Purple Line Ext funding, scooter explosion, America vs transit: HWR, Sept. 5

Dept. of Behind the Scenes at Expo Line rail yard: follow Metro on Instagram for more like this.

Art of Transit: 

Above: concrete block cutting at the future Crenshaw/Expo underground station on the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Below, prep work for an escalator at the station. Photos by LA Metro.

Prep work for escalator installation at Expo/Crenshaw Station.

Want the ‘subway to the sea’ running by the 2028 Olympics? The feds need to show us the money (LAT)

Metro needs a letter from the Trump Administration by Oct. 3 that commits to a future federal grant to help pay for the third leg of the Purple Line Extension between Century City and Westwood.

Metro awarded a tunneling contract for section three earlier this year. Without a letter by Oct. 3, Metro will have to begin the procurement process anew for a tunnel. Attentive Source readers know that The Procurement Process does not travel at light speed.

As the LAT editorial board puts it:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority desperately hopes to complete the $9-billion subway extension in 2026, two years before the Olympics. But Metro is facing a critical funding deadline next month that could determine whether the subway is completed in time for the games. Whether the project meets its deadlines is in the hands of the Trump Administration.

The White House has put a freeze on new federal grants for transit projects — saying they should be paid for by the local residents who use them. The third section of the Purple Line would be an exception to that policy and would be helpful to the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics — as UCLA will host the athletes village, as well as some competitions. Stay tuned.

L.A. approves rules for thousands of scooters, with a 15-mph speed limit and aid for low-income riders (LAT)

Pasadena’s quick exit from bike-share program is a blow for Metro (LAT)

The news:

The council created a one-year program to allow any company to apply for a permit to deploy up to 10,500 scooters. The temporary rules will give transportation officials time to tinker with the policies before lawmakers approve a permanent plan, they said.

The two articles above are and aren’t related. They are: in the sense that scooters will undoubtedly serve as competition for bike share. They aren’t: Pas doesn’t have scooters. Yet.

As the article notes, the L.A. City Council has put a lot of conditions on the scooter companies, as well as dock-less bikes.

It’s certainly interesting that so many companies want to be in the mobility business, specifically the first/last mile end of things. I think it’s worth pointing out that the mobility business is a tough one and expensive one — there’s a reason that public transit systems across the U.S. (including Metro) are heavily subsidized.

Of course, many of the scooter companies don’t have to worry about profit, at least not yet. They are backed by venture capitalists (see this article) hoping for a return at a later date.

The big problem no one has yet solved in So Cal facing both publicly and privately funded bike share and scooters: where to ride them. If sidewalks are off-limits — as they should be — are there enough bike lanes and places on the street to ride these things safely?

Full-body searches shouldn’t be the price to ride Metro (LAT)

In this op-ed, the American Civil Liberties Union is not exactly thrilled about Metro’s new mobile scanners that will be used to screen riders for explosives.

Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don’t Blame Cars.) (Citylab)

Long post worth a read — ignore the parentheses in the headline. Of course, the popularity of cars has a lot to do with it! Geez Louise.

Good paragraph worth mulling:

It is not a coincidence that, while almost every interurban and streetcar line in the U.S. failed, nearly every grade-separated subway or elevated system survived. Transit agencies continued to provide frequent service on these lines so they remained viable, and when trains did not have to share the road and stop at intersections, they could also be time competitive with the car. The subways and els of Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston are all still around, while the vast streetcar and interurban networks of Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Detroit, and many others are long gone. Only when transit didn’t need to share the road with the car, and frequent service continued, was it able to survive.

Discuss please. I don’t think you need advanced Transportation Planning Degrees to understand the concept.

Dept. of Active Transporting: Source readers in the past have proven to be very geographically minded. Please take your best educated guess as to where the bottom photo was taken over the Labor Day weekend. Attentive readers know that taking transit is one way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, thus, help preserve things such as glaciers.

Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

23 replies

  1. Thats interesting. Metro has reduced service over the years, and then has wondered why ridership has declined….

    Its been said that more people are buying cars and using ride shares. I don’t buy that totally. Wilshire used to have service about every 6 minutes, and Vermont about every 10. This is a myth now.

