Five things I’m thinking about transit, Nov. 16 edition

1. DODGER STADIUM: I thought the most interesting news article I read this past week was by Jon Regardie in the Downtown News on why he thinks that AEG — owner of Staples Center and L.A. Live — should buy the Dodgers and move them into a downtown stadium that could take the place of the football stadium AEG wants to build.

AEG declined comment and on Tuesday released renderings of the latest drawings of the football stadium. Regardie wrote “I admit I know nothing about any such deal” and I have little doubt that AEG has a laser-like focus on a football stadium at this time.

That said, as a reformed and cured journalist, I don’t think such columns get written without some buzz in the downtown community about this. At the least, associating AEG with a baseball stadium instead of a football stadium is a nice way to remind the NFL that they shouldn’t just assume that a football stadium will materialize without some supportive gestures by the league.

Of course, I’m glad to read of any proposal to move the Dodgers into the real downtown Los Angeles from their current home in the middle of an ugly parking lot (see last week’s post). As for the readers who left comments last week, I strongly disagree that Dodger baseball and Dodger Stadium are one in the same. The game would survive just fine in a smartly-designed downtown stadium that is easily accessed by transit and is much more a part of the city. The original Yankee Stadium is gone, the Yankees still play baseball.

One commenter also noted that it’s kind of ludicrous that the city is contemplating building a giant football stadium when the Rose Bowl and Coliseum already exist. Agreed but I’m not sure how to get around that — Pasadena voters have said they don’t want the NFL messing up traffic in their leafy neighborhoods and the NFL doesn’t want any part of the Coliseum, which would have to be shared with USC.

Amtrak's Coast Starlight to Oakland and beyond: not the fastest train in the world. Photo by Tom Clifton, via Flickr.

2. AMTRAK: I wish we had Third World quality Amtrak service in some parts of the state.

On short notice, I had the chance to visit a friend in San Francisco last Friday and Saturday. Buying a plane ticket was pricey — over $350 — and the Amtrak takes a whopping 11 hours, 12 minutes to travel between L.A. and Oakland, when the train is running on time.

That’s beyond ridiculous, so I ended up making the 5.5-hour drive. If we had an Amtrak train that ran to the Bay Area in a mere six hours, I would have gladly taken it and I expect many others would, too.

And that’s the question I have that no one has yet answered: how much for a 2.5-hour bullet train versus how much for a decent Amtrak train? I’m all ears!

3. ABOUT THOSE COST ESTIMATES: Speaking of, I think it’s interesting that the latest high-speed rail business plan determined the cost of building the bullet train between Anaheim and San Francisco was $98.5 billion and not, say, $99.5 billion, which the media would surely round up to $100 billion, which would sound a lot worse than, say, $98.5 billion. Close call, financial projection people!

Oh, btw, the latest out of Congress has funding for high-speed rail being eliminated in the 2012 fiscal year budget, although the U.S. Department of Transportation would get a $515-million bump for transit process across the 50 states.

4. VAN NUYS RAPIDWAY: I agree with many Source readers who believe the studies for the Van Nuys Rapidway project need to consider future linkages with the still-undefined Sepulveda Pass project.

Let’s face it: the Orange Line connection to the Red Line subway isn’t perfect — patrons have to cross Lankershim Boulevard to transfer — and the Expo Line and Eastside Gold Line were planned years ago without much thought on how to connect, respectively, with the future Crenshaw Line and Regional Connector.

So this one falls under the category of “let’s learn from history, people.”

5. MORE BIKE CARS, POR FAVOR!: I love Metrolink’s new bike cars that have devoted considerable space to bikes inside. Metro is in the process of removing some seats to make room for more bikes, but it’s not on this scale.

And I’d like to see Metro mimic the idea, even if it’s just one or two light rail cars. Obviously they couldn’t be on every train on every line. But it would be easy to schedule them regularly and then revise the timetables to show the trains that have them — so cyclists can plan their commutes accordingly.

BONUS THOUGHT, PART ONE: To repeat a point from this morning’s headlines, and one first made by Damien Newton at L.A. Streetsblog, if free parking is going to be provided at community meetings about transit projects, it would probably be nice — and a lot less ironic — to provide some sort of free transit service, too. Even if it’s a few quarters.

BONUS THOUGHT, PART TWO: On my return drive from San Francisco, I took the 101 south to Gilroy and the 152 east over Pacheco Pass to the 5. The Pacheco Pass country was quite lovely — big, rolling hills studded with oak trees. Here’s a view of San Luis Reservoir, one of the larger fake lakes storing water as part of the California Aqueduct:

18 replies

  1. K’now, we have a network of buses that run from all over SoCal to Bakersfield, and then from Stockton there are both buses and 3 rail lines, one each to San Jose, to Oakland via Martinez and to Sacramento. If there was a high speed line from Bakersfield to Stockton, the fact that I’d have to use a bus at the south end or endure a “slow” train at the north end wouldn’t bother me. And it might get the travel time down to one that competes with the automobile, and even rivals air travel in the post-TSA America.

  2. I believe HSR will happen. And, will be substantially within the vision the CHSR Authority is presenting.

    Another thing, the Dodgers playing baseball next to LA Live makes more sense than football. And, likewise for football played at Chavez Ravine. However, I’ve heard that a baseball stadium, or the number of games played there, doesn’t work well as with facilities doubling as convention space.

  3. The bus-train trip (Amtrak bus to Bakersfield, then train) from LA to San Francisco isn’t fast, but it’s 9 hours insted of 12–it’s competitive with driving 101 if not I-5. Maybe one of these years we’ll get high speed rail.

