Thursday, December 6, 2012

Streetcars are coming to Downtown L.A. (and one suggested change)

As you may have heard, streetcars are returning to downtown Los Angeles, and downtown voters gave overwhelming approval to streetcar funding, with this one way circular route being the first alignment of many.

I am excited for this project, but would make one small tweak if the money were available.  I would add streetcar tracks on 7th Avenue both ways between Hill and Broadway as the first upgrade to this line.

We would have three streetcar routes immediately:

(A)  The full clockwise loop we see constructed.
(B)  A northern clockwise loop from Bunker Hill to 7th Avenue
(C)  A southern clockwise loop from 7th Avenue to 11th.

That's a lot of mobility right there for the streetcar system before any counter-clockwise routing is built.

I have a strong hunch that when this streetcar goes online that there will be demands for similar routes all over Southern California.

Note:  That dotted line on the map is the norther extension of the Blue/Expo Lines toward Union Station and connection with the current Gold Line, also called the Regional Connector.  These are exciting times for transit downtown and for the whole region.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Recent travel to Palm Springs by Amtrak

On this blog I have previously discussed and advocated for more passenger rail between Los Angeles Union Station and Palm Springs.

Based on the recommendation of my friend Rob who began using this service, over Labor Day Weekend, I traveled to Palm Springs via Amtrak for only $24 each way.

We ride an Amtrak train between Los Angeles Union Station and Fullerton Station and then catch an Amtrak thruway bus between Fullerton and Palm Springs.  There are several destination stops in the Coachella Valley for this Amtrak bus, such as downtown Palm Springs, Palm Springs International Airport, Indio, etc.

The train car was clean, comfortable and had WiFi.  But guess what?  So did the Amtrak thruway bus!


One of the discussion points about increasing passenger rail through this area is whether or not people would actually commute between Palm Springs and Riverside or Los Angeles, or whether this area is more of a resort/vacation destination.  While Metrolink is designed to serve the needs of commuters, a few Amtrak trains per day might be sufficient for vacationers.

Note:  SunLine Transit Agency, which provides local transit service within Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, has begun a new Commuter Bus between Palm Desert and the Riverside Metrolink Station:  Line 220, covered by the Palm Desert Patch.  It will be interesting to see how it does.

Soon everyone will hopefully come out to see the giant statue of Marilyn Monroe

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Can we get higher capacity buses on the Orange Line?

As those of you who have read this blog know, I believe the Orange Line should have been built as and should be upgraded now as a light-rail line.

In the meantime, every time I ride the bus line everyone is stuffed like sardines into regular articulated buses.  Why not have tri-articulated buses as they have for other BRT systems in the world?

Here are two examples of what these type of buses look like.

Metro, can we purchase some of these so we can breathe again?

Monday, August 13, 2012

West Hollywood Entertainment Shuttle "Party Bus" in the works?

Someone just informed me about a proposed West Hollywood "entertainment shuttle" that would be an effort to reduce traffic congestion and drunk driving.  It would have a party atmosphere.

West Hollywood Patch had the articles:

Considering how stuffed and crowded Line 4 is at night, I think this is worth exploring.  I'm imagining a double-decker bus with house Music and go-go dancers.

However, if I were designing an evening party shuttle, I'd do something a little different than just a circle around West Hollywood.  

I'd see about partnering with the City of Los Angeles and connect to the Red Line at the Hollywood & Vine Station.  Hollywood & Vine is the historical center of Hollywood and an evening Party Bus that runs there could connect with Theatre Row and the emerging nightclubs east of West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd.  

Here is one map with a circulating bus that would run clockwise and counter-clockwise:

Here is the route I prefer.  

It shuttles people back and forth from the Hollywood & Vine station and passes through Theatre Row, goes through the east side of West Hollywood, then up Holloway to the night clubs on the Sunset Strip and then down San Vicente deep into the heart of  "boystown" down to LaCienega/Wilshire.  (Note:  I also think this would make a marvelous streetcar route and northern alignment extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line.)

Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) in West Hollywood?

Evactuated Tube Transportation Technologies (ET3) wants to build a pilot tube traveling program in West Hollywood to connect it to the Red Line and Purple Line:

LA Curbed has the story here.  Maglev Tube Transit Company Wants to Build Pilot in WeHo

Let's just say I'm very skeptical.  I don't see a Futurama type system in West Hollywood anytime soon.

I still think the best case scenario for the West Hollywood region is to bring Metrorail here as part of a northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, to be supplemented with streetcars and buses running in transit-only lanes (and bicycle lanes on Fountain).

But, as someone has apparently made a presentation on this to the West Hollywood City Council, I thought you should know.  At one time people thought you could not sail around the world or that the human body could withstand speeds of more than 20 miles per hour.  If they prove me wrong, good on them.  But I don't think they will.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where to Park a Bicycle?