    The expo line is slow, the blue line is busted, and the red a purple lines are running 20 minute headways more often than not (Metro still has not made it clear what being worked on), and people are defecting. People are defecting because the service isn’t available. People are defecting because its easier to sit an hour in their car, than it is on Metro. People are defecting because even if they take Metro to work, its not reliable enough to take a good lunch break or run an errand after without your car.

    Metro doesn’t have the common courtesy to even clean and refresh the trains on either ends of the line, but they sit for ten minutes. Metro eliminated a system where you can pay cash for more than one ride.

    Metro will take 1.75 from me every two hours even if it costs more than a day pass. God forbid you live in Gardena and the bus stop is closer than the store to load your TAP card. Tap is convenient except it takes about a day to load the fare. How is it that I could apple pay in London but not in Los Angeles?

    Like it was said, it doesn’t take a degree, its takes people that ride the system and know its downfalls. I guess thats too much research. It would be nice if we had a system that top professionals could rely on, but just like RTD, Metro is looked at as a service for poor people. America doesn’t invest in poor people. For a second, I thought L.A was paving the way. But now I see tax dollars going to contractors, and once its built, the service we are promised, is just not provided. Shame on Metro.

    • The RealTransitRider, I worked for both the RTD and MTA first as a Bus Operator and then as a Supervisor. The MTA has been controlled by former LACTC upper echelon and their followers. They terminated all the upper RTD management and run the agency not from experience but instead by the text book norm. Around 1982 a tax measure was passed that reduced the fare from 85 cents to 50 cents on RTD buses. Ridership increased and the RTD pulled reserve buses out and increased the number of buses on the street. The LACTC responded with a threat that if the RTD did not reduce service back to its original level thereby discouraging higher ridership the LACTC would pull all subsidies. Subsidies then as it now are based on the number of passengers riding the various county bus agency buses except for one exception. While the MTA carries 80% of the passenger transported each day on buses they only receive 60% of the subsidies. It seems the smaller agencies can not survive on an equal footing. The MTA has cancelled all special services that had been contracted for by various large companies under the RTD such as Blue Cross. In addition a large segment of former RTD service has been given over to Commuter Express, Foothill Transit and private contractors like Viola. Foothill and Commuter Express also utilize companies like Viola and pay their operators approximately $10.00 per hour with little supervision. Service is often cancelled for lack of operators and service is often cut back after these companies receive their contracts with MTA approval.

      The TAP program was a disaster from the start. The Friday before it was to go into effect myself and four other regional managers were briefed on the program.The plan was to issue 25 Tap Cards to each Bus Operator when they signed on to be sold aboard their buses. From experience I was aware 25 may not even last for one trip. Upper management then rushed to correct the problem since they had insufficient Tap Cards in stock. The supervisors under me issued over one thousand Tap Cards to operators the first day in the field. All hell broke loose with the search for additional Tap Cards.

      I have seen Bus Terminals replaced with smaller ones that cannot accommodate the number of buses scheduled into them. In Hollywood they replaced a terminal that seven lines used with one that only holds four buses and the over two hundred forty-five foot buses cannot be scheduled into this terminal due to its difficult configuration. In addition most the lines that do terminate in Hollywood have more than one bus scheduled to layover at one time.

  2. Maybe if LA wants something from the Trump Administration, they shouldn’t also be against Trump Administration policies. It’s a stretch to say foreign tourists will be using the third segment of the Purple Line for the Olympics that will only last 2 weeks and 2 years later. They have to predict where they tourists are staying. I highly doubt many are staying along the Purple Line route. The transit projects should be prioritized in importance to local commuters.

  3. I was going to shake my finger at Metro, it con$ultant$ and its 375 misguided bike-delivering volunteers, but I decided not to because the whole MetroBike saga is so shameful and sad. From the secretly planned $2 Million+ “bike kennel” next to Union Station, to the fact that bikes (and scooters) at Metro stops obviously weren’t going to lessen auto traffic so much as they were going to lessen vitally-needed walking exercise–amongst those patrons who could. This MetroBike misadventure started with the last morally-absent mayorship and has continued during the current politically-absent mayorship. So just who is ultimately responsible for this misuse of time and money? Well, what did “Deep Throat” tell Woodward & Bernstein? “Follow the money!” So, I think it is high time that a Grand Jury is convened to follow the BIKE money, because of what the late and eloquent Sen. Dirksen once said: “A million here, a million there, it adds up!”

