The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My L.A. Metro Train Tour



          On Saturday August 21, 2010 I was part of a tour of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) light rail system.  The participants of this tour were interested residents of the city of Pico Rivera, which is located on the eastern side of Los Angeles County. 

           Currently, MTA is studying a proposal to extend rail routes and one of the options would be to pass through Pico Rivera and end in Whittier.  To alleviate concerns and educate community members about the impact of light rail upon the community this tour was offered to show residents currently existing portions of the light rail system.  Tour participants were given passes which allowed them to ride for the entire day after the tour was over.

           We met in the parking garage at the terminus of the East L,A. portion of the train known as the Gold Line.  This route currently has one end in the largely Hispanic area of East Los Angeles and follows a C shaped route for about 20 miles, ending in Pasadena.  This route stops at about twenty stations, including the downtown L.A. Union Station where other trains can be taken to other parts of the city and other surrounding cities.  The Gold Line includes stops in Little Tokyo, Chinatown, and Old Town Pasadena. 
                                                                                            
Gold Line Terninus Station in East L.A.
                                                                                             
       Our hosts for the tour were two representatives from Arellano Associates, the public relations firm which coordinates the community affairs for the MTA Gold Line Extension Project.   These very congenial hosts, Chester K. Britt and Melissa Holguin, greeted attendees at the new and modern commuter parking garage.   I was disappointed to see only about eight of the twenty-some community members who said they were going to attend.  Our hosts took it in stride and led us to the station platform pictured above.

        On the platform we were introduced to our MTA tour guides:  Kimberly Yu, Transportation Planning Manager, and Diego Cardoso, MTA Executive Officer.  As the train pulled up the first thing I noticed was that I could barely hear it.  Unlike heavy rail trains that we usually think of, the light rails run on electric and only have a few cars.  There was no shaking of the ground like one might expect either.  Trucks and buses that pass near my house on a regular basis are far more disrupting than the light rail train.

        Depending on where they are running, these light rail trains may run separate from traffic on their own right-of-ways, underground, above the ground, or in the middle of the street with traffic.  In traffic they run at fairly slow speeds and do not really present much danger to vehicles or pedestrians.  Despite the frequent stops, commuters can reach their destinations with relative ease and with no parking hassles.  They might have to connect with another train or a bus, but there is usually not much wait during the busiest times of the day.  Trains are comfortable and immaculately clean.

Farmer's Market at East L.A. Civic Center
Another view of the Saturday Farmer's Market









Performance stage at Civic Center Park
           Our first stop on the tour was the East L.A. Civic Center, where on Saturdays is one of the many Farmer's Markets sponsored by VELA, an organization that organizes projects and events to help serve and vitalize communities in the Los Angeles area.  We were greeted by Josie Cervantes, a progrram manager, who showed us through the Farmer's Market and told us about some of the vendors who were there.  We were given samples of some of the produce for sale.  I decided that I would come back on another Saturday to stock up on some of the delicious produce that the market has to offer.   Josie also told us about some of the other programs and events that are held at the civic center such as concerts on the stage which sits out in the duck pond.
 
East L.A. Civic Center Station Platform
       

           We returned to the station platform and boarded the next train, which came in a matter of minutes.  Our tour now continued for several miles as we passed through East L.A and  the edge of downtown Los Angeles.  The ride was very quiet and relaxing.  I watched the passing neighborhoods and business districts of areas where I had never or rarely been.  As we traveled, Kimberly and Diego explained many interesting facts about the train system, called out points of interest, and answered our questions.  This was a great way to ride through town and not worry about being behind the wheel in traffic.  I plan to return and get off at some of these stations in the future and do some exploring--there was a lot to keep a person busy for many trips.
 
South Pasadena residents talk about the experience of living near the light rail station



             Our last tour stop was a station in a quiet South Pasadena neighborhood.  A couple of residents who live nearby the train station greeted us and described their experience with the train being so near to them.  First they allayed any concerns about noise, a point which had already become evident to us from what we'd seen already.  They also said there had been no accidents or traffic disruptions in their area.  They felt safe and confident in proximity to the rail system.  They felt their property values had gone up with the train station so close and characterized this area as having become gentrified.  They pointed to the examples of coffee shops, fine restaurants, and boutiques that had sprouted up since the arrival of the station.  There was now a greater sense of community.

             Kimberly explained that this was typical of areas where the trains had gone into operation.  Local city governments encouraged development in station zones which resulted in new businesses and more jobs. I could see the vitality of the business areas around the station stops that we visited.  Communities that had previously been somewhat blighted were starting to show a new improved face and enticing outsiders to visit.  These areas were becoming safer, cleaner, and more desirable for development.  