I'm making my first trip to the bike store on Friday.  I need to be shown how to fix a flat tire and get my bike "fitted".  Next year's Aids Life Cycle is 51 weeks away.

One of things I am noticing as I go place to place is "if I had traveled here on bike, where can I safely and legally park it and lock it up?"  It seems one regular parking space could hold 3-4 bicycles.

Every mall, every shopping district, every destination should have safe and secure bicycle racks.  And, as the thousands upon thousands of bicycle riders in Southern California know all to well, they don't.

There is popular support for zip cars in Los Angeles.  How can Los Angeles get these bicycle rental stations I saw when I was in Toronto?  As we expand our Metrorail system, bicycles are a particular effective transportation device between your first/last mile and the rail station.

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Adventure with the Bicycle is Just Beginning.

Dear readers,

I went to the closing ceremony for Aids Life Cycle 11 on Saturday and was so moved I signed up to ride in Aids Life Cycle 12.

While learned how to ride a bike when I was younger, and I have all year to train, this is a daunting task for someone who never saw themselves as particularly athletic.  But this cause is one that is really dear to my heart and ALC raised 12.6 million this past year.  Next year is my turn to raise money and help out.

So, expect me to include bicycle coverage as part of public transit.

An essential blog for any bicyclist in Southern California is L.A. Streetsblog.

No doubt I will obtain intimate knowledge with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation Bicycle Services  site, the Metro Los Angeles Bicycle Map and this Westside/Central City Bicycle Map and Bike Metro site.

I've also just checked out the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition.

If you have any experience with bicycling in Los Angeles, from where to get bike gear to tips for the road, please let me know.

If you are behind a wheel, please be kind, because that cyclist you want to run over could be me.

Happy Cycling!

Friday, June 8, 2012

High Speed Rail between Las Vegas & Los Angeles is getting closer

The awesome website Curbed L.A. posted an article yesterday, "Vegas High-Speed Rail Starts Planning Extension to Palmdale", this is very good news.

KCET also covers this story:  "Desert High-Speed Rail Stays On Track: Groundbreaking Could be in a Year"

This Los Angeles to/from Las Vegas project is probably an easier High Speed Rail project to get off the ground than the also needed SoCal to/from NoCal project.

Some people believe the first LA-Vegas HSR route should have gone through the Cajon Pass, but I imagine it is more affordable to go through the high desert than plow through a mountain range.  There is already Metrolink commuter rail service between Los Angeles and Palmdale.  It wouldn't take much to electrify that portion to have a one-seat ride between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Another route can eventually be build between Vegas and the Inland Empire, Orange County and San Diego.  Let's get ONE route up and running.

Also, having High Speed Rail to Palmdale, makes it more enticing for Northern California to connect as a San Francisco Bay Area to/from Las Vegas High Speed Rail route can hook in via Palmdale.

When you hear a politician talk about how we cannot "afford" high speed rail in America and other infrastructure improvements, ask them how is America supposed to compete and stay relevant in the global economy in the 21st Century if we don't, especially as the era of cheap oil is forever gone?  What is the cost to our productivity if we can't and are forever dependent on oil to move goods and people?

However, before you do that, ask that politician how much campaign cash he is receiving from the oil lobby, which is desperate to stop ANY high speed rail project from being built in America and also contribute to ideological think tanks that "coincidentally" generate studies to show how we cannot "afford" high speed rail.

I will see you on the high speed train to Vegas!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lobbying for the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line via West Hollywood in 2013

Next year Metro will probably be working on its SRTP (Short Range Transportation Plan).

Metro creates a LRTP (Long Range Transportation Plan) for thirty years, which it revised every five years or so, and a SRTP for the next five years.

At the February 2012 meeting of the Transportation Committee of the Westside Council of Governments the following was expressed and recorded in the Notes of the Feburary 2012 Meeting:

METRO will be updating its Short Range Transportation Plan (SRTP) in 2013 and is currently identifying projects for inclusion in its Strategic Element. This would be the time to support the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line to West Hollywood.  Information on schedule and milestones will be provided the committee. It was noted that our resources include lobbyists, sending letters to the appropriate entities, become more engaged in meeting, and coordination with other COGs.

I certainly agree with this and will do everything I can do as an individual to support this.

By the way, if you want to see Metrorail extended to Hollywood via West Hollywood, it wouldn't hurt to ask candidates for Federal, State, County and City governments to support this as part of their campaign.

Metro Service Adjustments Coming on June 17th

Here are the bus changes affecting the West Hollywood / Hollywood / Beverly Hills area beginning Sunday, June 17th:


Metro Line 30 
West Hollywood-Pico/Rimpau-Downtown LA-Indiana Station via San Vicente, Pico Bl & East 1st St

New route extension to West Hollywood. Select trips operate on San Vicente Bl between Pico/Rimpau Transit Center and West Hollywood. Service east of Downtown LA will serve 1st St in both directions. All trips will operate through the Pico/Rimpau Transit Center.


