Police pursuits, speeding up buses and trains, Wakandan transit: HWR, Feb. 22

Art of Transit

Why the Expo Line is slow — and why it won’t be that way forever (Curbed LA)

To avoid boring you to tears, I’ll just say this: the change to state law happened a while ago and could make it easier to build transit stuff in the future. As Source alum Carter Rubin explains:


As for the Expo Line, it’s ultimately up to the cities that control the traffic signals to determine who waits at red lights — car traffic or the train. As for much of the Expo Line being at street level, that was a decision made by based on available funding.

Yes, some drivers do outrun police during high-speed pursuits — but often at great peril (LAT)

For obvious reasons, the police pursuit the other night that resulted in a vehicle driving into the Gold Line tunnel in Boyle Heights has received a lot of attention.

In this LAT follow-up, two key stats are cited: most chases (not a shocker) end in an arrest but LAPD pursuits between 2006 and 2014 also resulted in 334 bystander injuries.

Reporter Richard Winton also cites a report on police pursuits (see page 143 and posted below)) by the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury. It makes for some interesting reading given that the volume of police pursuits is something very unique to our area.

Here are two key graphs from the report:

Elevated Risk Justified?

According to a report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Institute of Justice, 91% of high-speed chases are initiated in response to a non-violent crime. The study analyzed nearly 8,000 high-speed chases in the IACPs database. It found that 42% involved a simple traffic infraction, another 18% involved a stolen vehicle, and 15% involved a suspected drunk driver.

Similar statistics are expected for the County. These results suggest some questions. Is it worth putting lives at risk by traveling through urban areas at high speed to apprehend somebody who ran a red light? Or who failed to signal a turn? If a driver is drunk, does it make sense to engage him in a high-speed pursuit, making him even more dangerous to bystanders?

My hunch is that many chases are not necessary. That said, I would also love to know the average sentence for those who are apprehended. Given the risk these chases pose to bystanders, other motorists and the police, I personally believe offenders deserve significant time up the river, so to speak.


The attainable wonders of Wakandan mass transit (Citylab)

Credit: Marvel Studios.


Indeed, like so many things, the reason U.S. cities lack Wakanda-level transit is for lack of political will. As CityLab’s Brentin Mock notes, the closed-door African monarchy of the Black Panther film and comic book promotes freedom, equality, and prosperity for all denizens. It is also a very urban place by necessity. To shield itself against colonialism and plunder, Wakanda poses on the world stage as a poor, arid backwater; this pushes dense development (with a conspicuous lack of private cars) to its hidden interior. The U.S. is urban too, with more than 80 percent of the population living in urban areas. But the distribution of political representation, and hence the dollars, favor rural areas.

I haven’t seen ‘Black Panther’ yet as I’ve been taking time off from comic book movies. Feel free to try to persuade me in the comments that now is the time to end my Marvel diet.

19 replies

  1. Yeah it was mandated via LAUSD because they or at least a few vocal people in the community thought high school students somehow weren’t competent enough to navigate a well marked train crossing during the day or even manage to stay on a platform without falling off apparently (since trains have to slow down way before pulling up to the platform) and despite thousands of at-grade cars passing by the same area because logic… I doubt building a pedestrian bridge would have quelled their irrational fears unless the whole intersection was closed off completely though because also logic…

  2. Even before any additional grade separations are built for expo (like between the tunnel before Pico and the junction) the goal for munis and metro should be to cut down the end to end run time to no more than 40 minutes which should be realistically doable with signal priority and/or preemption and maybe even 35 minutes with additional grade seps, more slow-zone elimination like farmdale or stopping to change operators east of 26th and along some curves especially between westwood and palms (perhaps the engineers were a bit conservative in their speed ratings there) as well other random slowdowns on straight sections of track. The same could be said for the east side gold line as far as reducing trip times with signal preemption (no more than 20 minutes). For the blue line it seems the goal is already to reduce the trip to 45 minutes which is good, but the (formerly?) proposed grade separation at willow would be much better spent in downtown LA or downtown LB for obvious reasons.

    • Sadly I think the Farmdale slow-zone is court mandated (correct me if I’m wrong), but yes, I do agree that rotation should at least be done AT the station, and not at the yard.

      I think what some people don’t understand is that 1 minute can be the difference between having only a 1 min dwell time to transfer between trains, to 5-25 min dwell time waitin for the next one because of an unexpected stop between stations.

      Now one can call that as acting privileged or self-entitlement from some people, but calling people that won’t exactly keep them coming back either.

      • Couldn’t the Farmdale station could’ve been eliminated if Metro built a pedestrian bridge over the tracks?

