Seventy-two suburbs in search of a city
May 1, 2007 12:48 AM   Subscribe

Re-imagining Los Angeles public transit: The ambitious vision of these transit advocates and amateur cartographers for an East-Coast style rail network in Los Angeles may seem too idealistic, but the map is still fun to look at. More on the history of LA public transport from the Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library.
posted by bcveen (34 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Link to Bugmenot passwords for the LA Times.
posted by bcveen at 12:52 AM on May 1, 2007


I've got mixed feelings about the map. If you look at New York City's subway map (previously), you've got a much better sense of the surrounding geography, even if it's relatively distorted. I mean, this map needs at least the Pacific Ocean indicated with a line or something - even the infamous London Tube map has the Thames. We need some scale here, too - it's tough to guess how long a journey might take from a glance at the map.

And here's a shout-out to a former mass transit system: streetcars!
posted by mdonley at 2:32 AM on May 1, 2007


Los Angeles is a world city - the city of dreams in the “Can Do” country ... that can't and won't do public transport.

Keep dreaming California. At least it gives you something to do while the engine is idling in traffic.
posted by three blind mice at 3:02 AM on May 1, 2007


West Coasters are too hung up on buzzword-ridden acronyms, like BART and GLAM. Here in New York, it's passenger cars on the commuter lines that get cool names, like Thelonious Monk.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:23 AM on May 1, 2007


The L.A. Weekly's perspective the city's mass transit dreams, and what happens to them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:31 AM on May 1, 2007


...perspective on...
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:31 AM on May 1, 2007


From George_Spiggott's link:

In this saga of missed opportunities and conscious denial, some of the most progressive faces in local politics have hindered, rather than led, the charge for traffic relief. To placate his wealthy constituents’ fears of “those people” riding trains into their neighborhoods, powerful Westside Congressman Henry Waxman stopped the subway at Western Avenue...

It's probably more complicated than this, but "conscious denial" is obviously not just a Republican virtue.
posted by three blind mice at 6:09 AM on May 1, 2007


Heh... it looks like the red line takes a hard right at West Hollywood (the gehyborhood) to avoid any mass transit passing through Beverly Hills.
posted by matty at 6:38 AM on May 1, 2007


I feel really bad for using a yahoo news link. Really, I got it from a much more reputable source than the pulls of Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston drama (or who ever it is)

But "L.A. Tops list of nation's most polluted cities"

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070501/ap_on_sc/polluted_cities

how timely this all is.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:06 AM on May 1, 2007


To placate his wealthy constituents’ fears of “those people” riding trains into their neighborhoods, powerful Westside Congressman Henry Waxman stopped the subway at Western Avenue...

This is alledged to be the reason why Georgetown does not have a stop on the Washington, DC metro system.

Not coincidently, now Georgetown's main drag and surrounding streets grind to a standstill with traffic at almost all hours, and parking is difficult to find and very expensive. It seems that making a place inconvenient to get to does not stop people from going there. It simply lowers the quality of life.

Oh, and that fantasy-metro for LA is a thing of beauty. I spent a few months living there while working on a project, and it's great to fantasize about what it woul dhave been like to zip around LA from my apartment near the Topanga Mall to all parts of downtown.
posted by deanc at 7:37 AM on May 1, 2007


That's a beautiful map. But LA is the city whose residents voted to forbid using any local money to construct subways. And forget about residents of wealthy neighborhoods fighting rail because they don't want more "others"... the Bus Riders Union is fairly powerful organization which fights new rail construction because it goes against the "needs of low-income people, and oppressed nationality peoples and communities – Black, Latino, Mexicano/Chicano, Asian/Pacific Islander and Indigenous peoples".
posted by the jam at 8:20 AM on May 1, 2007


Someone needs to buy the Bus Riders Union a trip to NYC so they can see that keeping the poor in buses and out of subways is not doing them a favor.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:25 AM on May 1, 2007


Fantasizing is about all LA is good for, deanc. I love cruising around downtown, drooling over the near-abandoned architecture, and dreaming about how it must have looked in the 1920s. I love taking out-of-towners to Hollywood and watching their faces fall as they see a fetid hellhole instead of Disneyland.

