Gone East, Looking West

This is exciting! Today I decided to explore the new extension of the Gold line for a little while. atlantic_stationThere’s something deeply satisfying about seeing a prominent public works project of such obvious value to the community finish the construction phase and begin regular service. I was away in Europe at the opening of it in mid-November and so today was my personal little inauguration ceremony. It runs South and then East from downtown’s Union Station to Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. Yes, you can take it all the way from Pasadena to East LA without changing trains (and similarly in the other direction) and so there’s an incentive to explore. (I’m hoping this will motivate some of the people I know in Pasadena who rarely leave it to actually get out and explore Los Angeles for real…)

I wandered the streets a little bit at one or two of the stops and of course I also sat on the trains looking out of the window and at the people around me. As with many stops all over the MTA system, a closer look reveals that some of the stations have quite lovely design/decorative features. Look out for them if you come to explore. Here is some of what you can see in and around Mariachi Plaza station: (Click on any image in this post for larger view.)

mariachi_plaza_station_0 mariachi_plaza_station_3

mariachi_plaza_station_2 mariachi_plaza_station_4

(The bronze, El NiƱo Perdido is by Alejandro de la Loza.) All the work done on this station fits nicely with the existing nearby mural (pictured below), among other things nearby. (See here for more about the planning and design of this and several of the other stations.)


There’s a lovely (new?) statue of the Mexican mariachi singer Lucha Reyes:


gold_line_east_2There is another reason that this stretch of line, running down the middle of the road quite comfortably alongside street traffic (see right), gets me excited. this is the model that the Expo line will adopt, and it is due to open soon (phase one) not too long from now! Do you remember me blogging about the ground breaking on the project and all the hope that moment contained? gold_line_east_1Well it is almost here, and it will connect downtown, and hence most of the other lines, to USC (where I work – hurrah!) and the hub of neighbouring museums and the Coliseum in Expo park, as well as destinations out to and including Culver City. This is hugely exciting.

Other good news in this vein is that the stupid Nimby-driven arguments over which route phase 2 of the Expo line will take was settled last Fall when the decision was made to essentially go the obvious way after all (along the actual right of way that was the route of a light rail line (Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line) back in old Los Angeles days – you can still see sections of track there… and it indicated as a rail line on old maps). If you want to see some examples of the sorts of arguments and delaying tactics, motivated largely by self-interest, that makes things move so slowly for public transport planning for the greater good (yes, I said The Greater Good), in Los Angeles have a look at this video (or series of video clips) on YouTube. It is of the final planning meeting, in Cheviot Hills, on October 5th last year.

While everyone is worrying and arguing about the restarting and finishing of the Purple line (which, to my mind, obviously should simply and cheaply be run as a light rail system above ground right down the middle of the city and be done with it) and whether we’ll ever get the “Subway to the Sea”, nobody seems to have noticed that when the Expo line phase 2 is complete (probably while the arguing continues) we will have a subway to the sea! It’ll mostly run above ground, but who cares? You’ll be able to take the train all the way from downtown, swiftly to the beach, no stops! (Yes, I have also noticed that I’ll be able to step out of my office, walk 3 minutes to a stop, and head for the beach when it all gets too much. Assuming I have not retired by time they finish phase 2.)

All this, coupled with recent serious discussion (and MTA approval) about other projects (such as connecting a future line from the Expo line to run down Crenshaw into South Los Angeles to connect the communities there to the rest of the system), is very encouraging indeed. It is part of a gradual but significant transformation that is taking place in Los Angeles that many are not noticing. Public transport (and community benefits that come with it if it is well planned) is steadily improving and people are steadily expecting it, using it, and demanding more.

Yes, the city is growing up.

Anyway, after my explorations on the new Gold Line extension I connected with the 260 bus on Atlantic to go a bit further afield to Bell to meet some friends at the excellent La Casita Mexicana for a truly remarkable meal. I highly recommend this restaurant (full disclosure: I happen to know one of the owner/chefs, but it is entirely incidental to my strong endorsement. It was my first time there, and the food was just so remarkable!). In fact, I think I need to gush properly about it in a separate post, to follow shortly.


Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Gone East, Looking West

  1. adam says:

    glad to hear that LA public transport is improving, finally. my friends and I used to jog down the old rail tracks from USC along exposition blvd and wonder why they weren’t used anymore. it was such an obvious place to put a new rail.

  2. Anonymous Snowboarder says:

    C- I’ll preface this by saying I have an east coast, nyc view of things but subways in LA terrify me. Being underground in earthquake country? Bad enough. Flying down the middle of the road where any old car can crash into the train!?! I’ll stick to the car while visiting out your way, tyvm!

  3. Clifford says:

    Interesting. So do you live in mortal fear of any old car crashing into you when you are walking along the street on the sidewalk?


  4. robert says:

    Dude – it’s even better than the Tube (by quite a long way)

    Maybe comparing the number of deaths on London’s streets (like a lot, but best forgotten) and within its visceral viaducts (by comparison not very many at all, but each one etched into the communal psyche) might set the snowboarder discourse in a more quantitative framework. And buildings falling down are a bit dangerous too. Not that we have earthquakes back in the Old Country.

  5. Cool pictures of the stations. When I do my train journeys between Down South and Up North, some of the stations along the way are clearly loved and looked after in a way that others aren’t (intricate wrought iron details in the roof, for example). It doesn’t seem to correlate with the size or busy-ness of the station, and only vaguely with the station’s age.


  6. Sara T. says:

    Sounds like a most satisfying adventure, Clifford! You may be interested in our AFA Librarian’s guide on public art on metro lines, if you’ve not indeed already seen it: http://libguides.usc.edu/gold_line

  7. Clifford says:

    Thank you!!


  8. Pingback: Night Moves at Asymptotia

  9. Pingback: Carmageddon Reaction at Asymptotia