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The Ebb ‘N Flow Of The Come ‘N Go

August 28, 2011 in Biking in LA, Driving, Mass Transit, Transportation

Need an 8-minute frivolous diversion?

With my camera rigged up to the eyepiece of my spotting scope (with duct tape and adhesive putty), from my backyard I pointed it at Sunset Boulevard between Descanso (just out of view at the bottom) and the Maltman bend in Silver Lake (at the top) to timelapse capture the afternoon traffic flow.

Sometimes it Starts With a Facebook Page

July 18, 2011 in culver city, LAX, Long Beach, Mass Transit, The Valley, West Side

Valley-Westside Rail

You Should Like This

Before The Event That Never Was, I wrote about the need for a rail line along the 405 corridor. I exchanged a few emails with Bart Reed of the Transit Coalition, who shared some insight as to how to get such an important piece of the transit puzzle off the ground (or rather, under.) He said they have been in talks with Los Angeles Council Districts 6 and 11, and that they would begin promoting through social media sites.

The Valley-Westside Rail project is now up on Facebook. You should like it.

I asked Bart how people could get more involved. He said that we need to start by garnering support from neighborhood councils. So, that’s where I began, with a few emails of my own:

This past weekend, the closure of the 405 and the media attention it received resulted in a ripple effect on the entire freeway system. Drivers got lucky. Businesses did not. This further illustrates the need for viable transportation alternatives. Specifically, a more comprehensive regional rail network.

As a contributing author for Blogging.LA, I wanted to get your input on a newly envisioned Metro rail line from the Valley to the Westside, by way of the 405 corridor.

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Wolfpack Hustle Vs Jetblue

July 14, 2011 in Biking in LA, Mass Transit

The other day the entire world collectively pointed and laughed at the obvious publicity stunt unleashed by JetBlue, where they announced plans to offer $4 fares from Burbank to Long Beach to avoid carmageddon. But flying seems pretty fast right? I mean, you are in a plane and all. But how fast is it really? Fast enough to beat Wolfpack A? Seriously, easily the most elite street cyclists in LA, possibly in the country started doing the math and think they can make that trip faster on bike than JetBlue can in a plane. You know what? I think they are right. I’ve seen the hustle in action. I’ve seen Wolfpack A win race after race. I think this is totally legit. Several folks are already trying to get JetBlue to accept the challenge. Let’s see what happens!

UPDATE: IT’S ON! Details being finalized right this very second, but this is happening. Point to point. It’s a battle of commuters. A house in Burbank to the Long Beach Aquarium. More details soon!!!

It Caught My Eye: Slice O’ Life & Death

May 29, 2011 in Crime, ICME, Mass Transit, Social issues, Transportation

Had to go down to the Central Library Friday afternoon to pick up a book I’d put a hold on. Opted to leave the bike at home and instead catch the No. 4 bus from Silver Lake to Pershing Square, where I walk along Fifth Street from Hill past the park, Olive, the Biltmore and Grand. When I leave the library with book in hand, I decide not to return the way I came and instead step on Hope south to 7th and go underground, hopping the Red Line back up to Vermonica from there to stride the rest of the way home. On impulse I veer into the parking lot to make a stop at the Rite Aid, which puts me in the direct trajectory of a young lady who steps out from behind a car wanting to know if I speak English. I successfully fight back the urge to ask “What other do you think this loaf of Wonder Bread might speak?” and instead politely confirm that I do have a passing familiarity with that language. In turn, she casts out a weary line about trying to get Pizza Hut’s finest for her kids, but her debit card was refused and could I maybe spare some—.

“Sure!” I said, cutting her off. “I’ll buy the pizzas for you. How many you need?”

As expected she hadn’t set up for the curveball I pitched and the words stumble out of her mouth wondering if it would be OK if I just gave her the cash. I told her all I had was my debit card at which she shook her head. Her “Thanks anyway,” confirmed my suspicions that the pizza story was a fiction, and for their sake hopefully the children were, too.

Out from the Rite Aid the young lady starts for me again until realizing she’d hit me already and sharply turns away as if I don’t exist. As I head east on Santa Monica Boulevard I wonder if it’ll ever dawn on her that duh, she missed an opp for free pizza that if nothing else could’ve helped fuel the drive to her next fix. Oh well.

I pass the stately Cahuenga branch of the library where I startle a homeless woman who is changing clothes in the relative privacy of the library’s locked-up lower entryway. I pass the Little Temple club, cross Virgil, and look down upon the shack that used to be the beloved Jake’s Jay’s Burgers, but now since its eviction is home to the latest in a succession of nondescript and noninteresting eateries.

