Recently on this blog, I outlined a proposal to turn the Glendale Freeway (SR-2), the unfinished fragment of what was originally to have been a much longer freeway running through Beverly Hills all the way to the 405, into a rapid transit corridor plus new housing. Today, I wanted to look at another, much shorter unfinished freeway that might also be repurposed the same manner. This is the Marina Freeway (SR-90). Today it’s basically a 3.3 mile causeway from Mindanao Way in Marina del Rey to Slauson Avenue in Fox Hills. The original plan was for it to have been a much longer freeway stretching along Slauson all the way to Orange County.
This Saturday will bring the launch of Pasadena Transit Route 88, which will provide weekend service from the Memorial Park Gold Line Station to the Sam Merrill trailhead in Altadena. When this service was first announced, I argued that, for efficiency and equity reasons, it might be better to provide access to this popular hiking spot by extending one of the nearby Metro bus routes (by only a mile or so), as opposed to by creating a new special-purpose shuttle.
However, as I acknowledged, there are many cases where a dedicated shuttle is the best approach. There might not be an existing nearby bus to extend; the way to the park might be too long or circuitous to justify extending a current route; or the expected number of riders going to the park might be so large that they might overwhelm the existing service. Here, I wanted to highlight a couple of parks where I think transit access is definitely called for, and where (for some combination of the above reasons) a park-specific shuttle is arguably the answer.
[Short version, 4/4/18: doesn’t seem likely. Travel times might be competitive with rush-hour driving, but only because of traffic delays, which you could surmount more easily with bus lanes or rail. And that’s without even getting into whether services would be economically viable. One expert opinion has confidently said there’s no way it would work. Climate change may continue to make waterborne travel necessary as a backup measure, but not clear if there’s a case for it as an everyday service.]
The recent KCRW DnA segment on proposals for ferry service in Los Angeles, and Alissa Walker’s February Curbed piece on the same topic, have gotten me thinking about this subject and where ocean-going ferries might make sense in Southern California. The most obvious role for ferries is the one where services already exist, namely connecting the Channel Islands to the mainland. But what about connecting points on the mainland? Walker discusses proposals by David Bailey and by Ocean Ray for services paralleling the coast between Malibu and the South Bay beach cities. In general, I’m a little skeptical of such concepts, just because I have to wonder whether it would be cheaper and less ecologically impactful to simply improve parallel bus and/or rail services. I’m certainly not an expert, though, so I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise.
What I did get to wondering, though, is whether there are other points for which a ferry connection would be more direct than the best competing land route. Unlike, say, the Bay Area or Puget Sound, Southern California doesn’t have a central body of water with significant population centers on opposite sides of it. However, for the Santa Barbara and Ventura areas (between which ferry service was run while the 101 was closed by mudslides), their main surface transportation connections to Los Angeles (the 101 freeway and the LOSSAN rail corridor) don’t run directly along the coast between Oxnard and Los Angeles. (The story of why there is no coastal rail or freeway involves, among other things, the saga of the Rindges of Malibu, and the failure of the Santa Monica Causeway concept.) So what I wondered was, would a fast ferry route from these ares to the Westside of Los Angeles plausibly be time-competitive over road or rail, by virtue of being more direct? I did some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations to get an idea of this.
After writing about the idea of repurposing the 2 freeway as a tranistway, I’ve been thinking a lot again lately about buses and freeways, and specifically about bus pads: areas at a freeway interchange where there’s a lane for buses connecting the off-ramp to the opposite on-ramp. A bus stop is placed on this lane, along with, obviously, some means for pedestrians to access it from the surface street. The idea is to allow express buses to pick up and drop off passengers without getting slowed down by cross traffic the way they would if they exited the freeway outright. Now, bus pads have a lot of obvious drawbacks as a way of delivering rapid transit: buses running in mixed freeway traffic will be slowed down at rush hours; the area right around a freeway is likely to be comparatively lacking in nearby walkable destinations; the air quality won’t great for people waiting at the stop; and with certain interchange geometries, pedestrians may be forced into dangerous conflicts with traffic on ramps to reach the stop. Still, I’ve long been interested in the past and present of this particular form of transit infrastructure, which one might have imagined to be typical of a freeway-heavy place like Los Angeles.
