Thursday, October 23, 2008

Expo Line Jumps Through Hoops

The long suffering Exposition Light Rail line for West Los Angeles has hit yet another snag.
It is potentially a huge setback for the Expo Line Construction Authority. If Koss' ruling stands, completing the needed environmental studies and building the two bridges -- with elevators -- could cost $18 million and delay the opening of the line one to three years, said Richard Thorpe, the chief executive of the authority.

The entire story at the LATimes.

It is no secret I am no fan of passenger rail in any form. It is always some form of slow, expensive, and disruptive. Still, this time a bad rail line is be obstructed by even worse urban myths.

This is the Northeastern University stop for the Boston MBTA Green Line. Thousands of students in various states of inebriation, sleep deprivation, hurry cross daily. Like has happened for decades.

At grade crossings and social justice appeals are an unfortunate consequence of transportation planners ignoring their duty of providing effective transportation choices.


Property Flopper said...

What? No one else wants the FIRST?

Rob Dawg said...

I've been wickedly lazy with core posts of planning and transportation so it isn't surprising that one would catch people off guard.

Mr. Outspoken said...

Your link to the LA Times has the best content I have ever seen there.

Rob Dawg said...

Okay, I'l fix it. ;-)

Quillian said...

I was living in Seattle and riding heavy rail to work every day, it was great, but I lived about 35 miles from downtown. It was a reliable 57 minutes or so regardless of traffic, and heavily subsidized, but it was useful. Now they are building light rail from downtown to the airport. Basically light rail that doesn't actually go anywhere. Seattle used to have an old-style streetcar that was closed down, now they have a new streetcar that goes 1.5 miles.

At least the heavy rail served commuters, and if they could do it cheaply enough it'd be very sensible. It took actual commuters off the interstate. The light rail I still don't get. I'd like to, less car traffic sounds great, it just doesn't actually seem to be delivering less car traffic.

Now I live in Portland and I've gotten a taste of Light Rail. Not the same thing at all. I ride my bike as far as I can before I board because it's so damn slow. Still a handy option to have, but it's now painfully obvious I'd be better served by a fast bus :(

People complain about HOV lanes, but they'd probably be cheaper to add than building light rail. I'm still a little confused because cities used to have plenty of streetcar service. Heavy rail to the burbs and buses or a much cheaper streetcar system in downtown seems like it would make a lot more sense, assuming most of your heavy rail already has rails...

Chuck said...


what's your take on the MBTA light rail? Serves a lot of communities outside of downtown boston pretty well (redline in particular).

is it just above ground rail you're against?

Peripheral Visionary said...

The one thing that urban planners seem to have a hard time facing up to is that one of the best options is an express bus. A bus that goes directly from a suburb with a lot of commuters to a dense downtown location, preferably with HOV or shoulder driving access, is very affordable for both the city and commuter, and can take a significant amount of cars off the road. The problem, of course, is that buses just aren't sexy, and there's no profit for local developers with political connections.

Subways are not a bad option because they completely bypass all the surface congestion, and can deliver riders to directly under, or at least very close to, their destination. The problem is that they require both extensive infrastructure and a city development pattern that is centered around them. It's a catch-22 situation; the cities who already have subways are developed to use them, but the cities that have not been developed around them have little or not use for them.

Light rail is potentially useful, but more often than not the cost/benefit just isn't there. Heavy rail can work, but only if there are a large number of riders and the existing rail infrastructure meets commuting patterns, and that's not often the case. Going forward, buses are the best option until/if cities get dense enough that a subway makes sense.

Pleather Murse said...

Phoenix is in the process of getting a light rail right now. I'm not sure if it's operational yet but the tracks seem to be laid in already. Phoenix, of all places. But the rail only seems to run in a very limited corridor, though the city is over 500 sq.mi. in area and the "center" is even less versatile or necessary than L.A.'s center. Locals are rightly sceptical.

Northern Renter said...

Personally, I'm in favour of most rail transit (Freudian slip... I first typed tail transit). But I digress.

What ticks me off is when local transit is designed in a stupid way. We have a bus that goes from the Montreal metro system to a bus centre near the airport. There is a second bus that goes from there to the airport. Each arrives every half hour. Guess what? The one from the metro system (subway system for you non-francophones) is set up to arrive two minutes after the other bus has left for the airport.

The light rail system here looks nice but we needed to ride it in the direction opposite to the rush hour travellers and couldn't. Instead, the system has most of the trains travel back empty and not stop at the stations, then resume picking up passengers after it turns around and starts heading back to the city.

Best wishes,


PS Quite liked the bottle holder photo. Interesting phallic imagery.

Property Flopper said...

NR - The bus schedule does make sense if you are LEAVING the airport though, you arrive two minutes before the bus you want to take. Just doesn't work when arriving.

Somebody was looking at it from a single point of view when designing the schedule. Would be nice if they set them up to arrive at the same time, swap passengers and then depart.

Lost Cause said...

Not being a fan of rail means that you are a fan of smog and senseless traffic jams. I will think of you next time I am sitting bumper-to-bumper on the Ventura Freeway.

marty said...

The Seattle light rail is a farce. There already was good express bus service to the airport from downtown.
As for the new South Lake Union Trolly it didn't take long for the non-family friendly T-shirts to show up.
I'm curiuous rob give the apparent success of rail transit in other places in the world why you are so negative about it, perhaps I need to research more.

Rob Dawg said...

Lost Cause,
Did you ever sit there stuck in traffic wondering where all the money to fix the freeways was going?

Light rail is generally slow and costly. The bar for "success" is set so low I doubt you'd find any other transportation project no matter how ineffective that wouldn't be a success by those standards.

Nick from Canada said...

The system here in Vancouver BC is great, a little expensive, but it runs at 45 mph. You are never farther than 30 minutes by bus and it gets you downtown within 30 minutes.

Lab Dog™ said...

Vote yes on Prop 2!

H Simpson said...


Since you brought up the MBTA, maybe you have not heard the latest boondoggle.

Note Mass is in serious trouble. Like Cal., they have revenue problems. Gov Patrick is cutting money to towns and they are howling.

Now then, last week on the same day the good Gov was in emergency session to cut costs, the MBTA said the 1 mile tunnel for that new silver line would be 2 BILLION dollars.

These morons have raised rates 3 times this year because they cannot cover costs, but somehow they need a 2 billion dollar hole in the ground.

How about the fact even at max capacity, the revenue would only cover 25% of the interest.

Never learned from the Big Dig.


Son of Brock Landers said...

That Northeastern University stop is a death trap. The entire green line outer boston stop system is horrible as the trains run right through the heart of busy roads like State route 9.

Ther eis big dig machinery that did not move for 15+ years. It was put in place and did not move. Graft and skimming. Only good thing about the big dig is the ted williams tunnel.

Pleather Murse said...

The Asian indices are taking huge dumps right now. Down about 5%. US futures don't look good either.

Lab Dog™ said...

We'll never agree on rail, but Marilyn M and I voted yes on Prop 2 and YOU can too.

Rob Dawg said...

It seems too soon for the next leg down but yeah the NIKKEI and Dow futures are looking sad.

Mr. Outspoken said...

Holy FS the DOW futures are down the MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE AMOUNT. If only Greenspan had injected some rationality earlier. We are so hosed.