Next I eye a small mural and double back to get this snap of it (after the jump; click for slight enlargification):

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Every Week Is Bike Week But This Next One Is The One That Gets All The Attention

May 14, 2011 in Biking in LA, LA, Mass Transit, News, Transportation

Bike Week 2011Having participated  in Bike Week going back to its beginnings in the mid-1990s, it’s good to see how far the events have come from such humble origins. But one thing that’s always perplexed me through those years is how big the collective emphasis is on biking “to” work, with pretty much a total divorce from that whole “from” part.

Though the Law of Commuting states, “What goes out, must come back,” year in and year out Bike Week organizers ignore that all-important second part. On the designated “Bike To Work Day” that “To” part is taken literally. Mornings are chock full of strategic events and pitstops and various freebies, sprinkled with the occasional councilpersons who’ll don helmets and grins and pedal under an MTA sign and past a camera pool. And if you’re in the right place as you pedal, you might find a few scattered Starbucks that’d give up a free drip coffee if you rolled there before 9 a.m.

But pretty much after that hour things are broken down and packed up and put away — which is literally half-assed; a willingly missed opportunity to keep the good vibrations and awareness going on for that integral return trip. Well, with this coming edition of Bike Week (May 16-20; with Bike To Work Day on May 19) I’m pleased to report some progress has been made. Not by the city or the county or Metro, but rather by the LA County Bicycle Coalition who for better or worse is gonna help returning cyclists get their drink on.

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High Speed Rail to LAX

May 4, 2011 in LA, LAX, Mass Transit

Chicago’s outgoing Mayor Daley wants high speed rail from the city’s downtown to O’Hare International Airport. It would be the first of its kind in the United States – meaning that it would be fast, convenient, and far too logical for American politicians to actually build.

Your move, @villaraigosa.

A few years back, I proposed the Metro Flyline – a rail network from Union Station to every airport in the region. It was kind of a joke, in that not many people need to hop a train from Downtown Los Angeles to fly their personal jet out of Van Nuys Airport. But what about a line that did service the major transportation hubs in the region? A high speed TRIANGLE, connecting LAX, Bob Hope in Burbank and Union Station.

Put it all underground. Run the whole thing elevated. Tunnel through every living room in Beverly Hills.

I don’t know where the money would come from. I don’t know ridership numbers. I don’t know environmental impact blahbitty blah. What I do know, is that people would use it. Isn’t that what mass transit is for?

The point here is that it’s time for Los Angeles to start thinking big again. No matter how far-fetched and ridiculous it may seem. Let other cities celebrate highway widenings and Target openings. We’re better than that.

Maybe someday, we’ll have a mayor that won’t mind rolling up his sleeves and putting in a solid 8 hours of work.

Everybody Into the Subway!

April 29, 2011 in Biking in LA, Mass Transit

Did you know there was a bike ban on Metro Rail during rush hour? That ban is gone, effective immediately. The Source wants to know how you feel about that.

With gas prices surging, the city’s renewed interest in a viable bike network, and increasingly popular events like CicLAvia, this can only be a good thing.

But, exactly how will Metro handle the possible flood of fixies? There has been some talk of removing seats from rail cars.  Instead of simply placating cyclists, why not encourage them by going a step further?

What Metro needs now is a multimodal rail car with bike storage. Sound far fetched? Plans were drawn up in 1976.

Mining The Gold Line

April 23, 2011 in Entertainment, Events, Mass Transit, Transportation

That a hearty band of like-minded pedventurers followed me through the Eastside at the beginning of last month for my 2nd Annual March March is old news, but what’s just come up is an awesome slow-mo video my friend Steven made of various aspects of the trek and I am helpless not to share it here:

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

If the embed above doesn’t work, the video can be found here:

Red Line: Take the L?

April 7, 2011 in History, Mass Transit

Chicago is known for its L – a heavy rail transit line that is elevated through its downtown core. But, did you know that Los Angeles almost had it’s own L?

It would have been on Wilshire, the transit corridor currently known for its underground Subway To The Wiltern. It would have been part of the Red Line, from Union Station to the Miracle Miracle, up through West Hollywood, back to Hollywood, and on to NoHo.

The plans were drawn up in 1983. Twenty-eight years ago.

Metro has put up the renderings and maps for what could have been.