As far as I know, there are seven active bus pads Los Angeles County:
- On the 110 at Carson Street and Pacific Coast Highway
- On the 101 at Alvarado Street, Vermont Avenue, and Western Avenue
- At Vermont, in addition to the bus pads on the sides of the freeway, there’s also a disused one in the median on the southbound side.
- On the 10 at Puente Avenue and Azusa Avenue
- As I understand, these are currently open only in the westbound direction due to construction for the 10 HOV lane project.
I wanted to ask here about three other places where I’ve noticed what look like former bus pads, but which as far as I can tell are no longer in use:
- On the 110 at 7th Street on the west side of Downtown Los Angeles. (Look for the stairs leading down from the street to the side of the freeway; in the Google Maps satellite image I’ve linked to, these are most visible on the north side of the street, going down to the southbound freeway lanes. This one is also a bit different because it’s just at an underpass, not at an actual exit.)
- Two on the 10 at West Covina Parkway and Vincent Avenue. (If you look at the satellite images, you can see remains of sidewalks and crosswalks leading up to the slip ramp, and distinct pavement at what I take to be the place where the bus would have stopped.)
Does anyone have information about if or when these were most recently in use by buses? For the latter two, does anybody know if they’ll still exist after the I-10 HOV project is completed? Any information would be more than welcome in the comments, on Twitter, or via email at transiting dot la at gmail dot com. Thanks!
Footnote: Bus pads as defined above might be regarded as the middle of three taxonomic grades of freeway-based bus stops. The highest level are stops located along dedicated bus-only lanes or HOV/HOT lanes. In LA, the Rosecrans, Harbor Freeway/I-105, Manchester, Slauson, and 37th Street/USC stations on the Harbor Transitway, and the Union Station, LAC+USC Medical Center, and Cal State LA stops on the El Monte Busway fall into this category. Harbor Gateway Transit Center and El Monte might be described as terminal stations located at the end of such lanes.
At the next level down are bus pads. With these, buses have to operate in mixed traffic on the freeway, but their route is still fully grade-separated; they don’t have to leave the freeway to stop for passengers.
Below these are a category for which I’m not aware of there being an established term: the bus exits the freeway, crosses the intersecting surface street, and then re-enters the freeway at a directly-opposite entrance ramp, stopping for passengers near the end of the exit ramp or the start of the entrance ramp. In LA County, I know of examples of these on the 101 at Van Nuys Boulevard and Reseda Boulevard (northbound only); on La Cienega Boulevard at Slauson Avenue; and on the 10 at the Fairplex park-and-ride (westbound only). I think there at least used to be one on the 10 at Via Verde.
If anybody knows of further examples (past, present, or proposed) of any of these categories, I’d be happy to hear about those too!Follow @TransitingLA
[3/31/18: Another quick revision with updated info for Monrovia: california-transit-map-0.9.2]
- The new Mountain Transit route 13 from Big Bear Lake to Victorville has been added
- In the box listing services for Los Angeles County:
- The Agoura Hills Beach Bus has been added (hat tip to Henry Fung)
- The listing of neighborhood shuttle brands operated by the LA County Department of Public Works has been made clearer and more complete
- Labeling for the Caltrans Delta ferries has been corrected, and they’ve been added to the box listing services for the Bay Area (together with other services located in Solano County)
This is still very much a beta version, and the disclaimers noted in the original post still apply. Additions, corrections, suggestions, or other feedback are always welcome in the comments, via Twitter, or via email to transiting dot la at gmail dot com.Follow @TransitingLA
After briefly taking this post down in response to feedback, I’m now putting it back up, with some more details about neighborhood campaigns related to the freeway terminus and previous suggestions to remove the 2 freeway stub south of the 5, both of which I should have given prominence to originally. I have not been able to find any mention of previous efforts to remove or repurpose the entire freeway (including the bulk of its length north of the 5) nor of efforts to repurpose the freeway specifically as a rapid transit corridor. If you have information about such efforts, I’d be very happy to find out where I can learn more and connect with people working on them. You can get in touch via the comments, on Twitter, or via email at transiting dot la at gmail dot com. Thanks!
