America’s next great mass transit city: LA?

A piece in Slate magazine headlined “L.A.’s Transit Revolution: How a ballot initiative, a visionary mayor, and a quest for growth are turning Los Angeles into America’s next great mass-transit city” begins in, of all places, Claremont.

The opening:

“On a recent visit to Southern California, I began my day in Claremont, where I’d spoken the previous evening at a Pomona College event. I walked from a hotel near campus to the Claremont Metrolink station, where I grabbed a commuter rail train to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. From there I transferred to the L.A. Metro’s Red Line and rode up to the Vermont/Santa Monica station and checked into a new hotel. I had lunch in that neighborhood, and later walked east to meet a friend for dinner and drinks in Silver Lake.

“My father, a lifelong New Yorker and confirmed L.A. hater whose screenwriting work has frequently taken him to the City of Angels, found the idea of a carless California day pretty amusing. But the city that’s defined in the public imagination as the great auto-centric counterpoint to the traditional cities of the Northeast has quietly emerged as a serious mass transit contender.”

Read the whole piece here.

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  • shirley wofford

    This is not only an interesting article but an interesting comment-forum following. Imagine people having polite, thoughtful debate, without calling each other names and straying a mile off-topic!

    When I came to CA, in 1956, LA still had the beautiful street cars. Who alive, at that time, and age 50 or over, would have dreamed that 50 years in the future, the street-car system would be extinct, due to special interests, and the public transit would include light rail and subways.

    My Aunt was a nurse for the DWP and a long-time Angelino then–she informed me that LA had a cap of 13 stories on the height of the buildings and there would never be a subway system, due to the earthquake-dangers. Who would have thought, then, that scientific breakthroughs would result in the system that now exists in LA.

    I recall seeing a, “Give Me a Break”, feature by John Stossel on, “20-20″, after the Red Line first debuted in LA. He was very sarcastic, because there was almost no ridership. I doubt he has the nerve, right now, to come to LA and ride the Red Line. He could start at Union Station and see the seating become “standing-room, only”, on the way to Hollywood.

    In 1988, friends and I boarded the Amtrak, one day, at Pomona at 7:00 a.m. to go see the Dodgers’ World Series parade in LA, and then we had to hang around Union Station until 10:00 p.m. to board another Amtrak back home. It wasn’t even in my wildest dreams, then, that I was going to have a commuter train with a choice of at least five am boarding times to LA and five boarding times to get back home!

    The voters passed the High Speed Rail in 2008 and all of the Jerry Brown haters are blaming him for it. At the time of the vote, I had no idea which way to go–when I am at that point, I usually rely on endorsements I trust. The LA Times endorsed it, and I followed. Right now, I don’t know if it is the wave of the future or a disaster waiting to happen–but how do we know that high-speed rail won’t be thriving 50 or 60 years from now, when many of the detractors are no longer around? How do we know, right now, that building the HSP won’t be what revives our economy with the jobs that would come from it? Anybody got other ideas on how to get our CA unemployed back to work? Every night there are homeless people bedded down all over LA, on concrete plazas–how great would it be to see them working and riding the buses, rails, and subways!

    Fifty years from now, there will be more, new transportation modes in LA, that we never imagined. I am sorry that I won’t be here to see what comes–just like those that were here when I came, and never got to see what has transpired in the way of transportation–both good and bad.

    [Shirley, thanks for the long-term perspective. You were dedicated to take Amtrak under those terms back in '88! You might also enjoy, if you haven't seen it already, Christopher Hawthorne's piece in Sunday's LAT about Crenshaw Boulevard. (I love his work.) He ends by wondering if the return of rail to L.A. will one day cause the the car era to be viewed as merely a several-decade experiment rather than the norm. -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    I have that Times section still unread, but since the author is revered by you, I will be sure to read it, before I toss.

    I am planning to take the new Expo Line to the Museum of Natural History in a couple weeks (A consolation to myself for no Jurassic Planet at the Fair. I had learned from the Paleantologist there last year that the MNH has the best example of a reconstructed T-Rex anywhere.)

    I am a little concerned about what to expect regarding the transportation transfers. Metrolink told me, when I called last week, that all Metrolink riders still have free access to all connecting MTA transportation. Then I read today, somewhere, that the turnstiles are now all locked. I guess finding out when we get there will be another adventure-inwaiting. I haven’t delved yet into how and where to buy and use a TAP card, and not looking forward to it.

    [Me neither, but I don't think it will be an issue, at least not for a while yet. They still sell paper tickets at the subway stations. If they're going to stop doing that, I don't know how they'll do it. Let us know how the trip goes. As for Christopher Hawthorne, he writes about architecture, urban planning and public spaces (including transit stops), topics of interest to me, and he does so in what I find an accessible, thoughtful way. -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    I caught a little segment of, “John and Ken”, while I was driving home from the ice cream shop today–I am not their fan, but I listen in the car, to see what they are up to, which is usually no-good. Today, they trashed the Iglesias article and went into a diatribe about how absolutely, nobody who has a car in LA rides mass transit and nobody ever will, and how the advent of the light rails and subways have done nothing at all to improve the commuting situation in LA. I never cease to be irked at these two–they have nothing good to say about people who serve the public–look what they do for a living!

    I am planning my Expo trip for Oct. 2–will let you know how it goes.

    [There's a school of thought that rail is a waste of money compared to road improvements because impact studies (such as for the Wilshire subway) show that traffic congestion won't improve. It's basically an argument that mass transit is for other people and is only worthwhile if it makes life easier for solo drivers, which to my thinking is exactly backwards. -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    I started to read the article by Charles Hawthorne and didn’t get very far when the situation with the Costa Mesa Councilman caught my eye on the right side of the page. So, I started reading that, and as I read further, I learned that my own City is experiencing a situation with the same law firm, that represents public safety groups and plays dirty tricks. (It appears that there is some material there, for you to visit a Montclair Council meeting.)

    I will get back to Charles Hawthorne.

    [That was an interesting article too, about an Upland law firm. -- DA]