This is exciting! Today I decided to explore the new extension of the Gold line for a little while. There’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.)
(The bronze, El Niño 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:
There 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? Well 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.