  4. Regarding Pasadena and the bike share thing: I think the reason we see such low ridership here is the infrastructure just, simply put, does not support it, and our electeds don’t care about it. Lowering fares is not going to make riding a bicycle seem safer. I ride regularly, and have since a small child, but with traffic getting more and more congested, and the embarrassing lack of infrastructure, i don’t see this being a success, unfortunately. I didn’t see anything about this massive elephant in the room in the article though.

  5. Under Governor Browns prior reign he killed the extension of the Glendale Freeway, State Route 2, thru West Hollywood and the westside.Century City and other westside development were planned and constructed with the Glendale Freeway in mind. It was shovel ready and much of the property had been purchased by Cal-Trans.

    Traffic along Santa Monica Bl. and Sunset Bl. are gridlocked twice a day. This morning I walked along Santa Monica Bl. from Fairfax to Holloway to reach my home. I’m 73 years old and beat all the traffic westbound. Not one vehicle passed me on my walk back home.

    Last night the West Hollywood City Council was discussing the five alternative routes the MTA is studying for the extension of the Crenshaw Line. It’s obvious that the MTA will pick the most direct route northbound on La Brea yet the city council was debating if it should go up San Vicente or La Cienega. They have been fooled again and still cannot admit it.

    What is dearly needed is a light rail line from Downtown L.A. to at least the Santa Monica City border along Santa Monica Bl. Much of the old Pacific Electric right of way is still in tact and could easily be utilized again. But no, the MTA would rather continue with their grandiose underground subway to UCLA and the VA. In addition they are committed to building a parallel line south thru Huntington Park that will share the Blue Line Trackage in part and then travel south less than two miles east of the Blue Line. The stupidity of the former LACTC has raised it’s ugly head again. Currently, the past couple of years and still on going, attempting to correct the huge mistake they made when constructing the Blue Line using a non standard gauge system that resulted in newer rail cars inability to run on the Blue Line tracks. The current project is estimated to last a year with massive parts of the rail line shut down.

    • I wouldn’t say WeHo was fooled but rather they want a line that can do it all and I think that’s a little unreasonable. They could push for center-running bus lanes and stops along the busiest stretches of Santa Monica Boulevard for much less and give those buses priority over the cars as well- it just doesn’t look as great as a shiny new train that can also drive up property values. And how is connecting to UCLA and VA via subway a grandiose proposition? UCLA /VA is a major educational educational institution, has medical facilities as well as employment center. Not to mention is home to a very significant amount of people who live a relatively tight and hard to navigate area geographically. As for the Blue Line, they’re running the newest light-rail trains on it right now. It runs standard gauge as far as I know. If you’re conflating the underground heavy-rail subway with the Blue Line that’s another thing.

      • LRM, if the Purple ran directly to UCLA and the VA it would make more sense but instead has been detoured into the far Southeast corner of Century city adjacent to the closed down Century City Hospital missing a vital connection to Lines 4 & 704 among others at Santa Monica and Wilshire. With the redevelopment of Century City and more centralized joint development could have been pursued that better serves the entire business community there. Instead an isolated site was chosen with only one MTA bus line, Line 28, Olympic Bl. , passing it’s location.

        With the never ending upgrades to the Blue Line perhaps the gauge of the tracks has been corrected but originally only Blue Line equipment could run on it.

        • The Purple Line station will go into the middle of the Century City business district at Ave of the Stars and Constellation, quite a distance from the defunct hospital. It will be one the heaviest used stations with the concentration of office workers nearby — far greater than a stop at Wilshire and Santa Monica.

    • The Purple Line extension to West LA is far from a “grandiose” plan. It mostly follows the spine of east-west traffic, Wilshire Blvd. Heavy rail, entirely subway, increases ridership and gets people where they need to go much faster. If the line gets extended to LAX, it would serve key transportation centers at both ends.

      If a line ever gets built on SMB, it would likely be underground as well. The only remaining right-of-way that remains developable resides in Beverly Hills. Highly unlikely they would ever approve at-grade rail in their city. The West Hollywood and Century City portions have been reclaimed for wider sidewalks, bike lanes and better traffic flow. Would a SMB Line be nice, yes, but it would only work as a subway.