Driving across the West side, poverty stricken neighborhoods waft over you like fog, appearing and disappearing seemingly at random. But, dammit, it's LA. I've lived here for years, and I'm still trying to find exactly what cohesive force holds the city together, other than the fact that the inhabitants just don't want to live anywhere else.

LA is a city that missed its turn a good 80 years ago but keeps continuing down the wrong path trying to save face and making sure that everyone knows it meant to go this way. Fully realized public transit will never come to LA. Even when oil becomes prohibitively expensive, most people will walk or bike before setting foot on that anemic joke that is the LA public transit system.
posted by quite unimportant at 8:31 AM on May 1, 2007


Based on past and current rail projects in Los Angeles and abroad we estimate the cost of designing and building the additional 390 miles of track in 13 years using economy of scale is between $31-38 billion dollars.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Good luck! You're trying to get us to spend dozens of billions of dollars on NOT consuming oil at a disastrous rate?! What are you thinking?! If we spend that kind of money on public transit, all those soldiers will have died in vain!
posted by shmegegge at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2007


Atlanta also has a fantasy transit map. Actually, just a few a weeks ago that fantasy received a bit of a boost. Part of it did at least. Well, a guy can dream anyways.

Because this, particularly the part shown in map #2, combined with the current rail system would take me just about everywhere I need to go. The rest of the Atlanta is suburban hell and you don't want to go there anyways.

Unfortunately, a lot of people here have a remarkable antipathy towards MARTA and the Georgia DOT is awful.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 8:50 AM on May 1, 2007


Shucks. I wanted that to end like this...

Unfortunately, a lot of people here have a remarkable antipathy towards MARTA, and the Georgia DOT is awful. But things seem to be looking up in Atlanta.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2007


On a related note, I don't see how anyone thinks that buses are a solution to traffic woes. Buses get you to your destination as slowly as the rest of moving traffic. You just don't have to worry about being behind the wheel when you're stuck in traffic. Yeah, in a high-growth environment, supporting the bus system might help prevent a few more cars from going on the road, but it's hardly going to convince many people to take the bus instead of driving, since it won't get them there any faster.

It's not that supporting rail over buses is favoring the rich over the poor. It's that adding a busline instead of investing in a rail system is a typical way to shaft the poor.

Based on past and current rail projects in Los Angeles and abroad we estimate the cost of designing and building the additional 390 miles of track in 13 years using economy of scale is between $31-38 billion dollars.

Did Andrew Natsios get retained as a consultant to this group or something?
posted by deanc at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2007


Crap, Andrew Natsios (link corrected)
posted by deanc at 8:55 AM on May 1, 2007


Freeway? What the hell's a freeway?
posted by norm at 9:06 AM on May 1, 2007


Nice. If that existed, I just need to take the silver line to get to and from work.

There is a very large population of Angelenos who do take public transit. It has the second largest bus system in the country (not including other systems such as the Big Blue Bus and the Culver City Line), even if that means it's still 1/2 of NYC, and it is saturated. Thinking that no one takes public transportation is a rather white collar attitude.

Many people want an expanded public transportation system -- they just don't want to give up their cars to have it. We want our cake and we want to eat it, sue us.
posted by linux at 9:37 AM on May 1, 2007


For all the LA bashing, the city has made good progress in the last 20 years putting in place light rail systems and expanding the bus service.

When you compare that LA county is over 4,000 square miles and New York is under 500 square miles, you are dealing with some large differences in what is achievable in the short term.

Regarding the 'shafting of the poor', the reality is that making subways in LA is something like a billion dollars a mile. That's a tough thing to swallow, when operating a bus fleet is much more practical. The light rail projects were meant to be a reasonable compromise on service & cost.

My family use the Metro quite a bit and it's cleaner and nicer than the subways in New York, London, or San Francisco. It doesn't go everywhere I need, but at least it's not an ordeal to use it in the summer like other cities.

