To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ten years riding the Gold Line: photos and observations


By Steve Hymon, July 24, 2013


A Gold Line train headed through Los Angeles State Historic Park on a winter afternoon. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

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 around Pasadena.

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.

•Three stations 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 businesses.

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! 

If 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.

Coffee at the Market on Holly. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
Coffee at the Market on Holly and the New York Times — a winning combination! Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

So Gold Line riders, what do you think of the line after the first decade? One comment per customer please!