On Transportation: March 7 column

An amazingly bad photo I took of an Expo Line test train heading south at the junction while a Blue Line train in the background heads north. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

EXPO LINE JUNCTION: I spent some of last Thursday evening watching some Expo Line test trains run through the junction of the Expo and Blue line tracks at Washington and Flower in downtown L.A. This is an extremely important junction because the two lines merge there and then share two tracks to the current end of both lines at the 7th/Metro Center station.

The junction has to be able to handle trains running in both directions at very close intervals; the Blue Line already is running every six minutes during peak hours. Needless to say, that junction needs to work flawlessly for reasons of both efficiency and safety.

I know a lot of people are asking when the Expo Line will open. The short answer: No date has been set yet as testing of the line and the Automatic Train Protection system at the junction continues. To repeat: It can’t just work great. It has to work flawlessly.

EXPO LINE BIKE PATH: Speaking of the Expo Line, it’s nice to see some progress being made on the bike path running on the north side of the tracks in Culver City. The path should offer an easy way for areas residents and workers to reach both the Venice/Robertson and La Cienega stations.

It will also be interesting to see how cycling commuters get to the job rich Hayden Tract, which is south of National Boulevard and the train tracks. The challenge is that the bike path is on the north side of the tracks, which effectively seal the path off from the Hayden Tract.

I suspect the best route is this: From the La Cienega station, a cyclist can take the Expo bike path to the intersection of Jefferson and National. Instead of crossing to the north side of National and the bike path, a cyclist could cross Jefferson to the south side of National, continue a block on the sidewalk (walking the bike perhaps) and then make a quick left into Eastham Drive, a side street that connects to the rest of the Hayden Tract.

EXPO LINE TO THE BEACH NOW: Even though the first phase of the Expo Line will end in Culver City, those heading to the beach with bikes should hop off the train at La Cienega. Go west on the bike path to Jefferson, cross Ballona Creek on the bridge and then take the ramp down to the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

From there, it’s about six miles to Marina del Rey and a connection to the bike path along the beach. Go right to Venice and Santa Monica and go left to Playa del Rey, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach.

After it opens, the Expo Line will be a great way for cyclists to avoid the beach traffic that piles onto the Santa Monica Freeway during the summer in both directions. I’ve spent 90 minutes driving from Santa Monica to Pasadena on summer nights — and that’s no fun at all. Take your bike instead and you’ll also avoid beach parking hassles.

DOWNTOWN LIGHTING: Went for a walk after the Kings game on Saturday night. A lot of downtown L.A. is on the dark side — sometimes owing to trees blocking the light from streetlights, sometimes owing to the lack of lights or downtown’s very long blocks.

In other places, the color and quality of the lighting just feels off — in particular on Broadway. Transit and walkability will continue to play a big role in downtown’s resurgence and I suspect a little extra wattage could go a long way in making the ginormous downtown L.A. area feel a little more welcoming.

PAY WALLS: It’s nice to see another large newspaper — the L.A. Times — put up a pay wall. In the past decade the newspaper industry has found that giving away its product for free on the Internet is not necessarily an outstanding business model.

The big hope is that the paying public realizes there’s value to paying for quality journalism. For newspapers, the challenge will be creating something original and important enough to persuade people to pay for something they’ve been receiving for free. If it’s just more celebrity coverage, I know I’m not going to pay.

The transportation industry needs the media. Yes, it’s nice that Metro has created this blog and that many other government agencies are using the Internet to better reach taxpayers. As I’ve said many times, having government be the sole source of news about the government is not something that generally works real well.

11 replies

  1. The Pacific Electric built lines in a year or two. It’s taken longer than that fiddling with this one intersection. And as far as I’m concerned, great is good enough for me

  2. “I’ve spent 90 minutes driving from Santa Monica to Pasadena on summer nights — and that’s no fun at all.” I just spent 75 minutes driving from Santa Monica to Pico-Robertson last night. Also not fun.

  3. Steve,

    While I appreciate your suggestions for reaching the Hayden Tract using the new bike path, I ride by Jefferson/National nearly every day and can say that using the sidewalk or walking your bike would be a waste. National Blvd there is two lanes wide and riding with traffic works great. In fact, because of the tightly spaced bollards at the entrance to the completed bike path between National and La Cienega, and the dangerous crosswalk at La Cienega and Jefferson (cars turning right have their line of sight blocked by a Expo Line column), I do not plan on using any part of the bike path.

  4. In this age of iPads and instantaneous communication, it boggles my mind why can’t they just do live video conferencing with the experts all over the world on how to fix this. This is why people are impatient these days, we’re so used to instantaneous solutions with the technology at hand that delays like this only aggravate people to putting faith into pouring more money into this system.

    Can’t Metro do video chat with the rail experts in Japan and show them live on high-def web cam “so this is the part that’s puzzling us, do you have any solutions how to fix this?” If “Automatic Train Protection” or whatever expertise is needed, just ask the guys who kept the trains running even with a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. I’m sure they know a lot more than Metro does; who else in the world can boast that they kept trains running on a magnitude 9 scale size earthquake?

  5. Can we please get more technical information on what’s wrong with the signalling system? There are fans out there who know quite a lot about railway block signalling, track circuits, etc., and are finding the many-month delays with the system perplexing; while signalling is a difficult and precision art, it’s also a *solved* one. If you don’t provide more technical information, people will speculate, and will do so to the detriment of Metro.

    I will now speculate. Does the problem arise from trying to transition between different, not-100%-compatible signalling systems directly at a junction? This is a no-no; in order to guarantee full safety at junctions, signalling system transitions need to be done on open track. I had previously assumed that the Expo and Blue line signalling systems were 100% compatible, with identical interface specifications even if they used different internal hardware and software. If not… the only solutions are to extend the Expo line system across a stretch of the Blue Line around the junction, or to extend the Blue line system for a short distance onto the Expo Line, so that the transition can be made on uncomplicated track.

    • Hi Nathanael;

      I don’t have the technical information. I advise readers that speculation is just that — speculation.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. Steve,

    Your post about the Expo Line junction seems a little coy. Can you share any more insight about what is going on? What doesn’t “work flawlessly”?

  7. It would seem to me that if by the next Expo Board meeting that the junction is still not operating “flawlessly” some new step needs to be taken.

  8. At the crossover junction of the Blue Line and Expo Line, who activates the track switching? Does the train’s motorman do that? Or is it activated by remote control? Or, is it fully automatic? How is it supposed to work?

  9. So, is the decision to open Expo Phase 1 all the way to Culver City (instead of to La Cienega first) official?

    • Hi Robb;

      No decision has been made about the opening date, nor has a decision been made about opening first to La Cienega or Culver City. Unless you hear it from Metro, opening date scenarios are conjecture.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source