Lastly, the Metro has a big commitment to fixing the smog problem, running the largest bus fleet in the US on compressed natural gas instead of diesel.

There are several areas doing it better than LA on balancing needs and environment up in the Northwest, but LA and California have a huge commitment to solving these problems.
posted by Argyle at 9:42 AM on May 1, 2007


All the public-vs-private transport argybargy will solve itself when the fuel runs out and people have to be content where they are.
posted by jfuller at 9:52 AM on May 1, 2007


We want our cake and we want to eat it, sue us.

Surely there is a way to do just that. You can sue anybody for anything in the US. Make LA cut its pollution to a certain level and keep it there, maybe for public health reasons. If that means fewer cars and more buses and trains, and so better traffic flow and fewer but faster trips for everyone, that's good. If it means cleaner vehicles, that's also good.
posted by pracowity at 10:28 AM on May 1, 2007


I could live in an LA that looked like that.
posted by eckeric at 10:42 AM on May 1, 2007


From today: Los Angeles once again the most polluted city in America.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:46 AM on May 1, 2007


from George Spiggot's link:

Claiming to speak for poor transit riders, the BRU argued that rail transit should be abandoned because it is racist.


Huh? Does that word even mean anything anymore?
posted by SBMike at 11:05 AM on May 1, 2007


This is alledged to be the reason why Georgetown does not have a stop on the Washington, DC metro system.

Actually, it has more to do with the geography of the area and the prohibitive cost of placing a station there. See this post on DCist or this blog post for more information. I recommend the book listed in that post as well.
posted by armage at 11:53 AM on May 1, 2007


Claiming to speak for poor transit riders, the BRU argued that rail transit should be abandoned because it is racist.

Huh? Does that word even mean anything anymore?


It does strike me as an odd statement. I was in LA a few weeks ago and took public transport as much as possible. The ridership on Metro rail struck me as being as ethnically diverse as anything.
posted by timelord at 11:58 AM on May 1, 2007


Actually, [the lack of a Georgetown metro station] has more to do with the geography of the area and the prohibitive cost of placing a station there.

Blast it! A perfectly good urban legend, down the drain!
posted by deanc at 12:28 PM on May 1, 2007


"When you compare that LA county is over 4,000 square miles and New York is under 500 square miles, you are dealing with some large differences in what is achievable in the short term."

And given that huge area to cover, LA Metro is actually doing a pretty good job. I did some research recently looking at the bus system and figuring out how I personally could use it to get around and do all the things I currently do in LA. I was very surprised to find out that the bus system is actually pretty damn reasonable! You can actually get around very well in LA on the buses and Metro Rail, especially if you get the Regional Transit Pass ($58/month) that is good on every bus and train line in the LA County area.

My 10-mile commute in a car would take 45-60 minutes; the bus takes the same amount of time (including changing buses twice). $58 a month for a bus pass would make my commute my smallest living expense.

If I wasn't already doing 90% of my miles on a motorcycle, I'd switch to the bus for commuting, immediately. I haven't crunched the numbers on whether it would be cheaper than the bike, so I may switch anyway.

I see the Metro Rapid 720 bus every day on my commute; it runs from Whittier out east all the way thru Downtown and out to Santa Monica 3rd St area, and every single 720 bus I see is packed, even late at night. It looks like they've tripled the number of buses on that route, and it's still packed.

And someone's saying we don't need a train down Wilshire Blvd? Bah.

I think the only reason the buses are so slow is because there's so much car traffic. I'd bet that if car traffic was cut in half, my hypothetical bus commute would be 30 minutes or less. Each bus can comfortably sit about 35-40 people; imagine taking 35 cars off the street per bus put on the street. Believe me when I say that 95% of the cars I see in LA only have one person in them. Grossly, grossly inefficient and wasteful, especially since everyone's pretty much going the same way.

And yeah, a billion dollars a mile for a subway. That's pretty ridiculous. We should build the train above ground and save 90% of the money, eh?

