stench from bums”? Are you going to remove them from the train because their smell offends you? I think there’s enough headache for the homeless population and they shouldn’t have to worry about being kicked off a train because they don’t have access to showers.

      I don’t think Metro can control people smoking marijuana in the streets.