Los Angeles may be the archetype of an American city cut through by a huge web of freeways, but many of the projects that were once planned were cancelled outright or completed only partially. The contentious gap in the 710 is probably the most famous example currently. One other freeway project, which was curtailed to a more radical extent, is the 2 (Glendale) freeway. Today, it runs in a northeast/southwest direction from Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge to Glendale Boulevard in the Elysian Heights/Silver Lake area. Along the way, it was supposed to continue west as the Beverly Hills Freeway all the way to the 405. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, a physical remnant of this unbuilt extension exists in the form of the very wide median on the 101 where it passes under Vermont Avenue. This is where the 2/101 interchange was to have been. With the western portion of the 2 never built, it’s home today to grass, trees, and an unused bus pad, as seen in the photo below.
Because of its unfinished state, the 2 as we know it today is relatively under-utilized compared to the region’s other freeways. The way that the unfinished stub suddenly ends at Glendale Boulevard also has substantial traffic impacts on the surrounding area, which has given rise to long-running controversy between local residents and various concerned government agencies about how to reconfigure the terminus. The resulting State Route 2 Terminus Improvement project is based on a “hybrid” alternative which, I gather, few are all that happy with. I can’t hope to do full justice to the history of that debate here, but the Red Car Property blog, and the archives at Curbed, Streetsblog, and The Eastsider make good places to start if you want to read up on it.
Thinking more extensively, the idea has also popped up from time to time to outright remove the 2’s stub south of the 5. At a 2012 community workshop, a number of residents suggested replacing it with parks and housing, inspired by New York’s High Line. Christopher Hawthorne suggested similar ideas (also invoking the High Line) in the Times in 2015, which drew mixed reactions from readers. Just across the Los Angeles River from the 5 and the stub, Let’s Go LA suggested in 2015 that 2’s exit ramps at Fletcher Drive could be removed both to improve traffic flow on the freeway by spacing out exits better, and to free up the land for new housing.
As LA grapples with issues relating to the health hazards of living near freeways, Alissa Walker has recently floated the idea of dismantling them altogether. In that spirit, I’d like to explore an even more extensive possibility for the 2: removing not just the stub, but the entire freeway, using a portion of its right-of-way as a readymade, grade-separated rapid transit corridor (for buses and/or rail), and using the remaining land freed up by removing the freeway’s lanes and ramps (plus associated buffer zones) to build new transit-oriented housing and parks.
Recently I posted about some concerns regarding the unequal status of incorporated cities and unincorporated areas when it comes to representation on the Metro Board of Directors. This reminded me of a related issue that’s bothered me before: the way that being a separately incorporated city (as opposed to being unincorporated or being a part of a larger city like Los Angeles) arbitrarily gives some areas more control and influence than others. This thought was particularly brought on by the City of Beverly Hills, the Beverly Hills Unified School District, and their years of lawsuits against the Purple Line extension.
It’s no secret that richer and whiter communities have disproportionate resources to fight projects that they don’t want in their neighborhood. (If you doubt this, just look at where freeways got built in LA County to where they didn’t.) But when it comes to being a thorn in the side of the Purple Line, there’s an additional thing that Beverly Hills has beyond just the wealth and privilege of the people who live there: it’s a separate city (and school district) of its own. It thus has local control over tax money to spend on lawsuits and appeals, and independent control over matters of policy that affect the project, like the hours during which construction work will be allowed.
Even if you set aside the disproportionate wealth and influence of Beverly Hills residents, it seems fundamentally arbitrary and unfair that those 35,000 people get the prerogatives of separate cityhood, and thus more opportunity to affect and potentially stop a major regional project that passes through their borders, whereas, say, Koreatown or Westwood don’t.
Now, I certainly don’t want to suggest that the answer is to break up the City of Los Angeles into 100 or so Beverly Hills-sized cities. This poster promoting a “yes” vote in the 2002 referenda on cityhood for Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley claims that splitting up the city would make “It” more manageable, but whether that’s true depends on the scale at which you look at things. Making everywhere a separate city might make it easier for each community get what they want locally, but it could also make it much harder to coordinate projects and priorities to address the needs of the metropolitan area as a whole. But conversely, I’m also not necessarily saying that the best option would be to consolidate the entire urbanized area into one city. A single mega-city of Los Angeles arguably would be unwieldy and potentially very unresponsive to local needs, especially in historically disadvantaged communities.