Walk This Way: 2nd-Annual March March

February 7, 2011 in East Side, Events, LA, Mass Transit, Seasonal, Transportation

As much as I like to bike around Los Angeles whenever possible, I’m occasionally known to and prone to taking long walks around and across town. Aside from joining in the last four of  the awesome annual Great LA Walks organized by Franklin Avenue Blog’s Michael Schneider, I’ve gone on ferthehelluvit strolls over the full length of Cesar Chavez/Sunset Boulevard from Union Station to Gladstones in February 2007, and the whole stretch of Western Avenue from Griffith Park to land’s end in October 2008 (with fellow’er Julia, among others). Last year, I went on my first March March by going from USC to the top of Baldwin Hills Overlook State Park and back, primarily along Jefferson and Adams boulevards.

So with March coming up again fast, I figure it’s high time I put the word out where I’ll be marching next in case any like-minded crazies wanted to join me — and you should because on March 5 I’ll be heading east to explore an historic and amazing  thoroughfare I’ve pushed bike and gas pedals over many times, but until now have never pedestrianated upon: Whittier Boulevard.

We’re doing things a bit different this time. Instead of an out-and-back all on foot, we’ll be multimodaling by gathering at Union Station for a 10 a.m. departure to board the Gold Line out to East Los Angeles. Along the way we’ll be detraining at a few stations for quick loops and looks around those stops’ vicinities. Eventually we’ll reach the end of the line at Atlantic Boulevard and from there we’ll then head south to Whittier and begin the return trip westward until we cross the historic 6th Street viaduct. We’ll then cut up through the Arts District and make our way into downtown and back to Union Station via Los Angeles Plaza and Olvera Street.

With the inclusion of the Gold Line getting us east, this walk’s total distance will depend in part on the number of tangents we take. The main stretch back to Union Station from East Los Angeles through Boyle Heights is about 7.5 miles, so the total will probably fall somewhere between the 10- to 14-mile range. If I had to guesstimate a more specific number I’d say 12 miles.

So, to recap:

  • What: 2nd-Annual March March — Whittier Boulevard
  • Starts/Ends: Union Station (main entrance)
  • When: March 5, departing at 10am (if raining that day we’ll try again March 12, 10am rain or shine)
  • Costs: Bring money for food/drinks and a $6 Metro Day pass is highly recommended
  • How far: About 12 miles, give or take
  • How long: Approximately 5 hours. Could be longer, could be shorter.

Any questions, drop them in the comments or tweet me @wildbell. Hope you’ll come along for the stride.

The Once and Future Clifton’s

September 17, 2010 in Food & Drink, History, Mass Transit

With news spreading that the owner of The Edison has purchased Clifton’s Cafeteria – a downtown institution at 7th and Broadway – let’s take a moment to remember what once was, and could be again:

Notice that 1) there is no metal grate covering up the building, and 2) the sign reads “Open 6am to Midnight.”

Tear down this wall. The streetcar is coming.

Metro Explains How To Open A Door

August 25, 2010 in Mass Transit

Next week, we’ll talk about purchasing tickets. Mainly, that if you want to ride, you’ll need a ticket. And that you have to purchase a ticket at a ticket machine that sells tickets. Ticket.

LA’s Greatest Landmarks: Union Station

August 14, 2010 in Downtown, LA, Mass Transit, Transportation

Ah, the romance of the rails. Union Station in downtown Los Angeles is a gorgeous reminder of a time when travel was slower, more deliberate and perhaps a bit more civilized. Union Station is a great cathedral of modern life, a hushed but bustling place.

Built in 1939 for $11 million (which is about $168 million today) and originally known as LAUPT, or Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, the Spanish Mission style station was actually a bit late in the history of Grand Railroad Terminals. But Los Angeles was booming, having had a large population influx starting in the 20’s. LA needed a major terminal and the LAUPT was built to combine two local railroad terminals and three trainlines: the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific and Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe.

Now LAUS, also referred to as LAX (no really!), Union Station sees approximately 1.5 million travelers a year and generates over $55 million in ticket sales.  With Amtrak, bus lines and local train service running through it, Union Station is full of city life. And this being LA, it gets used as a set or backdrop in many a movie and tv show.

Part of the original Station plan was the Harvey House Restaurant. Fred Harvey started opening restaurants at railroad stations after the Civil War. He made a deal to partner with the Santa Fe railroad and “civilized the west.” Harvey Houses were the first to employ women as servers as Mr. Harvey found them more reliable then the wild men out in the west. Harvey House Restaurants served good food at reasonable prices in elegant surroundings. And when you peek in the windows at the former HH, or are lucky enough to be invited to a private party there, you can see how swell of a place it must have been in it’s heyday. (Our own Lucinda Michele wrote about it a while back.)

I highly recommend an afternoon in the area, you can shop and eat at Olvera Street, then have a cocktail (and/or dinner) at Traxx Restaurant and Bar, then head over to Chinatown. (We had a great time at Union Station during Classic Eats #2 in 2009.)