Metro Line 330
West Hollywood-Pico/Rimpau-Downtown LA-Little Tokyo Station via San Vicente & Pico Bl

New peak hour limited stop service replaces Line 730. This new service makes all stops on Broadway in Downtown LA with new stops at Pico/Arlington and Pico/Crenshaw. Select trips operate on San Vicente Bl between Pico/Rimpau Transit Center and West Hollywood.


Metro Line 217 
Hollywood/Vine Station-Fairfax -Culver City Transit Center via Hollywood Bl, Fairfax Av & La Cienega Bl

All trips extended to the Metro Expo Line La Cienega/Jefferson Station and select trips extended further south along route of former Line 439 to provide new all weekday service to Culver City Transit Center.


Metro Line 220 
Beverly Center-Culver City via Robertson Bl

Route modified to serve Metro Expo Line Culver City Station.


Metro Line 305
Westwood-Leimert Park-South LA-Willowbrook

Route discontinued. Service on San Vicente Bl has been replaced with Lines 30 and 330.


Metro Line 439
Downtown LA-Culver City Transit Center via I-10 Fwy

Line discontinued. See Line 217 description for replacement service.


Metro Line 534
Malibu Express-Washington/Fairfax Transit Hub via Pacific Coast Hwy

All trips exit/enter I-10 Freeway from Robertson Bl to serve the Metro Expo Line Culver City Station at Venice/Robertson for an improved connection to Downtown LA. Service continues to Washington/Fairfax Transit Hub.


Metro Line 550
Exposition Park-Artesia Transit Center -San Pedro via Harbor Transitway

Route modification terminates all weekday rush hour trips at USC/Expo Park. Non-rush hour and all weekend trips will terminate at Artesia Transit Center. Service to West Hollywood has been replaced with Lines 30 and 330.


Metro Line 705
West Hollywood-Vernon via La Cienega Bl & Vernon Av

New stop added at Metro Expo Line La Cienega/Jefferson Station.


Metro Line 730
Downtown LA-Pico/Rimpau via Pico Bl

Service replaced by Line 330.


Metro Line 761
Pacoima-Westwood via Van Nuys Bl & Sepulveda Bl

New stop added at Van Nuys and Plummer.


Many of the bus service changes have to do with the opening of the first-half of the Expo Line between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City, and the subsequent need to optimize services accordingly.

For a complete list of all of Metro's coming service changes, check Metro's website or it's blog The Source.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Calling for a transit-only lane on Santa Monica Blvd. - Sunset Blvd. between Santa Monica and Union Station

I consider myself the biggest cheerleader of bringing Metrorail to the West Hollywood environs.  And with luck, the northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line will be routed to Hollywood via West Hollywood and its neighboring areas.

However, we shouldn't forget surface transit.  Even with Metrorail, major corridors throughout Southern California are also going to need transit-only lanes allowing for speedy service for buses and modern streetcar trams to connect people to the "first/last mile" of the their journey.  We will need a full network of transit-only lanes all over the county (in addition to bicycle lanes).

Here's a sample pic of what this might look like.

As part of this, in addition to the Purple Line expansion as part of the Westside Subway Extension, there is currently a project to bring bus rapid transit to Wilshire Blvd.

I will be the first to stand up and call for a Santa Monica Blvd. transit-only lane between the ocean and Sunset Junction, further heading downtown to Union Station.

As a transit-only lane, it could potentially run modern streetcars quickly and efficiently.  Just imagine...

Now my willingness to take lanes away from cars to allow for more mobility for transit and bicycles may doom any chances I might ever have to get elected to political office in Southern California or it may not.  (No, I am not a candidate for anything.)  But the golden era of cheap gasoline and the single-occupancy automobile in southern California is LONG behind us.  Even if we "drill, baby, drill", $2/gallon gasoline is gone forever.  It's a global market and China and India are not going to stay in the third world so that we can drive our SUVs cheaply across the streets of  Los Angeles.  Therefore, we need to consider practical ways to expand mass transit mobility affordably like any other world class metropolitan region.

So let's bring a transit-only lane to Santa Monica Blvd. while we continue to advocate for Metrorail.

A Los Angeles eye view of Toronto Transit

Recently I had the privilege of being in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.    Toronto is an amazing city with great people, great food, and a great transit system.  In fact, like Los Angeles, Toronto's is in the process of a huge expansion of its mass transit system -- truly a world class city unfolding.

Though attending a business conference, I had a little free time and I used it to sample Toronto's transit system and to see how Toronto's current system could inspire user-friendly changes to our own expanding system.

I took pictures.  (My apologies for any blurry pics, I make NO claims on being a good photographer.)

Here is a subway entrance and something you rarely see in Los Angeles -- an actual transit shelter for streetcars and buses.

This streetcar and bus stop has a shelter with a CURRENT systemwide map on it.  Why can't we have transit stops with covered shelters and/or current transit system maps posted on them to make it easy and convenient on riders.

Here was my day pass in Toronto.  It works like a scratch lotto ticket.

Here is a daily free newspaper "Metro" that people pick up to read in transit stations.  There was also a Metro free daily that I read on the London "tube" when I lived there.

Here is a fully underground grocery store.  Makes for very convenient shopping on the way home.

Never underestimate the value of CURRENT system maps as well as station area maps to help riders.

This subway car has a sign that points to which side of the subway car will have the doors open.

Here is an electronic map in the subway car that points out where you are in the system and what the next stop is -- very convenient!

Notice the television screen in the subway with accurate up-to-date information

Another tubular type of platform -- very London-esqe.

And because there are people who use paper day passes even with turnstiles, there will need to be human monitors at subway entrances to allow those people through.  (Note to Metro that is considering locking subway entrances -- you will still need to have human monitors at the stations for regional paper pass holders like me.)

Nice how subway entrances are located within office complexes.  When the Century City station on the Purple Line is built as well as a future 5th/Flower subway station infilled on the Regional Connector, think of the possibilities.

Whoops.  This subway station had multiple entrances only this one did not have a human monitor.   Those entrances need to be labeled.

Note this nice weather protected entrance to the subway station.  It gives you a chance to open your umbrella before going outside or closing it before you head down the escalator.

One of the things I miss the most from New York and London subway systems are the buskers.  Why not have quality musicians playing in the system for tips?

Look that something you hardly ever see anymore -- pay phones, plus a lotto stand in the subway.

Look, a convenience store within the subway station -- for buying a newspaper or picking up breath mints prior to that important business meeting.

Here is the inside of a spacious subway car.  The Red/Purple Line cars in Los Angeles are poorly designed  The middle seats should be back-to-back to give a more open feeling.

Look at the clear bag trash receptacles that include recycling and a machine to get your transfer (which Metro doesn't do anymore.)

The downtown subway stations connect to full service malls underneath office buildings.

Here is a subway entrance with two service windows and several turnstiles.

Here are the Toronto equivalent of Zipcars.

What?  You thought gasoline was $1.30 a gallon in Canada?  Nope.  That's per liter.  The "drill, baby, drill" fools think that we can drill our way back to $2 a gallon gasoline.  It is a global oil market and China and India are not going to stay in the third world so that suburban/exurban residents can drive gas guzzling SUVs in America cheaply.

Here is a Toronto streetcar that comfortable rides in traffic at grade.  (Think of how much quicker they would be if these were transit only lanes.)  Modern streetcars are coming to Los Angeles in just a few years.  Woo hoo!

Personally, I think the overhead wires and tracks of the streetcars aren't blight.  They are part of the ambiance of the city.

As part of its transit system, Toronto allows you to rent a bicycle.  All part of the convenience of a transit friendly city.

The one thing I didn't have time to do is ride the ferry to the Toronto City Airport.  Toronto is planning rail links to Pearson International Airport.

Metro can adopt some of these amenities.  Your local city or neighborhood council can adopt some of the others.  Public-Private Partnerships are possible.

Now, sometimes as I discuss the growing transit network in Los Angeles I will hear someone say, "but what about my automobile?  I love my car and don't want to to give it up."  To which I say, "Uh, no one is asking you to.  Keep your car.  There are millions of others who want to have an alternative."  And Toronto, like New York and London and Tokyo and other cities with world class transit systems, there are also millions of automobiles as well.

So here's to Toronto.  I look forward to witnessing the unfolding expansion of transit both there and back here in Southern California.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Be careful for what you wish for, Beverly Hills

As a strong supporter of Metro's Westside Subway project, I also support the Century City stop being at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars, in the center of the community.

As rail runs under the Pentagon, I'm not too concerned about tunneling under Beverly Hills High School.  I have lived in New York and London where tunnels safely went under all kinds of buildings.

That said, if the Century City station on the Purple Line extension were on Santa Monica Blvd. instead of Constellation, wouldn't that create tremendous pressure to sell Los Angeles Golf Course and redevelop the north side of Santa Monica Blvd. into "Century City North", and pour even more traffic onto Beverly Hills?

As someone who balances idealism and cynicism, I have to wonder:  Are there any people calling for the Metro Purple Line stop to be on Santa Monica Blvd. because they secretly WANT to develop Century City North and are hiding behind the Beverly Hills High School "safety" issue?  Obviously the Purple Line extension should be built as safely as possible.  But how much of that opposition to tunneling under Beverly Hills High School has another hidden development agenda or behind it, or a consequence of it?

Be wary of the law of unintended consequences.  It would be ironic if Beverly Hills got what it wished for only to see Century City North developed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Should the Hollywood bus terminal be at the Highland station or the Vine Station?

Here is something that has confused me.

The suggested northern terminals for any northern extension of the Crenshaw Line and the original Santa Monica Blvd. alignment proposal of the Westside Subway extension has been the Hollywood/Highland station.

This got me thinking about the current bus terminal for the forced transfer between the 212/217 to the 180/181 at Hollywood/Vine.  These buses probably terminate at Vine because there is a designated parking area for buses to wait and for drivers to have their breaks (which is important) near Hollywood/Vine.  (Put aside the question for now about whether there should even be a forced transfer there.)

However, shouldn't for convenience sake the 180/181 go west to Hollywood/Highland to allow for easy transfers to the 156/656?  Is the heavy density area on Hollywood between Highland and Vine really "duplicated" by that short extension?

What is the center of Hollywood anyway?  The "Walk of Fame" intersection at Hollywood/Vine was the cultural heart of Hollywood before the (formerly named Kodak) Theatre was built at Highland.  Shouldn't possibly the Hollywood/Vine station be considered as a possible northern terminal for any rail line ending in Hollywood, also since that is where the bus terminal parking is?  (Granted, at that point it is probably cheaper to somehow move the bus terminal parking near Highland if an expanded station is being built there to accommodate another rail line -- or even include a bus terminal as part of the design of the expanded station.)

This brings up the seemingly unpleasant but necessary discussion of urban and transit planners to fulfill the need for resting buses to park somewhere and for bus operators to have a safe place with appropriate facilities to take their breaks.  So where should an appropriate Hollywood/Highland bus terminal be?

And since we are talking about bus lines on Hollywood, there are actually several bus lines that run or terminate on Hollywood Blvd.  Isn't Hollywood between Highland and Western a natural street for a transit-only lane?  I certainly think so.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The "Public Option" in Health Care is Alive and Well in California

Every once in while I like to comment on non-transit issues on this blog.  In this case, I'd like to take on health care in California.

One of the components of the Affordable Health Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare") that people are missing is how much latitude each state has in implementing it. During the development of this legislation advocates for a national single-payer system (a.k.a. "Medicare-for-All") were not even allowed to come to the table to make their case.  Even the compromise position, giving everyone access to a public health insurance option, tragically couldn't get past a Senate filibuster.

However, thanks to this legislation, individual states can follow Vermont's example and pursue single-payer health care or at least place public health insurance plans on their state's coming health insurance exchanges as a state "public option".

Now I still from a policy standpoint prefer Medicare-for-All or single-payer health care.  Twice single-payer health care has passed the California state legislature only to be vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.  Now that there is a Democratic Governor who would be expected to be favorable to the legislation, SB810 is unfortunately stalled in the legislature thanks to insurance industry lobbying.

Several California counties have public health plans already, and California is likely to even have a choice of public health insurance plans as progressive counties like San Francisco and Alameada are looking to putting their public plans on the statewide exchange.

Read this Article: The Public Option is Alive and Well in California

The good news for health insurance reform activists, is that it looks as if in California we will at least have one or more public options on our state's coming health insurance exchange.  Even if "Obamacare" is struck down by the Supreme Court, the California state legislation creating a state health insurance exchange still stands.

The question now becomes, are county plans on the statewide exchange accountable to county Boards of Supervisors the best way to give access to public health insurance options?  Should a statewide public plan accountable to the Governor and the Legislature be include on the state exchange?  Could Medical be turned into a statewide public option open to everyone?

Watch this space for news about this issue unfolds over the next two years.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Is a Sepulveda Pass light-rail line salvageable?

Two days ago I posted my fears and discouragement that the Sepulveda Pass transit corridor project was sadly looking at first glance like it would be an inadequate bus project, rather than the light-rail line between Sylmar and LAX many of believe it should be.

The question remains, is a light-rail project through the Sepulveda Pass still possible?

Jerard Wright, current Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Transportation Committee Co-Chair and former Vice President of the Transit Coalition believes it is.  Here are his thoughts about this (shared with his permission):

I think its salvageable -given that its early in the process- but the key thing is being realistic on funding.  

Don't assume Federal New Starts on this with 30-10 or America Fast Forward programs because those are committed to Purple Line to Westwood and Regional Connector projects at this time. If it shows that it has Federal New Starts potential, then that may delay the project delivery date as it will need to go through another cycle of New Starts.

My thoughts are focus the bulk of the rail energy on the Sepulveda Pass corridor from Orange Line to Expo Line with or without the tunnel parallel to the pass, stretch that $1B+ to link up with as many activity centers as possible so that you can get some stronger ridership data.
Use the Public-Private Partnership ideas on some of the station area planning/developments such as Sepulveda Orange Line station, Ventura Blvd (Sepulveda or Van Nuys), Sepulveda/Pico Expo Line station maybe even UCLA/Westwood Village station to bridge gaps in funding. So that more money goes towards the route infrastructure and less of it goes to the stations themselves.  