Sculpture at South Pasadena station


             This was the official end of our tour.  The rest of the tour members continued on to downtown Pasadena.  I needed to get home to meet my wife for lunch.  I plan to return with my wife and granddaughter--I think she'd really get a kick out of riding the trains.  In the weeks to come I hope to get back out on the train and go to some of the stops where I didn't get off this time.  When I do this I will take some pictures and do some blog posts.  In fact, I could see a lot of potential blog posts from just riding the light rails and sightseeing in Los Angeles.

               As far as building a light rail line near my neighborhood and having a station within walking distance of my house, I'm all for it.  I've ridden the trains here in L.A. many times.  It's a great way to get to Universal Studios, Hollywood, Staples Center, Long Beach, and many other places.  If I didn't have to drive seven miles to the park and ride lot to catch the train it would be all the better.  Why, if I could just walk to the train station, I could almost get rid of my car.   I said almost---after all, this is Los Angeles and you still need a car to go some places.

           Tomorrow my Debate Day topic will be the pros and cons of light rail.  I hope you will join me to give your opinions.  However, today I'd like to know if anyone has ridden the light rail in Los Angeles and if so, how was your experience?   What about light rail in other cities?  If you are planning to visit L.A., I would encourage you to ride the rail whenever it is feasible to do so.   Does anybody have any plans to visit Los Angeles any time soon?  

Below is a video of the grand opening of the Gold Line extension to the East L.A. Terminus Station.  You can get an idea of what the train is like in this video.  There are a number of other videos on YouTube that show L.A. Metro trains.



23 comments:

  1. I wish I could comment as to Light Rail trains but Kentucky is still a gas guzzling state. Sometimes I do wish I could just ride a horse. But that parking would be a real nightmare!

    Have a good day Lee.
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lee yoour post brought back some good memories for me, those pics of Farmers Market in LA, I went there when I came over a few years ago, bought some presents, also from there we went on to Pasendena where we saw the last of Daniels' concerts before going home from LA airport, Looking back at Farmeers Market to me was wonderful.
    Pleased you had a good day, and thanks for the nmemories.
    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never seen this type of transportation system before. Very cool - sounds like it would help reduce a fair amount of pollution too. Sounds like you have lots of interesting places to visit!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have never ridden a trai before. This is one of my goals in life. Perhaps I should get on the Blue Line and ride around Orange County and go up to L.A. Thanks for the review. It looks like a lot of fun/

    Stephen Tremp

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm always up for new, healthier ways of transportation!

    Back in my childhood I lived some time just 200 yard from a railroad, and I must admit you get used to the noise and ground shaking underneath your feet :) I imagine it's much worse living near an airport :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jules -- Yes, public rail transportation in most of Kentucky is probably not something we'll see very soon. The horse would be fun to ride, but I don't guess they have as many hitching posts as they used to.

    Yvonne -- I'm pretty sure the farmer's market that you went to would have been the much larger Original Farmer's Market in the Fairfax District. It is often a stop on many tours. Yesterday Alex mentioned the trains in England and how they "rocked"--I wonder how they compare to the L.A. light rail?

    Jemi -- Have you never been to Toronto and ridden the light rail subway system there? I used to stay out by the big freeway north of the city across from a mall that had a train station and ride the train downtown. They have a beautiful system-- or at least it was back in the 80's when I used to ride it. I'm sure it's still very nice.

    Stephen -- Get thee out of Orange County and spend a few hours on the rail system! For just a few bucks you can get an unlimited day pass that will allow you to get on and off as much as you want. I highly recommend going to Universal City walk, Hollywood and Highland, Downtown L.A., and if you've never been to Union Station that's pretty cool. I can almost guarentee you'll get some good writng inspiration riding the train. Take the family--I think they'd enjoy it--it can be a very cheap day of entertainment.

    Dezmond -- Do they have light rail in Serbia? It is so much more different that the noisier heavy rail that you're talking about--you can barely hear them coming. Living near a large airport would probably be worse because of higher traffic volume. I thought of you on my train trip as we passed The Serbian Cemetary which looked very intriguing. I'm going to try to get a photo next time I take that train and put it up on a future post.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I remain glad that I escaped California in 1985 but you brought back memories and a love for LA. I always loved LA county. We lived in Pomona, West Covina, served in a church in Torrance. Preached in the parks in Pomona, Baldwin Park, drove a cab in Pomona and San Bernadino, drove a tow truck in Ontario, San Berdoo, and Pomona, managed a Texaco in Diamond Bar. I don't think there is a community we have been in in LA county.

