Sunday, November 15, 2009

Go For the Gold Line

Until recently, when I thought of transit cities, Los Angeles was far from the top of the list. Much of that is due to it being the first great auto-centric metropolis, as well as constant reinforcement in popular media that Los Angeles is a city where you absolutely need a set of wheels if you want to be taken seriously. The fact is, though, in the last twenty years it has made substantial strides. Los Angeles, it seems, operates one of the few modern mass transit systems in North America - primarily because the oldest parts of the current system date back to 1990. Now that I've looked into the matter more deeply, it seems to me that mass transit in Los Angeles has a great deal of promise, and that its future is bright.

I remark on this because today marks the official opening of the Gold Line Extension, nearly ten kilometers of new track that extends the existing Gold Line - one of Los Angeles' three light-rail lines - from Union Station into East Los Angeles, an area that has been without higher-order transit since Los Angeles tore up its streetcar system in the mid-20th century. My upcoming Tunnel Visions: The Los Angeles County Metro Rail, which should appear on this weblog in December or early January, will take a close look at this new portion of the line. From what I've seen, it seems greatly reminiscent of what Toronto plans to do with its Transit City project, but on a greater scale.

Los Angeles media, from what I've seen, seems to be enthusiastic about the extension, something that is encouraging to me. For a long time I've had this idea of Los Angeles, thanks to its deep and abiding love affair with the car, as emblematic of everything I stand against - pollution, sprawl, alienation from the cityscape. Now, though, it gives me hope - if Los Angeles, of all places, can invest in a proper, well-used mass transit system, then we may have finally turned the page on the twentieth century.

Still, though - if Los Angeles can build a proper mass transit system, what's keeping Mississauga from doing the same? Its population of nearly 700,000 makes it the sixth-largest city in Canada, and yet Mississauga Transit is limited to being a bus operator. Even Hamilton is looking into installing a light-rail network - if light rail would not work in Mississauga because of problems of density, that's purely the fault of the city planners there. Mississauga always struck me as the kind of city that wanted to be Los Angeles when it grew up; in some respects, it's seeming more like Los Angeles than the actual Los Angeles.

Finally, there's one thing I'd like to share with you - a video produced by LACMTA regarding pedestrian and vehicular safety for the Gold Line Extension. By my count, twelve people died during the course of it. Parts of it, like the scene where a car crosses one set of tracks and barely avoids an oncoming train, only to be smashed by another train coming from the opposite direction, strike me as darkly comical.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, the trains are decent, where they go. Coverage for the whole city is probably poor, though the extension is encouraging. What's crazy is where it doesn't go: into LAX! You have to take a shuttle. True in most cities actually, Chicago's the exception with CTA into O'Hare and Midway, but LA doesn't have an age excuse.

    And it took me 2.5 hours to get to Pasadena. Shuttle to Green Line to Blue Line to Red Line to Gold Line to Caltech. Admittedly I was warned not to do that, and to take the Flyaway straight to Union Station and the Gold Line, but still, eek!

    The other thing that made me happy was BART finally going to SFO. (Well, with a people mover in between, and a long walk to the mover. But close enough!)