Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taking The Train to Mom's House

I want to reveal for the sake of transparency part of my motivation for promoting rail transit in Los Angeles. I am in no way related to, or have any monetary stake in transportation projects of any kind. However I would like a fast and efficient way to get to my mom's house without needing to use a car, since I am in the process of going car free by choice.

She lives in West Covina, and I live in Santa Monica. This is a very far trip to get by bicycle, my usual mode of transit. Although I have biked there before, it's a long and sweaty adventure that carves through parts of L.A. that are not always so cycling friendly. Public transit options are limited, and there is no choice but to get on the bus for much of the journey, which is subject to the same traffic issues as cars in addition to the frequent stops and less direct routing.

(Route Alternative 11 For West Side Extension)

If the West Side Extension of the subway were built, and the CA High-Speed Rail were built, that would fundamentally change the East/West transportation options in Los Angeles. I could ride my bike to Bergamot Station and pick up the Purple Line Subway to Union station, completely by passing traffic congestion on the 10 freeway and popular boulevards. Once at Union Station I could transfer to a high speed train and blaze the next 26 miles in 17 minutes to get off in City of Industry. From there I could bike the last few miles without breaking a sweat. In total I would be able to travel to my mom's house with a very low carbon footprint and in less time than it would take in a car, especially during times of heavy traffic (which is most of the time).

(HSR Route, Downtown L.A. To City Of Industry)

So in addition to all of the social, economic, and environmental benefits these projects could bring, I support Prop1A and Measure R, so that one day I can take the train to my mom's house quickly and efficiently.


Rafael said...

Santa Monica to Covina sounds like a really long and not at all that pleasant bike ride. Your personal situation highlights a predicament many Californians are facing: getting just about anywhere means getting behind the wheel, which is increasingly expensive, polluting and contributes to congestion.

Of course, it will take many others beside you to generate the ridership levels required to justify the massive investments being proposed. However, there is every reason to believe you are not alone: ridership on existing rail services at all distance scales is growing fast all over the state.

That said, work on the LA-San Diego spur of the HSR network is not expected to begin until after the SF-Anaheim backbone is completed in the 2017-2019 timeframe. High speed trains probably won't run between downtown LA and Ontario airport - never mind San Diego - until several years after that. Even then, only a subset of high speed trains will stop at City of Industry, which is considered a secondary destination for long-distance travelers.

Of course, there is always Metrolink. This underfunded service would be eligible for a significant slice of the $950 million prop 1A reserves for "HSR feeder infrastructure". It would also receive a slice of measure R. Hopefully, it will prioritize safety measures in how it spends these fresh funds.

Measure R also allocates funds for extending the purple line, but only as far as Westwood/UCLA (best case). The final - and sensible - extension to Santa Monica as well as the proposed pink(?) line through West Hollywood will probably have to be addressed in an additional ballot measure at a later date.

All that means you personally will still have to ride your bike for much of the way for a pretty long time. If seeing your folks regularly is important to you, consider shopping around for an electric assist kit based on Li-ion batteries. State law will limit you to 20mph but at least you won't need a change of clothes when you arrive.

Btw: it might make sense for planners to pencil in an intermodal station for the extended purple subway line and a redesigned Expo light rail phase 2. Similarly, there may be value in extending the Crenshaw corridor up La Brea or Highland to Hollywood/Highland station. As your blog post illustrates, connections greatly enhance the value of each service.

Gary said...

I think many people share similar situations, which is partly why I wanted to highlight this. HSR may or may not always work in my case, and it would be a long time coming in the project priories. However HSR would benefit many commuters, and Orange County to LA, which is highly trafficked would be the first usable stretch.

Subway to Downtown and then Metrolink is another option for me to get to my mom's house. Even if the first stretch for subway is only to UCLA, as a bicycle racer, the distance still left to bike would not be a problem for me. Eventually once the purple line does actually extend to the sea, than very little bike mileage would be involved.

I think for most people if you can get total bike distance down to 5 miles or less it is very doable, even without any kind of assist. I have biked the entire distance to my mom's house and will probably do it every so often because I am bicycle crazy, but it's for sure more than what most would ever want to do.