How We Roll, Sept. 2: Olympics 2024 edition

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Above: pics from the 1984 Summer Olympics when the old RTD provided bus service. Photos: Metro Transportation Library & Archive’s Flickr gallery.

And onto today’s news of which we’ll look at one topic in particular:

USOC names L.A. the official U.S. bidder for 2024 Summer Olympics (LAT)

Proposed venues for Olympics games (LAT) 

L.A. to be U.S. bidder to host 2024 Summer Olympics (NYT)

Los Angeles officially launches 2024 Olympics and Paralympics bid (United States Olympic Committee) 

In one paragraph the news you have certainly heard by now: The United States Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that L.A. would be the bid city representing the U.S. It’s not a completely done deal yet — the L.A. City Council will have to approve a financial plan later that includes how to cover potential cost overruns. The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in Sept. 2017. Other potential bid cities are Paris, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg.

That’s the essential info. Speaking for myself, I think it’s exciting and can potentially be a good thing for our region if it sparks the kind of public improvements that will benefit residents and visitors beyond 2024. Admittedly, I’m a big sports fan (the Paralympics actually appeal to me more than the regular Olympics, FWIW). I’m also well aware of this factoid in one of the LAT stories: every Summer Olympics since 1960 has faced cost overruns, although some Games have still turned a profit (L.A. in 1984 being one of them).

I’ll share a few other thoughts below, but first let’s look at this map of venues by the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games. It’s worth remembering too that the five Metro Rail projects currently under construction — Expo Line 2, Gold Line Foothill Extension, Crenshaw/LAX Line, Purple Line Extension to Wilshire/La Cienega and the Regional Connector — are all scheduled to open by 2024.


If you look at the main clusters, many are served by Metro Rail and/or the Orange Line busway. Downtown L.A.’s and USC adjacent venues (in particular the L.A. Coliseum) are easily reached via the Blue, Expo, Red and Purple Lines. The Sepulveda Basin is adjacent to the Orange Line. Santa Monica will be reachable via the Expo Line beginning next year. Long Beach has the Blue Line and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena can be accessed via the Gold Line and bus shuttle (or by foot). The heart of Hollywood Boulevard has two Red Line stations.

Not ever venue is or will be near Metro Rail. If the Forum in Inglewood is used, that will be about a mile from the nearest Crenshaw/LAX Line stop. San Pedro doesn’t have Metro Rail service. The Carson cluster is several miles from both Metro’s Harbor Gateway Transit Center and the Blue Line. Perhaps most intriguing are the UCLA events. Under Metro’s current long-range plan, the Purple Line Extension is scheduled to reach the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood boulevards in, gulp, 2036.

If my arithmetic is correct: 2036 – 2024 = 12 years after the 2024 Summer Olympics. Double gulp! There has been talk at Metro for several years about accelerating a variety Measure R projects through the America Fast Forward plan to greatly expand federal funding for transit projects. Obviously that hasn’t happened with the Congress in seemingly permanent disagreement about that sort of thing. Metro is also looking at updating its long-range plan and a potential 2016 ballot measure to raise money for existing and new transportation projects. But a decision to go forward on either won’t be made by the Metro Board of Directors until next spring.

Here’s what L.A. organizers have to say about transportation in their bid documents:




The other transportation wildcard is connecting LAX terminals to the Crenshaw/LAX Line. The Metro Board of Directors last year approved adding a station to the line at Aviation/96th that will serve as a transfer point to a people mover that LAX is building. LAX officials have said they could potentially finish the people mover by 2023 but that will require some work given that involves completing environmental studies, design work and construction.

Some other thoughts:

•To echo the bid documents, when Los Angeles last hosted the Olympics in 1984, there were zero miles of rail transit in our region other than a few Amtrak trains. But traffic proved manageable between bus service being added and residents staying home or changing their work hours. We have 87 miles of Metro Rail today plus a Metrolink commuter rail system that reaches five counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura) and part of a sixth (San Diego). In addition, there’s the Orange Line and Silver Line busways.

•Of course, our metro region had fewer people and vehicles in 1984. In 1980, the L.A. metro area had about 11.5 million people — a number that is north of 18 million today. The number of motor vehicles registered in L.A. County in 1985: six million plus. The number of motor vehicles registered in L.A. County in 2015: more than 7.7 million. Traffic is an issue. Then again, traffic is an issue in most thriving cities around the world, including the ones with big transit systems (see: New York, London, Moscow, Chicago, etc.).

•Outside of a few computer enthusiasts, there wasn’t an internet in 1984. Seems to me that a lot more people could work at home these days if their supervisors allow them to. About five percent of workers in L.A. County currently do their jobs at home, according to the latest Census numbers.

