The Los Angeles Times(1) covers the planned light rail "Expo Line", in an excellent article by Ms Martha Groves notable for research and analysis, which is sadly lacking in much of the Times coverage of the LACMTA. The LACMTA's mantra, in this case, seems to be: “If we build it, we don't care if they come”. One can almost hear the Taj Mahal conversations: “Well, we can get that old railroad right of way, and that will really cut down on costs, so that alone makes it a great project”. This Expo Line plan seems to be underway in spite of quotes, like this one, in support of the Red Line extension, from Ms Genevieve Giuliano, director of the Metrans Transportation Center, “The Wilshire Corridor is probably the only corridor in Los Angeles that one could justify mass transit on”.
Predicting 45,000 weekday riders (just like someone predicted earnings of $67 million in ten years from the TTNet video screens planned for buses), it looks like the LACMTA will try to ram this idea through in December.
My advice: Proof of concept could easily be obtained at a reasonable cost by running a Rapid bus line with stops at the locations where stations are planned, on Jefferson Blvd., which closely parallels the planned Expo Line route,. But no, with the bus company mentality which permeates the LACMTA, they will likely plunge right in, forgetting that light rail routes are immalleable. Forgetting too, that light rail sooner or later must cross vehicular traffic – a weakness like that of both the Gold and Blue Lines, slowing speeds and resulting, inevitably, in accidents. Repeating the same actions and expecting different results is one definition of insanity.
In the article a proponent of the Expo Line cites BART as a model. I don't know every inch of BART, but, any portion on which I have traveled was either elevated or below ground, with no portion known to me to be at grade level. He further quotes population figures for those living near the proposed Expo Line. It is not population, but rather, traffic sources and destinations which should drive transportation planning. Nowhere in the article do we read a statement like, “LACMTA traffic/transportation engineers say ...”. I submit that the LACMTA doesn't have any! So we are left with, for the most part, unqualified civilians whose only support comes from long held “gut feelings”.
If the Green line truly runs from nowhere to nowhere, then one could describe the planned Expo Line as running from downtown to nowhere. The Gold Line ridership is lower than the initial estimate, the LACMTA should apply the deflation factor (Actual Ridership divided by Estimated Ridership) to the 45,000 passenger estimate they advance for Expo Line ridership. “Before the line [the Gold Line] opened in 2003, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimated that26,000 to 32,000 people would be taking the train every day by July 2004. The average weekday boardings for March: 15,226”(2). In this case the deflation factor would be: 15,226/(26,000 + 32,000)/2 or 0.525. Deflating the 45,000 estimated Expo Line daily ridership with this experience factor yields a possible ridership of 23,626. I submit that using that value for ridership in order to determine the economic viability of the Expo Line.
It is also possible, given the proximity of Venice Blvd. with its local 33 line and express 333 line that some of the weekday ridership will be siphoned off those bus lines. The fastest light rail segments in our area are those which use the freeway medial – given that, the center of the Santa Monica Freeway certainly look appealing. In estimating ridership for the Expo Line consideration should be given to the siphon effect – again, a proof of concept rapid bus line could aid in evaluating what true ridership figures might be.
It is interesting that the LACMTA is only now “leaking” information about its plans for the Expo Line likely with the idea that it can be slipped by the public at the end of the year. In fact, I fault both the Times and the LACMTA for not initiating a public dialog in the very early stages of this fiasco, I mean, plan. We live in the Internet age so public feedback could, and should, have been solicited and reviewed. Our only hope is that the will not advance the “plan” and build the Expo Line without the $50 million which they are presently short.
I think the Expo Line plan should be dumped and the Red Line should be extended to Santa Monica underground below/near Wilshire Blvd. But as usual, the LACMTA will likely build now and apologize later.
The “Orange Line” is scheduled to begin operations soon, specifically, on 29 October, the last weekend of October with free rides promised for that weekend. I have a copy of the LACMTA's Marketing Department's output – “Metro Orange Line It's the valley's newest shortcut” publication number 06-0459NS. It does have a nice map that shows possible destinations for riders – most of which seem to be schools with two golf courses indicated. I have yet to see any golfers, those with clubs and carts on any of the buses which provide my transportation. The brochure does not mention the beginning date of operation in any of its five fold out pages, which make heavy use of the color orange. Neither does it directly indicate the North Hollywood Red Line station nor the Warner Center Shopping Center as destinations on the map. It does indirectly indicate the Red Line in the map key. A failure to understand the concept of integration is screamed out in the brochure, by not showing that the Orange Line is part of a larger transportation system. Well, kind of system, anyway, as your mole has previously commented on the five minute or more gap, where passengers are transformed into pedestrians when they are forced to walk between the Orange Line and the North Hollywood Red Line Station.
Under the heading " First, you have to get their attention":
A ride on bus number 7665 resulted in a cut hand when I pulled the stop signal cord. The cord, actually a multi-strand cable adjacent to the right side seat which was immediately behind the rear exit, was frayed . The cord was either poorly constructed to begin with or less likely suffered from wear. In any event, there is no simple on-board reporting system available for items requiring maintenance – other than telling the driver about it or using the on-line form (previously linked).
(1)Groves, Martha. “MTA's Plan for Westside Transit Line Detours South.” Los Angeles Times 8 Oct. 2005:A1
(2)Maddaus, Gene. “Gold Line no golden arches.” Pasadena Star News 17 Apr. 2005:
(3)Mascaro, Lisa. “Buses must be on time, Making connections key to Orange Line's success.” LA Daily News 6 Oct. 2005:
Next week: More about system integration