How We Roll, August 29: Silver Streak, Expo schedules & reminder to fish to TAP before boarding

From the Dept. of Welcome to My Chocolate Factory: RIP, Gene Wilder. I think “Willy Wonka” was one of the first movies I ever saw in a movie theater. And “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Silver Streak” and “Stir Crazy” were all fun movies back in my more youthful days of yore. Here’s the NYT obit. And one of the great entrances in cinema:

Art of Transit: 


Art of Transit 2: 

Slack for iOS Upload


Quasi-related: Metro’s innovation office has some thoughts on the future of transit and ride hailing.

Art of Transit 3: 


Dept of Go Metro to Rams Games: 



As I’ve written before, the NFL preseason is almost completely without meaning — it exists basically to separate fans from dollars. That said, looks like Jared Goff will remain the QB of the Future and not the QB of 2016 unless Case Keenum really stinks it up. When I’m the king and running my own QB-challenged NFL franchise, I’d probably try to swing a trade with the Bengals for A.J. McCarron. I think he’s the real deal although Cincy’s terrific offensive line certainly helps. Related: how to Go Metro to see the Rams at the Coliseum.

And from the Dept. of Climate Change: 

Reminder: generally speaking, taking transit instead of driving alone is a good way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Expo Line trains regularly run behind schedule, posing a challenge for Metro (LAT)

The story looks at data from Metro from June and finds that 24 percent of Expo trains — and 35 percent during peak hours — were five minutes or more behind schedule. The Expo Line was also more likely to be late than Metro’s other rail lines.

Metro officials say there are several reasons for the delays in June and that the Expo Line’s schedules may be adjusted as part of the December service changes if problems persist. Metro is also planning to increase Expo Line rush hour service from every 12 minutes to every six minutes in December, as long as enough new light rail cars arrive and are available for regular service. Excerpt:

The downtown project, known as the Regional Connector, will allow light-rail trains to travel seamlessly from Azusa to Long Beach and from East L.A. to Santa Monica without stopping. It will also dramatically increase the number of trains passing through shared tunnels beneath downtown.

“This system is going to get more complicated and increasingly difficult to manage,” Gallagher said. “It’s going to take a lot of brainpower on our part to keep those trains on time.”

The LAT article relied on data from Metro for the month of June. My question for daily Expo riders (I’m not a daily rider): how has service been over the summer? Comment please or email me.

Real-time bus data to be added to 300 stops (Curbed LA)

One of the items approved by the Metro Board last week was a plan to add electronic signs to 300 busy bus stops showing real-time bus arrival info, service alerts and detour info. The signs are set to debut next summer and then roll out over the next year.

Long Beach won’t get a seat on the Metro Board — at least not yet (Press Telegram)

Another look at SB 1379, which State Sen. Tony Medoza said last week that he was dropping. The bill would have greatly expanded the Metro Board of Directors, with supporters saying it would give more voice to smaller cities in Los Angeles County.

Opponents — which included the Metro Board — said those cities are already represented by the five County Supervisors and the four Board Members who each represent a block of county cities. As I noted last week, Metro Board Chair John Fasana addressed this issue at last week’s Board meeting; clikc to the 6:15 mark in the web stream below.

I got hit in the face with a fish on the G train (The Awl) 

But what does it mean to be hit in the face with a red snapper?

I want to contend that the story of the fish in the face is just that. I want to believe that in the early hours of March 10, 2013, while riding the G train home in Brooklyn, I was hit in the face with a fish, and that there is nothing more to say about it.

Well, it’s an excellent drinking story in the wake of last week’s NY Post bugs-on-the-NY-subway story. LAT reporter Laura Nelson asked Twitter for other weird transit tales. See her stream for some additional weirdness. My favorite response (and one of the less gross ones):

Things to read whilst transiting: Peter King’s MMQB is always an informative read if you dig pro football. Back from touring NFL training camps, King writes:

Now that I’m back from the training camp, one observation from the journey was about the progress of so many cities in bringing people back downtown. Cincinnati, with a vastly improved riverfront, is one, and I wrote about the Queen City a couple of weeks ago. There are others: Milwaukee, with a terrific and livable Third Ward, home to more than 400 businesses downtown; Houston, a good walking city when it’s not stiflingly humid, with the revitalized area around the baseball stadium; Baltimore, with the new construction (much by Under Armour) in needy areas, plus the classic old restaurants in places like Little Italy; and San Diego. I can’t say enough about how great San Diego has become, particularly around Petco Park. Two other gems in smaller cities: Green Bay has done a terrific job with brew pubs and restaurants downtown, and Spartanburg, S.C., (summer home of the Panthers) has some nice places featuring local fare and great walks.

