New from StreetFilms: Los Angeles: The Great American Transit Experiment

Capture from the latest StreetFilm - view below
Capture from the latest StreetFilm - view below

There’s a new StreetFilm out today that looks into L.A. County transit, especially light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT). The video explores some successes, investigates some issues, and asks what is needed to make transit better serve the county’s future. Thanks to TransitCenter and StreetFilms for collaborating to produce the piece.

L.A. is in the midst of what L.A. City Mayor Eric Garcetti terms a “transportation renaissance,” with more than 100 miles of new Metro rail lines now open. With the success of several sales tax measures, Metro has many more transit projects funded and on the way, including heavy rail, light rail, BRT, station improvements, and more. Several new rail lines are under construction, with many more in the planning pipeline. But even while the city expands its rail lines, overall transit ridership has declined while driving has increased.

The StreetFilm features some excellent local experts whom SBLA editors value highly: Monique Lopez, Michael Manville, Alissa Walker, and Juan Matute. The piece also features SBLA Editor Joe Linton and SBLA founder Damien Newton.

The new video combines some issues explored in two earlier StreetFilms shorts: It’s the Cars: Why Light Rail Slows to a Crawl in Downtown L.A. and The Loudest Environment You Can Imagine: Is LA’s Green Line America’s Most Hostile Transit?

Among the questions asked by TransitCenter: what should L.A. do right now to make transit successful? Readers – add your answers in the comments below.

  • cygp2p

    Unrealistic answer: Raise gas tax drastically, congestion pricing, use these income sources to address “easy wins” (canopies and sound walls for Green line stations, bus lanes and enforcement, bus stop improvements, walkability improvements), transit priority on all modes, remove parking requirements, upzone.

  • crazyvag

    I was just gonna say, how much would a sound wall cost next to green line stations that are on the highway?

    A lot of politically difficult questions are easier done via voter initiatives. For example, getting marijuana passed is easier done by voters than by politicians. We should ask voters whether interactions that see at least 6 buses / hour / direction should automatically get traffic light priority?

    Should streets that have at least 10 buses / hour / direction automatically get dedicated bus lanes?

    Things need to be data driven, otherwise politics and emotions halt the progress.

  • Kieran

    A few things to help out LA transit would be to extend the Red Line a few miles north to Burbank Airport, have the Red Line go down Vermont(only running some trains to Union Station/the Arts District during morning/evening rush hr) where it’d surface and become elevated at Gage, past Athens along N Gaffey st and eventually into San Pedro to the waterfront.

    Bring the Purple Line into East L where it’d terminate in La Habra via Whittier blvd, then south on N Beach blvd with it ending at a joint terminal with an extended Green Line. Which on the way to its new terminal at the intersection of Imperial Highway and South Idaho st is flanked by the Purple Line which would turn east along Imperial Highway to share a joint terminal with the Green Line at South Idaho st and Imperial Highway near the Regal Cinemas in La Habra.

    Speaking of the Green Line, join it with the Expo Line’s western terminus by having another branch of it go along Lincoln blvd instead of BRT. I understand there’s a stub track pointed in the direction of the Lincoln Heights extension that never got built into an extension.. The Crenshaw line would take over the Green Line’s South Bay section, allowing the Green Line to run from Santa Monica Imperial Highway and South Idaho st where it’d connect with the Purple Line, along with connecting with Metrolink in Norwalk. This is an unlikely extension obviously unless Orange County also helps LA County out with said Green/Purple Line extensions.

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    Acclerate the trend towards fare integration, more high-quality bus lanes (Orange Line is close but until those gates come in its questionable), more incentives for trips under 3 to 5 miles (which represent a high-share of trips and can compete better with transit), more incentives for employers, more “sticks” to dissuade people from using their cars (the above can be “carrots” for transit), and ideally- politicians who are willing to speak the truth about what its gonna take for transit to work in this town. We are way past, “build it and they will come.” We need to think about how to make them keep coming and how to get them to stay.

