Transportation headlines, Monday, December 15

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ART OF TRANSIT: The future Westwood/Rancho Park station for the Expo Line as seen from Westwood Boulevard this weekend. Work on the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line continues with construction scheduled for completion next year. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The future Westwood/Rancho Park station for the Expo Line as seen from Westwood Boulevard this weekend. Work on the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line continues with construction scheduled for completion next year. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Riding the Big Red Car: work, leisure and community in multiethnic L.A. (KCET)

Very thoughtful and well-researched article on an oft-overlooked aspect of the old streetcar system: their ability to tie together many different communities in the L.A. area. Excerpt:

Clearly, the P.E.’s decline impacted Angelenoes unevenly. Working class and minority communities suffered. “The demise of the [Red and Yellow Car systems] … had dire consequences for communities such as Watts and Boyle Heights, which became isolated centers of racialized poverty in the subsequent age of the freeway,” concludes Avila. Banham, writing decades earlier, agreed. “And with the beginning of the sixties, and the passing away of the last P.E. connections, no place was more strategically ill-placed for anything, as the freeways with their different priorities threaded across the plains and left Watts on one side.” 24The highways that followed preyed upon these communities, as they sliced up multiracial and multiethnic Los Angeles into segregated communities, “wreaking havoc on the city’s heterosocial spaces.” 25

It wasn’t until the 1990 opening of the Long Beach or Blue Line light rail, the first rail line completed since the P.E.’s closure, that a direct public transit connection between Watts and other communities like Long Beach was reestablished. Almost 25 years later, the Blue Line stands as the most used light rail in the nation. 26

Yes, there have been and are bus lines that connected distant neighborhoods. But perhaps not quite in the way that rail did, does or will in the future. Discuss please.

L.A. set to make strong bid to be USOC’s candidate for 2024 Summer Olympics (L.A. Register)

Yes, the Register is still ticking even with the financial woes of its parent, the Register. The article says that Los Angeles officials will make a case to the United States Olympic Committee this week that Los Angeles could serve as a template for a 21st Century type of Olympics — although the article is vague about what the means. I think it means that L.A. doesn’t have to do a lot of building — a lot of potential facilities are already here.

The article also says that local officials will downplay the success of the 1984 Summer Olympics, apparently a source of irritation to American officials in the past who prefer a more look-forward approach. Downtown L.A. will also get played up as a place largely remade since ’84. L.A. is the running against San Francisco, Boston and Washington D.C. to win the right to compete against international cities to host the games (assuming USOC decides to bid for 2024).

One challenge for our local Olympic bid: San Francisco is also in the running to be the USOC representative. Not only must L.A. officials go to the Bay Area for their presentation, but San Francisco has never hosted the games and has a plethora of fine dining and hotels that may appeal to Olympics officials — particularly the international ones who tend to covet such things.

Funny but the article doesn’t mention transit here. One big difference between 1984 and 2024 is that there was no rail transit in ’84 and by 2024 there should be a 119-mile of subway and light rail in Los Angeles County and possibly a people mover connecting LAX to the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Not bad. Here’s one question that’s outstanding: UCLA would be one of the big venues for the Games. Is there any way humanly possible that the Purple Line Extension could reach Westwood by 2024? That remains to be seen — under the current Metro long-range plan, the subway would reach Westwood in the mid-2030s.

Metrolink chief Michael P. DePallo quits after two years (L.A. Times) 

DePallo announced his departure on Friday. As the article notes, Metrolink has had its challenges of late with financial, mechanical and ridership issues. One recent report even recommended possibly having a local transit agency take over operations. That seems unlikely, given that Metrolink is primarily funded by the five counties where it provides most of its service (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties).

Great Streets program enters second phase (Daily News)

A brief update on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan to remake sections of 15 streets across the city (one per council district). One upcoming focus is to find smaller fixes that can be done quickly — repairing potholes, lighting, awnings and that type of thing.

Air pollution down thanks to California regulation of diesel trucks (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)  

State law requiring filters to be installed in heavy trucks appear to be working in this study of trucks serving the Port of Oakland. Good news. Obviously smog is still a major issue in many parts of California — but the mountain views in SoCal sure seem better and clearer these days when compared to when I moved here in ’94.

Manhattan would need 48 new bridges if everyone drove (Vox) 

A highway engineer did the math, starting with this astounding stat: more than two million people each day commute into Manhattan, with many of them on some form of transit (buses, New York Subway, three commuter railroads — Metro North, Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, ferries).



10 replies

  1. Does LA even want the Olympics? I tend to lean towards no. Washington DC is a high security risk and I would not support that bid, and Boston’s infrastructure is decrepit. Out of the US choices, San Francisco probably is the most picturesque and best suited location. There are transit challenges but at least the rail lines are in the ground today.

    • I would argue that LA’s rail would be more conducive to the Games, especially by 2024. Remember that SF does not have BART service to anything in the South or North Bay. And if the 49’ers couldn’t get a stadium in the City, what makes you think the Olympics will get more than one? I get that Berkeley and Oakland will play a major role, but you can make the same argument for Santa Monica, Long Beach, and UCLA here.

      I think SF’s primary advantage will be scenery. They would lead in that department by quite a distance, over all of the bidders.

      • For the Olympics, I second that LA now has a significant transit advantage with its light rail network. BART and Caltrain’s reach is limited and (except for SF Muni) local bus connections are not up to the task. I am curious about which events the Westside / UCLA will host – Westwood is already a traffic and parking nightmare and I doubt Metro can pull off extending the Purple Line that far in the needed timeframe. Bring back the Sepulveda connector? Finally, our local food scene has nothing to be ashamed of – far more diversity in a more accessible setting.

  2. “Here’s one question that’s outstanding: UCLA would be one of the big venues for the Games. Is there any way humanly possible that the Purple Line Extension could reach Westwood by 2024?”

    This would be amazing. I hope this question is addressed more and more over the coming months and years.

  3. Rail brings people together. Like the old Amtrak jingle said, “There’s something about a train that’s magic.”

    When you’re traveling by automobile, you’re isolated in a self-propelled tin can, interacting with others only at your origin and destination points, and when you have to stop for gas or food. When you’re flying, you’re typically crammed into an undersized seat, with somebody else forced into your personal space, after you’ve already undergone the inherent indignity of security screening (and critics of the TSA take note: I have never once encountered a TSA agent who was less than totally polite, nor less than totally professional; I cannot even remotely say the same for the days when security screening was conducted by “the lowest bidder,” and when screeners employed by private contractors treated something as simple and ordinary as a request for manual inspection of live film as a personal affront). . . after you’ve already had your hackles raised by the indignity of going through screening; such conditions are not exactly conducive to treating one’s neighbor with anything beyond an icy veneer of rigid civility.

    On a train, on the other hand, whether it’s intercity rail, urban rail, or anything in between, whether it’s sitting down to dinner with four total strangers in the Coast Starlight’s dining car, or hanging from a real leather strap on a MUNI Cable Car, or picking up your reading material so that the tired-looking passenger who got on at the Watts Towers Station can sit next to you, you’re constantly in conditions that encourage people to make new friends with a constant parade of ever-changing new faces.

  4. Red cars were always a big feature in stories from my parents and grandparents who have lived in LA since 1906. The red cars were what my poor dad and granddad used to get from the far western san fernando valley to shopping centers in van nuys and downtown. My grandmother told me about dodging red cars while roller skating in Hollywood as a kid. My mom remembers them from special shopping trips downtown and to wilshire boulevard. The red cars always sounded so wonderful to me when I was a kid, and I wished we still had them. But it is great to have even a small part of that system back. Retro Metro forever!