Small-scale community control and large-scale regional consolidation both have potential virtues and vices. The equity problem, as I see it, is not that one or the other arrangement prevails in greater Los Angeles, but that neither arrangement (nor any particular compromise between them) prevails in any remotely consistent way. Thanks to the the many complexities and injustices of how the region grew and developed, some areas (ranging from Beverly Hills and Malibu to industrial enclaves like Vernon and the City of Industry) get the powers of separate cityhood, while others (again spanning a wide range of demographics and development patterns) don’t.
Why should Watts be part of the City of Los Angeles, Willowbrook an unincorporated area, and Compton an incorporated city? Why should the same go for Venice, Marina del Rey, and Santa Monica? Or Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, and Montebello? Does San Pedro somehow have more interests in common with North Hollywood (its fellow City of LA neighborhood) than it does with Burbank? In each case, of course, there’s a history of how things ended up as they are now. But regardless of how and why it happened, are these present differences in political status really fair for the people who live in each of these cities and neighborhoods today?Follow @TransitingLA
The other day I posted about some concerns I had about the planned new shuttle service to the Sam Merrill trailhead in Altadena. Since that’s an unincorporated area, this reminded me of something that’s bugged me for a while about how different areas of Los Angeles County are represented on the Metro Board of Directors.
If I understand rightly, the Metro board consists of 13 voting members plus one nonvoting member appointed by the Governor. The structure is explained here on the Metro site, and the pertinent section of the state Public Utilities Code is here. The 13 voting members are:
- The five members of the County Board of Supervisors
- Representing the City of Los Angeles, the Mayor and three members appointed by the Mayor
- Four representatives of the County’s other cities. These members are chosen by the Los Angeles County City Selection Committee, which consists, at least for this purpose, of the mayors of all of the cities in the County besides the City of Los Angeles. The other cities are grouped into four sectors, and the Committee chooses one mayor or council member from a city in each sector to serve on the Metro Board. Voting on the committee is weighted by population, which each mayor getting one vote for every 10,000 residents their city has.
This means that residents of incorporated cities are represented on the Board twice: once by their County supervisor, and once by and/or through their respective mayor. But unless I am seriously missing something, residents of unincorporated areas are represented only once, by their County supervisor. If I’ve got that right, this seems worryingly unfair, given that the various unincorporated areas of the County have a total population of over a million, around 10% of the total County population. To be sure, that includes people in rural areas in the north of the County where there’s no transit service, but it also includes thoroughly urban and suburban areas like East Los Angeles or (as mentioned) Altadena. And even outside of its transit service area, Metro performs functions related to roads and highways.
The Metro site does speak of the members chosen by the City Selection Committee as being “from the other incorporated cities and unincorporated areas”, but even if those members are understood to speak for the interests of the unincorporated areas that adjoin their sector, I can’t find any indication that residents of the unincorporated areas have any actual direct or indirect say in the selection of those members. For what it’s worth, if you look at the maps of the four sectors on the Metro board members page, unincorporated areas do not seem to be depicted as falling in any sector (except on Santa Catalina Island, for some reason).
Have I missed something here? Has anyone ever discussed changing things to address this issue?Follow @TransitingLA
Yesterday brought the news that in April, a new pilot shuttle service will be offered from the Memorial Park Gold Line station in Pasadena to the Sam Merrill trailhead at the northern end of Lake Avenue in Altadena. On the whole, this is good news, as Los Angeles County has significant equity issues regarding access to park space, which transit service can help to rectify. This spot in particular is a fantastic (and very popular) hike, which I’ve personally done.
However, I have some misgivings whether providing this access via a new, special shuttle service is the best approach. Metro’s 180 bus currently terminates at Altadena Drive and Lake Avenue, only about a mile south of the trailhead at Lake Avenue and Loma Alta Drive. (When I did the hike, I took the 180 and walked up Lake. This isn’t the greatest walk, as much of it lacks sidewalks, but it can be done.)