  • the biggest issue in LA is how the majority* behaves. having lived in all many neighborhoods of the city over 22 years–venice, silverlake, east LA/DTLA, etc.–i always found myself surrounded by pretty liberal people. socially conscious, notionally eco-friendly, personally open to new ideas.

    but then it comes to transit. there is just an UTTER disconnect between transit-as-a-service and transit-as-my-personal-left-politics. it’s as bad as di blasio, champion of the working class, unless that class happens to be on an e-bike. garcetti makes various noises about transport but none that would require anyone making any sacrifices, and we all saw what happened on the west side with bonin over ONE bike line.

    i left the city and moved to NYC because of this–here at least the inherent nature of the environment forces sharing and class mixing. LA is borderline hopeless.

    *majority is a funny word to use in a city that rarely gets above 15% voter participation in local elections. pathetic.

  • Kieran

    Few more ideas-The Purple Line could even be extended further to S Kraemer blvd and Imperial Highway to Brea Union Plaza. The Green Line could also be extended further to CSU Fullerton via State College blvd and taking that to Chapman and S State College blvd where it’d terminate at.

    I have an idea for a Slauson line going to Venice Beach in the west where it’d terminate at Washington blvd and Pacific ave/Speedway. It’d take Washington blvd to Inglewood blvd. From there it’d take Jefferson blvd to Slauson. It’d take Slauson all the way to Norwalk blvd. It’d turn south on Norwalk blvd before turning right onto Imperial Highway and terminating at the Norwalk Metrolink station.

    Another line could use Slauson as well..It would turn around at Veteran’s Park near Redondo Beach Pier. It’d take Torrance blvd to Hawthorne, It’d take Hawthorne north for quite awhile, connecting with the Green Line Hawthorne station in the process. It’d turn right onto Century blvd and left onto S Prairie to serve the future NFL/possible Clippers arenas before taking the freight right of way to Slauson.

    It’d take Slauson to Avalon st and then it’d travel along San Pedro st to Temple st. From Temple it’d turn right onto N Los Angeles st to its terminal at Union Station.

  • Joe Linton

    Metro tried some soundwalls – but they weren’t all that effective on Green Line stations To do something more effective, I think it’s going to take Caltrans to get on board (instead of dragging its heels on needed transit improvements along its rights-of-way – for example )

  • QuestionQue

    Voter Initiatives are the realm of well funded special interests. It costs millions of dollars to pay for enough signatures to be collected to place an initiative on a ballot. Initiatives may have served California in the early 20th century when large corporations controlled the Legislature but they have lost their value.

  • QuestionQue

    While the west side used its government representatives to block tunneling for the Purple line and the San Fernando Valley representatives blocked rail construction on what became the Orange Line bus route the Foothill Cities created what is now the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority separate from Metro. They then produced the Gold Line on the ATSF railroad right of way that had been purchased for hundreds of millions of dollars but where construction had been stopped. Criticizing funding a line that had environmental approval and engineering many years ahead of lines with more potential ridership in other parts of the county is narrow minded. It could be said that completion of the Gold Line created a desire in other parts of the county for Light Rail that lead to eventual reversal of opposition, construction of the Purple Line Subway, and calls for conversion of the Orange Line to higher capacity Light Rail.

  • Vooch

    Much of SoCals Challenge is simply the inhuman streetscape which makes the last mile problem nearly insurmountable.

    Example Number 1 – Try Walking from Union Station to a destination 4 blocks away.

    Example Number 2 – Try Walking along Lincoln Blvd. along any stretch between the border of MDR and past Santa Monica.

    Both of these paths could easily be pedestrian friendly. Instead, they are dystopian nightmares of horror for any human that dares walk there.

    Until SoCal solves these human scale streetscape challenges, transit ridership will remain a quirky niche activity.


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