  4. As for what Jack said. Ditto on eliminating some at-grade crossings for the orange line bus.

    As far as the sepulveda pass transit project is concerned though, I think a higher capacity system is certainly needed like LRT because the demand for it is no doubt very high and we would probably end up with sardine cans if it were just a BRT. Plus, LRT is more efficient operation wise as you only need one driver for triple or quadruple the capacity of a BRT and the wear and tear takes longer with LRT than BRT. LRT of course is also electrically powered as opposed to using an internal combustion engine making LRT cleaner with better acceleration. There is also level boarding and a smoother ride as well. Plus, no matter what, buses will always be seen as a less attractive option than a rail equivalent. That’s just how it is. My two cents on LRT in a nutshell.

    Uh oh, I hope I did not just spark yet another bus vs. rail debate LOL!

  5. I am so glad that many people are wondering the same thing I have been wondering for years – why isn’t the train to San Francisco a viable alternative to driving? I have taken it twice in my life, and I remember just sitting on sidings while freights rumbled by – the 11 hour trip turning into 13, 14…

    Surely it would cost much less than the bullet train’s $100 billion price tag to build an Acela style train, with a Grapevine tunnel routing that connects to the already existing route at Bakersfield. I think the train should be trying to compete with driving, not flying.

    And for anyone who cares, bullet trains are not very “green.” It takes a lot more energy proportionally to go 180 mph instead of 90 mph.

  6. The Orange Line can be a great BRT Network, especially if it extends towards CSUN, or down the Sepulveda pass to LAX, or to Burbank Airport.

    I don’t know how this is possible, but half the grade crossings need to be eliminated, the waiting at the red light before the station is awful. Then it can truly be a rapid system.

  7. Great post Steve. I am utterly baffled that there is not a faster intercity rail connection between LA and the Bay Area after all these years. Hopefully if we can still get some kind of through train service (in light of full HSR not looking so good at this point) we need to at least have an Acela-type service between the two areas. California is every bit as deserving of that type of service as the NEC is. And of course, regarding the Van Nuys corridor and learning from past planning mistakes, well said. As a valley resident, I think a combined project would have a tremendous benefit, serving as an alternative to driving to west LA (and hopefully to LAX in the future). BTW isn’t metro studying a pedestrian connector project between the orange line bus and the red line?

  8. How much will the high speed rail segment from Bakersfield to Palmdale cost? If we implement that on top of the central valley segment, we could see 6 hr train rides from LA to Oakland

  9. The price of building 6 hour Amtrak service to San Francisco would depend on the time frame you require to build it. California High Speed Rail would cost $65 billion if the money were available now but the cost increases to $98.5 billion when construction is extended over 22 years.

  10. Is there even a train that runs non-stop from LA to Oakland? I would pay a little extra for that, although I don’t know that it would cut down on the time much. It’d probably just seem like a smoother trip as there won’t be any stopping.

  11. @ Jarrett: Start the system on the existing tracks. Run it as fast as possible in the SJV. Upgrade it with the tunnels etc. (to be shared with the HSR trains) later.

  12. I see Dodger Stadium/Police Academy/Elysian Park as the first stop after the Chinatown station on a new light rail line. From the CT sta. it would head into the park as a subway. An underground station with exits into the park (near the Academy) and the stadium (off the other end of the station) would server park goers and fans. Heading from there it would exit the hill above I-5 and hit a ‘Frogtown’ station. A station near Fletcher & San Fernando Rd. Underground toward the Glendale Galleria/Americana. An above ground stop between the river and I-5 near Zoo Drive. Push on toward Burbank and points NW.

  13. The hills are the big barriers. You can run fast in the SJ Valley, but hills separate the speedway from places people want to go to (LA and SF). There are rail connections that go over these hills, but the routing is indirect and slow. For example, the line that goes from Bakersfield to LA takes 6 hours on top of the 6 hours it takes to go from Oakland to Bakersfield. The only way to quickly cross these hills are with tunnels, bridges, and entirely new rights of way which are extremely expensive. If we’re going to go to the expense of building such infrastructure, it might as well be designed for high speed service.

  14. Better Amtrak would be wonderful. If there was an Acela type train that ran up to SFO, that would be great. It does not have to be the pretty coastal (slow) route. Have it run up the route to Lancaster – Mojave – Bakersfield – Fresno – Stockton – Oakland. 2 or 3 trains a day each way (3 on the weekends) would be enough to start. Start with existing Metrolink style cars and engines. Then electrify the line to upgrade it to Acela style service.

  15. Those connections you talk about between lines are key. Of course, I’ve written extensively about my idea to connect the Expo/Crenshaw lines (see: ).

    Now, of course, I know that won’t happen, but what I wish that the stations would be made in a way that they are really one and the same. A transfer from the Blue to Red lines isn’t that big of a deal because you go down a staircase in the same station. The platforms are immediately above/below one another.

    One of the complaints I hear most often about the Gold Line is that there is no easy transfer to the Red. You go down stairs into the tunnel below Union Station’s tracks. Then walk out into the station waiting area. Make a U-turn and go down two more sets of stairs to the Red Line platform, seemingly directly under where you started, but a much longer (and not very clearly marked) walk.

    At Expo/Crenshaw, it would be great if there were stairs that literally connected the platforms. The open-air station and the below-ground station would feel one and the same at this point and provide for very easy transfers (and I assume this will be a heavily transferred station, rather than an end-of-the-line stop for most).

    • Hi Steve;

      Excellent point about the Gold Line-Red/Purple Line connection at Union Station. I should have included that–and I should know as I use the Gold Line a lot. To some degree, the future Regional Connector will reduce the need for some to make that transfer at Union Station, but it’s always going to be a major transfer point and the current transfer is a time-muncher, for sure.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  16. I would love to have a 6 hour train to the Bay Area. It may not be as fast as an airplane ride but it beats having to drive or take a 7 hour bus ride.