Geez, I just imagine what it might be like with a train running every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day, along the 10 freeway route from San Bernardino to Santa Monica, and the 405 freeway route from Sylmar to Long Beach. These two routes are parking lots during rush hour (I work near where they intersect, I can see it all from our office), everyone's going the same way. Trains would work SO much better, as long as they were convenient and ran continuously.

I look down on the 405/10 daily debacle from this office and I just think "that's the stupidest thing I've ever seen." And I'm from New Jersey near NYC...

"All the public-vs-private transport argybargy will solve itself when the fuel runs out and people have to be content where they are."

Possibly facetious, but also possibly true. However, a lot of people think it would be a good idea to switch to energy-efficient mass transit systems so as to stretch the fuel out and maintain at least some of our standard of living, y'know?

Doesn't seem right for private people to burn thru the fuel in an orgy of self-gratifying consumption, and then have life cave in for everyone, does it?

As far as getting people out of their cars, how about Free Metro Day once a month? Or some kind of lottery where they give out 1,000 monthly passes randomly every month?

Personally, I think there should be Congestion Pricing, like London has and NYC is considering, on the freeways here; $20 to get on any freeway in LA County from 7-10 am and 4-8 pm. That would get some people out of their cars, heh. I think it would have to be phased in over 5 years, and perhaps you could knock $5 off for each passenger in addition to the driver (so a car with 4 people gets on free), but I don't think it's an impossible idea, as long as a viable mass transit alternative is there to take up the load.

Yeah I know, I'm crazy. But seriously, this town (and state) needs to do SOMETHING a bit more proactive. The traffic is ridiculous, and I don't understand why people put up with it. I don't, that's why I'm on a motorcycle!
posted by zoogleplex at 2:01 PM on May 1, 2007


Doesn't seem right for private people to burn thru the fuel in an orgy of self-gratifying consumption, and then have life cave in for everyone, does it?


Huh?

I thought that was that 'American Way' we'd heard so much about...
posted by pompomtom at 8:31 PM on May 2, 2007


For my first year in Los Angeles, I lived within (far) walking distance to the Red Line (subway), and worked downtown just off of a station. So my wife drove our car, and I took the train.

It was just like living in Chicago had been, only the weather was nice and the trains were clean, and there were no turnstyles to go through.

Then my company moved to Santa Monica, and I spent four years commuting by car over the 405, which was a nightmare. Nothing like 1+ hours to go 14 miles -- I spent many mornings waiting until 10am or so to go to work, and many evenings coming home after 8pm, to make it bearable.

Now I work about four miles from my house, and it takes me less than ten minutes to drive (all surface streets.) Life is better than ever (nothing like having an extra two hours every day!)

In short, LA commuting can be easy; just live and work off the Red Line, or live close to where you work. It's the combination of people who live far from work in areas of no decent transit that cause all the problems (and yes, I realized I was one of those people for four years.)
posted by davejay at 10:39 AM on May 3, 2007


Looking at the map: I'd be two stops (on two trains) away from work. Excellent.
posted by davejay at 10:42 AM on May 3, 2007


"Then my company moved to Santa Monica, and I spent four years commuting by car over the 405, which was a nightmare. Nothing like 1+ hours to go 14 miles -- I spent many mornings waiting until 10am or so to go to work, and many evenings coming home after 8pm, to make it bearable."

Aaaaaand that's why it's pretty obvious that we need a train line that runs down the 405 route. And the 10 route.

There's a lot of people that work on the West Side who live in the Valley or Mid-city and eastward... like me. It seems like mass transit service along those routes isn't so great.

Then again, as I said above, I was surprised by how well the city is covered by the buses. I think some substantial progress could be made if LA can find a way to incentivize using the existing bus lines, to get more people out of their cars - which would result in further beefing up the bus lines, to the point where people might get used to it and a train would seem even better.

Hey, davejay, if I was only 4 miles from work I'd bicycle! :)
posted by zoogleplex at 4:12 PM on May 3, 2007


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