•It also seems to me that the single greatest strength of the L.A. bid is the number of existing venues that can be used. My uninformed hunch is that if the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 turn out to be a boondoggle, that will strengthen the case for putting the 2024 Games in a place not starting from scratch. The IOC has already chosen Tokyo as host of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

•There’s no way of getting around the fact that L.A. is big and spread out place. Whether that works to our benefit or not remains to be seen. As my colleague Jody Litvak likes to say, a good thing about L.A. is that we’re so big that we can swallow big events such as the Olympics whole without any real impact felt by many people; after all, we have simultaneous big events happening frequently.

The other side of the coin, however, is that we don’t have that single public gathering place or civic focal point that other cities have. The Watts Towers are great but they’re not exactly the Eiffel Tower, right? Grand Park, Pershing Square, Exposition Park and Palisades Park are all nice but I don’t know that any of them really define our area. Regardless of what happens with the Games, it sure would be great to see the very transit-friendly Pershing Square (Red/Purple Line) get an overhaul that better connects the park — currently a wall-off fortress of sorts — to the surrounding community.

•Let’s talk about the current view outside my window at the Metro mothership looking from west to east across the L.A. River (the pic was not taken today):


The plan is to put the Olympic Village for the athletes in the giant Union Pacific rail yard seen above. After the Summer Olympics, the Village would then be converted to permanent housing for Angelenos to purchase. Here’s a rendering of the Village looking from east to west (the Metro building is just right of center across the L.A. River, the Cesar Chavez Boulevard bridge over the river seems to have gone missing):


The land needs to be purchased from Union Pacific. Beyond the Olympics, this strikes me as the kind of open space that can and should be developed into housing. The one challenge is that it’s near but not directly connected to rail transit — Union Station is across the river and the Gold Line’s Pico Aliso Station is sort of nearby. Same thing with the Los Angeles State Historic Park (i.e. the Cornfields) that are being developed — another big chunk of open space that’s nearby but not directly connected to the UP yards.

In summary, the Olympic bid is an intriguing development for our region, particularly if it accelerates the type of things that are already works-in-progress here: more transit, more infill development, better sidewalks and bike lanes, better parks and the types of amenities that can and should be found in any world-class city. The challenges, of course, will be just as extensive — in short, ensuring that the Games and upgrades to our region reach across racial and income divides.

Your thoughts? Comment please. Some reaction gleamed from Twitter this morning:

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24 replies

  1. “The one challenge is that it’s near but not directly connected to rail transit — Union Station is across the river and the Gold Line’s Pico Aliso Station is sort of nearby. Same thing with the Los Angeles State Historic Park (i.e. the Cornfields) that are being developed — another big chunk of open space that’s nearby but not directly connected to the UP yards.” The London Olympics showed that people were quite happy to use public transport and then walk – especially if there are friendly guides along the way.

  2. Last week Curbed LA published a story ( about the proposed Olympic Village which included an aerial tramway across the river, which I assume would connect to Union Station.
    Unlike previous comments have stated, the biggest difference between this bid and the previous successful bid in 1984 isn’t that we now have transit. The biggest difference is that we now have competition! In 1984 LA was the only city to bid and was able to leverage that fact to get a pretty good deal from the IOC. This time, with all of the competition, the IOC has all of the leverage and they can (and will) use that leverage to squeeze every last drop out of the competing cities. We now have a choice: 1) propose a plan similar to 1984, using mostly existing facilities, which will almost certainly lose to one of glitzier competitors; or 2) promise to go billions of dollars into debt to outshine the competition and spend the next few decades cutting services (that means you, Metro!) to pay off the debt.
    Don’t believe anybody who tells you we can turn a profit again. Not gonna happen!

  3. LAX’s people mover is a must for the games. I hope LAX doesn’t blow this project.

    Extending the Regional Connector to the Olympic Village may be more cost effective and take less time to build than the subway.

    In 1984, there were events held in San Diego and Santa Barbra. Metrolink needs to improve its rail lines at Union Station to move the trains move more efficiently from San Diego to Santa Barbra.

    It would be nice to have the Purple Line reach UCLA by 2024.

  4. Don’t forget Steve, the Olympics are categorically exempt from CEQA. Use that to your advantage to accelerate projects if LA gets the bid.

    • Hey Paul — I don’t think they’re completely exempt although they don’t have to evaluate the no-build option. From the state CEQA website:

      15272. Olympic Games

      CEQA does not apply to activities or approvals necessary to the bidding for, hosting or staging of, and funding or carrying out of, Olympic Games under the authority of the International Olympic Committee, except for the construction of facilities necessary for such Olympic Games. If the facilities are required by the International Olympic Committee as a condition of being awarded the Olympic Games, the Lead Agency need not discuss the “no project” alternative in an EIR with respect to those facilities.

      Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Section 21080(b)(7), Public Resources Code.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Or just get rid of CEQA altogether. Was a law that was supposed to be with good intent, but by now it’s too often abused by NIMBYs in hindering things to get done.