Even more highly recommended is to take the train from Union Station somewhere. (I mean, if you aren’t already a regular commuter…) I was fortunate enough to take the Coast Starlight from LA to Seattle last summer. Seeing LA from an angle I don’t normally get to see was fascinating.

All photos by me and lots of research done with help from Great American Stations and the Harvey House site.

San Francisco Jealous Of Our Skills

July 28, 2010 in History, Mass Transit

San Francisco is turning out the lights at the 1939 Transbay Terminal. Then they make go boom.

In a strange turn of events, Los Angeles is being credited with better efforts in historic preservation of its landmarks. Also, a pig just flew by my desk.

Photo of San Francisco Transbay Terminal from Mark Pritchard’s photostream

A friendly note from me to Metro

July 7, 2010 in Mass Transit, Rants, Transportation

So, it’s been a week Metro fares went up from $1.25 to $1.50.  Now, I’m not opposed to this increase per se – time passes, seasons change, bus fares go up, thus is the way of the world.  However!  as a very regular bus rider (Line 2 from West Hollywood to UCLA, represent!), I have a few ideas about what Metro should be doing my with my 25 cents per ride, suggestions that, if implemented, would make the buses of Los Angeles much happier places to be.

So, dear Metro Transit Authority, here are three humble suggestions for things you can do with my extra 25 cents a ride:

These buses would be much happier if they didn't have annoying televisions on them.

1.  Please offer transfers from one MTA route to another.  It is absolutely ridiculous that riders have to pay the full fare additional times if their route requires switching busses and/or trains.  This is a major city, right?  I can’t think of any other major cities in which transfers from one bus to another, on the same bus system, are nothing more than a heady fantasy.

2.  Some better bus stop infrastructure would be nice.  I don’t know if this is the purview of the MTA or if it’s a municipal responsibility, but I have had to wait for busses at some amazingly skeevy bus stops.  To wit:  One might assume that the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire, an intersection of two fairly major thoroughfares, could be a fairly major transit hub.  However, waiting for the Eastbound bus on Santa Monica means waiting at a bus stop where the bench might as well be a board balancing on some cinderblocks.  And there’s no shade. And the stop backs onto an empty lot.  As street corners go, it is probably among the least conducive to encouraging people to wait around for a bus.  And it’s not the only stop like that.  We need more bus shelters, or, heck, even some trees for shade, and there also needs to be some work put into making bus stops safer at night.  Having waited for busses in the wee hours even though my mother always told me that I should just take a cab, I have often found myself wishing for some kind of lighting so that I don’t feel like I’m liable to get jumped at any minute.

3.  And, my most important suggestion:  Now that you’ve got an extra quarter from every rider, you don’t need the income from Transit TV anymore, right?  Right?  Please, please, get rid of Transit TV, oh please, god.  This is absolutely key to the maintenance of my sanity.  Supposedly, 84% of people prefer being on a bus with these televisions on them, which leads me to conclude that they surveyed people who have never ridden a bus in Los Angeles.  When I get on a bus and those horrible televisions are on, I want to stick pins in my eyes.  TVs on buses are not an inherently bad idea.  However, whoever is behind the current programming on bus TV should be fired and not allowed to work in any media-related field, ever.  The Transit TV lineup includes news headlines, read in a monotone, by pasty zombie people; triva questions and brain teasers that seem to be compiled by someone with a less than secure grasp on the workings of the English language (my favorite example, from a few months ago was the following trivia question:  “Yogurt is a member of which food group?”  Answer?  “Milk.”  Which is not really wrong, I guess, but it’s not quite right either); horrible, often offensive jokes; and stupid commercials advertising inane things like mail-order college educations, or, advertising the ad space on Transit TV.  Like, honestly?  Do they really think the people who are riding the bus are the people who are going to buy ad space on the bus?  Do they think we are not agonizingly aware of the presence of ad space on the bus?  Oh, and the volume of the sets can’t be controlled by the drivers, and they’re loud and obnoxious, and all of this programming is presented in the most irritatingly patronizing tone possible.  “It’s like they think everyone on the bus is an idiot,” I said to my roommate one day.  “Or maybe,” he replied, “the people who make Transit TV are idiots.”  Truer words were never spoken.

So, dear Metro Transit Authority, these are the humble propositions I put forward to you, in all your infinite wisdom.  My alternate suggestion would be that you use your newfound revenue to buy me a car, but that somehow seems less within the realms of possibility.



(Photo courtesy of LA Wad, via the blogging.LA flickr pool)