California's first multi-modal system & the world's first bus rapid transit station turn 40

Bus rapid transit in Los Angeles began with the El Monte Busway, which broke ground 40 years ago this week.

Today BRT in L.A. has expanded to several other transportation corridors, but this is the original, the grand-daddy of them all:  The first multi-modal system in California and the first dedicated BRT station in the world.

While some things have changed (the draft environmental impact statement was only 17 pages long, and the El Monte Busway is now part of Silver Line service), the busway is as popular as ever.

Forty years later, daily ridership has grown from 12,000 to an estimated 40,000 as new terminals are planned for both El Monte and downtown Los Angeles.

The story and images of this historic transit line are up on the Metro Library’s Primary Resources Blog.

How do they do that? Learn to drive a bus

Metro's longest serving bus operator, Donald Dube.

How do they do that? is a  series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How does Metro teach bus operators to drive?

Metro employs about 4,500 full- and part-time bus operators and all have participated in the agency’s training program that currently includes four weeks of basic skills training, four weeks of classroom study, DMV testing and two weeks driving a bus under the close supervision of an experienced operator. Little known is that all operators must go through rigorous customer service training to learn to defuse difficult and sometimes dangerous situations that occur daily on the streets of L.A.

Before training can begin, potential operators must pass background and physical checks, test at the 10th-grade level in reading comprehension and be at least 21 years old. And they must be hired. Hiring is based on a variety of factors. A good driving record is essential and prior bus driving experience can be helpful. However, it’s thought that bus driving skills can be taught but not everyone can handle the stresses of driving a bus full of passengers in our traffic clogged and complicated city.

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How do they do that? Close freeway lanes

How do they do that? is a new series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How do they close down 405 freeway lanes and nearby streets for construction?

There’s a method to what may seem like madness when it comes to closing down freeway and street lanes for the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project. And no, it’s not just you who thinks it odd that there often seems to be no one working where the lanes are closed.

Among the reasons the workers seem to be missing, even though orange cones are in place:

– They are invisible because the construction zone is around a curve.

– They are a long way away because safety regulations require a significant amount of space for the cars to slow down from high speeds.

– They are a long way away because safety regulations require a significant amount of space for cars to accelerate from slow speeds.

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50 years ago today: Groundbreaking downtown for the El Monte – Century City Backbone Route

Plans for a Westside subway go back — way back.

On January 12, 1962, ground test drilling for the subway portion of the proposed Backbone Route between downtown and yet-to-be-built Century City got underway.

Governor Pat Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ernest E. Debs were all on hand.

Two weeks later, Beverly Hills Mayor Jack Freeman oversaw groundbreaking for soil tests near Wilshire Boulevard and Linden Drive.

The subway was obviously never constructed, so head on over to the Metro Library’s Primary Resources Blog to find out why — and discover the related nuclear fallout shelter plan and large-capacity helicopters that were on the drawing board as well.

How do they do that? Turn the trains around

Metro Red and Purple Line Train Yard; photo by David Mayerhofer/Flickr

‘How do they do that?’ is a new series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How does Metro turn the trains around at Union Station?

Where do the trains come from at Union Station? Is there a departure pattern that those of us who dash from one side of the platform to the other to be first on board don’t understand? At certain times of day the trains pull in, the trains disappear and the trains return. But from where and in what pattern? Is there a roundabout hidden in the tunnel where they turn around?

Trains at Union Station arrive and depart in one of three ways. First, the trains pull out from the Division 20 Red and Purple line rail yard in downtown Los Angeles, near the Fourth Street Bridge and the L.A. River. (More than 100 cars are stored there for the night, as well as maintained and washed there.) They are pulled into the station and begin service from either platform — inbound or outbound — at Union Station. This type of arrival and departure can occur at various times, including when trains are pulling out in the morning or the afternoon.

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Before TAP: The 1963 vision of smart-card fare collection and rapid transit for L.A.

Saturday marks one of the more interesting anniversaries in local transportation history.  Forty-nine years ago this weekend, C.M. Gilliss, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, outlined his plan for comprehensive rapid transit in L.A. at the downtown Statler-Hilton Hotel.

His vision included individually-coded credit cards, “magic-eye” fare computers, rail cars with 1960s tailfins bound for planned and soon-to-be-built Century City, and a system reaching all the way to Westwood…to be completed by January, 1968.

The fascinating story, complete with rail station and other futuristic renderings, unfolds on the Metro Library’s Primary Resources blog.