        Part of the agreement to place the station there included every train had to stop there, precluding express service on Expo.

    • Also, is it possible to plan a LRT or BRT Route between Hyde Park and South Whittier via Slauson Av. and Randolph Street and that UP RoW?

  3. I have yet to see the movie also. Almost everyone, I know has made their way into the movie houses. Anywhere, any people that has learned to live near our fullest potential, as human beings got my vote. Wakanda Forever!

  4. West Santa Ana Light Rail should a station stop north of 7th/Metro Station and use a tunnel to connect the stations. It should then continue north on Figueroa and either turn left on Sunset and right to stadium way, in front of dodger stadium or tunnel/bridge through the freeway, make in street grade at stadium way.

    • Dodger Stadium is used 85-90 days a year max (a good portion of which are weekends). Silver Lake and/or Echo Park would be better locations for light rail.

  5. Amazing that everyone seems to be talking about using “signal priority” for trains in order to speed up ONLY the Expo Line!

    Hello, Expo-Line users (of which I am one), don’t be so self-absorbed. The Blue Line (which STILL has the MOST light-rail users, even though passengers continue to abandon it more and more because of its wretched and unreliable service) also gets totally stuck in AUTOMOBILE traffic, beginning at Pico Station (SHARED with Expo Line) extending on past the Washington/L.B. Bl. intersection (as well as in downtown Long Beach?). Then there are the similar stretches of the Gold Line where it CREEEEEPS through E. L.A. as well as through Highland Park, stopping at most of the traffic signals–even for relatively small cross-streets.

    Ironically, outside of what Metro calls “peak-hour” traffic, the 733 “Rapid” Line, even IN STREET TRAFFIC along Venice Bl., often can match or BEAT the travel time of the Expo Line trains through the stretch between Flower Street and Culver City (National Bl.)! (This is especially true at night.)

    Finally giving signal priority to MetroRail train operators (and maybe to some Rapid bus operators) would speed up at least these three MetroRail lines SUBSTANTIALLY–without the expense and delay of waiting to elevate the tracks or to move them below grade.

    So what is L.A. City Department of Transportation (plus some similar bureaucracies of some other, smaller cities) DOING–while Metro passengers continue to give up on the badly run rail lines (which still break down amazingly often, causing much worse delays than a broken-down bus)?

  6. USC could have made a substantial contribution to funding the Expo Line’s grade-separation in their neighborhood — if they had wanted to!! [One just needs to look at all that development in their area!!]

    • If I remember correctly, USC pushed really hard to have Expo running below grade next to campus (though they didn’t commit any funds); the stated reason was to preserve the connection between USC and Expo Park. However, I feel that the current situation, with Expo running at grade, is much more pleasant and pedestrian-friendly than USC’s proposal, which would have preserved six lanes of traffic on Exposition Blvd. Trains are a bit slower between Vermont and Figueroa than they would’ve been underground, but overall I’d say it’s a net positive for this section of Exposition Blvd. Plus, it saved a bundle on construction costs.

  7. The main spot of aggravation for Expo Line riders are the wye with the Blue Line and the approach to the shared track on Flower. The at-grade track west of there are more of a minor annoyance (okay, Farmdale is more than minor).

    Fix Flower and you’ll have more happy riders.

  8. It’s a great movie Steve. Not just because of the action scenes and special effects. The story line is well done and really makes you think about today’s world, especially related to social justice. You won’t regret seeing it.

    • Thanks Jose. I began my hiatus after “Captain America Civil War,” and briefly returned to fold for “Wonder Woman,” which…and here comes the ire…I didn’t quite like as much as everyone else. But I loved “Creed” and Ryan Coogler’s directing of it, so willing to give this one a chance. Will let everyone know what I think! 🙂

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  9. Why do Expo line trains have to stop at some intersections and wait for traffic lights while other sections are guarded by gates and arms that allow the trains to go thru? Wasn’t this the case for all traffic on the right of way when it handled freight (and before that, PE cars)?

    • Hi Terry;

      Some intersections were grade separated (bridges or tunnels in English) for concerns about safety and traffic impacts. Some got crossing gates for safety concerns. And still others were on “street running” sections where it was decided that the train would be controlled by traffic signals. This was done to minimize traffic impacts, save money and in places where crossing gates were deemed impractical because of lack of space.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Can’t speak about the PE days, but between 1953 up until 1989, exactly how many freight trains ran up and down the Air Line everyday??

      Unless I’m mistaking it seems like the only reason why the Air Line still saw freight service was because of fisher lumber. I’d have to assume it was not often enough to make any serious impact to vehicle traffic.