  6. With regards to the full body scanner: terrorists have already used at least one method (successfully) of a bombing attack that would go undetected by the system. Their method was predicted by security professionals before it was deployed, yet it still evaded detection systems. There are several other ways of defeating the system, some simple and some sophisticated. The simplest of which is to avoid entering or transferring at the stations with it installed or bypass them by using the elevators, since they are pointed at the escalators/stairs.

  7. I think METRO management likes grandiose projects because they can justify grandiose salaries of $1-2-300,000 + the usual 33% more in bennies. It’s like what Mr. Ford said when asked why he didn’t like making small, economy cars: “Mini cars make mini profits!”

  8. “ Of course, the popularity of cars has a lot to do with it! Geez Louise.”

    – Yeah, except what exactly made cars popular??It’s all about looking at the bigger picture.

    The day I can go from LA to Huntington Beach or Laguna Beach via transit and come back the same day without requiring a 2.5 hour commute time one way is the day I can become non-car dependent again. Until then, I’m happy driving my car on the weekends.

    Metro needs to take a good look in the mirror, night service sucks so bad on both buses and trains that I’ve been forced to take Uber/Lyft for the last 3 miles of my commute because what used to be a 10 min train ride from Koreatown to Sunset Junction is now a 45 min train ride.

    Wanna know why transit failed?? Because in addition to the 45 min to ride a train 3 miles at night, the Expo Line and Blue Line suck, andMetro til this day does not even have some sort of timeline or deadline as to when the weekly maintenance delays on the red and gold line will come to an end.

    And lastly the Rapid buses, where the 704, 720, 733 and 754 have seen so many added stops that I now ask myself what is even the point of calling these lines “Rapid.” Like why on earth is there a 754 stop on 8th/Vermont now when there is one on both Wilshire and Olympic 2-3 blocks away respectively. Congrats on adding a delay to both buses and cars.

    LA alone is a fine example on why public transit failed. We stopped giving a crap, we said the car was the only option because it was the best option (which to an extent still is) and now only see public transit as a second class option for “the unfortunate.”

  9. “The subways and els of Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston are all still around, while the vast streetcar and interurban networks of Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Detroit, and many others are long gone.”

    So what is Metro trying to do? Add a streetcar system in downtown LA!

    What else? Building a new rail line on Crenshaw with many stretches at grade. This is going to be just as disastrous as the Blue and Expo lines are in downtown LA and Long Beach/Santa Monica. Does Metro dare to learn from its mistakes? Nope. Keep doing things the same way. Business as usual. Your Measure M dollars at work.

  10. “Building a new rail line on Crenshaw with many stretches at grade.“

    Huh, If I’m not mistaking, only about one mile of the Crenshaw Line will be at-grade. That means almost the entire line is grade saparated. Am I missing something here??

  11. re: “Active Transporting”. I figured it was somewhere in the Eastern Sierras based on past active transporting” photos from Steve. My guess is North Peak near Saddlebag Lake in the Hoover Wilderness Area. (Full disclosure – I did cheat a bit – the file name includes “hoover”). Wherever it is, great photo! Was this with a telescopic lens? Really highlights how small humans are relative to the mountains.

    • Hey Allen —

      Excellent deduction 🙂 You are almost correct. It’s the glacier on the side of Mt. Conness in the Hoover Wilderness. I was at Cascade Lake, about a three mile walk from the trailhead at the Saddlebag Lake Dam. There used to be a ferry for hikers across Saddlebag, but the store and the ferry have been closed for the past couple years.

      Great area with pretty good fishing and very scenic without too much huffing and puffing. It’s a good place to go when everything else is crowded. There’s also a fun shuttle hike people can take between Saddlebag Lake and Lundy Canyon.

      Thanks for reading!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  12. We moved to dtla partly because of the subway system which has been a huge disappointment, not due to service, but due to the smell. I have changed cars many times during my commute because I can’t tolerate the smell. If a person smells of feces they should not be permitted into an enclosed public space such as a subway train. This is clearly more of a problem for women than for men (check out the link below if you doubt this fact) which I suspect is the reason it is not considered a serious issue.
    https://nyti.ms/2whB7Y8?smid=nytcore-ios-share

    • Hi Jeffrey,

      Good try, but too far south. Think east of Lee Vining, near Saddlebag Lake 🙂

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source