Dodgers, Crenshaw, strip malls, Joker: Metro News Now, Oct. 8

Note to readers: thanks for your patience with the infrequent posting by yours truly as of late. There have been some family health issues back in Cincinnati, where I grew up and have spent a lot of time the past few years. Feel free to email me with any Queen City-related inquiries or you just need to vent about the Reds, Bengals or the increasing horribleness of Cincy traffic and sprawl. I actually had to plug a meter there on a Sunday, perhaps a sign the end is nigh. 

 

Dept. of Dodger Stadium Express: the Dodgers are a great team that is playing smart. The Nationals are playing desperate and have managed to reach the deciding game of the Division Series tomorrow evening at Dodger Stadium. We recommend taking the free bus from Union Station and Harbor Gateway — deets are here. Unbold prediction: Blue soundly defeats the weary-armed Nats and then steamrolls the Cards in the NLCS.

Art of Transit: the Green Line in a photo I took over the summer.

Things to watch whist transiting: 

My childhood Joker plays softball. Stephen Strasburg should take note.

In the news…

–The construction contract got inked last week to extend the Gold Line from Azusa to Pomona (with stations in Glendora, San Dimas and La Verne), reports the Daily Bulletin. The contract includes a two-year option to find the $550 million needed to extend the line to Claremont and Montclair, as originally planned.

The Montclair part — the city is in San Bernardino County, meaning they need to come up with the dough — is interesting as the DB reports there’s less than widespread agreement on whether the money should be spent on the Gold Line or other transit. The Gold Line would stop at the Montclair Transit Center which has lots of parking and connections to other bus lines — seems like it could be a successful light rail station. Thoughts?

–L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson opines in the LAT that Metro should do everything it can to speed up the Crenshaw Northern Extension project that would offer transfers to both the Purple Line at Wilshire Boulevard and the Red Line in Hollywood. Excerpt:

The so-called Northern Extension would stretch for about eight to 10 miles, depending on the route chosen, and it would tremendously multiply the travel options and opportunities for South L.A. residents by making it far easier to travel north of the Santa Monica Freeway, the city’s symbolic, if not always real, “color boundary.”

The Northern Extension would provide access, either directly or in combination with the Purple Line, to the Wilshire Corridor, West Hollywood, Hollywood and Westwood and to such venues as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the VA Hospital and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

That’s the dream.

As noted in the op-ed, the Measure M funded project is slated to be built in the 2040s. The city of West Hollywood is working on a study that looks at ways to accelerate financing and Metro is working to get the planning and environmental studies done. Wesson, it should be noted, is running for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors 2nd district seat next year; it’s already a crowded field and whoever wins automatically gets a seat on the Metro Board.

–I really liked this post at Curbed LA by Hadley Meares on how the L.A. area became such a hotspot for strip malls. Here’s something I probably should have known but didn’t until reading this post:

It was a worldwide political crisis that would resurrect the drive-in market, this time dubbed the corner strip mall or the mini-mall. The OPEC oil embargo of 1973-’74 and the subsequent gas crisis caused hundreds of Los Angeles-area gas stations to go bust.

“Those abandoned sites, surrounded by chain-link fences and strewn with ripped-up chunks of concrete, were usually at busy intersections chosen with the motorist in mind; oil companies were eager to get rid of the properties, and they were priced to sell,” writes Jade Chang in Metropolis magazine. “Later, in the mid-1980s, Standard Oil sold off the last of its iconic gas stations in Los Angeles, again providing a bonanza of cheap real estate for developers.”

According to Melton, the first modern LA “mini-mall” was constructed in Panorama City, in 1973. Located at Osborne Street and Woodman Avenue, the Italian-themed strip mall was designed by La Mancha Development Co., which would become a leader of corner strip mall development in Southern California.

In recent years, many cities in the region have taken steps to make it more difficult to build strip malls. The Curbed post does a nice job of explaining the good and the bad of that: the strip malls are often ugly, have traffic impacts and can be tough on pedestrians and cyclists. On the other hand, many small businesses have found homes in the mini-malls and given people, including many immigrants, a leg up.

–Curbside pick-up at LAX is going the way of the dodo, with riders having to schlep or ride a shuttle to a Uber/Lyft pickup lot near Terminal 1, reports the LAT. The issue is growing airport traffic as the number of people flying into/from LAX has grown in the past few years. LAX in recent years surpassed O’Hare in Chicago to become the nation’s second-busiest airport behind only Atlanta.

Bottom line, me thinks: getting to and from LAX is a pick your poison scenario. Whether it’s talking/bribing a loved one into giving a ride, a shuttle, the Flyaway bus (my preference, usually), cheap taxi or real taxi, there’s usually no lovely way to reach or extract oneself from the LAX horseshoe.

The year 2023 can’t come soon enough — that’s when the LAX automatic people is scheduled to open with connections the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Lines and other pickup/dropoff points outside the dreaded horseshoe.

Quasi-related caveat: LAX traffic has underlying causes. The airlines could fly to other regional airports or offer cheaper flights from the likes of Burbank, Long Beach, etc. — but they prefer to fly to/from LAX and offer lesser fares form there. Other cities — I’m talking to you, San Diego — could build their own right-sized airports but they don’t, instead choosing to mooch off the airports to the north. And, let’s be honest, our region could have had a rail connection to LAX in the 1990s via the Green Line but that milk got spilled for a variety of reasons.

–Good to see housing getting built near Monrovia Station along the Gold Line. Four notable developments are in the pipeline, reports Urbanize Los Angeles. Outside of Pasadena, new housing near the Gold Line has been spotty.

