How We Roll, Feb. 17: the dead flowers edition

Reminder: if you’re headed to the immigration march on Saturday in DTLA or the Not My President’s Day march on Monday, Metro is running extra service. GET A TAP CARD AHEAD OF TIME TO AVOID LONG LINES AT THE TAP MACHINES!!

Vote for Negan? After the Apocalypse, there is no voting, people.

Department of Coffee: And now it’s official. Metro and the new Groundwork Coffee in the restored Lankershim Depot in NoHo held a grand opening event today. Pics here and here’s a recent Source post.

Why I’m breaking up with the Blue Line after 19 years (LAT) 

The Blue Line near Slauson Avenue in South L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A tough op-ed from LAT researcher Scott Wilson, who has been commuting to work on the Blue Line since the 1990s. His primary complaint:

Almost every day now you make me and my fellow riders wait. The train comes to a stop and we wait — two minutes here, four minutes there. The delays add up, and soon we’re late for work by 10 or 15 minutes. For a train line that carries 78,000 riders every day, this is no small deal.

And later:

So in late November, I began recording the start and end times of each of my trips. I timed 20 straight trips; only 35% of them ran on time. In late January, I did the same thing, only this time, all 10 consecutive rides that I timed ran late.

As for the issues raised by Scott, I can tell you that the folks upstairs here at Metro are certainly aware of them and working toward improving the situation. Many of the issues involve running Expo Line and Blue Line on the same stretch of tracks on Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles. All trains must turn around at 7th/Metro and the increased number of Expo Line trains since October — when Expo began running every six minutes at peak hours — has complicated matters, no ifs ands or buts.

Turning around trains is a time munch. One remedy for that is being worked on: the Regional Connector project which is linking the Blue, Expo and Gold Line. When the Connector opens — scheduled for 2021 — Blue and Expo trains will continue north from 7th/Metro. That will help.

In the meantime, some of the local blogs picked up on a motion offered by several members of the Metro Board of Directors this month calling for a study on ways to improve the Blue Line, including putting some of the line above or below street level and the possibility of building express tracks south of Washington Boulevard. I would imagine that running express trains for part of the line might be tricky, given the number of street crossings and safety concerns along Long Beach Avenue and, again, the number of trains that can be squeezed through the Flower Street section of the line.

As I wrote the other day, this is just a study. I think it’s great to see the issues raised. But…it’s worth noting that any of the above improvements would almost certainly cost many millions of dollars. At this time there is no funding source and funding is never an easy trick. Aspiring journalists, aspiring skeptics and transit enthusiasts/bloggers may also consider the motion comes three months after the passage of Measure M, whose Board-approved spending list does not include a Blue Line-specific project.

Some other background that may be helpful. The Blue Line is Metro’s oldest and busiest light rail line (the Red/Purple Line is considered ‘heavy’ rail and has more capacity). Here are the Blue Line’s ridership estimates for the past five years, although it’s obviously too early to know how 2017 will shape up:

Make no mistake, the Blue Line is the workhorse of the light rail system. At 22 miles, it is carrying more than 77,000 boardings on the average weekday whereas the 31-mile Gold Line and 15-mile Expo Line are both around 53K average daily boardings.

As for Scott’s Valentine’s Day break-up with the Blue Line…reminded me of this song (mild adult language).

A long way to go (Tampa Bay Times) 

Mirror Image of Tampa Skyline at Sunrise

A quasi-investigative piece that finds that by many measures, the Tampa region has some of the worst transit in the country, impacting low-income riders who can’t afford cars and who are dependent on the area’s buses.

There is a ton of greatness in this article (check out all the graphics) but if I had to choose just one paragraph to copy here, it’s this one:

Current and former commissioners in both counties said they need to do more, but also criticized the plans before them — many of which they’d discussed for years and were written under their direction.

And later:

Local leaders have known for at least 25 years that the area’s limited transit network makes life difficult for people like Lloyd.

Yet more than a dozen plans to expand service or build new transit lines were voted down or ignored.

The article keeps diving in deeper while remaining extremely readable. And later it gets to the real question on the table for large, sprawling metro areas such as Tampa: is it worth investing in transit when many believe that only a small percentage of residents will ever use it?

I think most of us reading this know the answer: of course. Putting all your mobility eggs in one basket (i.e. cars) strikes me as dumb and ineffective although I do think there’s a caveat to all this: running a transit system poorly and/on the cheap is usually a race to zero.

L.A. community plans languished for years. Now they’re an unlikely issue in the March elections (LAT)

With Measure S headed to voters in the city of L.A. next month, reporter David Zahniser takes a good look at the city’s inability to update most of the community plans that dictate what gets built and where.

Attentive Source readers know what has resulted: most developments in the city ask for exemptions from zoning laws, which in turns gives a fair amount of power to the city’s Ultimate Exemptors: the City Council.

As one interviewee notes in the story:

“They don’t want to plan,” she said. “They are not going to get huge contributions for following a plan. They get huge contributions from deviating from plans.”

That’s a mic drop type quote. As for Measure S, it proposes to put new restrictions on development in the city and requires that the community plans rewritten every five years. The City Council last week approved amending the plans every six years. As Zahniser notes, 29 of the 35 plans haven’t been updated since 2001.

This is not directly a transit issue, but certainly one that impacts transit. The city of L.A. is at the heart of the Metro Bus and Rail system and many of the new developments that have been built in recent times or will be built in the near future are near transit. Many transit advocates say density near buses and trains makes a lot of sense, making transit more accessible, supporting businesses and helping to make neighborhoods more walkable and appealing.

Dept. of Breaking News: 

Lizard fieldwork is just a Metro ride away in Los Angeles (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

Great post about NHM staff using the Expo Line to travel to Palms, where they were checking for non-native reptiles that have apparently taken up residence. Their effort is part of the Museum’s Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California citizen science project.

As it happens, I went herping last weekend in the Chantry Flat area of the Angeles National Forest. Hopefully, the Forest Service’s shuttle between the Gold Line’s Arcadia Station and parking-challenged Chantry Flat will return this summer or fall — the shuttle was piloted in October.

A few pics I shot last weekend of some of the reptiles living very close to La La Land:

Ensatina salamander. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

Alligator lizard. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

California newt. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

Black-bellied slender salamander. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

The view from Chantry Flat toward Arcadia on a rainy/misty afternoon. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.


4 replies

  1. “I recently listened to a fellow rider on the phone as he begged his boss not fire him. The Blue Line, again, was making him late for work.”

    This is a sad reality for many. What does Metro do if you lose your job because they are alway late? Whos fault is that when you may not be able to drive? Its sounds harsh, but a hiring manager will hire a motorist much quicker than a transit dependent person since “they are not reliable” or “don’t have reliable transportation.”

    Its Metro that makes this a difficulty.

    • @TheRealTransitRider yeah that seems to happen alot. I remember there was a delay cause of a disabled train and this one frantic (lol) rider called metro to tell them to call his boss about what had happen and that he was gonna be late.