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.