    Train ride was fun!

    ReplyDelete
  8. i've driven in L.A. while visiting Pasadena and it wasn't a picnic by any means. obviously this has opened up new adventures for you! i really enjoyed this post and the photos. loved seeing the stage set in the middle of the duck pond but even moreso loved the sculpture man walking from stone to stone. living in L.A. wouldn't be so bad after all....was/is my impression after reading this. but i think San Diego is equally as attractive. i could live in either city...now.

    ReplyDelete
  9. We have the luas in Dublin and it is great. Very little public transport in Eau Claire though.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Doubt an LA visit is in my near future!
    Hey, if it's encouraging growth in those neighborhoods, sounds like a good idea to me.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Gregg -- I wonder if you came back if you'd see more or less improvement?

    Bud -- I spent a pleasant 5 years as a child in San Diego, but it was a much smaller city then. It still seems nice though and the weather here in coastal Southern California is nearly unbeatable.

    Ann -- I had to google "luas". It sounds very much like what we have in Los Angeles. Don't know about Eau Claire either. At first I thought you were referring to the city in Wisconsin here in the U.S. I guess in Ireland this must be a rather rural and scenic area which would not be practically served by mass public transportation.

    Alex -- Wait! Don't you have any plans for book promotions in L.A.? And surely you'll be here negotiating for the movie version of your new book, CassaStar (subtle book plug).
    The development and improvement of the neighborhoods where the rail runs is definitely a plus.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I guess it's a Serbian cemetery for our people who live(d)there. But it's interesting that there are many Serbian cemeteries all around the world. Since Serbia fought against Nazis in both World Wars, our soldiers fought on many different fronts and battlefields, so it's not unusual to see a cemetery with Serbian soldiers in Tunisia in far away Africa, in Greece, in France ... Those cemeteries are the reminders of brave and often tragic destiny of people who fight for peace and freedom.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The trains here now don't rock anymore they used to years ago but now they have all been modernised , It all depends how long ago Alex came over, I noticed your trains were very long , would have loved to have had a ride on one whilst over in the US.
    I am sure that was the Farmers market I remembered certain things also on my video I have the building which say Farmers Market written on, I have compared your photo and the video and it's identicle.
    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I grew up under the flight path of the airport so train noise is nothing. Light rail was a bit of a flop in Sydney only because they didn't build it in a useful place. Only tourists use it. But our general rail system is pretty good.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dezmond -- I'm sure you are correct. It appears to be quite a large cemetary with elaborate markers. We hear so much of other cultural groups in L.A. who have their own special parts of town where they are predominant, but don't really hear about the Serbian population.

    Yvonne -- Could be--I'm not sure how long they've been running the farmer's market there..

    Lynda -- What you mention about the Sydney light rail is an argument that I've heard in other cities. I think the light rail system in in San Diego is mainly for tourists. In L.A. they seem to be doing a pretty comprehensive study of where to run the lines.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi Arlee .. that was great - & to be proud of their new line, keeping it clean etc .. and the train trip video was fun.

    Their tour was good too - & it was interesting to read the stations through which the Gold line passed ..

    Light railway certainly seems to be a thing of the future .. getting into the towns ..

    Thanks - I enjoyed that .. Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  17. "We hear so much of other cultural groups in L.A. who have their own special parts of town where they are predominant, but don't really hear about the Serbian population."

    Lee, that's because the biggest Serbian population in USA is in Chicago (many of the politicians and even a senator or a governor is Serbian) where we have around 300,000 people or something like that. In your LA you probably know for Karl Malden, basketball players Vlade Divac and Pedja Stojakovic .... they are/were all Serbian :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hlary -- Glad you enjoyed the video. Trains can be a good time, but careful planning is key to making them practical. Seems like the MTA is doing a pretty good job of planning for the most part.

    Dezmond -- I've certainly heard of those Serbians you mention. I had no idea that Karl Malden was of Serbian descent.

    ReplyDelete
  19. yep, his real name was Mladen Sekulovic but he changed it into Karl Malden when he went to Hollywood to later on become a film legend.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Why in the world would he have ever changed his name? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I've been wanting to take a day trip to LA on the train. Sounds incredible simple!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Sounds like a winner to me. I wish it been available when I lived in LA.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Karen -- I highly recommend it. Find a good park and ride location-- for you maybe Norwalk or Long Beach? It's about $6 for a day pass that's good for on and off all trains and I think Metro buses are included. There are so many great places to get off that you could easily spend the entire day with just a few stops.

    Paula -- I think the Metro rail has a lot of potential. Now if more people would ride, it might start paying for itself more.

    ReplyDelete

Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee