Late Night Trains? Late Night Bike Rides? A New Park? The Amazing Weekend That Was in Downtown Los Angeles

This weekend saw three pretty amazing events in Downtown Los Angeles. Each unique and important in its own way, that shows how Los Angeles is on the cusp of becoming a world class city for reasons beyond the film industry and a truly livable city.  In chronological order. If you have any experiences with the Grand Park opening, late night train service, or Wolfpack Hustle midnight race, please leave them in the comments.  We’ll highlight some of them on Streetsblog Lite.

Thursday evening, Grand Park officially opened with what Curbed termed, “a very flashy music and dance number that culminated in the re-turning-on of the giant Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain.”  The party continued through the weekend, with Downtowners and out-of-towners alike flocking to the park.

Even a severe head cold couldn't keep Sammy, wearing his Darrell Clarke costume, from enjoying Grand Park.

On Sunday, I ventured down to the park myself, taking the Expo and Purple Lines, pushing a stroller bearing a toddler with a head cold. I knew from social media that the park was already attracting crowds, but was still surprised by the people swaying to some mellow music, the kids splashing in the water rising from the ground near the fountain, and the amount of ugly yet comfortable furniture people sat on.

On our trip, we ran into another family from Mar Vista and a family from Huntington Beach using the train to visit the park. Comfortable transit taking me to well-attended public events in attractive open space? Steve Martin, eat your heart out.

The press is giving the park, and the people attending it, rave reviews. I’m not sure why anyone is surprised at this point that attractive public space and outdoor events draw crowds of happy people. Have we learned nothing from CicLAvia?

As Friday became Saturday and the trains (and Orange Line Buses) continued to run, L.A. quietly took another step towards becoming a transit town. Despite the flurry of press announcing Metro’s plan to extend its Bus Rapid Transit and rail service into the early morning hours, there was no ribbon cutting for the after midnight rail passengers. It might not seem like a big deal, Metro shuffles the deck on its service hours twice a year in some form or another, but consider that late night rail service was such a dream four short years ago that Metro Rider, a now defunct website for news and views on L.A. transportation,  announced it as their 2008 April Fool’s joke.

The idea of late night rail service was a punchline to Fred Camino (before he worked for The Source) in 2008. Today, it's reality.

A quick note of congratulations to The Transit Coalition, who has long advocated for late night rail service. Members of the group have told me for months that the service was coming, and their behind the scenes work paid off.

Twenty-four hours later, as Saturday became Sunday, hundreds of cyclists competed in a race through the 2nd Street Tunnel. While late night bike rides, or races, are hardly news in Los Angeles this one benefitted from an active public relations campaign and by filing all the paperwork to close the street officially.  The “Wolfpack Hustle Midnight Drag Race,” is the culmination of efforts to bring L.A.’s unique “group ride culture” popularized by Midnight Ridazz into the mainstream.

The group ride culture has come so far that the race wasn’t just publicized on websites such as Midnight Ridazz and Streetsblog, but also on Metro’s The Source and other “official” sites.  Heck, the Los Angeles Times actually covered the race in today’s edition.

A gigantic park opening in Downtown Los Angeles, late night trains, the continued movement of L.A.’s bike culture into the mainstream. Nobody’s going to mistake Los Angeles for Copenhagen, but this weekend L.A. showcased its best side, and gave the world a taste of the world-class city it can be.

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