The key is, given that this could be LRT, Could this corridor take an initial San Diego trolley approach here a simple no-frills design and infrastructure? I don't know how much construction ROW or easements will be left after the 405 HOV widening project but I would suggest building shallow tunnels and trenches under these easements- if they can- where the elevation shifts and differs.  

I wished Metro spent a little more $$$ on the 405 HOV project to go towards a future ROW for such a transit project as this would have saved money in the long run.  

The Van Nuys Corridor in the long term visioning should be rail, however any sort of infrastructure beyond a TSM would make it difficult to get a future rail corridor. Should the approach be pushing for TSM on this leg? TSM could possibly do the same things as the lanes (such as better signal pre-emption & synchronization on both the Local and Rapid corridor buses and consolidation & relocation of bus stops to expedite boardings which improve operating speeds)  at a lower cost then BRT and saves more of the money needed to push a rail transit corridor north following the intended vision.

What do you think?

Expo Line is a Go!

I was fortunate to be invited to ride a test run of the new Expo Line yesterday.  The first half of this line opens up to the public on April 28th.  It is just beautiful, especially the way the line integrates with USC.  The second half to Santa Monica opens up in a few years.

Here is a pic that I took with my mobile phone that is quintessentially Los Angeles:

At the Western station, on the southeast corner of Expo and Western, there is a gas station that has a vegan bakery.  This is why I love Los Angeles.

I was able to join this test run thanks to Eli Lipmen of AJC (American Jewish Committee), where in full disclosure I am currently working.

AJC is a strong supporter the Expo Line, of Measure R and of Mayor Villaraigosa's "30/10 Plan".

According to Eli Lipmen, AJC Communications Strategist, “AJC is committed to public transportation in the City of Los Angeles because we need to break our dangerous dependence on oil produced by hostile countries. Measure R, the 30/10 Plan, and more public transportation options in Los Angeles will reduce the amount of fossil fuels being used in the region while also reducing traffic and emissions that can cause respiratory diseases. It is a win-win-win!”

Here is a view of Century City from the platform at the new LaCienega station on the Expo Line:

We are halfway from Downtown to the beach.  Now let's work together to complete the second half of the Expo line all the way to Santa Monica as soon as possible.  While we are at it, let's get the Westside Subway extension to West L.A. and the Crenshaw/LAX line extended to West Hollywood and Hollywood/Highland.

By the way, since the color of this line on the map is light blue, why not call it the Aqua Line since it will eventually be going to Santa Monica anyway?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What will eventually be the northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line to Hollywood?

On the new Expo light-rail line there is a stop at Crenshaw & Expo, which will eventually be a transfer to the proposed Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line.  Most transit advocates in Southern California see the natural northern terminal of the Crenshaw/LAX Line not at the Expo Line where the first operating segment will end, but past Wilshire Blvd. and the Purple Line to the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station.

When Metro finally studies this transit corridor they will have to consider the needs of all the stakeholders in the area.

There will be those people who primarily care about getting the quickest and most direct route between Crenshaw/Expo and the Hollywood/Highland station and they will want La Brea as the alignment obviously.

Then there will be people who live, work, play and want to travel to/from high ridership destinations in between these two points, especially West Hollywood and surrounding destinations, who were disappointed in not being part of the Westside subway extension and whom voted most heavily in favor of Measure R, and their primary concern will be accessing Metrorail at all.

Metro will need to balance the cost of building a longer alignment to provide access to more stakeholders with the desire of those who primarily want speed through this area to create an alignment that serve the most people with the maximum ridership. ALL of the potential alignments through this area would still be quicker than riding a bus through traffic.

Here are the most likely potential alignments of the northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX line as shown in this Metro study map:

Here are my guesses of the most probable potential stops with their accompanying ridership destinations, along with the length of these potential alignments connecting Crenshaw/LAX at the Expo Line station with Hollywood/Highland:

All of these four alignments would have stations at
- Crenshaw and Expo (transfer to Expo Line)
- Crenshaw and Adams
- San Vicente and Pico/Venice

Here is where they differ on the route to the Hollywood / Highland Red Line station



- Wilshire/LaBrea (needs to junction with LaBrea/Wilshire Purple Line station)
- Beverly/LaBrea
- SantaMonica/LaBrea 
- Hollywood/Highland

(This route misses nearly all of the high-ridership generators in this area, and would be sort of like running the Blue Line up Alameda instead of the heart of downtown to Union Station.  You'd get there the quickest, but miss where the riders are actually going in between.)



- Wilshire/Fairfax (LACMA/Museum Row - needs to junction with Fairfax/Wilshire Purple Line station
- Beverly/Fairfax (Grove/Farmer's Market/CBS)
- Santa Monica Blvd/Fairfax (West Hollywood east)
- Sunset/Gardner (Sunset Strip access)
- Hollywood/Highland

(As this was the original northern alignment of the Red Line before the NIMBYs thwarted the Purple Line extension through Hancock Park back in the 80's, there would be sweet justice of a Fairfax alignment eventually being built.)