–The LAT story on Expo Line crowding ran a couple weeks ago, but I wanted to offer a little more context. While some trains have certainly been crowded — photos don’t lie — not all trains are crowded. An associated issue mentioned in the article is traffic signal pre-emption for Expo trains. Quick explanation of why that’s important: when trains are on time, crowding is manageable. When trains get hung up for a variety of reasons (including red lights), crowding increases.

On Sept. 26, Metro added another Expo Line during the peak of the peak times to help alleviate crowding (see this Source post). As mentioned in committee hearings last month, Metro will also be working with the city of L.A. on refining the traffic signals to keep trains moving.

10 replies

  1. Hi Steve, sorry to hear about the family issues. Re: Expo Line crowding, has Metro developed a service (or other) plan yet for when the Crenshaw/LAX line opens? Presumably a lot of riders from Crenshaw/LAX will feed into Expo, and since Expo is already crowded, I’m curious to know Metro’s plan for that increased Expo ridership. If Metro fails to pre-emptively act, seems like it could be a disaster.

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks much. At this point, my understanding is operations is working on the operating plan that the Board approved last year for Crenshaw/LAX and Green Lines and then will work on schedules. As you write, they’ll have to plan for riders at Expo/Crenshaw transferring to Expo and what headways can handle that.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Thanks Steve. So is it accurate to say that Metro is at this time only studying how EXISTING Expo line capacity can support a Crenshaw/LAX service plan, rather than looking to expand Expo line capacity (more frequent service, seats facing the middle, some other magic solution)?

        • Hey Andrew;

          I think what I’d probably say is that staff is looking to keep Expo trains running on time to prevent overcrowding and to also possibly speed the trains up through traffic signal preemption. We’ve added some service at the peak of the peak and we’ll continue to monitor ridership now and in the future to determine if other changes need to be made. That’s my take.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

  2. The rail lines need their own right of way especially with regard to the Gold and Blue lines. Maybe they’ll tackle it when more funding is available far into the future. I hope the new Crenshaw Northern extension will be elevated or separated. They need to cut down the travel times.

    LAX needs a boost of mass transit because the current scenario is unsustainable. This should happen in 2023 after the People Mover opens, but the next 4 years will remain a mess. No where do they propose to fix the horseshoe design. This is unacceptable. They should demolish the center parking lots and build new elevated roads to separate the traffic going to Terminals 1 -3, International, and 4-7. Or detour to the lower level Departures to alleviate the traffic. What a mess.

    Strip malls should be outlawed in favor of larger malls and shopping centers. Our suffering malls should build small stores facing the streets to encourage more business. The strip mall small lots should be converted to housing or mixed retail and residential.

    • Hi TimW;

      Also worth mentioning is that LAX is building a consolidated rental car facility that will be accessed via the people mover. That will eliminate the need for the rental car shuttles. The people mover will also connect to a large parking/dropoff facility and run near many of the airport-area hotels and other businesses that use shuttles. That will help with traffic in the horseshoe. The big question is what to do with the number of private vehicles driving into the horseshoe. That’s a tougher problem — especially because LAX is the airport serving much of Southern California, thus the reason so many people drive there.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. I felt LAX missed a chance in the airport remodel to pull the parking garages out of the CTA or most of them and build a mega terminal or two in the center. The existing terminals repurposed as the depart lounges- removing ticket counters and security would allow more room in the existing terminals to simply make more space, more seating, lounges, shopping, whatever. The soon to be people mover is great, but i would have then added a circulating PM between all terminals, especially now with the addition of terminals “0” and “9”. For right now, cost of parking in CTA must be higher and parking on the outer lots cheaper as long as they have a way to get to the terminals beyond the PM. Other idea would be to charge private cars entering the CTA (?) Problem then is people will simply keep circling and the jams continue. We also need to work to bring more rail lines to LAX beyond the current Green Line and soon to be Crenshaw. The subway from the SFV needs to work its way in and the Green line down to Redondo needs to get to Torrance and then on to San Pedro. Wilmington and Long Beach as well.
    I know airport and airline employees will use the transit options and probably tourists, especially foreign tourists who are us to taking transit to the airport. It’s the “locals” who won’t use it as much I am afraid.

  4. Spilled Milk again proved the LACTC should never have engaged in building a light rail line. They screwed up with the Blue Line which is costing billions today to fix and the Green Line is truly a line that goes no where. Excuses why it never entered the airport or at least had a branch terminating near the entrance are just stupid excuses covering up their incompetence.

    With the creation of the MTA with he merger of the LACTC and the RTD incompetence was subjected upon us on all modes of travel both rail and bus. Busy bus lines cut back necessitating multiple transfers. A plagued TAP CARD program that was a failure from the start and just this month was criticized in Trains Magazine for being difficult to use some ten years after its implementation.

    Both the Blue Line/ Green Line meeting points and the Expo Line/ Crenshaw Line meeting points do not offer alternate routes where both could provide one seat rides too LAX with a simple turn-out. We hear the Green Line has a insufficient power source for the line to accommodate increased patronage with more trains once the Green Line and Crenshaw Lines are joined yet there is no indication this issue will be addressed prior to their official connection. What will happen when the Expo Line is connected with the East L.A. portion of the Gold Line and the two current Gold Line connections are severed since the Expo Line yard is at capacity?

    Except for the few former RTD employees still on the property the majority of those making decisions have no real transit experience and are text book amateurs that have no business leading and advising one of our nations largest transit properties. I can hardly wait to see how these morons chop up our bus system to fit some ill conceived notion that direct service from point”A” to point “B” is wrong and patrons will flock back to the bus system, the back bone of MTA service, only to face mutual transfer to reach their destinations while waiting in the hot sun or rain.