TRANSIT WATCH--Everyone loves a good April Fools story, and the Expo Line to Catalina Island "Chunnel" was as cute a ditty as any. For years, those of us interested in transit joked about the westward expansion of Expo to Catalina (or even Hawaii!). But there are some truly interesting developments:
1) It's not as sexy to talk about "the center" or "the hub" as it is to talk about expanded train service to far-flung regions of the county, but it's that center/hub that makes train/transit riding make sense. We've got a Downtown Light Rail Connector to bring our light rails from all over the county together, but what about Metrolink and Amtrak? And, for that matter, high-speed rail?
Many reading this either support, oppose, or are ambivalent about high-speed rail. I admit to being in the "ambivalent" camp because the taxpayers are owed an apology for those who lied their tails off about the original CA High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) Initiative, but one of the good things about that initiative is that it helps to pay for the Union Station Run-Through Tracks.
As with the Downtown Light Rail Connector, the Union Station Run-Through Tracks won't catch the eye of many taxpayers, but it's about as important as any project one can think of at Union Station.
The stub-end tracks will be added to create loop tracks to decrease delays and increase station capacity, and both enhance Metrolink and Amtrak usage as well as establish compatibility of high-speed rail trains for the future. No more backing in, pulling out for trains picking up passengers at Union Station...just a fix for a problem that decades-overdue for a correction.
2) Busways often lead to rail lines, and the link of the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley has been anticipated for years to decades.
We've got a Red Line to North Hollywood, an Orange Line that needs conversion from a Busway to a rail line, and a Gold Line station at Pasadena that needs to be opened to points west as well as points east.
The dedicated Busway between Pasadena and North Hollywood therefore bodes well for regional connectivity, and particularly for those in the Burbank/Glendale region who feel forgotten by Metro.
A street-focused, and a freeway-focused, pair of alternatives will be considered by Metro, and it's hoped that the busway will be a hit.
After all, once the Gold Line Construction Authority finishes its work with the Foothill Gold Line, it's not hard to wonder if it shouldn't focus its efforts on a new light rail line/initiative from Pasadena all the way to Warner Center.
3) Meanwhile, bus ridership is down while the Gold and Expo Lines have gone up in ridership...which isn't so bad a thing.
The bus companies have done a great job trying to work with Metro Rail projects, but as Uber and Lyft have gone up in popularity, those who can take more efficient, speedy, and high-capacity trains will certain eschew buses and use a combination of rail/car or rail/bicycle to get where they want to go on their own, individual schedules.
And individual scheduling and commuting is what drove the popularity of the automobile. Still does.
4) Finally, that portion of "Downtown", that eastern/southeastern region, is getting the love that former supervisor Gloria Molina could have only dreamed of. The concept of a heavy rail Red Line extended south beneath Vermont Avenue all the way to 125th Street in West Athens is raising a few eyebrows.
Want to enhance the economic activity, the housing/construction, and the neighborhood development of south and east LA? Build more infrastructure and access to that region!
While we're at it, the proposed Vermont Subway project needs more attention ...
... and the Harbor Subdivision Right Of Way from Inglewood to the Blue Line to Union Station would provide the direct LAX-to-Union Station line that commuters will be screaming for once the LAX/Metro Rail connection is finished 2022-24. Please...no bike/pedestrian walk way needs to preclude a fully-modern and high-capacity rail line.
With the passage of Measure M, and a willingness of developers and city/county leaders to demand that developer money get siphoned for these major infrastructure projects, the forgotten and disconnected regions of the county (I haven't included the South Bay and Southeast/Gateway Cities, have I?) need no longer have to wait decades for "their turn".
Seriously. No foolin'!
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at email@example.com. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)