I know zero about urban planning, but I know progress when I see it. And there’s a lot of that happening out there.

I’d add L.A. to the list! Mr. King also some words about Mr. Goff and his 48 percent completion rate.

Finally, if you don’t have time to watch the entire movie while at work, the condensed version. Warning: some mild adult-ish humor:

24 replies

  1. Agreed that Expo line is consistently late, especially eastbound in the morning. Moovit says that the 7:43 AM train from Crenshaw will arrive in time to catch the 8:11 Commuter Express 422 at 7th/Metro – unfortunately, this is not true. The 7:31 AM train will catch the 422, with about five minutes to spare. The biggest issue is LADOT and signal priority – that agency uses the excuse of trains every three minutes, but that is true only at two major intersections (Pico and Washington) – all others are either minor intersections or have only one of the two lines (Expo or Blue), and should absolutely be train signal override. It makes no sense to hold up a 500-passenger train for a few cars.

    • The above comment highlights a very important point that is constantly glossed over by Metro and LADOT when defending the status quo regarding street-running. The section between Pico and Washington is only about 1/2 mile. So if street-running in that segment is here to stay, I suppose not having signal preemption there would not be such a problem as long as all other street-running crossings have it. Perhaps at that point there would only be a delay of a minute or two max for the entire route. But when combined with every other signal stop along the route (blue or expo) this adds up considerably and seriously undermines the purpose of a backbone system and all the money spent on it.

      Besides that 1/2 mile segment, all other street-running crossings will have one line crossing every three minutes when accounting for both directions (assuming six minute head ways are implemented). Even so, a train shouldn’t ever really take more than about 15 seconds to cross a street. Perhaps a 10 or 15 second buffer before the train crosses is sensible. However even then when accounting for both directions, only one minute maximum out of three minutes at any time is taken for the intersection. Is that really such a problem? If the schedules are factored in to the signal sync system then preemption probably wont even be that infringing anyhow. It will only be a real interruption for traffic when trains are not running on schedule anyway.

      So, ideology and a cultural choice are at play here rather than an engineering or math related problem. Lets hope that changes soon. If it doesn’t, then that’s even more of a reason these sections ought to be trenched or bridged. No need for full tunneling. Metro even admits how troublesome operations and scheduling will become once the regional connector opens. Gee, I wonder why. Fixing these at-grade sections will cost a fair amount of course, but that will be inevitable 20 years down to correct the design problems on the current system. Penny wise and pound foolish. I’m glad more and more people are recognizing that since expo opened to Santa Monica.

      • The ideal solution to the problem of street running between Pico and Washington Blvd is to extend the Metro Center Tunnel to south of Washington Blvd perhaps to just north of the 23rd Street Station or even to the tunnel near USC. In the process both the Pico Station and the Washington Junction, and perhaps the 23rd Street Station, would be underground where they always should have been.

        Heading east, the subway under Washington Blvd ideally should extend to beyond the Washington Station which would now be underground and then surface onto the current right of way. Alternatively, it could surface east of the Grand Station which would now be underground, leaving only the San Pedro Station on the street-running portion.

        In the future, if both Expo and Blue lines have 6 minute rush hour service, a train would come through on average every 90 seconds. Thus a flying junction, such as where the Red and Purple lines converge west of the Western Avenue Station, should be built so that neither inbound Expo nor outbound Blue line trains have to wait for the crossing between these two lines to clear.