- Wilshire/SanVicente (transfer junction with LaCienega/Wilshire Purple Line station)
- Beverly/LaCienega (Beverly Center / Cedar Sinai)
- SantaMonica/LaCienega (heart of West Hollywood)
- Sunset/Fairfax (Sunset Strip access)
- Hollywood/Highland



- Wilshire/SanVicente (transfer junction with LaCienega/Wilshire Purple Line station)
- SanVicente/Beverly (Beverly Center / Cedar Sinai)
- SantaMonica/SanVicente (heart of West Hollywood)
- Santa Monica/Fairfax (West Hollywood east)
- Santa Monica/LaBrea
- Hollywood/Highland

(This alignment has the advantage of the portion north of Wilshire as already having been studied by Metro as part of the Westside subway extension.)


Why not have two or three separate Metro rail lines some people might ask?  Why not have one line traveling only on LaBrea for speed between Hollywood and LAX and another separate line entirely that integrates West Hollywood and environs for access into the Metrorail system.  Why not indeed?  

Well, to be frank, two or more lines won't happen because of MONEY -- because nearly all of this light-rail line will have be constructed underground.   (Look at the current difficulty in getting the Wilshire Blvd. subway extension and the Regional Connector projects funded and built.) 

If we are lucky and the pieces somehow come together, we will get to have one light-rail subway funded and constructed through this mid-city, mid-west side area.  ONE.  And it is going to need to serve all the stakeholders, or as many stakeholders as possible, in this area, not just those transit riders traveling between Hollywood and the airport quickly, but also those who live, work and play in points between such as the Grove, Beverly Center, Cedar Sinai, West Hollywood, the Sunset Strip, and their environs.

Not just because it is geographically in the middle between the other alignments and in the middle with the lengths of these alignment, I think Metro may end up deciding that Fairfax is the best compromise alignment between ridership destinations and speed through the area, but we will see.  Everyone will have their vocal opinion I am sure.  Hopefully, either the SanVicente/SantaMonica alignment or the SanVicente/Fairfax alignment will be built in our lifetimes.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Is Los Angeles County on the Verge of a Bus-Centered Transit Disaster for the Sepulveda Pass Corridor?

Many transit advocates are getting nervous about just what Metro is planning for the Sepulveda Pass transit corridor project approved as part of Measure R in 2008.

Transit advocates in Southern California have been dreaming of a north-south rail line between Sylmar and LAX through the Sepulveda Pass ever since they began imagining the return of mass transit to Los Angeles.

Many people who supported Measure R in 2008 in partbecause it had a Sepulveda Pass project in it naturally assumed that rail for this corridor was the obvious option.  With the sheer amount of traffic moving through the Sepulveda Pass, all day long, and on weekends, surely this corridor could potentially qualify for Federal New Starts funding, wouldn't it?

However, the manner in the way Metro describes the Sepulveda Pass Corridor on its projects webpage is worrisome indeed:

Planned to run along a 4-mile section of the I-405 Freeway, this bus corridor project will connect the San Fernando Valley with West Los Angeles.

Yikes.  From Metro's own summary description it sounds like Metro has been envisioning this as a lesser bus project from the get-go.

According to Metro's webpage for this study of the Sepulveda Pass corridor the word "rail transit" as a possible option is mentioned in passing, barely, but that's it.   Most of the text on this page is about a public-private partnership to run toll lanes.

As a part of this review, staff will examine a potential multimodal transit/express toll road concept for the corridor. Also, Metro may explore public-private partnership (P3) and/or congestion pricing/tolling options to help accelerate the timing of the Measure R project. Once a set of potential concepts is identified, the Metro Board may then decide to undertake an in-depth analysis of the economics and feasibility of a P3 approach.

In other words, buses running on toll lanes.  Now put this together with the proposed underwhelming V.A. station which seems barely suited for a bus transfer station, let alone proper rail terminal centered in a bustling neighborhood, like Barrington/Bundy or even 4th Street in Santa Monica, and this picture of a V.A. Station terminal accessible to Sepulveda Pass busses falls into place.

Is this what you envisioned for the Sepulveda Pass corridor when you voted for Measure R?  

My personal choice for a Sepulveda Pass transit corridor study would be to initially study a seven rail stop operating segment that could then be extended in the future south to LAX and north to Sylmar:

  • VanNuys Metrolink
  • Orange Line
  • Ventura Blvd.
  • UCLA
  • Purple Line (Wilshire)
  • Santa Monica Blvd.
  • Exposition Line (Pico)

For information on what a combined Sepulveda Pass / Van Nuys transit corridor project might look like, check my blog post "Please combine the Sepulveda and Van Nuys Transit Projects into one rail project between Sylmar and LAX"

If you want a rail project studied, really studied, then contact Renee Berlin, Executive Officer, TDI at Metro regarding this project at

Also contact Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky regarding this project at

The next report on this corridor is due from Metro in June.  They'll no doubt tell you today that "no decision has been made", but their own website language possibly indicates which way Metro has probably been leaning.

