By Steve Hymon, July 24, 2013
The Gold Line celebrates its 10th anniversary on Friday. Putting
aside the issue of where the last decade went, I wanted to offer a few
thoughts on a transit line I’ve been riding (literally) since Day One.
I covered the extremely crowded first day for local media. Excitement
for the project was running sky high and lines extended all the way
from the platform at Union Station down the tunnel to the parking garage
under the Patsaouras Transit Plaza.
About a month later, I happened to move to Pasadena. I’ve used the
Gold Line since — mostly to reach jobs in downtown L.A. — and also
encounter the train frequently in my travels by car, bike and foot
Of course, in the cosmic scheme of things 10 years is a drop in the bucket.
Musings and applause
•I’ve found that riding the train, especially at peak hours, is
competitive with the time it takes to drive between Pasadena and Union
Station. That wasn’t always the case. End-to-end travel time was 36
minutes when the train first began running and trains didn’t run as
frequently. Today, it’s a 29-minute run between Sierra Madre Villa and
Los Angeles Union Station and trains run every six minutes at peak hours
on weekdays. It’s no longer such a big deal to miss a train because
another one comes along quickly.
•Stand on the Union Station platform at peak hour on any weekday
afternoon and watch how fast the platform fills up again after a train
departs. It’s pretty amazing. In the early days of the Gold Line, there
was about 14,000 average boardings on a weekday. In June, there were
44,113 average weekday boardings, with roughly 70 percent of those
coming on the original Union Station to Pasadena segment.
And one semi-related note: the Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan
is looking at improving access and connections to the current Gold Line
platform, which currently has one very busy stairwell and elevator.
•My gut feeling
is that there’s a lot of people living east of the current terminus at
Sierra Madre Villa who would take the Gold Line to jobs in Pasadena or
downtown L.A. but are disinclined to pull off the 210 freeway, drive or
take a bus to the Sierra Madre Villa station and giant parking garage.
The Gold Line Foothill Extension that is currently under construction
should help remedy that issue with stations — and parking! — in Arcadia,
Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa.
Likewise, the Regional Connector will make it easier to reach the
heart of downtown from Pasadena with a one-seat ride to Little Tokyo,
2nd/Broadway, 2nd/Hope, 7th/Metro Center and the Pico stations. That
will be another incentive for folks in the ‘burbs to ride.
•Hundreds of new apartments and condos have been built near the rail
line, especially in Pasadena between Old Town and Lake Avenue. With the
Great Recession beginning to ebb, Chinatown is also seeing some new
development — including the long-awaited Blossom Plaza adjacent to the
Gold Line’s Chinatown station. That’s great to see.
And now some nitpicks:
•It would be great to see some TODs near the Heritage Square,
Southwest Museum and Highland Park stations. Nothing significant has
been built near those stations since the Gold Line has opened, although
there is a TOD planned for Highland Park.
•And then there is South Pasadena, which has also added some
residential units near the train station — but in the dozens, not
hundreds. The neighborhood around the station is lovely, helped in part
by a small park and plaza adjacent to the train platform and the city’s
public library and park that is one block away. My three cents: there
has definitely been some turnover in businesses along Mission near the
station and my hunch is that a few new apartments and condos would help
supply some much-needed customers.
were built in the median of the 210 freeway — Lake, Allen and Sierra
Madre Villa — along the old Santa Fe right-of-way that Metro had
purchased. And let’s face it: freeway median stations are, by
definition, not super lovely places to hang out.
Of course, there are two sides to the story. On the one hand, putting
the tracks and stations down the middle of the 210 made fiscal sense —
the old rail right-of-way was already owned by the government. The
stations along the 210 are also closer to the many thousands of people
living north of the Gold Line tracks in Pasadena and Altadena. And the
train can run fast because there are no street crossings.
On the other hand, freeway stations are loud and windy. And when
trains run in freeway medians, they aren’t running on local streets that
could benefit from having transit right out the front door of homes and
If I Was The King: I wouldn’t build freeway stations.
•It would be great if one day the Metro 267 bus that runs along Del Mar Boulevard actually serves the Del Mar station.
•Pasadena has six
of the original Gold Line’s 13 stations. And, yet, in the past decade
the city has done almost nothing to improve bicycle access to the
stations (although, ironically, bike parking has been added to the
stations). The Pasadena City Council, in fact, recently shelved a new
bike plan because it was perceived as too weak. Holy Ugh!
I Was King Part 2: I’d start by installing a bike lane on Cordova
between Lake Avenue and the Del Mar station, and then I’d add a bike
lane to Allen between the station and the Huntington Library in San
Marino. And then I’d look at two key streets — the north-south Sierra
Bonita and the east-west duo of Fillmore and Arden — and order staff to
do everything they can to make those great bike corridors, including
losing some of the many annoying four-way stop signs.
•And, finally, three dining recommendations for those who use the
Gold Line: Heirloom Bakery & Cafe across Mission from the South
Pasadena station, the Stone Brewing tasting room at Del Mar Station for
T.O.B (transit-oriented beer!) and the Market on Holly, one block west
of the Memorial Park station.
So Gold Line riders, what do you think of the line after the first decade? One comment per customer please!