In defense of LA Public Transit


#1

Continuing the discussion from Anyone else gonna have a few days extra?:

I split this off to a new topic as I think what I’m going to say is getting too far off the original topic.

As a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, I have no love for LA. But as an amatuer public transit advocate, I have to give the area grudging respect.

It’s true that it’s nowhere near the utility that you find in many Northeast USA cities - much less in Europe, but LA has come a long way.

30 years ago, the only public transit one could find in the area was the bus system which typically had buses with incredibly long routes on busy city streets. It was used only by those that had no other choice and was generally shunned by all who could scrape together enough to somehow drive a car.

Since then, a lot has happened.

LA’s commuter rail system, Metrolink, opened in 1992 and now 534 route miles on 7 lines serving 62 stations in 6 counties. It carried over 10 million riders in 2017 - making it the 8th ranking commuter/regional rail system in the US.

Since the first segment of the Metro Red Line opened in 1993, LA has grown a network of heavy rail subway, light rail (subway, surface, and elevated), and bus rapid tranit (mostly running on dedicated right of way) lines that represent the fastest growth of fast, frequent transit that I’m aware of in the US in my lifetime.

LA currently has a few extensions of it’s rail transit under construction, including a long awaited “airport” connection expected to begin service in 2019. I put “airport” in quotes because it will have a station near the airport served by shuttle buses to the airport, but won’t have the final link - a people mover connection into the airport itself for a few more years.

LA is also at the center of Amtrak’s 2nd highest ridership corridor: The Pacific Surfliner providing service from San Diego through LA and on to San Luis Obispo. 12 trains/day operate between LA and San Diego. 5 of them go further North - 3 to Santa Barbara and 2 to San Luis Obispo.

In summary, while LA is still (in my opinion) a nightmare of auto dependency, the area has come a long way in public transportation and is still expanding faster than any other region of the US. If you’re a tourist staying near a station, you can get most places you’ll want to go without a car - including the beach at Santa Monica and the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

And even though you can’t (yet) get on this network at LAX, there are frequent express buses from LAX to various transit centers (which are called “Flyaways”) which connect with the network. The best connection is the Flyaway bus to Union Station which runs 24/7 with every 30 minutes or less except for hourly service in the wee hours of the morning.

And just for the sake of repeating myself - I know LA can’t touch the convenience of public transit in Europe, but it’s far better than its stereotypical reputation.


#2

I was in Santa Monica from Feb 1992 to June 1993, so I missed most of the advance you talked about. Since then I’ve been in NYC, and I can get anywhere for $2.50.

One thing you didn’t mention, that I hope is true today, there are no turnstiles in the LA metro. It’s using the honor system. That would save thousands of hours a day in NYC.

I have two trips to LA this year (one is SketchUp Basecamp), I hope to take advantage of their system.


#3

I’ve heard something about that, but I can neither confirm nor deny. I’ve watched progress in LA from afar - my personal experience is minimal. I last visited for a week in 2013 and loved using the Orange Line BRT and Red Line to downtown from Reseda. The BRT had offboard far payment, and I don’t recall about the Red Line. Before that? Probably goes back at least 6-7 years - I recall driving to Tarzana (near Reseda) for Thanksgiving in the early 2000’s - but it was with my mobility challenged mother so I didn’t try to use public transit on that trip.


#4

It’s not really LA transit that’s an issue, it’s more connecting to other urban hubs from LA.

Saying that, I’m experiencing the shambles that is German public transport today. Only one train an hour for the Grand Prix, just had to wait in line 2 hours for a 20 min train ride…


#5

Seriously!? Is that just because of crowds for the Grand Prix?


#6

I have lived on both coasts at different times in life. Commuting along the Pacific Coast Highway in the 1980’s was a nightmare if trying to ride public transportation in those days. Back then, the only viable options were to use Amtrak (expensive) or to drive.

I was impressed by the public transport system that was available in Berlin when I last traveled there in 2012.


#7

Hope it rains - red bull fan :slight_smile:


#8

I was pleasantly surprised with LA after San Francisco - Caught the Amtrak train from Oakland to LA, beautiful scenic day trip and then spent a week in LA using public transport. cheap and easy… buses from a city hotel…to Santa Monica, Getty, Rodeo Drive etc… actually did Amtrak 6000 miles across the USA an loved every minute of the 9 days seated on board :slight_smile:

looking forward to more next time…