If the word "bus corridor" on the projects and studies page doesn't clue us in, how about this graphic for the project on Metro's website.

You'll notice a single-occupancy automobile speeding past a slow plodding bus on a miraculously empty 405 Freeway.

Historians will probably laugh at Metro and Los Angeles County and all of us for decades if this once in a lifetime opportunity for a north-south rail corridor between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside via the Sepulveda Pass is blown in favor of a measly and inadequate bus project.  Further, the San Fernando Valley shouldn't have to be the transit stepchild of Los Angeles County, forever having to settle for inadequate bus projects, just because of what State Senator Alan Robbins and a few NIMBY's did back in the nineties.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Passenger rail to Palm Springs -- a tiny amount of forward motion

At the Metro Board of Directors meeting yesterday, the Board passed a resolution from Supervisor Michael Antonovich.  .

From the Antonovich resolution which was overlooked in the reporting of this meeting:

10. An assessment of what would be necessary to provide seamless rail service
between Ventura and Indio (within 30 days).

Those of us who want to see daily Metrolink and Amtrak passenger rail service between Palm Springs and Los Angeles are eagerly awaiting this assessment.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A word about Presidential visits to Southern California

Everyone on the westside who's commute was severely affected by the President's visit to Southern California, I offer you this.

Would you love to have had the Purple Line and Expo Lines as an alternative?  How about future extensions of Metrorail via the Sepulveda Pass corridor and West Hollywood?

Then call or write your Congressmember and the President and ask them to support Mayor Villaraigosa's 30/10 Plan so we can start building these projects sooner.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rapid 7 adds a new stop at Avenue of the Stars & Pico. Hallelujah!

Beginning Sunday, February 12th, the Rapid 7 bus added a stop at Avenue of the Stars & Pico.


When the Rapid 7 service came about with those beautiful articulated buses traveling all the way from Santa Monica to the Wilshire/Western Purple Line station many people riding on the Local 7 felt abandoned by the Big Blue Bus, as they were now waiting longer for fewer local buses that were packed like sardines.

I started blogging about this problem here:

Has Big Blue Bus Local 7 Been Thrown Under the Bus?

As part of the Rapid 7 enhancement, the "Super 7" stop at Pico an Beverly Dr. was not included as a Rapid 7 stop.  This left a very long stretch of Pico, between Westwood and Robertson, that had no Rapid stop.   Local riders saw all of these articulated buses for the Rapid whizzing by while they were stuck waiting for a more infrequent, stuffed full Local. 

Beginning on January 12th, a new Rapid 7 stop was added at Avenue of the Stars and Pico. 

For me, this is wonderful as this adds a faster way to access Century City between the Purple Line and Santa Monica from the other side of the Rapid 704 on Santa Monica Blvd.  Time will tell if this catches on an helps alleviate some of the capacity issues on the Local 7.

However, here is the bad news.  Both Monday and Tuesday morning, I and many other people were not able to board any bus, Local or Rapid, because they were passing stops because they were completely, and I do mean completely, full.  I got to know the people standing against me more intimately than I would have preferred.  One person trying to board at Robertson complained to a driver who wouldn't (and couldn't) let him on the Rapid 7 bus, "You're the fourth one that passed by without letting anyone on board."  Another woman pleaded with a driver to let her squeeze in (where she would go I don't know), "It's not fair, we've been waiting 45 minutes".

So there is a capacity problem with the current level of service o this corridor.  Santa Monica College apparently started up its term on Monday, so that logically explains why the buses are so packed as Pico Blvd. is the main transit access route to the college until the western phase of the Expo Line opens a few years away.  With the Rapid 7 Bus now going to the Wilshire/Western Purple Line station, it has made it so much easier for some people to get to the college and other places along this corridor.

So if the Local 7's are sardine packed and the Rapid 7's are sardine packed, then there is only one solution.  Add MORE service to both.

The old show business adage goes, "Give the people what they want and they'll show up."  Well, Big Blue Bus gave the people what they wanted and more showed up then they can currently handle.  Let's home more service comes soon.  In the future, 'd like to have dinner and flowers before someone rubs up against me that closely.

While we are at it, put transit-only lanes on Pico (as well as several other corridors in Southern California).  But that's for another collumn.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Daily Passenger Rail to Palm Springs & Coachella Valley

Caltrans is sponsoring a study in January to explore the possibility of a passenger rail system between L.A. and the Coachella Valley.

Click Southern California Public Radio news to read

Here are previous blog posts on this topic:

It's About Time...

Let's Extend Metrolink to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley