LA’s Transportation Glass Half Full

ALPERN AT  LARGE--From red, white, and blue to orange and green, the colors still are associated with independence ... independence from cars, or at least providing another option.

Things are still happening with Metro, and with local communities that are NO LONGER JUST IN LOS ANGELES.

Metro and Los Angeles still don't quite "get it" with respect to safety, a clean and nice-smelling and pleasant ride on their trains--and the Expo Line I helped fight for over 10-15 years still has its challenges ... but the trains ARE full when they operate where and at the right times to meet the needs of commuters.

But the San Fernando Valley still wishes it had not "settled" for a Busway instead of demanding a light rail line like the Westside and Mid-City did, and BOTH the Orange Line Busway and the Expo Light Rail Line have very high ridership numbers overall.

For most of us living south of the Sepulveda and Cahuenga Passes, we just don't know much about the flurry of San Fernando Valley activity to create a north-south light rail on the Van Nuys Corridor, and of the bitterness to change the Orange Line Busway to the light rail transit advocates always recommended.

(In all fairness, the lack of courage of the Valley pols in eliminating the Robbins bill that required a "subway or nothing" train when pushed 15 years ago, and forcing a Busway option, was reflective of the more NIMBY voter sentiment that persisted at that time; as predicted, the Expo and other lines helped win over and change Valley sentiment.)

And for most of us living north of the 405 freeway South Bay Curve, we just don't know much about the flurry of South Bay political and other leaders pushing for better and nonstop South Bay Green Line access to LAX, the Crenshaw Line, and the Expo Line.

Right now, Metro staff is (rightfully so) going with the numbers and advocating for a nonstop Norwalk to LAX/Crenshaw Line, and forcing South Bay Green Line "stub" riders to transfer at Aviation/Imperial station.

This is tough stuff, and in years to come, when the South Bay Green Line is extended to Torrance, perhaps this will change, and an expensive engineering betterment to the Green Line can be created, but resistance to the Green Line Torrance extension still exists.

So, I hate to represent transit advocates and say "I told you so"... but I told you so!

To some degree, it's both annoying and yet understandable that San Fernando Valley and South Bay residents would be hesitant for mass transit. 

The disgusting "YIMBY" tools, fools and ghouls are messing up the Expo Line and other transit corridors with overdevelopment that has VERY LITTLE to do with Affordable Housing and Transit-Oriented Development.

And the anti-parking zealots who have placed ideology over engineering and practical reality have too

loud a say in Planning throughout the region and are being loudly heard when they should be roundly ignored (I'll say it--sometimes children should be seen and not heard, and when adults behave like children, the same still holds true).

Too little grade separation has made light rail too slow for the tastes of many commuters, and until we figure out how to get train commuters to their destinations (Uber/Lyft and "Bird is the Word" provide excellent options of how the private sector can fill the gaps left by public sector transportation.

And don't get me started at how the Metro buses (and often rail) service is too slow, too foul-smelling, and too filled with homeless and other troublemakers who just don't ruin the transit experiences in other cities throughout the nation and world. It bears repeating: if WOMEN had the final say in mass transit decisions, service would be safer and nicer.


... if you snooze, you lose. Transit advocates (including yours truly) came up with the concept of Friends of the Orange Line, or FOOL, because of the foolish Busway that we knew would be resented in short order (but, to be fair, it DID get the SF Valley to realize that there was benefit to transit that takes people where they want and need to go).

... and the reception of the South Bay, and Norwalk to extending the Green Line to connect to Torrance and the Metrolink Norwalk station was often horrible. 

So we concluded that we had to wait until LAX was going to be connected to the Green/Crenshaw Line, and we concluded that we had to wait until the Expo Line was built, before we would see the outlying county suburbs want "in" to new rail lines.

The South Bay Green Line deserves to be a staple of the Metro Rail system, but the numbers have to demonstrate its need compared to other vital segments of the county.

The South Bay Norwalk connection to Metrolink and Orange/Riverside counties deserves also to be a staple of the Metro Rail system, but those regions (and those other counties) will need to pony up some cash and resources to build out the right way.

But at least--looking at the glass half full, it absolutely appears that the San Fernando Valley, the South Bay, and even the Southeast LA County cities and Eastside cities will be linked to the 21st Century rail network that's been talked about and advocated for literally a century.

It is no longer IF but WHEN that this will all happen--and, as with the Expo and Wilshire rail lines, we may very well see this within our lifetimes, after all.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. 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 was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. 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.)