Art for the Orange Line: 'Liquid Light, Flowing into the Future' by Sam Erenberg

Liquid Light: Flowing into the Future in the process of fabrication; the artist's design is visible on the left and bottom.

Inspired by the sense of possibility around the Roscoe Station, Sam Erenberg sought to incorporate a feeling of forward motion into his artwork.

To convey this Erenberg photographed the area from a moving vehicle at night. His images capture bright streams of light created by traffic lights, brake lights and illuminated signs on major local thoroughfares: Roscoe Boulevard, Canoga Avenue and Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

These images are currently being translated into two 27-foot long elliptical mosaic artworks, which will be embedded into the concrete station platforms. More photos are after the jump and here’s a link to more information about Sam.

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How do they do that? Rose Parade service

Rose Parade float; Photo by Josh Southwick/Metro photography

How do they do that? is a new series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How does Metro predict the number of trains and buses required and when and where they will be needed for Rose Parade service?

Metro doesn’t have to guess how many people will take transit to the Rose Parade and game in Pasadena and where they are likely to board. As long as parade and game start times remain the same and the weather holds steady, there’s a good chance this year’s service can successfully be based on what worked last.

In addition to weather, which generally — but not always — has the good grace to be beautiful, this year holds two wild cards. Since Jan. 1, 2012 falls on a Sunday, the parade and game will be shifted to Monday, Jan. 2. So there will not be New Year’s Eve revelers taking the trains but there will be regular commuters going to work. Metro does not know if these differences will affect ridership, since the last time the parade fell on Monday rain held down attendance. No matter what the weather, Metro is preparing to carry an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 on the Gold Line for the parade and game.

Since the Gold Line opened in 2003, it has proved a popular form of transportation to both the parade and the game. Gold Line Memorial Park, Lake, Allen and Del Mar stations are all just short walks from the parade route. For the afternoon game, shuttle buses to the Rose Bowl depart from near Memorial Park Station and return there after the game.

Metro also has scheduled 18 additional buses (more can be added if crowds are larger than expected) for Jan. 2. That number includes shuttle buses to connect Metro riders arriving at the Gold Line Sierra Madre Villa Station to the float viewing area following the parade. Shuttle buses also will run to the float viewing  area this year on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

To accommodate parade goers, the Gold Line will again offer overnight service and run additional trains and more frequent service beginning at 5 a.m. Jan. 2 and continuing through 9 p.m., with trains running as frequently as every seven to eight minutes to and from Pasadena. This is in addition to overnight bus lines that normally operate 24-hour owl service and other Metro buses.

So preparing for and staffing the Rose Parade and game is a major effort. It takes about 45 employees to staff the stations for customer assistance. And extra train operators, fleet technicians, Sheriff’s Department personnel, Metro security personnel and customer service agents work together to keep crowds moving and comfortable.

Most recurring events are handled similarly but there is a constant tweaking to make sure each subsequent event runs more smoothly than the last, based on input from staff and lessons learned from the experience.

Good afternoon, Los Angeles

photo by Steve Hymon/Metro

Good afternoon, Source Readers. I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.

We’ll be posting very lightly this week while I catch up on some other work and prepare for the new year.

As for the above photo, it shows a fairly wide swath of Los Angeles County, the area served by Metro. I shot it at sunset on Christmas Day from an overlook on the Angeles Crest Highway, a few miles up the road from La Canada-Flintridge. That’s downtown L.A. in the foreground, then the Palos Verdes Peninsula and then Catalina Island. That’s a view of more than 50 miles — not bad for Southern California.

Art for the Orange Line: Strati by Anne Marie Karlsen

Digital rendering of Nordhoff Station, featuring 27-foot long mosaic ellipses embedded in the concrete platforms and 20-foot porcelain enamel art panels.

The Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth is fast approaching and so is new art!

Here’s a peek at the work of Anne Marie Karlsen, who designed two mosaic paving designs and two art panels for Nordhoff Station. The photographs below focus on the mosaic element.

Anne Marie was inspired by the surrounding residential and natural landscape, including the landmark Stoney Point in Chatsworth. She approached the station platform as an outdoor living room, creating wallpaper-like porcelain enamel steel art panels alongside the platform seating areas, and glass and stone mosaic paving patterns designed to read like cozy ellipse-shaped area rugs. The title, Strati, refers to the geologic stratification and formation of the rocks in the northwest San Fernando Valley. (Here’s a link to more information about Anne Marie.)

Detail of strati.

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