  2. I take the Expo Line every day since I work in Expo Park. Before opening up the extension to Santa Monica, the train was very punctual and while it would get full it wasn’t uncomfortably crowded. After the new stations opened you saw an increase in ridership right away. The trains that come by Expo Park around 5pm would routinely be late, and be extremely crowded. As people have mentioned this was happening with 2-car trains. Over the last two weeks most of the trains during rush hour seem to be 3-car trains. This has helped immensely with timing and overcrowding. My train yesterday at 5pm, was 15 minutes late and packed (and still a 3-car train). The driver was telling people on the platform that they could wait two minutes for the next train that had more room. Glad to see the line being used, and hope that to see more 3-car trains. And an increase in rush hour service to every 6 minutes will be great.

  3. I will be riding the Expo for the first time ever on 9-13-16. And I will be guaranteed a seat since I will catch it at the start of the line.

  4. Perhaps new card designs could include a circle in the design where it’s safe to hole punch.

  5. Have taken the Expo Line twice and both times the trains was late!! I take the Gold Line more often and since all trains now go to APU, overcrowding is no longer an issue. Sunday, August 28th, was the first time I ever saw a 3 train Gold Line in operation. Why on a Sunday morning, I have no idea.

    But, the Expo Line is where the 3 car train services is needed more!! Luckily I caught the Expo at 7th & Metro or DTSM, and there were seats but any other stops, it was standing room only!!

    I know in 3-4 years when the Regional Connector is finally open, the 3 car trains are going to be needed on both lines, but right now get the 3 car trains on the Expo Line!

  6. I have taken the Expo Line several times since it opened, but irregularly. I am a transit-dependent (non-choice) rider. White, male, college educated, early 20s. For reference. I moved out of the area five years ago but I still visit often.

    Riding the expo line has been..predictable in its chaos. Trains do not match the timetable at their origin or along the route.

    Here is the part where my experiences don’t particular reflect the state of the system, given that I’m an irregular rider: I personally have never traveled a single Expo trip in which over 20 passengers were denied boarding due to crowding at nearly every station from DTSM to DTLA. My trips are often but not exclusively dtsm-dtla.

    The lack of communication about delays has been Metro’s achillles heel since I began riding the system in the 2000s. The metro twitter is pretty good for rail delays (good LUCK with bus delays/detours -___-). But the signs in stations rarely give helpful information. If anything, the station PA system will repeat an announcement that the line is experiencing delays. Announcements like this are an improvement over no announcement at all (it’s helpful as a rider to know that Metro is trying to recover from the delays) but don’t give the rider the necessary information to be able to rely on the system.

    The chaos that must be rail operations at the moment is evident to the riding public.

    • It would be wonderful if the (legacy) Expo station signs showed anything at all. Originally, they predicted train arrival; now, at best, they show “Live Announcement” or “The Train Is Arriving”.

  7. In regards to the electronic signs….Metro installed the signs on the 110 Harbor Transit Station well over a year ago and they have not been activated. This really would be a nice function when waiting for the bus to be aware of somewhat accurate arrival times, alerts and detours.

  8. Maybe Metro’s customer service could provide this special hole-punching service as a courtesy?!

  9. A suggestion: If a small hole were punched in one corner of the TAP cards, they could be carried on a lanyard, which would be quite convenient. They would be less likely to be dropped or lost, especially by the elderly or disabled.

    • Hi John,

      That actually sounds like a pretty cool idea and I wonder if you can DIY it. You’d just have to make sure you don’t punch the hole where the chip is…hmm. Sounds like something I need to try.

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

      • I remember seeing pictures, back when you guys posted a scavenger hunt, of a few people’s cars with keyring holes punched in them. Yours have to be careful to avoid not just the microchip, but also the circuits running around the card that are set in maybe 1/2 cm from the edges.

        The plastic TAP cards are completely opaque, but the laminated paper bus-to-rail transfer cards are thin enough that you can hold them up to a light source and see through them. Do the plastic cards have the same circuitry?

      • Regarding my hole-punched TAP card idea, I was not suggesting that any individual try this, for the very reason of the internal chip and circuitry. What I had in mind was that new cards could be manufactured that way. And, although one of the “features” mentioned for the cards was their durability, if there was the possibility of cracking or the hole “pulling through”, that area (surrounding the hole) could be reinforced with plastic or even steel grommets. Someone mentioned a plastic pouch on a lanyard that could hold the card. That would also be good, if it could be sealed so that the card could not fall out. One of the problems with untethered cards occurs when people are carrying things, and their hands are full. I have even seen people holding a TAP card with their teeth (not very sanitary).

        • True; I personally use a plastic pouch on a lanyard, shared with my work badge – that seems to work very well.

    • Several TAP agencies have the lanyards that have a plastic pouch to keep the card. I think I’ve seen Torrance and Santa Clarita offer those as SWAG at booths. I would be concerned about punching the card because you don’t know where the chip is, and continued use may result in the card cracking and dropping from the lanyard.

  10. Steve, my own experience with the Expo Line this summer has been that the trains often do arrive several minutes late AND that one major reason is (once again) that the trains are not long enough to accommodate all the people who want to ride. When a train arrives at a station with standing room only so that passengers are standing in every bit of available space, right up to the doors, then obviously the train’s departure will be delayed by passengers on the platform dashing around, hoping to find more room to board if they go to the next set of doors, or the next, or the next. That is why I have now mostly abandoned the Expo Line in favor of one of the bus lines that can get me to the same destination with more room for passengers, and often available seats. I remain hopeful that things will improve when Metro can FINALLY add more cars and thus make each train longer on both the Expo and Gold Lines.

    • L.A. does not have Regional Rail. Metrolink service is a joke. There was no regional funding for it and nothing meaningful is proposed for the future.

      • Especially when compared with Metro North, the Long Island Rail Road, Metra, New Jersey Transit, SEPTA, MTBA, and even Caltrain. Caltrain is being electrified as part of the High Speed Rail Blended System which, they say, will allow more frequent service.

        Metrolink also should be electrified, or at least consider using FRA-Collision Compliant DMUs. This should permit more frequent service, as no longer would a heavy diesel locomotive have to be dragged around on every trip. There are dual-mode (electric and diesel) MUs that can operate under-wire or not.

        At the very minimum there should be hourly midday, evening, and weekend service, and a maximum 15-minute headways during the rush hours from 3 to 6pm.

        I know this will not be cheap, but somehow funds should be made available for this to become a reality. In addition Metrolink must somehow eliminate the single track operation in the I10 median. Too bad this was not considered when the Express Lanes were installed.

  11. At least New Yorker’s HAVE the 2/3 and G trains, not to the mention the 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, A, B, C, D, E, F, L, M, N, R, Q, and Z trains. LA has nothing to compare with these and most likely will never have a system such as this.

    Some of these lines such as the 2, 3, 4, 5, and Z lines provide express service in parallel to lines providing local service, while the 1, 6, and Z lines provide local service in parallel with express service. The 7 line is unique in that it provides local service along a route with no express service.

    This list does not include the Metro North, Long Island Rail Road, and New Jersey Transit commuter rail services to and from New York. Metrolink pales in comparison with these systems, not to mention that Metra, SEPTA, MTBA, and Caltrain all provide far better service than does Metrolink,

    • Apparently no one caught my error. There is also a J Line which provided 24/7 local service while the parallel Z Line provides rush hour skip-stop express operation. The Z line does not provide local service.

      The East River tunnels on the heavily traveled L Line subway, which runs essentially along the boundary between Queens and Brooklyn, will be taken out of service for several months in 2019 to allow repairs of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. This will put an extra load on the J and M Lines which share elevated trackage about a mile to the south. The A and F Lines, which are further south still, will probably not be as severely impacted.

  12. I know it’s more expensive but the Expo delays just show that Metro needs to build rail lines underground more. Too many above grounds lines.

  13. Regarding Expo Line times: From my observations the Expo Line has been operating on time much more consistently in the past few weeks, since they’ve managed to provide three-car trains throughout the peak periods. I’m convinced that this is no coincidence as it is much easier to maintain the schedule when trains aren’t over’loaded with passengers. The shorter trains require more dwell time to unload and load at each station, and if they miss the schedule at one of the uncontrolled intersections they will have to wait a full signal cycle before proceeding, and that allows time for more people to congregate at the next station downstream, which amplifies the crowding, dwell time and delay problems.
    Note: I can’t get through the LA Times firewall to read the cited article without purchasing a subscription.