So, I have to wonder if it wouldn’t be better to offer access to the trailhead by just extending the 180 a mile north. The first argument for why this might be better is that it’s very plausibly more efficient, by making use of already existing resources. The 180 connects directly to the Gold Line at Lake station, so there would still be a single transfer from Metro Rail to reach the trailhead. It could also directly serve Charles S. Farnsworth Park, about 3 blocks south of the trailhead. Another possibility would be to extend the Metro 260 bus about 0.7 miles northeast from Fair Oaks and Loma Alta, although this one would not have a direct Gold Line connection in Pasadena. While extending either of these bus routes would certainly produce some additional costs, I can imagine that the extensions might actually increase the lines’ revenue efficiency by having them end at a strong ridership anchor in the form of a very popular trail.
But I think that there’s a deeper argument than just efficiency for preferring extensions of existing general-purpose bus routes over creating new special-purpose shuttles. I think you could argue that it’s inherently inequitable for trail users to get a dedicated shuttle straight to their destination (which would come with a $0.75 fare), while users of other destinations have to rely on the regular bus. This seems particularly worrisome given numerous inequities (in race, class, and otherwise) affecting who participates in outdoor recreation. The very fact of offering public transit access would certainly address some of those inequities, but not all. So are shuttles like this effectively a luxury service catering to an already privileged class of users?
These worries might be blunted a bit by the fact that the new shuttle is not a Metro service; it’s funded by Edison International, the City of Pasadena, and LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger. So it may be hard to say that any single actor here is doing something discriminatory. But even that, I think, forces you to look at how greater LA’s transit system is institutionally fragmented across lots and lots of different agencies (something I became particularly aware of when working my recent map of California transit services), and whether that very fact is (at least in some places) inequitable or inefficient. As it happens, I’ve been working on a project that explores the efficiency dimension, at least, which I hope to have up here soon. Stay tuned.
(Update: They’ve now announced that the shuttle will take the form of a new Pasadena Transit route, which will make local stops along the way. Because it’s not direct from the Gold Line station to the trailhead, this particular example raises somewhat less severe equity issues than I was originally concerned about. But I think the question is still valid. And the fact that it’s an “ordinary” service of an existing transit agency actually kind of underscores the original question of whether it would have been more efficient for this to be implemented as a short extension of an existing Metro route.)
Finally, for the record, I’m not making a strong claim that the new shuttle service is racist and should be cancelled or boycotted or anything like that. Having some form of transit access to this trail is probably better than not having it. And I also know that, due to various geographic factors, a dedicated shuttle to a park or other destination often will be the best (or only) strategy. I’m just suggesting that here, as everywhere, we need to carefully consider whether we’ve chosen the best approach to each situation.Follow @TransitingLA
When I first started this blog, I had a post about how to make an epic trip across California using connections between different transit agencies. As I learned more about that topic, it quickly became apparent that there were a number of different combinations of routes by which you could make such journeys. To help myself organize that information, I decided to start making a map. I started out just wanting to get a handle on all of the possible routings between LA and San Francisco, but eventually the map grew to cover the whole state as well as connecting transit services in neighboring states. After a couple of years of working at this on and off, the initial (really, beta) version of the project is now more or less done. You can download a pdf of the map here.
I should note up front that I am not by any stretch of the imagination a graphic designer. I created the map using Inkscape, which I (incompletely) taught myself in the course of working on this. Be prepared for aesthetic deficiencies and possible technical issues. Despite my best efforts, there are undoubtedly substantive errors and omissions too. Feedback (in the comments or to transiting.la [at] gmail.com) would be most welcome!
In the course of creating the map, I read and learned a lot not only about what transit services existed around the state and connected with each other, but also about where connections didn’t exist. So in addition to the map, I also began to compile a list of significant gaps around the state where it seemed to me like it would be reasonable and desirable to introduce connections between neighboring transit agencies.
I also learned a good deal about services in the Pacific Northwest that don’t quite have connections to statewide transit network in California. As it turns out, except for a couple of places in Oregon, there is a continuous web of interconnected transit agencies stretching all the way from Baja California to Alaska. But up and down the West Coast, there are also quite a few gaps between the networks of nearby agencies which would, arguably, make a lot of sense to bridge. Curious? Read on!