  5. “The other side of the coin, however, is that we don’t have that single public gathering place or civic focal point that other cities have. The Watts Towers are great but they’re not exactly the Eiffel Tower, right? Grand Park, Pershing Square, Exposition Park and Palisades Park are all nice but I don’t know that any of them really define our area. ”

    I’d say the Griffith Park Observatory and the iconic Hollywood Sign is a very definitive icon of our metropolis, where many people want to go to, not just as a tourist attraction, but also a pride of our city.

    The only problem is that it just sucks to get up there. What we need is a some kind of gondola lift, cable car, or tram to get up there, and no the small DASH Observatory Shuttle is hardly a great alternative considering the amount of people that go up there everyday.

  6. I really don’t think the piggyback yards is a great place for dense housing development without transit access. It is disconnected from all of the surrounding neighborhoods and although it would be nominally part of Downtown LA, you’d never know it if you lived there. That could be changed by one project already in Metro’s LRTP: the light rail line from Burbank-Glendale via the metrolink tracks. Of course, that wouldn’t be completed by 2024 but perhaps for future residents.

    If not, this proposal for an olympic village probably needs a reconsideration

    • Hi NSMP;

      I agree that it’s currently disconnected. I do think that’s somewhat fixable but would take some work given the industrial uses in the area. I’m intrigued, however, by connecting the area to the Brewery. I also kind of like the idea of mixing housing and commercial. L.A. has tended to keep them far apart, but I think perhaps it’s better to keep close.

      I do think with this particular potential neighborhood, connections to Union Station really need to be emphasized. And that’s if the whole thing happens. It’s a giant endeavor and not the kind of thing that typically happens quickly in L.A.!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Reusing the Union Pacific rail yard site is another agenda of the perpetually screaming social justice crowd who demand another park or other publicly funded entitlement. BTW, UP has no intention of selling this site soon:
      Hey, maybe we can get the economically clueless enviro-wackos to purchase the site AND pay for an expedited, mandatory environmental cleanup. After they convert all rail and road vehicles to run on carbon-free unicorn farts. Just sayin’ …..

      • On the other hand, what if UP were to donate the rail yard site to the Olympic movement? But why would they do that, you may ask? If only somebody at UP had a vested interest in endorsing the Olympic movement, Wait a minute, isn’t Philip Anschutz UP’s largest shareholder? Is that the same Philip Anschutz who owns the Staples Center, LA Live and the other venues that will benefit immensely from having the Olympics in LA?

        Seems like a natural way to fund this venture to me. But then again, I’m just an economically clueless enviro-whacko.

        • Exactly where is U.P.suppose to move this vidal rail yard too? And if anyone believes cleaning up the rail yard would be easy just look to the difficulty the MTA had cleaning up the employees parking lot at CMF.

  7. A Technophile
    I really wonder why you just don’t move to Asia where it appears you would be a lot happier. It seems the MTA cannot do anything right according to you. But of course your expertise was gained from riding as a passenger and nothing else.

  8. It would be nice to have the Carson and San Pedro clusters connected by metro rail. Stub hub center is always a traffic nightmare when the Galaxy plays and San Pedro Is packed with tourists every weekend eating seafood. Metro rail will be greatly needed in these areas come 2024. Put that on Measure R!

  9. Color film was readily available back in the 1980s. So why are the 1984 Olympics photos in black and white?

    One good thing about LA 2024 is that it’ll give Metro officials and board members a good reason to actually visit Tokyo as they are the host city for the 2020 Olympics and make additional side trips to places like Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong to see what their mass transit system is like, come back to LA with their findings and do everything that many here have already been saying Metro should be doing.

  10. If Los Angeles gets the Olympics, Metro needs to have a presence at LAX.

    Have customer service representatives hand out TAP cards to tourists. Convert the LAX FlyAway bus to TAP. Speed up the Crenshaw Line to LAX and the peoplemover project.

  11. If you are trying to sell the transportation system to the rest of the world, you might want to cite figures in Metric!

  12. Extend the Red Line to the Arts District as currently planned and Extend the Purple Line to the Olympic Village. You don’t need to have red and purple lines dead end at the same place.

  13. Uh, 2036 – 2024 = 12. The Rodeo Dr station is scheduled for 2026, though, so bumping it up a couple years could at least get you a few blocks closer. And back when there was discussion of a proposed NFL stadium at Hollywood Park, next to the Forum, a few of us noted that people are willing to walk a mile or so from a rail station to sporting events. Then of course there are buses to close the last mile gap. Whatever the solution, at least there would be more transit options than in 84.

  14. Now that LA is officially the USOC pick, LA officials should now start to study the candidate cities for the 2020 Olympics (Istanbul, Madrid, and Tokyo) and why the IOC ultimately picked Tokyo.

    2020 Olympics – Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid Promotional Candidate Videos

    Presentation by Istanbul, Turkey

    Presentation by Madrid, Spain

    Presentation by Tokyo, Japan